Cult of Raw Materials Oud Review Single note exploration The Attar Guide

Pure Oud Oil Reviews: L-O

11th April 2022

 

 

Oud-heads and oud newbies, check out the introduction to oud here, which covers everything from how oud is distilled, its uses in oil-based and commercial perfumery, and the different markets that consume it.  Also, read my Oud Primer, consisting of Part I: The Challenges of Oud, Part II: Why Oud Smells the Way it Does and Part III: The Different Styles of Oud.  Also, don’t miss Pure Oud Reviews: 0-C and Pure Oud Reviews: D-K.

 

This section contains reviews of pure oud oils[1] only. Review sections for oudy mukhallats[2] and oudy concentrated perfume oils[3] are forthcoming.

 

 

 

Photo of pure oud samples, photo my own (please do not use, circulate, or repost without my permission)

 

 

Layth (Al Shareef Oudh)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Cambodi with a Chinese distillation ‘edge’

 

 

Layth is an unusual Cambodi, for several reasons.  First of all, it was distilled from actual Cambodian A. Crassna agarwood, as opposed to wood from other species or other regions, to give it a deliberately recognizable Cambodi style (fruity, caramelized, medicinal, bright, jammy, etc.).

 

Second, it was distilled in China using Chinese methods of distillation, which traditionally focus on drawing out the medically-useful properties of the material being distilled.  In other words, the focus here is all on the traditional healing properties the Chinese believe agarwood to possess rather than its inherent aroma properties.

 

The Chinese medical-therapeutic angle bears out in the topnotes of Layth, which feature the special medicinal funk of old Chinese apothecaries, complete with dried monkfish, raw musk pods, and pungent herbs.  This dusty (and pleasant) medicinal opening is brief, giving way almost immediately to an explosion of luscious red berries and figs, pulsating as violently as an insect infestation in an arm.  The fruit is bright, loud, a little plasticky, and above all, exuberant.  It is a pleasure to let this friendly little pup of an oil clamber all over you.

 

Layth has a slightly salty undertone that cuts the density of the berry-fig onslaught and gives the caramel a lascivious edge.  This is how all good Cambodis should be, i.e., medicinal, fruity, honeyed, and ultimately, as friendly as a toddler.

 

 

 

Photo by Allec Gomes on Unsplash

 

Limau Hijau (Blend) (Feel Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: mixed

 

 

Limau Hijau is a blend of oud oils.  Its opening runs acidic, in a sly nod to the citrus hinted at in the name.  Once the brightness tamps down a notch, what emerges is a scent profile that is remarkably similar to the scent of several high-end Western oud fragrances such as Le Labo Oud 27 and Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie.  In other words, a pleasantly stale leather accord dipped in industrial solvents, glues, and tanning agents and then left out overnight to dry.

 

This pleather aroma is hot and vaporous, emanating slightly gassy, high-pitched fumes.  If you love Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie but want the same aroma in oud oil format, then give Limau Hijau a shot.  One criticism I would have of this oil is that it is quite light and one-dimensional.  Once the plasticky leather, solvent, and diesel fumes die back, there is very little in the way of depth or base.

 

 

 

Low Quality Thai Oud (Al Haramain)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Thai

 

 

Forgive the name.  Obviously, there is no such thing as Low Quality Thai Oud in the Al Haramain stable, unless companies have suddenly started to use total honesty in marketing, in which case we can expect to see ‘Generic and Less Tasty Coca-Cola Knockoff’ and ‘Slightly Chemical but Perfectly Serviceable Handsoap’ appearing on our supermarket shelves any day now.  The sample came to me marked thus, so this is what I am calling it.  A better detective than me might be able to figure out which oil this actually is.

 

In any case, it is not nearly as bad as the name implies.  It is a Thai oud oil that initially hits you with a sour, animalic aroma before revealing a jammy fruitiness at the core.  I am guessing that, being a Thai oil, it was distilled from the A. Crassna species of agarwood.  The berry tonality, although definitely present, is less exuberantly sweet than a Cambodi-style Crassna and there is something metallic in the background.  So far, so Thai.

