Discover how Oud became an integral part of beauty approaches

Oud reminds you of winter evenings, watching your family apply a final touch of perfume before they head out to a wedding or a party. As a strong and deep scent, it can transport you to countless and layered olfactive memories. While the public often perceives it as an ‘oriental’ fragrance, Oud emerges as a versatile ingredient in the world of perfumery, at times rich and luxurious, occasionally blended with citrusy notes for an unexpected combination.

١. History

Oud (also known as agarwood) has held great cultural and religious significance throughout ancient civilizations. Its aromatic traits were documented as far back as 1400 BCE in the Indian Vedas, and particularly in China and Vietnam.  At that point, it was mainly used as incense and also for its medicinal properties.  It was employed to treat various ailments, from stomach issues to lung and liver pains. 

To this day, Vietnam in particular has a tight history with the scent, where its trade flourished. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine also values agarwood, known as ‘Chén Xiāng,’ meaning “sinking fragrance.” 

٢. Oud in Perfumes

In the Middle East, both oud and fragrant wood chips have a long history of use, finding their place in oil-based formulations and as aromatic chips for ceremonial burning, a tradition that persists today. Highly esteemed yet expensive, it has been traditionally reserved for special occasions and religious rites. 

To cater to everyday use, families often created less concentrated mixed versions of oud called ‘mukhallat,’ blending it with fragrances like rose and saffron. Despite its enduring popularity in the Arabian Gulf Peninsula, including Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, the beloved scent is gradually facing competition. As consumers in the region seek modern blends and ‘Western scents’ from brands like Bulgari and Tom Ford, and explore niche luxury companies like Boadicea the Victorious, fragrances featuring rose and vanilla-based accords have gained favour among both men and women. Meanwhile, authentic oud, derived from the rare agarwood tree, remains a scarce ingredient in perfumery.

One distinguishing feature of real oud notes is its ability to traverse the entire fragrance journey, from the very first ‘psshht’ to the lingering base notes.  Recognized brands often draw inspiration from oud by crafting fragrances with an accord of this exotic essence, utilizing specialized chemical compounds. Perfumers artfully compose intricate blends, incorporating reconstitutions or accords, while skilfully incorporating other natural or synthetic woody notes like cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, and incense to capture the essence of the scent.

Ever since its introduction to the mainstream perfume market in 2002 through YSL’s Eau de Parfum M7, the essence of oud has proliferated. Tom Ford and Juliette Has a Gun were among the pioneers who recognized the potential appeal of their French-style fragrance to the burgeoning Middle Eastern consumer base.

٣. How- to?

There are many ways to use oud, mainly through; 

  • Perfume and Fragrance: Oud is commonly used as a key ingredient in perfumes and colognes. It can be found in both high-end designer fragrances and niche perfumery. 
  • Oil: Pure oud essential oil is highly sought after. It can be worn as a concentrated perfume oil by applying it directly to the skin. A little goes a long way due to its potent aroma.
  • Incense/Bakhoor: Oud chips, powder, or resin can be used to make incense sticks, cones, or as raw incense to burn. 
  • Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses: In traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda, oud is believed to have therapeutic properties. It’s used for its potential benefits, such as improving mental focus and promoting relaxation. 
  • Traditional and Cultural Uses: Oud has deep cultural and traditional significance in various parts of the world. It is used in religious rituals, ceremonies, and special occasions in some cultures. In the realm of spirituality, the oil variant is celebrated for its psychoactive qualities, believed to facilitate the cultivation of inner tranquility. Bakhoor is a traditional Arabic incense blend that is often used for its pleasant fragrance, especially during special occasions and gatherings. It is a common ingredient in bakhoor

٤. Where to find?

Dubai is known for its wide selection of oud products, including cosmetics and fragrances. You can mostly find them in traditional souks, such as the Deira Spice Souk and the Perfume Souk. You can also find these products in malls and oud perfume shops, such as Arabian Oud and Swiss Arabian who have flagship stores in Dubai. 

Some perfume museums, such as the Perfume House in Al Shindagha Historic District, showcase traditional Arabic perfumes and cosmetics, including those made with this fragrance. It’s a great place to learn about the history of perfume and shop for unique products.

Online retailers also offer an array of products – you can explore options on websites like Oud Milano and other ecommerce platforms that deliver within Dubai.

٥. Our selection of Oud-based products includes:

BYREDO, Oud Immortel, Eau de Parfum – An eau de parfum with an oud, woody and aromatic character begins its composition with initial notes of limoncello, incense, and cardamom. Available here.

GHAWALI, Al Laylaa Oud Concentrated Perfume: The fragrance is structured with an Oriental floral heart, while a robust foundation of patchouli and vanilla encapsulates the sessence of nightfall. The magical fragrance is enhanced by the addition of Indian Oud Oil. Available here

TOM FORD BEAUTY, Oud Wood, Eau de Parfum: Emulating the comforting warmth of incense-filled sanctuaries, this perfume is a blend of smoky woods, featuring rare oud, sandalwood, rosewood, eastern spices, and alluring amber. Available here

MAISON FRANCIS KURKDJIAN, Oud Satin Mood: This fragrance features a violet accord that adds a touch of finesse to the overall composition. The core ingredient, oud wood from Laos, contributes a complex aroma, characterized by a mixture of musky, woody, leathery, smoky, and honeyed notes. This particular oud variety from Laos is known for its vibrant and powerful scent. Available here

GUERLAIN, Oud Essentiel: It features a harmonious blend of smoky oud, sweet and spicy saffron, and vibrant leather notes, creating a complex and alluring scent profile. Available here.

Arabian Oud, Royal Oud Set: Perfect for a gift, and to initiate someone to the world of Oud. This set includes not only a captivating eau de parfum but also complementary products like scented body lotion and shower gel, ensuring a complete and indulgent fragrance experience. Available here.