Monday, December 17, 2012

STOP THE OUD MADNESS! An open letter to perfumers and perfumistas alike

My fragrant friends, I come to you today with an urgent matter requiring your immediate attention if we are to avert impending doom: 

the complete take-over of perfumery by the Oud Machine (hereafter, OM). 
You may find my warning alarmist, and I own that it is—as it must be, given the gravity of the crisis before us. Before I offer you the tools to extricate yourself from the insidious OM, let us review the facts. According to the database:

  1. In 2006, no perfume was launched with the word oud in its name.

  1. In 2007, three perfumes were launched with the word oud  in their name.

  1. In 2008, thirteen perfumes were launched with the word oud  in their name, but all came from the houses of Montale, Mancera (more on the “M” connection, below...), or Ajmal.

  1. In 2009, twelve perfumes with the word oud in their name were launched, distributed over eight different houses.

  1. In 2011, all hell broke loose, with twenty-two oud-named perfumes launched by sixteen different houses

  1. In 2012, the numbers leapt to thirty-four oud-named perfumes launched by thirty different houses

I think that you can see where all of this is leading:

Scores of sheep flock together and head in the same direction
after being told by a sales associate in a niche emporium
that cool people wear oud perfumes.”

Three oud-perfume producing houses became eight, became ten, became sixteen, producing where there were none only five years earlier: thirty new oud perfumes!

Let's look at some of the mathematical series involved, selecting a few choice data points:


The change in the numbers:


The next number in the series, those readers proficient at standardized tests will aver, is:


From there we can continue the series:


As you can see, within five years, the world will be literally awash in oud perfume. By the end of a decade, there will be an oud perfume purveyor on every corner, all asking for our precious wallet share, and what choice will we really have by then????

Yes, I'm afraid that the complete and utter homogenization of niche perfumery looms before us. The turning point may have been the admission of Estée Lauder and Jo Malone into the oud club. So now middle-class suburban housewives are wearing oud as well? Adding oud perfumes to their shopping carts along with their BB creams so that they can qualify for the latest GWP (gift with purchase) worth all of $1? What is this world coming to? I ask most sincerely.

I suppose that I should share with those of you who do not know that “BB creams” or Beauty Balms, too, were a capitalist-generated need now clamored for by all image-conscious women of the world. But let us return to the far more pressing matter at hand: the question of oud and the spectre of OM.

The Story of OM

Perfume tastes cycle, just like tastes in everything else fashion related. How else to explain the oft-wielded locution by younger perfumistas, Old Lady Perfume, used to denounce perfumes which the whippersnappers deem fit to be worn only by octogenarians rotting away in retirement homes? Proud wearers of so-called Old Lady Perfumes may smugly reply: “ignorance.” But do you really know anything whatsoever about what you do not know, aptly termed by former U.S. defense secretary and epistemologist Donald Rumsfeld, the “unknown unknowns”?

Our concern here is not with the question of Chanel no 5, whether it is as cool as Brad Pitt or as outmoded as Zsa Zsa Gabor. No, we have much stinkier odors to mask. Yes, the latest craze in perfume, which has yet to run its course and is gaining strength with each passing day, is in fact the basis of some of the stinkiest perfumes ever concocted on the face of the earth, to wit: oud.

In truth, we are being shepherded quite contradictorily from two sides simultaneously. At the mainstream designer level, we are being told to scent ourselves as though we were dryer sheets, shampoo and conditioner, or even household cleaning products, as the influence of industrial giants such as Procter & Gamble continues to swell unabated.

Yes, the perfumers creating scents for Oil of Olay face products are indeed the same perfumers creating scents for Pantene shampoo, and they also design pseudo-niche series of perfumes for the once independent houses now comprising but a thin page in the P&G portfolio. Will they survive? Does it even matter anymore?

If we stray from the designer herd, attempting to identify creativity and novelty in the niche arena, we find ourselves corralled more and more narrowly into yet another, perhaps even more insidious olfactory ghetto: the land of oud perfumes.

