Sep 21, 2021 | 11 min Read

What is Oud And What Does Oud Perfume Smell Like?

Oud is more than just a fragrance. It’s intoxicating and unique — a ubiquitous Middle Eastern staple that’s gently unfurling its way across the rest of the globe, one potent, exotic spritz at a time.

Known as “black gold” in the Middle East and the “five thousand dollar per pound scent”  further afield, it’s a fragrance developed from one of the most expensive types of wood in the world.

A mere dab of your favorite Oud fragrance allows you the chance to delve into its history, whether that’s in traditional, heavy form or a lighter, more delicate, modernized bottle. 

What is Oud?

Oud, or Oudh when spelt traditionally, originates from the wood of the Tropical Agar (Aquilaria) tree (or Oud wood tree) when it becomes infected with a certain type of mold. Not that you need to fret about that when you’re letting its warm, hazy notes waft through the air.

When the heartwood becomes infected with a fungus called Phialophora parasitica, the outer layers of the tree produce a dark, oily, heavily scented resin as a form of protection. As you might expect, this isn’t a quick process, and the fungus can take up to 300 years to develop. 

The catch? Not all of these trees produce the resin. Only an estimated 2% of them naturally develop it. And not all of them become infected with the fungus in the first place.

When you throw into the equation the fact that the older the tree, the richer and more potent the resin, you can start to understand exactly where Oud’s high prices come from. 

But that’s also what makes Oud so special. Good things come to those who wait, and discovering the best bottle of Oud for you is something certainly worth waiting for. 

Each Oud-based fragrance comes with its own unique appeal — one that you’ll recognize and instantly associate with a certain memory or person. Oud has a special magic in that sense. It’s a fragrance filled with stories. 

Where does Oud come from and when did it become so popular?

Oud and its trading can be traced back to ancient times. Also known as the “wood of the gods,” the Agar tree was often transported down the famous Silk Road between the Middle East and Asia, particularly Southeast Asia. 

The tree traditionally was found mostly in the dense forests of Southeast Asia, India, and Bangladesh but its current popularity means it’s now grown in places like Australia and Sri Lanka.

Oud is most popular in the Middle East but is growing in popularity across the rest of the world. It’s easy to find Oud fragrances in Europe, where this potent fragrance is working its magic more than ever. 

Nowadays, dozens of perfumers across the world are dipping their toe into the world of Oud. Western Oud fragrances tend to be a little lighter and sweeter, while Eastern Oud is often darker and more brooding. It’s a rich, opaque scent that gives a hint of the culture and emotion of its origins.

What does Oud smell like?

To breathe in an Oud scent is to do more than simply spray or dab from a bottle. Oud encapsulates stories, memories, and culture. It’s almost an entire encyclopedia in a bottle with its unique depth and breadth of aromas. 

The trick with Oud is that it smells ever so slightly different on each person. This magical, healing oil is naturally derived, which means your unique pheromones and body chemistry can alter the smell. Oud is a living organism that changes when it comes into contact with skin. 

Generally, it retains more of its original scent on drier skin and evolves into something else on oily skin. If you’re wearing Oud on a warmer day, you can expect different notes to develop as the hours go by.

But Oud fragrances do always have a few things in common. They’re always woody with a touch of spiciness and a subtle sweet note. Base notes are always intricate and earthy, leathery, and ultimately seductive and intriguing. Oud is attention-grabbing and confident.

What are the best Oud fragrances?

1. Gucci Intense Oud Cologne

Gucci Intense Oud Cologne

A brilliant launchpad into the world of Oud fragrances, Gucci’s Intense Oud Cologne is a unisex fragrance that’s heavily dipped in amber and doused with woody notes. A bottle that’s consistently growing in popularity, it’s sleek and sophisticated. It’s a Western interpretation of traditional Oud with the welcoming and ready-to-wear scent to match. 

Unlike many Gucci scents, Intense Oud Cologne isn’t a playful or casual fragrance. Instead, it’s a bottle that demands all eyes. It’s smooth and masculine without being obtrusively male. Most suitable for evening events, Intense Oud’s subtle sweetness will have you feeling polished and elegant, like a masterpiece with an almost universal appeal.