 

To my Plebian nose, this oil is actually quite pleasant to wear.  It is not overly barnyardy.  However, it is not at all polite in its initial stages and will surely be off-putting to innocent bystanders.  Therefore, newcomers to pure oud oil or even to oud mukhallats would be wise to sample before buying.  If you can find the one I’m talking about, of course. 

 

 

 

Malay Penyulingan 2004 (Rising Phoenix Perfumery)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Malaysian

 

 

Malay Penyulingan 2004 is one of the standouts of the Rising Phoenix Perfumery pure oud oils.  A vintage Malay oil, it comes ready-formed with a hit of smoke smeared onto a core of softly barny leather.  Once the smoky, green aura of the topnotes bank down, the barnyard elements seem to swell in size.  It is not massively dirty or anything, but there is definitely an undertone of freshly-mucked out goat stalls to contend with.

 

The core of Malay Penyulingan 2004 is warm, leathery, and above all, smooth.  The buttery texture is pinched here and there with touches of stale dust that cling to the nostrils.  The soft leather notes deepen and become muskier over time, taking on a fuzzy, soft-focus animalic quality.  But it has none of the fecal sourness associated with more barnyardy oils.  The drydown is deeply smoky, leathery, and balmy, with a satisfyingly ‘chewy’ texture.  

 

 

 

 

Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

 

Malaysia Classic (Kyara Zen)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Malaysia

 

 

Malaysia Classic is hands down my favorite of the Kyara Zen-curated oud oils.  If oud oils possess a color equivalent to their olfactory profile, then Malaysia Classic would be a deep green.  Typical to many good Malay oils, it opens with a damp forest vibe, full of wet soil, juicy black bark dripping moisture, pine, camphor, sweet woods, and a swipe of smoke.  It is immediately transportative, taking me to the depths of a medieval forest after a tropical rainstorm.

 

Malaysia Classic develops in a pleasantly complex manner typical of a good Malaysian oil, namely an earthy, sweet, foresty top that settles into a layer of woodsmoke, and finally, into a layer of steamy, tropical woods and fruit.  It is a satisfying oil to wear, because it is such an immensely wholesome smell.  It smells like taking in a lungful of air during a hike in the woods and feeling the cells in your body fill up with centuries of sap, smoke, soil, and dampness.  Wearing an oil like this is what allows us to tap into more primal, unconscious connections with the natural world.

 

Malaysia Classic is distilled from the A. Malaccensis species of the Aquilaria tree, which is the same tree that produces most of today’s Borneo oils.  While not initially similar in scent profile, the lingering sweetness and forest-like tones in Malaysia Classic do seem to provide a tangential connection to the Borneo style of oud oil.  Beautiful, stirring work.

 

 

 

Malaysian Oudh Royale (Arabian Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Malaysian

 

 

Malaysian Oud Royale opens with a liquid slurry note that is surprisingly sunny and easy to digest.  Although it is ripe, it is also immediately grassy, thus breathing some good countryside air into the barn.  Overall, I would describe the oil as friendly, and suitable for oud beginners.

 

Later on, the oud develops some lovely redcurrant and dark wine facets, as well as subtle leathery dimensions.  Balmy and smooth, it makes for a pleasant wear, and is not demanding in the slightest.  What I appreciate about Malaysian Oudh Royale in particular is that it is not one of those oud oils where you have to wait for it to become more presentable.  Malaysian Oudh Royale is very expensive at over $350 for a quarter tola.  But since it has been aged for twenty-five years and is exceptionally smooth, it is money well spent.

 

 

 

Photo by Nastya Kvokka on Unsplash

 

Mamberamo – North Papua Gyrinops (Imperial Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Papua (Gyrinops)

 

 

Mamberamo opens with a head-filling rush of green tea and steamy jungle vines, as well as something almost camphoraceously bitter.  Hard, unripe fruits, green (freshly-stripped) wood, and herbs nip at its ankles, clamoring for your attention.  These vaporous green notes are what one normally associates with Papuan and Borneo-style oud oils, and it is no surprise, therefore, that this North Papua Gyrinops oil stays so true to its roots.