This clever plot has obviously been designed to secure our conformity with what we are told is desirable in perfume. But have we ever spent any time asking ourselves, in our heart of hearts, whether this is really true? Why in the world should we want to smell and waft of oud, pray tell?

I recently experienced something of an epiphany in this regard, which I am anxious to share with you O Not-so-gently Scented Reader. You may have reservations, having come to the conclusion—and not unjustifiably so—that “one person's epiphany is another person's hallucination.” And I do not deny that this is true. Fortunately, however, true epiphanies wear their veridicality on their face, and I was blessed to have been the recipient of one only just recently, which happens, not coincidentally, to bear on the topic at hand.

I was testing the latest oud creation to have found its way into my queue, Rosamunda, from the house of Laboratorio Olfattivo. It smelled good, and it smelled comfortingly familiar. Sure enough, it was that tried-and-true triad of rose, saffron, and oud rolled together once again and poured into a bottle to entice those of us by now accustomed—and drawn like iron filings to a magnet—to the scent.

My first reaction was: “Hmm.... smells like Bond no 9 New York Oud.” In my admittedly obsessive-compulsive quest for truth in reviewing, I decided to do a side-by-side test of the two perfumes. What did I find? I discovered that I preferred the Bond no 9. Why? Because it wafted much less of oud and much more of rose. Suddenly the truth flashed before my eyes like a javelin hurled down from the heavens by an angry God with no stock holdings in niche oud ventures:

Do I even like oud?

I was shocked, at first, by the question. I had spent many a review taking a house to task for producing what appeared to be an oudless oud perfume, but here I was at last confronted with the fact that in a comparison of two oud-boasting perfumes, I preferred the one with less, not more of the allegedly precious substance, which I had been incessantly indoctrinated by the OM to believe that I desire!

What, then, was the basis of my complaint in earlier reviews of oud-challenged oud perfumes, my fragrant friends? That the perfume in question, allegedly issued for we oud aficionados, was too oud weak to meet our oud need.

What oud need might that be? Why it's none other than the very one which was created by the launch of so many oud perfumes over the course of the past six years! First there were no oud perfumes. Today there are dozens, and they continue to proliferate as so many of us have been tricked by the OM—the most effective promulgator of propaganda since Goebbels himself—into believing that we not only want but in fact need oud.

We will travel to the ends of the cyber-world and pay exorbitant sums (relative to the price of other perfumes) to be able to sniff yet another new oud perfume, and to be thereby granted the privilege of bitching when the perfume inside an oud-labeled bottle contains nothing of the kind. Or so we think.

But do we really know this, in the first place? Many of the honest perfumistas among us must own that we have never been to Oman and do not expect to travel there anytime soon. Our concept of “oud” derives solely from what we have been presented as “oud” in perfume. This means that if rose, oud, and saffron are often rolled together in the same composition, we may find difficulty discerning the oud as an isolable note from the complex in which it is conveyed to our nose. And if we think that we don't, we may be deluding ourselves.

The devoted-to-oud reader may snort in response to my concern, to which I can only reply: the problem is much more profound than it may on its surface seem. Perhaps the art-mongers will own that perfume is subject to the whims of fashion no more and no less than anything else proposed to consumers by design houses. Perhaps they will not worry that they have been molded into oud-ingesters, always wanting more and more oud, never satiated, just as Marx and others so incisively diagnosed.

The truth, my fragrant friends, is that the proverbial wool of your very own coat has been pulled over your eyes, blinding you to the reality of what has been transpiring in niche perfumery over these past few years.

Is it too late to stop the OM? Has my little manifesto been for naught? I think not, my comrades-in-noses, but we must take action now, and we must do so swiftly, prepared to beat off those who would draw us back into the oud-herd once again.

For those stalwarth souls who are now ready to take back the oud-saturated night. I offer the following four-step program for recovery.

