Throughout history the Middle East has been known for its rich aromas. The word 'perfume' is derived from the Latin 'per fume' which literally translates as 'through smoke.' The oldest perfume can be traced back to over 2,000 years ago when the ancient Egyptians, who greatly cherished their scents, would place them into ornate glass bottles. Perfume’s popularity is then said to have spread with the expansion of Islam. One of the most popular and coveted scents of the Middle East is Oud. Esteemed for its cultural and religious significance over the centuries, Oud’s distinctive fragrance has been highly regarded in perfume and incense making. As an exotic essential oil, it has been used in Ayurvedic disciplines throughout history to treat such ailments such as leprosy, ulcers, arthritis, cough and even halitosis.
Oud is derived from the wood of the tropical Agar (Aquilaria) tree, which is believed to have originated in the Assam region of India from where it spread to Southeast Asia. When it becomes infected with a mould known as Phialophora Parasitica, the wood of this tree reacts by secreting a precious dark and sweet-smelling resin, which is the ingredient used to make Oud. Whether extracted by distillation from wood, or by melting the resin, the oil is not irritating and can be applied directly onto the skin, or added to a perfume combination as a base note. Due to its rarity and high demand, as well as the difficulty in harvesting the oil, Oud is one of the most expensive oils in the world. Numerous sources report its value to be about 1.5 times that of gold. For this reason, it is sometimes called liquid gold.
A scent which is recognized all over the Gulf region, Oud has a reputation for sophistication, elegance and class, and its fragrance is highly valued for its rarity and rich structure. Today, luxury houses such as Tom Ford, Van Cleef & Arpels and Guerlain, as well as the established Oman perfumery the House of Amouage, have been incorporating Oud’s powerful scent and superb properties into their perfumes.
Van Cleef & Arpels Haute Perfumerie recently launched the Collection Extraordinaire, a range of floral perfume compositions including a scent made from the legendary Oud wood. “Van Cleef & Arpels jewels are often inspired by nature and then remodelled by the human hand of the artist, and it is for this reason that we chose to interpret this particular Oud essence with flower,” says Joy Megille of Interparfums, Van Cleef & Arpels’ fragrance distributor.
Also incorporating Oud within its scents is the House of Amouage from the Sultanate of Oman. Founded over a quarter of a century ago, the House is renowned for creating finely crafted and exotic fragrances through the use of the highest quality natural ingredients. Amouage’s Creative Director Christopher Chong has featured Oud oil in Epic Woman and Epic Man, two new fragrances for the maison inspired by the operatic masterpiece Turandot by Puccini. “The richness of both fragrances evokes the precious commodities traded across the Asian continent such as gold, pearls, teas, silks, jade, spices and frankincense, blended with a dramatic signature,” explains Chong. “Epic also embraces one of the rarest and special ingredients traded since ancient times, Oud.”
Oud’s legendary qualities continue to hold spiritual significance today, with numerous Western designers recently adding this opulent essence to their own perfumes. Yet beyond Oud’s sanctimonious scent, it is perhaps its historical and traditional heritage which ultimately inspires its continued use. Its rich mythical significance and healing properties are incessantly revered and have inspired individuals across the globe. Wearing a perfume containing Oud is like taking part in history – one which is so intimately embedded within the ancient traditions of the East.
Amouage Epic Man and Epic Woman
Giorgio Armani Privé - Oud Royal, Rose D’Arabie, and Ambre Orient
Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau de Parfum
Kilian Arabian Nights collection (Pure Oud, Rose Oud, Incense Oud and Amber Oud)
Guerlain Oud Sensual
Les Déserts d’Orient
Givenchy Eaudemoiselle de Givenchy Bois de Oud
Van Cleef & Arpels Haute Parfumerie - Collection Extraordinaire – Precious Oud