There's no doubt Oud or Agarwood has exploded as a fragrance this last decade. Where and when this began, we can only speculate. I myself think our presence as Americans in the Middle East made have had something to do with it. Soldiers and private contractors, business folk and what have you returning to the states and Europe with tales of all things Oud!
Oud certainly is magical in scent; Mysterious, Distinct, Dark, Rich and memorable be you a fan of the scent or not. In itself, Oud is rather tragic. The tree is born scentless and only becomes fragrant when infected by a particular mold, phialophora parasitica. As a defense to this mold a thick, dark resin is produced within the heartwood of the tree, this is oud.
Then there is the fact that the tree is endangered and very rare at this particular point in time. There is something very poetic about all of this and I think when this story is told it only adds to the appreciation and complexity of agarwood.
When it comes to the notes that make up the scent this all depends on where the tree grew; climate, soil type/conditions, if the tree was naturally infected or purposely and age. Generally oud is balsamic, warm, deep, smoky and sweet with a kiss of dirty. Again, these individual notes will change in pronunciation and shape depending on the trees origin, but all will be present. All this said, Oud is a strong, dominating scent that plays harmoniously well with other popular notes.
All these attributes make for a solid, anchoring base note and a must for a perfumer's toolbox. I myself use Oud for about 8 different aftershave/colognes I have created. Whereas Sandalwood, Vetiver and Oakmoss belonged to the last century, Oud is the scent of the next!
Douglas Smythe is master perfumer and artisan soapmaker at PhoenixShaving.Com and Co-host of The I'd Lather Be Shaving Morning Show. Having created his first perfume with his chemistry set at age 9, you could say he was destined for this career. Douglas is also the organizer of the Annual Big Shave West, what can only be described as a traditional shaving carnival held in Pasadena, California for the last 4 years. His passion for shaving & grooming is well known in the niche and has been a feature lecturer at many a grooming and style conference, Style Con 2017 being the most recent.