Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oud, Arabian Oils, Attars, Mukhallats....Oh My!

I am total noob when it comes to Oud and Arabian perfumes. I know little about what the Arabian perfumes are but some pleasant things do to mind with the mention of Arabian perfumes, a fantasy land with genies coming out of the bottle and magic carpet rides!

I am taking baby steps into the world of Oud and I am not sure if I like what I smell. I am trying to understand Oud and trying to familiarise myself with it. The more I read about Oud, the more my head starts spinning. It turns out, even sniffing oud has the same effect on me! The genie didn't come out of the decant bottles and I am not quite liking where the magic carpet is taking me!

Oud or Agarwood is precious and rare. Agarwood results when a certain kind of fungus infests a rare and endangered species of tree making the wood in the centre of trunk smell good. You can never know if there is agarwood in inner part of the tree, unless you chop it. Out of 100 chopped tress, one may have the agarwood! The agarwood chips are processed, distilled and the oil extracted is the Oud Oil. The Oud oil is also called liquid gold becuase it is rare, but sometimes more expensive than gold.. Pure Oud oil can cost up to $1000's per ounce!

Arabian Oils:
Mostly they are based on oud. Oud is in varying proportion with other ingredients like amber, musk, sandalwood. Obviously, more the oud, more expensive they are. They are usually in oil form.

Mukhallat is a perfumed mixture or an infusion of ingredients like amber, musk, sandalwood which may or may not have oud.

Attars: Petal of rose, jasmine etc are distilled to get the essential oil and mixed with rare ingredients like sandalwood, musk and oud. Apparently, it takes 1000's of flowers to get a ml of this stuff. Yes, it is also expensive! 

Do I like Oud? Do I not?
I don't know yet! Oud has me stupefied. It has been a roller coaster ride. Technically oud is something I would love. It is woody, intense and unique. But on my skin it is monstrous! Trying to figure out why, I sniffed, tried, bought, a bunch of Oud based perfumes. My general experience is:
1. Oud turns plasticky on me.
2. Headache!
3. Most Oud perfumes have rose. I can't handle rose.

I wish I could afford the real stuff to sniff but unfortunately, I have eat/feed and pay the rent. So, satisfying myself with samples, decants of some Oud based perfumes. Here are some I have tried and my initial impressions.
Tom Ford Oud Wood
LOVE! Blown away! The real reason why I started exploring Oud.
Le Labo Oud 27
Nice, spicy and intense
Juliet Has A Gun - Midnight Oud: 
watered down and plasticky
Montale - Black Agar/Oud Ambre/Golden Oud/Attar
potent stuff, hard to handle
Byredo - Immortel Oud/Accord Oud
Nice and fruity
Jo Malone - Bergamot and Oud from Intense collection
Nice and fresh
Oud from Perfumer's Apprentice
It looks dark and smells dark. It is a synthetic note that is supposedly very close to the real oud. It is viscous but easy to work with. It blends well with other notes.  I kind of like it. I came up with a blend of my own called Barren using it. It is dry but nice.

A further look into Oud, I was directed to some exclusive Arabian perfumes that specialise in Oud. Abdulsamad Al Quraishi, Ajmal, Al Haramain, Al Rehab, Rasasi, Swiss Arabian etc. 
I took the plunge and ordered a bunch of Arabian Oils from eBay. Though these are Mukhallats, I hope to get an idea and the feel of Arabian perfumes. Here is what I got. (Needless to say, lot of reviews coming up!)

Liquid Gold by Ajmal
Red Velvet by Ajmal
Musk Amber by Al Haramain

Sultan by Al Haramain
Mukhallat Burj by Al Haramain

I feel a crazy obsession with Oud because I don't understand it completely and I want to really like it! I hope it is worth the torture. It is definitely better than spending a fortune on something I don't know and wouldn't like!


  1. Byredo - Immortel Oud sounds lovely! I love fruity scents, what are your favorite ones? :)

  2. Vintage, Byredo ones are really mellow scents. I am sure you'll like :)
    I love fruity scents too. Dark vanilla with woods is always a winner for me :)

    I am still in testing phase of the oud perfumes but so far love Tom Ford Oud Wood. I am hoping to add a few more to my 'love' list :)

  3. Great post as always. I hope oud works out for you. I have hated it since I was a child.I don't know why. I just hate the way it smells and it gives me a massive headache n nausea.We use medhan (a kind of burner) to burn oud chips on festivals and Eid. The idea is to get the smell sorry scent into your hair and clothes without staining them with oils in attar. I practically run out the door when my mom does that. Sorry didn't want to turn you off. I really really hope you come to like it. A lot of people do.

  4. Fascinating post. You make me want to go out and smell all these new scents! Oud doesn't sound at all up my alley (I'm a floral, not woody girl) yet I am now desperate to sniff it.

  5. Pandora, that is very interesting. I knew that they burned oud like incense but I didn't know that you can scent clothes and hair! Don't worry, not at all a turn off. I am having a hard time smelling it, I have the same problem of headache as you :) Hope it gets better for me!

    Sarah, I am not sure you'll like Oud since you are a floral girl. You can sniff Tom Ford Oud Wood at DJs to get a feel of it :)

  6. Most westerners don't get the concept of Oud. Oud is just a trend in the west. In the Middle East it is a culture that one grows up with and becomes a part of. It is nice to see someone trying new things with an open mind. I am sure it'll come around for you and you'll appreciate the beauty of Oud.

    Good luck,

  7. Thank you, Zafar.
    Though I am not technically a Westerner (I'm Indian), I have not experienced oud before except for a blend of Agarwood as incense but it is nothing like oud itself. I can understand that oud has a cultural significance. It is hard to approach it from a non cultural point of view. But I'll try my best :)

  8. OMG its very understanding how frazzling this must all be, you almost need a degree to decipher it all, lol. However you said the magic word as far as I am concerned, which is enough to see me back peddling as fast I can, if the first experience encouraged it, I would from there on end, be too much of a wimp to ever venture near the scent again in fear of another......Headache, lol. Anything that gives me a headache doesn't usually get a second look in, haha, I hate those headaches, your a brave woman Su :)

  9. LOL Mel, headache is the word :D Braving through everything to enjoy oud :) Just trying to understand what others see in it. I am getting there :)

  10. Great post! I didn't know all these details.I have to try Tom Ford Oud Wood!

    1. TM's Oud Wood is a light and modern take on oud. I love it and prefer it to all the real ouds. It is more palatable, I think :)

    2. TM oud is a sunny version of the classique fragrance

  11. Oud is the best and for the early evenings or late at night such down tone perfumes are andaccesory to be loved ... good luck with .. mukhallat.. am using an arabian .. diluted version too..

  12. I like it in the evenings .. bcz here at tropics the weather usually does not allow much intense perfume to be worn during the day ..