Saying “No” to the OM

It is high time for us to get our wits about us and nip this oud monster in the bud. Just say “No” to OM. The challenge before us may seem daunting, but a few guidelines may help you to win back your perfuming autonomy. If you are a perfumer, at last ready to break from the pseudo-niche herd, I encourage you, too, not only to cease and desist from producing oud perfumes but also to refrain from succumbing to what will no doubt remain the temptation to wear some of the oud stockpiled in the back room of your atelier. Please be forewarned that we will stop the OM, and when we do, you will want to be on the right side of history.

  1. Don't fall for the price trap—all that glitters of oud is not gold. Oud perfumes often cost more than the non-oud perfumes of the very same house. The first step, then, must be to refuse to pay the price being asked for über niche perfumes. Let niche be good enough for you. Don't be fooled by this little game, the suggestion that you get what you pay for. In the case of oud, my fragrant friends, you pay only to be enslaved by the OM.

  2. Temptation must be thwarted. When you espy a new oud offering, beckoning you from the counter of one of your customary niche emporium haunts, take a deep breath, count to eight, and walk slowly toward the door. Do not run, because you do not want to draw the attention of an SA, who may, and likely will, run after you to spritz you with a bit of the evil elixir, hoping that this will precipitate your return to the herd, that a few drops will cause you to throw open the oud floodgates, and your wallet, once again.

  3. Repeat after me: Rien n'est gratuit... [Nothing is free.] You will no doubt for the foreseeable future continue to receive “free” samples of oud perfumes from “generous” emporia and houses with new launches. Don't be fooled. Upon receiving one of these vials, proceed with dispatch and purpose to your kitchen sink, remove the lid from the vial, and pour the contents down the drain. This will be difficult at first, I am aware, but with time, and as your own sense of your perfumic autonomy slowly begins to return, you will become stronger and more determined with each vial emptied in a haughty show of disdain for the OM.

  4. Knowledge is power. Be ever vigilant of the forces at work behind the scenes of the OM. Everyone knows deep down inside that behind every Machine hides The Man, the puppetmaster pulling the strings. Is it a coincidence that in this case his name also happens to begin with the letter 'M'? I think not. The veritable flood of oud perfumes over the last few years has been yet another ingenious scheme on the part of The Man to convince perfume enthusiasts that they desire nothing more than Middle Eastern inspired oud perfume. 

    But once the oud seed has been planted—like a tick, or a microchipit won't be long before the sheep all flock back to Montale/Mancera. Why? Because all oud roads lead ultimately to Montale, one way or the anagrammatically other. The Man's man on the ground, Ammar Atmeh is there to authenticate the perfumes being produced by the OM (not coincidentally located in OMan) as the real thing. That's right genuine oud perfumes, and in sufficiently high concentration so as to be detectable by even the marginally hyposmic nose, can be dependably found at one and only one house, and it does indeed begin with the letter 'M'.

So there you have it, my fragrant friends, the peculiar phenomenon of oudless oud perfumes, too, has as at its source The Man. As difficult to believe as it may be (not at all to the savvy shoppers among my readers, those who have studied up close the wily ways of capitalists, and devised ways to beat them at their own game), Monsieur M. has been sending oud-siphoning elves out to dilute the stores of oud juice at his competitors' houses the night before aliquots are to be measured and mixed into the final perfumes.

The results we have all seen—or rather sniffed—and we have indeed become, as was the intention of this ploy, ever more cynical, wary of the sheer possibility of finding a decent oud perfume produced by any house other than Montale/Mancera. I rest my case.

To those perfumers whose interest may have been piqued by my posting of pictures of their oud creations, I offer commiseration. Yes, I am afraid that you have become the feckless minions of The Man. Until today, you, too, were being tricked into complicity with the OM. Yes, lurking in the shadows of every machine, even those of which we have become unwitting cogs, stands The Man, whose covert actions keep it chugging along as though in perpetual motion, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

My dear, honorable perfumers, it is time for you to throw your own wrench into the OM's works. Just say “No” to future oud-perfume launches! Working together, as a team, we perfumistas and you, the perfumers not profitably affiliated with the OM, can take back the oud night, allowing creativity and autonomy to reign in the glorious universe of perfume once again.