 

Given a moment to shake out of its default ‘island’ mode, Mamberamo develops into a very interesting ‘brown’ smell that reminds me of a country cottage with its low ceilings, open hearth, and soot-blackened walls.  This place seemed to breathe baked lamb and soup out of its very pores, the greasy walls releasing wafts of thousands of good meals, peat smoke, and whiskey.  In fact, in feel, this oud oil is remarkably close to that of Annick Goutal’s amazing (and sadly discontinued) Vetiver. 

 

This seems to be only a short diversion indoors, as Mamberamo takes us out again into the sharp, herb-filled air of the humid forest.  Dry and leafy, it recalls the unripe tartness of cold black tea and plum skin, aromas which merge effortlessly with the flighty, solvent-like tang of Papuan-style oud.  Mamberamo is light, elegant, and easy to wear.

 

 

 

Old School Thai (Feel Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Thai

 

 

Old School Thai opens on a hot, bilious note that smells hilariously bovine.  Thai?  More like one of those super animalic, crazy hot Chinese ouds with ropey veins of marine funk and fur running through them.  It smells untrammeled, a cornucopia of aged leather and ripe, runny cheese, all sweating under cover in a hot cattle pen.

 

Sensing a theme here?  Yes, the word ‘hot’ appears a lot.  It sounds weird, but some aromas are intrinsically cold, while others are hot.  And Old School Thai feels hot.  Thick with spice and humid hay, you can almost feel the heat roiling off it.

 

I presume that the wood for this oil was soaked in water for a very long time to introduce that rotting, spicy sourness so prevalent in Thai and Hindi oils.  The long soak is a tradition among oud distillers and is responsible for what many believe is the true ‘oud’ aroma.  Personally, I am not a fan of the long soak and find it almost unbearable at times.  And unfortunately, while I respect Feel Oud’s distillation expertise, this is one of those times.

 

To its credit, the extreme barnyard funk of Old School Thai lasts only about twenty minutes before relenting and revealing a cluster of warm, smoky leather, incense, and rich earthy nuances.  This would make for an excellent introduction to the animalic Thai style currently being produced using plantation wood.  It may not be beginner-friendly, exactly, but the briefness of the animalic topnotes means that the oil moves swiftly into more wearable territory.

 

 

 

Photo by Noah Kroes on Unsplash

 

Oud #1 (Kyara Zen)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Hindi

 

 

Lightly sour and leathery up top, Oud #1 has some of the hallmarks of a Hindi style but none of the grungier animalic features that might intimidate beginner noses.  There is an initial hit of smoke, goat hide, and black pepper to contend with, but this oil quickly zooms in on a handsome ‘new’ leather accord.  This is an almost squeaky clean leather, with the lingering scent of tanning chemicals clinging to its underbelly.  Picture a leather goods store where a shipment of new skins from the tannery has arrived and is being offloaded.

 

There is something piercing about the aroma.  But, counterintuitively, it is this solvent-like pitch that makes the oil so light and elegant.  And by light, I mean that it is far less full-bodied than some of the other KZ oils, drying down to a faint shadow of itself within the space of an hour.  What remains, however, is ethereally lovely – a buttery suede dusted with bitter cocoa.  The subtlety of Oud#1 makes it a perfect candidate for those situations when you need your oud to speak with an indoor voice while all the time thrilling you with a private hum of spiced, suedey goodness.    

 

 

 

Oud Ahmad (Ensar Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Malaysian

 

 

Distilled from a bundle of Malaysian kinam (incense-grade) wood, Oud Ahmad is said to replicate with faithfulness the purity and intensity of a piece of best quality oud wood smoked gently and slowly over a burner.  It is also reputed to be one of only two oils in the world distilled from one hundred percent incense-grade wood.