Similar to: Versace Pour Homme Oud Noir Cologne by Versace, Gucci Cologne by Gucci, Bleu de Chanel Cologne by Chanel

2. Al Haramain Amber Oud Gold Edition Perfume

Al Haramain Amber Oud Gold Edition Perfume

Al Haramain’s Amber Oud Gold Edition Perfume leans heavily on the sweeter side. A modern release with lighter notes than your traditional Oud, it’s ideal for the daytime wearer who can’t get enough of Oud’s staple woodiness.

Amber Oud Gold is another fragrance with a unisex appeal, thanks to its lighter top notes of bergamot and melon. Deeper, underlying musk and vanilla act as a reassuring map to pave the way back home, ensuring that it’s still, unmistakably, an Oud perfume. It’s Oud, but 21st century ready. 

Similar to: Mitsouko Perfume by Guerlain, Rive Gauche Perfume by Yves Saint Laurent, Fidji Perfume by Guy Laroche

3. Versace Pour Femme Oud Oriental Perfume

Versace Pour Femme Oud Oriental Perfume

Everything about Versace’s Pour Femme Oud Oriental Perfume is stately and regal. From its suave, gold bottle to its exotic, sexy appeal. This is an aphrodisiac fragrance almost verging on ostentatious. It’s the equivalent of Louboutin heels or equally-as-red lipstick when you mean business. 

Intense woody nuances prowl hand in hand with feminine powderiness and intoxicating spices. Oud Oriental is a recipe dreamt up by the woman who has it all and still wants more. While many Oud fragrances are designed to be unisex, this bottle is proudly female-focused. Expect rose, saffron, and freesia to flock your every step, leaving a mysterious trail in your path.

Similar to: Versace Eros Perfume by Versace, Crystal Noir Perfume by Versace, Shalimar by Guerlain

4. Perry Ellis Oud Black Vanilla Absolute Perfume

Perry Ellis Oud Black Vanilla Absolute Perfume

Perry Ellis’ Oud Black Vanilla Absolute Perfume does things a little differently. For a start, it uses Oud as a middle note rather than a base note. The effect is subtle; a fragrance that you’ll associate with Oud but not instantly. It adds depth and character that’s fully encouraged and supported by its sweeter top fragrance notes

Despite those, it’s a more masculine than feminine fragrance. It’s also a beautiful example of a perfectly blended bottle; hints of rum balanced with monochrome notes of white tobacco and black amber. Think of it as the fragrance equivalent of your favorite cocktail, presented artistically and served with a look of longing. 

Similar to: Alien by Thierry Mugler, First Perfume by Van Cleef & Arpels, Cabotine Perfume by Parfums Gres

5. Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud Perfume

Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud Perfume for Men and Women

Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose & Oud Perfume is a weighty, rich bouquet of roses, a spoonful of syrup oozing down the resinous tree, and a velvety, sophisticated second skin. It’s an Oud fragrance at the sweet end of the spectrum, taking the smokiness of Oud and pairing it with the contrasting sweetness of rose. 

Its almost subtle Oud aroma makes this bottle a delight to wear during daytime, when it’s powerful enough to catch your eye every so often but not so overpowering that it demands full attention. Smooth and distinguished, this fragrance works as an introduction to Oud perfumes with jammy notes and a gourmand, decadent undertone.

Similar to: Black Orchid Perfume by Tom Ford, Hypnotic Poison Perfume by Christian Dior, Gucci Bamboo Perfume by Gucci

6. Al Oudh Perfume

Al Oudh Perfume By L'Artisan Parfumeur for Women

What is Oud? Oud is Al Oudh Perfume. Spicy, woody, and animalistic, Al Oudh Perfume by L’Artisan Parfumeur is everything a traditional Oud fragrance should be. It’s not one for the fainthearted, with enveloping notes of caraway, dates, dried fruits, and cardamom twisting and turning while whispering stories of the past. 

Wear this and daydream your way back into earlier centuries of transporting gold, myrrh, and incense down dusty roads. The best Oud fragrances highlight its original culture, and Al Oudh encompasses just that. Warm, cozy, and evocative, it heats you from the inside, the scent equivalent of a boiling mug of cardamom tea sipped deep in the desert.