  1. Too funny and too true, SP! Personally, I find myself utterly resistant to OM. My testing notes say I found the oud in 10 Corso Como (1999) to smell musty, Czech & Speake Dark Rose (2003) to smell like body odor, M. Micallef's Rose Aoud (2006?) nauseating, Montale's Aoud Lime (2005?) to smell like a horrible iodine-based medicine, and Montale's Steam Aoud (2005?)to smell like rubbing alcohol and chemicals. I gave up on it some time in 2007 and have never looked back. If I can do it, so can others. Stay strong (and not too stinky)!

    1. You always were prescient, pitbull friend, so I am not surprised that you recognized the problem long before it began to sprout like mushrooms in a damp cellar!

  2. LOL ... Shera you crack me up :). I will be the first one to admit to hopping on the Oud train having had no idea that it would careen so madly out of control! Oud/Saffron/Rose will always be a favorite combination for me ... fortunately or unfortunately. I have, however, refused to buy any more as my collection is filled with some of the more stellar renditions of this combination ... to need any more would be inane and superfluous. I have even stopped wearing them ... one day in the far flung future when all of this madness has dissipated I will take them from their reverently stored boxes and wear them again :). Fabulous article as usual ... I do love reading you!!

    1. Adorable!!! Gosh, I love this article!
      Recently I argued (somewhere in my reviews) that "Oud" was the new "Musc"... - I just got rid of a bottle of "Amber Oud" by the Body Shop which cost me as much as a bottle of "Charlie" by Revlon... the cheap Oud-Molecule seems to be omnipresent and available at all levels ie. prices. Roja Dove does Oud, Givenchy does it, Dior, even Jovan ... well, you counted them. I am so fed up with these compositions - and as you pointed out very correctly - the normal costumer can't judge what genuine Oud from - say- Oman smells like in comparison to artificial oud. I've never been to Oman or the Emirates and I'm not even familiar with the olfactory traditions of theses countries. Apart from that I simply don't enjoy Oud...I've got some Oud-scents in my collections - but I hardly ever reach out for these bottles. Oud weighs me down and makes me feel like an old "odalisque" who has seen better days.

    2. Thank you so much, Gold!

      Yes, when Jovan and The Body Shop start issuing oud perfumes, it is clear that the situation has spun out of control!

      What do any of us gringos really know about oud, anyway????

      Fortunately, you have the good sense to know what you like--and that is all that really matters, when it comes to perfume! ;-)

  3. Nahhh, I won't worry until I see and Oud Coke or an oud flavoured chewing gum

    1. My dear Christos,

      The first step toward recovery is acknowledging the problem. Clearly you are in deep denial. I hope that you will see the light and join our ranks before it is too late!

      We are here for you.

    2. I am only joking... When Aqua di Parma launches an Oud cologne you know there is something going wrong. The oud-saffron-rose mix must be coming in cans now, ready mixed to save time. Guerlain used oud in Habit Rouge edp and to this date this is one of the most beautifully incorporated oud notes I have ever smelled.

  4. Dearest Couture Guru,

    Woe be unto me for chastening you! Was it not I who directed your credit card Nejma's way?!!!!

    I, too, will continue to wear the best of the best already in my collection, but you may rest assured that any further lingering inchoate thoughts of imminent acquisitions will be arrested post haste!

  5. Great post! Couldn't agree more, the whole oud thing is spreading like a virus for which there seems to be little cure. I thought I'd mention that I've made it a goal to review fragrances from another popular oud-peddler, the oft-mentioned Al-Rehab, which seems to peddle more than their fair share of fragrances and oils with this note. BUT, I'll only review the Al-Rehab fragrances that don't deal in oud! In fact, out of protest, only the light, fresh, airy Al-Rehabs will be written about.

    1. Hello, Bryan--thank you so much. I myself still have some oud perfume vials in my queue, but I'm not going to add any more!