 

Oud Ahmad is a beautiful oil with a deep, bosomy trail that displays that Malaysian disposition towards two different stories knitted together – musky, smoky fruit on top, and incense resin underneath.  This provides for an interesting and varied experience that keeps the nose going back to the skin for hits throughout the day.  Immediately upon touching the wand to my skin, I smell high notes of fermented peach wine and champagne, grey buttery glove leather, and the tannic, apricot-skin aroma of osmanthus.  It is lightly sour and smoky, with the varnish-like notes of steamy jungle wood joined with fermented fruit and sake.

 

The deepening sourness of the leather, fruit, and booze are wrapped up in a furry musk note, vaporized cloud of dark chocolate and deer skin.  A friend of mine finds Oud Ahmad to be very sexy and I can see why he thinks that.  There is something carnal about the muskiness here.  Once the fruited smoke and tannins die back, a velvety base of sweet, tarry resin like labdanum, copal, and even some honeyed pine sap steps forward to take up center stage.

 

Oud Ahmad is a great example of a multi-faceted, complex oud oil that will keep you guessing until you have figured out what the constituent aromas are and how they slot into each other.  Occasion-wise, this oil is the equivalent of a glass of really expensive whiskey enjoyed in a book-lined study at the end of a busy day.  

 

 

 

 

Photo by Alexandre Trouvé on Unsplash

 

Oud Dhul Q (Ensar Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Thai mixed with Cambodi

 

 

Oud Dhul Q is a distillation of organic, plantation-grown Thai oud wood and a batch of incense-grade Cambodi wood.  In other words, a mixture of farmed and wild wood.  It is very much related to Aroha Kyaku but far smokier, woodier, and darker in tone.  It is also one of the most enjoyable Ensar ouds I have had the pleasure of trying, and the one I can realistically imagine owning myself one day.  (Of course, it will probably have been sold out by the time I get around to buying it.)

 

Up top, there is a long, drawn-out smoke note, fused with aged oud wood, tobacco, and the bright saltiness of ambergris.  But there is also a labdanum-style thickness and sweetness behind the opening.  This smells like burned toffee mixed with liquid tar and leather.

 

The smoke and tobacco place Oud Dhul Q in the same general arena as Aroha Kyaku, but smelled side by side, clear differences emerge.  Oud Dhul Q leans towards the saline side of the flavor wheel, while Aroha Kyaku’s cherry leather makes it both sweeter and brighter.  Yet, in Dhul Q, there is clearly something thick and syrupy at play behind the opening bouquet of smoke.  This syrupy density is as salty-bitter as molasses, chestnut honey, or even labdanum itself.

 

There are no cherries or fruit in the heart, just a buttery leather smeared with tar and honey as seen through the fiery blaze of campfire smoke.  The Heathcliff of pure oud oils, Dhul Q is a smoky, saturnine beauty that demonstrates that oud oil can be as complex and as ‘perfumey’ as a Chanel extrait.  Its haunting umami quality makes me think of kinam wood kept in Japanese vaults, an image that persists in jumping to mind even though I have never been within five hundred kilometers of either Japan or a piece of kinam agarwood.  

 

 

 

 

Photo by Alejandro Duarte on Unsplash

 

Oud Haroon (Ensar Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Cambodi

 

 

Oud Haroon is a feat of modern engineering that employs a new approach to farmed oud, arriving at a result that mimics the scent of a wild Cambodi or Thai oil from the seventies.  Made using plantation wood from naturally-inoculated trees that were left to grow for between twenty-five and thirty-seven years before harvesting, there are no sour or off notes to spoil the exuberant red berry aromas that jump out of the bottle at you.

 

But when we talk about a Cambodi aroma, it is important that we know what that refers to.  I have been lucky enough to smell a sample of real Cambodi oil from 1976 (also thanks to Ensar), before everyone started oxidizing their oils to replicate the aroma of the oil from trees that no longer exist.  The 1976 Cambodi oil smelled deeply fruity, but also like medicine, which if you think about it, makes sense because the oud resin itself is the medicine the tree makes to fight off infection.  It also smelled sweet and fruity without any of that sickly caramel smell that most Cambodi-style oils have these days, and definitely none of the sour ‘radiator dust’ note that modern force-aging creates in modern Cambodis.