Similar to: L’air Du Temps Perfume by Nina Ricci, Samsara Perfume by Guerlain, Ombre Rose Perfume by Brosseau

7. Ajmal Amber Wood Perfume

Ajmal Aurum Perfume for women

While Amber Wood Ajmal isn’t specifically an Oud fragrance, it’s one that’s heavily inspired by the Middle Eastern classics, using notes of cedar wood and amber to create a scent that’s luxurious and lengthy. 

The difference between this fragrance and Oud-heavy scents is the generous addition of amber, which adds a subtly sweet touch while still remaining unisex. It’s soft and aromatic, something unique that verges on understated sexiness. It’s a puzzle inside a bottle, with contrasting aromas that are addictively sharp.

Similar to: The One Perfume by Dolce & Gabbana, L’instant Perfume by Guerlain, L’eau D’issey (Issey Miyake) Perfume by Issey Miyake

8. Acqua Di Parma Colonia Oud Cologne

Acqua Di Parma Colonia Oud Cologne

There aren’t many fragrances that can take you on a journey quite like Acqua Di Parma’s Colonia Oud does. The unique composition of its multi-continent sourced notes means a spritz of this fragrance doesn’t just sit on the skin, it follows a path in your mind collecting a treasure chest of memories along the way. 

Breathe in deeply the Italian orange, agarwood, atlas cedar and Indonesian patchouli leaf. It’s smooth and woody, a bottled, comforting hug that offers a consistent background presence rather than pushing itself into the forefront. It’s a masculine signature scent for lovers of sandalwood.

Similar to: Eternity Cologne by Calvin Klein, Cool Water Cologne by Davidoff, Boss No. 6 Cologne by Hugo Boss

9. Polo Supreme Oud Cologne

Polo Supreme Oud Cologne for Men

Think Ralph Lauren’s signature style infused with the dark, intense, woody notes of the Middle East, and you’ll begin to have an idea as to what Polo Supreme Oud Cologne smells like. 

A masterpiece of a fragrance that’s somehow masculine, glamorous, dark, and rich all at the same time, this bottle’s hidden depth is one you’ll appreciate the most a few hours later, when it’s settled on your skin with its cinnamon and amber notes. 

The ideal bottle for pairing with a premium steak or vintage cognac, it’s filled with suave personality and charm. The more you use it, the more you’ll love it.

Similar to: Polo Blue Cologne by Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana Cologne by Dolce & Gabbana, Terre D’hermes Cologne by Hermes

10. Chopard Oud Malaki Cologne

Chopard Oud Malaki Cologne

Chopard Oud is a tobacco-heavy fragrance that twists Chopard’s usual flair into something heavier. Inspired by seduction and the Orient, this fragrance errs on the masculine side of unisex, but offers soft notes of lavender and grapefruit to keep it balanced carefully in the middle. 

This smooth fragrance is often referred to as an excellent example of traditional Oud, with animalic spices reigning supreme from start to finish. Beautifully blended, it’s a hidden gem in the fragrance world for anyone with a taste for complex and expertly blended sweet cinnamon, spicy wood, and comforting tobacco.

Similar to: Eternity Cologne by Calvin Klein, Montblanc Legend Cologne by Mont Blanc, Terre D’hermes Cologne by Hermes

Oud Fragrances – In Summary

An Oud fragrance offers a unique addition to your personal collection, and it’s a bottle that promises to stand to attention each time you wear it. One of the most exciting parts of buying an Oud fragrance comes from experiencing each of its notes as the day goes by. 

Not sure where to start? FragranceX’s wide range of Oud scents and other discounted perfumes will help you to discover the best one for you.

For more interesting fragrance information, follow along here:

Georgie Darling, perfume writer and expert

Georgie Darling is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer from London, England. Her work has been published in Grazia, HuffPost, YAHOO!, Culture Trip and Fodor’s amongst others. When she’s not writing, Georgie spends most of her time travelling to new countries and scuba diving. She’s been an avid fragrance lover since a young age and considers Alaïa by Alaïa Paris to be her signature scent.


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