      Interestingly enough, only yesterday, I accidentally reviewed a big-time, authentic oud perfume, Najaf by Xerjoff. Wow: what a stinker! So I guess it's true: oud is not really for me.

  6. I do not have much experience with oud, but I really hope it is just a trend that will go away. I have only tested one oud perfume, Red Aoud from Montale, and it smelled of spicy burning rubber tires to me. Real oud is could be better (if I ever get a chance to smell it), but synthetics really cut down on the experience I'm sure.

    1. Dear Hayven,

      Greetings--it's very nice to read you here! I found "true oud" to be intense and even unpleasant, so it may be that synthetic oud is like muzak, but the real thing is like blaring heavy metal. I can do without both...

      All fashions cycle, but maybe this one will spin off the map. Hope springs eternal. ;-)

  7. I first encountered oud in requesting a sample in a swap with my friend formerly known as kittykati from Slovakia. I sniffed Aoud Roses Petals knowing nothing about aoud, and fell in love at first sniff. I was even more enchanted that it shares the name of beautiful Middle Eastern lute played by such artists as Sudanese master Hamza El Din. Just listen to "The Water Wheel":

    Hayven's comment that Red Aoud smells like "spicy burning tires" to him is funny to me, because when I was a child, me and my brother inhaled deeply whenever we entered an auto store, as if the smell of fresh tire rubber were some rare flower. Still love the smell--not that I want to smell like tire rubber. But this is one facet of the complex smell I love.
    I understand the anger at the perptuation of myth, the ubiquitousness and uproar of a highly questionable note...The irony of this Middle Eastern obsession and the high cost for something that may or may not be there in decreasing amounts. The elitism taking on Evangelical overtones: "It's there, and it is tough to appreciate at first, but like all good things...
    But all exponential increases of this nature eventually result naturally in a sharp decline. Floral Aldehydes are bygone for the most part, but they were once the chic and feminine thing that women supposedly needed to be elegant. It was never as explosive in choices as ouds nowadays, but my sampling of vintage Rive Gauche tells me that if I would have ever tried to force myself to like a perfume, that would be one that required some forcing.
    I tried a fragrance made of some authentic Cambodian oud oil by Soivohle and I like it a lot. I prefer to smell like flowers, yes, but I love some good oud. Perhaps not every single perfumer playing with oud is hoping merely to cash in on a crowd of fools--surely there are great perfumes among the large lot? I think so. Would I go against my own ethics, and pour perfume samples down the sink? Never!(If I don't want it, I can send the extra "ouds" to Goodwill. Have I sampled all the ouds I need to for this lifetime? No, not yet.

    1. Dearest kastehelmi,

      Thank you so much for sharing that piece of music with us! Perfume and music really do seem to me to be kindred spirits.

      I confess, too, to being somewhat smitten with Montale Aoud Rose Petals. But I believe that I love the roses above all--the way they are garnished with everything else. I think that it is more of a rose than an oud perfume.

      Interesting that you should mention floral aldehydes, given Chanel's recent over-the-top effort to win over younger consumers (who have or want boyfriends who are grungy????) to ... the longest running floral aldehyde perfume of them all!

      I think that you are right: the oud bubble is going to pop! Not so long ago, fig perfumes were all the rage. Now it seems that fig fatigue may have set in...

      Is it really against your "ethics" to pour perfume down the sink? Is that a principle of frugality, or an effort to avoid poisoning the public water source?

    2. Dear Shera Pop,

      I love roses, but ever since this post I am wearing again the odd oud samples I have lying around. There is something special in Mancera Intensive Aoud, Montale Taj, and Mona di Orio Oud. I am enchanted by the latter actually. It is as expensive as a few oz of beluga caviar, but it just smells so great! Finding a sample for a couple of dollars is worth the rare experience!

