Oud Perfume Ingredient: What is It? What Does It Smell Like?

Oud has a rich, leathery, scent profile. Commonly thought to be reminiscent of leather and spices, oud is a scent that is both seductive and intoxicating.

The depth of scent within the fragrance allows it to linger on your skin. Imagine a campfire that has burnt down to its embers mingled with a sweeter, almost floral undertone and you’re starting to gain a sense of the versatility and uniqueness that is oud. 

In fact, oud has been known to have such strong aphrodisiac properties that it has been the case in many research papers.

What is Oud?

Oud is actually a wood, and is one of the most expensive raw perfume ingredients you can find. Oud can be harvested from the tropical agar tree, and is found growing naturally in Southeast Asia, although it’s originally believed to have originated from trees in Assam, India.

Oud is actually a defense mechanism of the tree and is extracted from a dark resin the agar produces when it’s infected by a mold called phialophora parasitica. The oud is made when the tree reacts to this infection.

What Does Oud Smell Like?

Oud perfumes have a unique aroma. Due to its extraction from wood, the aroma is naturally smoky and slightly damp. 

Real oud has an almost fecal smell yet this animalic, slightly sweet base note is what makes the oil so aromatic and sensual. 

What Scent Family is Oud?

Pure oud falls within the woody fragrance family. Fragrances within this family are often combined with fresher notes including those from the floral or citrus family. 

The combination of these scents allows the appealing warmth of oud perfume to come through. Many perfumers combine oud oil with top notes of vetiver to create a lighter fragrance. 

Others choose to combine it with patchouli to create a more aromatic musk. Mixing the oil with sandalwood or tonka bean will form a smoky, leathering smell.

One of the reasons oud perfume is so expensive is because of the agarwood. The global market is worth a gigantic 5 billion!

The fragrant resin is drawn from one of the most expensive timbers in the world and has been dubbed “liquid gold” due to the expense. As the oud oil is in such high demand, so too is the agar tree. 

Therefore, they’ve been declared a potentially threatened species by The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 

Agar trees are now attempting to be grown in other areas of the world including the Middle East. Oud connoisseurs are concerned that this will result in a naturally different-smelling perfume.

What are the Benefits of Oud?

Commanding a higher price than pure gold, the benefits of oud are many. In the Far East, oud oils are used in religious and spiritual ceremonies. 

One oud oil form was even chosen for use by ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

Oud oil is also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial so is commonly used in medicine.  The essential oil is also a muscle relaxant, so is often used for massages. 

When diluted, oud oil can be used as a tonic to soothe digestive spasms, banish bad breath, and alleviate rheumatic and arthritic pain. 

The oud aroma is considered calming and seductive. However, you should always seek medical advice before deciding to apply oud, even topically. 

Is Oud Feminine or Masculine Scent?

Oud itself is an androgenous ingredient, and oud wood can be used to create perfumes that are masculine, feminine, or unisex. 

An oud base can create scents that are floral if the oils are combined with floral tones, or can similarly produce a leathery aroma if combined with other notes from the wood family. 

Best Perfumes with Oud Notes 

1. Gucci Intense Oud

One for the oud connoisseur, this is a fresh oud fragrance capturing essences of orange blossom, pear, and raspberry. These are then expertly combined with base notes of woodsy oudh to form an almost incense-like fragrance.

2. Ralph Lauren Polo Supreme Oud 

Fashion houses can only dream of replicating the success of this fabled bouquet. 

A favorite perfume in many a private collection, Polo Supreme Oud showcases notes of cinnamon and pink pepper, middle notes of agarwood, and base notes of guaiac wood. 

3. Christina Dior Oud Ispahan

A truly unique, oriental perfume that is both spicy and sweet, Oud Ispahan is combined with Damascus rose to create an unforgettable scent.

The Bottom Line

This ingredient, found in the trees of southeast Asia, smells both sensuous and animalic. This liquid gold is a powerful aphrodisiac and has rightly been called the sexiest scent around. 

While it’s difficult to pin down an exact description of what oudh can be said to smell like, oud perfume is a luxury good that is both spicy, smoky, and difficult to ignore.