 

Oud Haroon smells like a rich, plummy medley of purple grapes, sour cherries, prunes, plums, and apricots all mashed together and boiled up into clear, golden nectar.  There is a noticeable undercurrent of medicinal wood, so sour and rich you feel it might dry up a mouth ulcer on the spot.  Unlike the 1976 Cambodi, there is a thick coating of either honey or caramel to the aroma, but it is not sickly sweet or unbalanced in any way.  It simply forms part of the rich backdrop of Port wine fruits.

 

Best of all, there is no hint of any harsh or off-putting aromas like stale dust or unhealthy, plasticized air that one can sometimes pick up in modern Cambodi-style oils.  In general, this is a bosomy fruit explosion set deep into clean honey and medicinal woods, with no smoke or leather to distract the nose.  An incredibly friendly and generous-smelling oud oil, I recommend Oud Haroon to anyone who likes those big 1980s floral-ambery-balsamic scents (Opium, Cinnabar, Coco). 

 

 

 

Oud Hindi (Abdul Karim Al Faransi)

Type: pure oud oil (ish)

Style or Profile: Hindi

 

 

Oud Hindi is both less refined than Dehn al Oud Cambodi and more authentically ‘oudy’ in profile.  It hits all the marks of a great Indian oud, but in broad brushstrokes rather than detail, running down a checklist of smoke, leather, fermenting hay, and the horny funk of rutting animals.  It is animalic but not obnoxiously so.  It is as if all the barny stink has been hung out to dry in a smoke hut, causing it to cure slightly and shed the rawest, wettest parts.  The resulting aroma is that of a rich leather.

 

Lurking underneath the barn, leather, and smoke, there is a layer of fermented fruit that catches me off guard, as fruit is not normally associated with the Hindi profile.  The smoky fruit note makes me wonder if this might be a mix of Thai or Malay oils aged in such a way as to specifically coax a Hindi flavor out of the oil.

 

Either way, this is a good, fermented Hindi-style oil that wears nicely on the skin, a trickle of smoke threaded through it to keep the nose awake.  At a price point this reasonable, it is likely that Oud Hindi is more an oudy mukhallat than a pure oud oil, but it smells pretty authentic.  My one criticism is that its structure is a bit flabby, i.e., it unravels substantially with every passing hour, shedding richness and complexity.  However, at this price, one simply reapplies, darling.  Slather it on.

 

 

 

Oud Royale 1985 (Ensar Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Indonesian (Sumatra)

 

 

Oud oil from the eighties is special.  Back then, high-quality, densely-resinated wood was still widely available and it was even reasonably priced, even if the resulting oud oil was not.  Better yet, the wood arriving out of the jungles at the time was being cut from much older wild trees than those that are still growing today, so the content of oleoresin was more densely-packed, more evenly threaded throughout the wood, with far less bunkwood than today, and the quality generally superior.

 

Oud Royale 1985 comes from that generation of wood, and specifically from Sumatra.  Like the 1976 Kambodi discussed here, this part of our collective oud heritage is not available anymore.  Oud oil of this tenor is not a renewable resource, coming as it does from old trees that are long gone and a micro-climate that cannot be re-simulated.  Smelling it must be like being alone in the British Museum and unwrapping Tutankhamen’s bandages for the first time.

 

So, what does it smell like, this eighth wonder of the world?  Let’s just say that there is no substitute for a genuine, thirty-year aging of an oil in the bottle, especially an oil that was already excellent when it went in.  Old school techniques, top notch wood, dense oleo-resin, unpolluted microclimates…. perfect genes meet unimpeachable preservation.    

 

It inches out of the vial reluctantly, with a consistency closer to blackstrap molasses than to oil.  You have to prod and poke and plead to coax even a tiny smear of residue onto the dabber stick.  It pastes onto the skin like a dab of desiccated wood varnish.  And immediately, you smell the heart of the oud wood – there are no topnotes, no undertones, just the core of what it is.  Oud Royale 1985 smells like damp, hummus-rich earth, and ancient wooden chests freshly dug up.  Once opened, these wooden chests, wet and already disintegrating at the corners, exhale the smell of intense rot, stale air, and the earth from whence they came.