      Oud and aldehydes have both been marketed as an "acquired taste. I wonder how much humans can just "acquire" any new taste. Now that we all know what agarwood is, what other obscure plant aroma will the First World be marketed? I know I am a consumer, and I am in a vulnerable position of being "dupeable", but in the end, if I smell great, I don't think I will be on the wrong side of history.

      I don't pour perfumes down the sink because I don't want to poison the water, and I do subscribe to the "one person's trash is another person's pleasure" principle. There are perfumes that I think are so bad I would rather destroy them than smell them on anyone else, but I still believe that people should find out for themselves--I have read a few reviews where the writer said "Horrible! I poured it in the toilet!" and I'm thinking "Well, I never got to smell it!".
      I don't try perfume avoiding everything that I don't think will suit me--I like to smell almost everything, just because I think it is better to experience and judge than dismiss it just because it looks or sounds bad. I still want to try Nicki Minaj Pink Friday, not only because of the garish bottle, but the information that contains some cultural relevance (of some sort...).

      I like to have a reference for various levels of "bad perfumes" just as much as my catalog of "perfumes that are friends".

  8. My first encounter with "Oud" was when I smelled Pure Oud by Kilian. About 4 years ago or maybe 3 years ago. I dont really remember when it was. Up to that day the only Oud fragrance I had under my nose was Rose Oud by Micallef. Nice after that medicinal opening (dentist smell as it felt to me) disappeared. At that time (Micaleff) I had no idea about Oud. I did not have any better of an idea when I got aquainted to Pure Oud. I am sure by then Montale with all his Oud was on the market for a long time. Now it seems that Oud in fragrance is used as inflationary as the term "friend" on Facebook. even conditioner nowadays comes with Oud in the name. not sure what the percentage of Oud is in that specific product. the industry knows what the folks want and it seems there are enough customers out there who want it and who buy it. I am just losing interest in it and I am not even tempted to try the fragrances containing oud in the name or oud in the fragrance. I am happy with what I have. It really gets on my nerve that there is so much oudmania out there.
    The question is will an open letter initate a thinking process? Or will they rather start to listen (perfumers and the industry) if they see a decline in revenue because less people will purchase Oud fragrances? I just wrote down my initial thoughts. I need to dive into this topic more in depth

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Welcome to the salon de parfum and thank you for your comments!

      I love your comparison of inflationary oud labeling to Facebook friends. The terms do sometimes seem very low on meaning... Which reminds me: there is a program or bot which has been following me around and repeating over and over again that three Facebook friends have defriended me. I am supposed to be upset? lol

      You are right that companies are beholden only to the bottom line: what sells? My satire was intended primarily for entertainment purposes. I know that I cackled outloud while writing it, and I hope that you enjoyed it too! ;-)

  9. I dont want to bu rude BUT I really dont understand what's the fuss about the oud spreading in modern perfumery as you describe it. Perfumery over the years has experienced many periods of sudden love for stinky or not so stinky materials, and of course this didn't stopped this industry from evolving. Imagine what a similar advice to yours, but this time for the use of aldehydes or civet (both equally stinky if sniffed on its own) would have done to perfumery if taken into serious consideration of course, by perfumers and perfume lovers. Oud is just a trend and that's all. It has offered us beautiful fragrances, mediocre creations and unworthy cheap copies. It's in your hand as a serious and knowledgeable perfume lover, collector, whatever, to choose only those you like. Meanwhile I will still enjoy my Bandit (thank God nobody asked the banning of Iso quinolines, up to now lol).

    1. Good morning, Anonymous, and welcome to the salon de parfum!

      I do not consider your comment rude in the least. Honesty is the best policy, in my view! Okay, maybe it's not the best policy pragmatically speaking (since lots of people do not appreciate the truth...), but intellectually it is supreme!

      My little manifesto was meant as a satire. I recognize how convincing it was because I myself became persuaded by it! But what I set out to do was simply to poke fun at the oud herd and its shepherds.

      You are of course right: oud is a fad, and fads pass. But this one seems to have quite a bit of traction, so I thought that I'd simply highlight the faddish nature of the trend, since there are plenty of people out shopping for oud perfumes, and plenty of perfumers producing oud perfumes, and all of this seems to be the case only because everyone else is doing the same!

      I am not advocating conservatism in perfumery, just mildly admonishing slavish obedience to fashion... My intent here was to offer another perspective, in what I hoped to be a humorous text.

      Please stop by with your "rude" comments any time, Anonymous—they are most appreciated!

  10. I dont want to bu rude BUT I really dont understand what's the fuss about the oud spreading in modern perfumery as you describe it. Perfumery over the years has experienced many periods of sudden love for stinky or not so stinky materials, and of course this didn't stopped this industry from evolving. Imagine what a similar advice to yours, but this time for the use of aldehydes or civet (both equally stinky if sniffed on its own) would have done to perfumery if taken into serious consideration of course, by perfumers and perfume lovers. Oud is just a trend and that's all. It has offered us beautiful fragrances, mediocre creations and unworthy cheap copies. It's in your hand as a serious and knowledgeable perfume lover, collector, whatever, to choose only those you like. Meanwhile I will still enjoy my Bandit (thank God nobody asked the banning of Iso quinolines, up to now lol).

    And it was humorous indeed (except those parts that the oud phenomenon was over analyzed and criticized). Let's say that I represent a different perfume philosophy. One that let's things simply roll by themselves. And where a beautiful perfume is such, simply because it is made out of the specific components no matter what those are. No further analysis and explaining.
    Recently I tried two relatively new perfumes (non niche by the way) which both include an oud note in their pyramid and are actually nice, especially comparing their value for money. Davidoffs hot water night and Lolita Lempicka's au masculin Eau de minuit. If you ask me : Are they original? I d say no. But, the magnificent Lanvin's Arpege, wasn't either. I guess we are only in the middle of the oud highway. We, perfume fanatics, may have already being tired of its extent use, mainly by the niche houses (that target directly at the heart of our wallet, often releasing new scents, totally unworthy of our cash) but remember that oud as a center note, has just landed in the world of the mass market fragrances (save M7). Take it easy. (you have a great blog by the way) Nikos/ Greece

    1. Dear Nikos,

      Thank you so much for the compliment and the reply, and also for stepping out from the shadows!

      I am very glad that you are raising these questions about the meaning of my manifesto. The whole idea behind my entire blog, including this particular post, is really to provoke thought, not to effect any sort of perfume revolution—notwithstanding my sometimes energetic rhetoric! ;-)

      Clearly, good oud perfumes are a welcome thing. Good perfumes of any kind are a welcome thing. What I do not welcome is blind subservience to market trends, on the part of both consumers and perfumers. That's really what I see going on in the case of "Oud Madness".

      You are right, however, that it is always possible to adopt a "let it be" attitude. I prefer for perfumers to follow their own lights rather than basing their creations on market data, as most corporatized houses appear to these days. Isn't that why so many similar perfumes appear—whether of oud or other trends?

      My wish is for independent perfumers to remain truly independent, not to cave in to trends generated by marketers attempting to maximize profit by all means necessary. But there are some very deep questions involved here, which I hope to investigate further in the future. Why, for example, do we like what we like? Is it possible to have perfume tastes which are not shaped by market forces, given that perfume is essentially and inextricably commodified?

      Thank you again for stopping by with your incisive criticisms, and I hope to read you here again soon!

  11. I have no idea what to make of the Oud trend, it gets a little tiresome to see so many Oud fragrances popping up like weeds, but then again: If I were a perfumer I would also feel tempted to play around with The New Kid in Town, to see how you can blend and shape that very specific ingredient and put your signature on it so to speak.

    However it doesn't strike me as "niche" to all jump on the bandwagon like that, I think the whole word "niche" needs some modernisation treatment, like in politics, the word Left and Right do not suffice anymore, there is neo lib neo con etc etc (especially in countries with a lot of political parties, although in the US I bet there are people all over the left or right spectrum within the two main parties, ah for that matter even in the third small one (does that still exist? What was it, Independents or...? My memory doesn't serve me well these days...)