 

The aroma is gentle yet deep, with hues of truffles, cèpes, myrrh, aged patchouli, humus, prunes soaking in ruby port, tobacco, and oiled leather suitcases.  There is also a smooth, dark chocolate texture and the faint trace of animal fur far removed from its animal origins but retaining the musty warmth of the flesh.  It smells incredibly smooth and round, like an aged wine or a leather jacket so well-loved that it has worn down to the fineness of silk at the elbows and collar.  It smells rested and full, like a person after a good meal.

 

There is no bristling braggadocio here, no howling animalism or raw paunchiness.  This is an old oil and it takes its own damn time.  Later on, a wisp of smoke and autumn leaves appear, pasted onto the rich, black earth, both deepening the dark humus-like aura of the oil.  It smells like wet bark thrown on a far off campfire, and the moist air of a steaming forest when the sun hits the ice.  Both atmospheric and noble, this is, along with the 1976 Kambodi, Oud Dhul Q, and Qi Nam 2005, my favorite of the Ensar Oud oils.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

 

Oud Sultani (Ensar Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Malaysian

 

 

Oud Sultani is one of Ensar Oud’s ‘Oud Legends’, meaning oils distilled from special, incense-grade resinated wood (in this case, wild sinking-grade Malaysian wood) and using different materials (in this case, a copper distilling pot) to imbue the oil with unusual qualities.  Oud legends are available in tiny quantities and most sell out very quickly.  Oud Sultani is therefore unavailable to buy at present, unless you pick it up from a private collector and are willing to pay up to ten times what it originally sold for.  It is somewhat close to the aroma profile of Oud Royale 1985, but with a far airier texture and a golden, floral tinge.

 

Oud Sultani opens with a stark medicinal wood and some of the rich, thick humus notes from Oud Royale 1985.  The earthy spark of the resin backbone suggests myrrh but there is a toffee-like, golden sweetness that makes me thick of creamier labdanum resin.  When I smell Oud Sultani, I visualize white flower petals scattered on a slow-moving river of honey, picking up nuggets of labdanum resin, myrrh, and benzoin from the riverbed as it flows on.  It is mellow and complex, with a rich backbone of spice.

 

Hints of minty camphor, cinnamon, and dried fruit cling to the corners of the aroma, which, when merged with the hints of flowers, honey, and ambery resin, makes Oud Sultani seem more like a composed perfume than merely an essential oil.  I find Oud Sultani to be unusual in that it is simultaneously (a) clean and transparent, (b) rich and deep, and (c) complex in a perfumey way.  Picture a spicy carnation trapped in a bright, clear tree amber resin, preserved for all time to come.  Oud Sultani is the scent of that resin when heated between one’s hands – earthy, minty, camphoraceous, benzoin-like, leathery, and yet with a spicy, golden floral feel that makes you think of the old Caron extraits, like Tabac Blond and Bellodgia.  A marvel!   

 

 

 

Oud Yusuf (Ensar Oud)

Type: pure oud oil

Style or Profile: Borneo-style oud with Cambodi characteristics

 

 

Oud Yusuf is perhaps the most immediately likeable of all of the pure oud oils I have ever smelled.  Ensar himself calls it ‘the prettiest oud you can wear’ and that’s fair.  Although it is thoroughly identifiable as oud oil, and not, say, a floral absolute or essential oil, it contains such an astonishing array of fruit and flower notes that one might be forgiven for thinking it is a blend, rather than a pure oud oil.  That means that, although it is an easy oud for a beginner to enjoy, it offers a depth and complexity that will keep even experienced oudies intrigued over the course of the day.

 

Oud Yusuf is a testament to the skill of the composer who can gently and delicately coax out the various facets he wants from the wood via minor adjustments here and there to wood he puts in the still, to the distilling times, to the purity of the water he uses for the distillation, to the very material the still is made out of, and so on.  Otherwise, who might suspect that out of a block of wood could come such a range of fruit and flower notes?