    A couple of minutes ago I posted a reply on your most recent blog, without even reading it first, bad lil me, but I felt like communicating to you what I have been thinking about, which is: How fair trade is the fragrance industry? Especially with notes like Oud, and Mysore Sandalwood, but there are probably loads and loads more to think of: Vanilla from Madagaskar (again, if memory serves me well...) etc etc.

    To stay a little more on topic: The Ouds I liked are Al Oudh by L'Artisan Parfumeur, altho All Cumin would have been a proper name lol
    Didn't know there is Oud in 10 Corso Como, LOVE that fragrance, it's on my (way too long) want list.

    Also I think there is some Oud in Ballade Verte by Manuel Canovas, my to go to Spring Scent.

    Also Nomaoud by Comptoir Sud Pacifique, a house I usually don't have many likes from, was well received by my nose.

    Montale Oud, er.... I am all for the extremes, all or nothing is my middle name, but this is just too much, too in your face, not that I've smelled them all, but the few I smelled almost deterred me off the brand completely.

    Ouds I'm curious about are what Mona di Orio did with it, and Francis Kurkdjian, and I wonder whether Olivia Giacobetti already "did" an Oud...?

    Greets, crazyaboutlairderien

    1. Hello again, crazyaboutlairderien!

      Yes, the oud offerings are pretty much all over the map at this point. I'm not seeking them out because I'm not sure that it's really my kind of note. I recently tested a perfume by XerJoff (Najaf) which is said to contain "the real thing" and it was quite intense and rather unpleasant to my nose.

      My impression is that people really are flocking to oud-named perfumes just because it seems like the thing to do. So although my post was meant as a satire, it does seem to contain some truth...

      I saw at parfum1 that Mona di Orio's oud perfume costs $525. In fact, it's the most expensive perfume they sell. The other Mona di Orio perfumes in the same series cost $230. What accounts for the difference in price? What about oud, exactly, justifies adding nearly $300 to the price? Is it more precious than diamonds? How much of the stuff is really being used in a small bottle of perfume? It seems to me that people are willing to pay considerably more for oud perfumes, and so perfumers are adding a touch of oud and then increasing the price. That may sound crass, but it seems to be happening all over the place!

  12. One word only:


    where do I sign?

  13. I loved this post, and I've asked this of others (i.e. Is Oud the new Aquatic?), but none have suggested that this is going away any time soon. In fact, it's been suggested that the real reasons we're paying attention now are...

    1. Because of the disposable income increase in Asia and the Arab world compared to the Western economies; and...
    2. We've had our collective turn at determining fragrance tastes and aesthetic, so now it's time that something new be explored more fully.

    There are good, bad and downright ugly in any category of fragrance, I don't think this is an exception, and for a while now it's taken something radically different or just that bloody good to make me part with cash for an Oud scent. Even my wife -- the "Perfume Sponge" who can easily pull off Montale Aoud Leather -- has grown a bit weary of the prevalence and "me too" of the trend. Check out Xerjoff as well if you want to pay as much for an Oud as you would to feed a third-world family for a year.

    I'm sure some of it is driven by new demand, some by curiosity, perhaps some by the new creativity that can be derived from using the element. But call me a conspiracist when I suggest yet another reason it might be rising in popularity among perfumers: Justifying a high price/margin. Oud is rare and expensive, so let's employ a bit of it so we can blow up the price. Cynical, perhaps, but just sayin'.

    1. Thanks, Andrew, I am happy that you enjoyed this piece. I know that I was cackling out loud as I wrote it.

      By the way, given your recent experience with the genre of satire, you may be interested to know that a few people's feathers were ruffled by this one, too. Was it the pictures of the sheep, perhaps? I had thought that my "four-step-program" was enough to display the satirical intent, but still a couple of oudies appear to have been miffed. Oh well, sometimes the truth hurts. ;-)

      As for your conspiracy theory, I say: hell, yes! ;-)


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