 

Although Oud Yusuf is a Borneo-style oud with Cambodi characteristics, it does not have any of the sweet, sticky berries of the Cambodi profile.  Instead, it is a cornucopia of ripe stone fruit, specifically pears, peaches, and apricots.  These lush fruit aromas, packed into the opening phases of the oil in particular, have that thick, almost fermented quality of the thick fruit juices enjoyed in summer all over the former Yugoslavia and Russia.  These juices are so grainy that you imagine they put all of the fruit in there, including the core and skin, and so thick that you could stand a spoon up in them.  These notes are what clearly come across in Oud Yusuf, overlaid with a slight tinge of camphor or wintergreen, even mint.

 

Three or four hours in, the oil develops a smoky, woody quality that one associates with the smell of oud, shedding most if not all of the stone fruits and mint notes from the first phase.  It is more traditionally oudy at this stage, but not at all animalic or sour.  It boasts the refined darkness of soft black licorice or leather.

 

Positioned halfway between dry woods and balmy supple leather, the latter half of this oil reminds me quite a bit of the drydown of Vikt by Slumberhouse or the amazing Blackbird by House of Matriarch, both Western fragrances that contain a small amount of real oud oil.  They are not smell-alikes, of course, but there is a similar consistency to the aroma of the oud at this stage – dark, balmy, leathery, but not desiccated.

 

Finally, a flourish of delicate floral notes appears just as you believe the oud is in its demise.  Although I do not clearly smell lilies or lilacs like many do with this oil (including Ensar himself), I do smell something like a creamy magnolia or champaca, something with a tinge of crème anglaise to it, a vanillic heft.  The florals are not fresh or green, but warm and mature.  They bloom directly out of the wood, carrying that slightly sour, smoky woodsy note in the breath of their petals.

 

 

About Me:  A two-time Jasmine Award winner for excellence in perfume journalism, I write a blog (this one!) and have authored many guides, articles, and interviews for Basenotes.  (My day-to-day work is in the scientific research for development world).  Thanks to the generosity of friends and acquaintances in the perfume business, I have been privileged enough to smell the raw materials that go into perfumes and learn about the role they play in both Western and Eastern perfumery.   Artisans have sent vials of the most precious materials on earth such as ambergris, deer musk, and oud.  But I have also spent thousands of my own money, buying oud oils directly from artisans and tons of dodgy (and possibly illegal) stuff on eBay.  In the reviews sections, I will always tell you where my sample came from and whether I paid for it or not.

 

Source of samples:  Most of the pure oud samples I am reviewing in these chapters were kindly provided to me free of charge by oud artisans and distillers, namely: Ensar Oud, Feel Oud, Al Shareef Oudh, Rising Phoenix Perfumery, Imperial Oud, and Kyara Zen. The Abdul Samad Al Qurashi samples were sent to me free of charge by a distributor.   

 

Note on monetization: My blog is not monetized.  But if you’d like to support my work or show appreciation for any of the content I put out, you can always buy me a coffee using the little buymeacoffee button.  Thank you! 

 

Cover Image: Photo of pure oud samples, photo my own (please do not use, circulate, or repost without my permission)

 

[1] Oud oils are pure essential oils (or ruhs), distilled directly from shards of agarwood loaded into a still. They have not been tempered, diluted, or mixed with any other material.

[2] Mukhallats are blends (mukhallat being the Arabic word for ‘blend’) of essential oils and other raw materials that were distilled or compounded elsewhere. Some of them include carrier oils and synthetics, while others do not (price is a factor). The mukhallat is a uniquely Middle Eastern form of perfumery, while the attar is a traditionally Indian one. Note that for most of the perfume-wearing world, the words ‘attar’ and ‘mukhallat’ are largely interchangeable (read about the actual differences here and here).

 

[3] The reviews of oudy CPOs will cover all of the (mostly Western takes on) perfume oils with a headlining oud note. Concentrated perfume oils are not attars or mukhallats, partially because of their construction but also because the objective of the whole exercise is different. Read how exactly here. People wear mukhallats for reasons of religion, culture, and tradition, while people wear perfume oils just to smell great or to tap into a specific image or fantasy.

 

 

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