Oud is everywhere.
Of course, this is probably not news to you. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has released an oud perfume in recent years. It’s almost embarrassing if you haven’t.
And you’d think this is great news. Finally, perfumery’s taking a step forward, shaking awake a dead scene of sweet citrus same-old. Finally, someone’s had the cojones to rekindle Hemingway’s bullfighting, marlin-chasing madness and remind us of the sweaty Strauss days of rough love and worn leather out on the road.
Turns out it’s all a charade.
With all the oud buzz all over the net and the hefty price tags—you’d think that all these oud perfumes would contain… that’s right… OUD! Actually, you’d be right to assume they contain mostly oud.
The truth of the matter is, most oud perfumes contain a whopping 0% oud oil. Even the most reputable and raved about oud perfumes contain very little oud—awash in a sea of synthetics.
The ingredient marketed as ‘oud’ in these perfumes only costs a few hundred dollars a liter, and you can buy as many liters as you want. It’s made by a Swiss chemical supplies conglomerate.
With the universal oud orgy unfolding around me everywhere I look, and being an agarwood ambassador for most of my professional life, I couldn’t help but get a ‘revolutionary’ idea…
Why don’t I excuse myself from the frag party for a while and make a perfume that contains oud as an actual ingredient?
That’s how EO No 1 was born.
Then I got an even crazier idea…
What if I make an Oud perfume that contains just oud as the sole ingredient?
No supporting ambers, animalics, flowers, barks or resins. No flavor enhancers, boosters, or fixatives. Heck, let’s throw out the sandalwood, along with all perfumery adjuncts. Nothing but OUD bottled up for you to enjoy as a pure parfum with the same degree of connoisseurship you’d enjoy a swipe from a fifteen-hundred-dollar bottle of oud oil.
It’s a revolutionary idea because, while everybody appears to have done just that, in fact, nobody has. You’ve never smelled a pure oud… or ‘mostly’ oud… or even oud-centered perfume. Ever. This includes the very finest indie and artisan oud perfumes—where agarwood is simply the host of a 15-guest show.
The truth of the matter is, we’ve all been duped. Duped by shameless marketing. And they didn’t even need to hire Johnny Depp. In fact, they got away with it without even showing us a single piece of oud wood!
Gentle ladies and men, my pure oud parfum doesn’t contain synthetic ambers which you can mistake for agarwood. Nor does it contain tolu, Peru and fir balsams to give you a foresty feel reminiscent of agarwood; nor does it contain labdanum, nagarmotha, the choyas or other animalic ingredients to dupe you into believing ‘the oud is really there’. There are no synthetic civets, musks or other ‘natural and artificial flavors’ to trick your tastebuds!
What I’ve put together is an oudy fortress that doesn’t need the ‘support’ of these other fillers (they are nothing but that), because frankly I have the finest agarwood oils in the world right in my atelier—and why use corn and soy oil when you live on a pasture and are surrounded by cows?
If you think about it, getting the fillers and substitutes is for me as tedious and impossible an ordeal as getting proper artisanal oud is to most perfumers.
Imagine a perfumer who’s surrounded by 1,500 aromachemicals in his atelier and 250 botanicals—of which agarwood is just one item. How difficult would it be for her to dish out something like Encens Royale 1985, Oud Royale Sri Lanka, Suriranka Senkoh, Czar Ceylon, Abu Basha—and dozens of other agarwood profiles I don’t dare name here?
Clearly, it is far easier for me to make an oud perfume out of pure oud—i.e. the way oud perfumes should have been made since the Great Oud Orgy started in the West—than it is for me to figure out how to fake it, throw together some Black Agarwood Artificial, labdanum, synthetic Amber bases, civets, balsams etc, and slap a generic (a.k.a. ‘artisanal’) ‘Oud’ label on the bottle and hope everyone will rave about it the way they do over every other sham oud perfume that’s released weekly in this market.
You can understand a cottonseed oil manufacturer wanting to fake butter, but for a cow farmer to go out and start planting cotton seeds so he could simply do what all other “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” producers have espoused as standard industry practice—is sheer madness.
No, gentle gents. Lovely ladies. I will do no such thing. Instead. I’ma whip out some fat Sri Lankan algae-topped aquamarine blues and greens—some deep Sumatran liqueur reds and burgundies from when I was still in preschool—the grandest agallochas from Manipur, North Cachar and Garo Hills—Sheikh’s Borneo tupelo honeys from way back in Malinau—and I’ma brew one mean oud parfum no chemist could analyze in his lab, never mind replicate!
No amount of labdanum can ever give you Tigerwood Royale, and no amount of Black Agarwood Artificial can ever make up the sheer number of genuine aroma molecules from across all agarwood species on the face of the planet, dotingly distilled and aged for years—decades.
At the end of the day, this was never going be a Happy Oud Meal that’s thawed and ready in minutes. No amount of MSG can reproduce a gustatory experience like this. And so, like it or not, you’re going to have to sit in front of me the way they do Jiro, and enjoy my agarwood RAW like they do the world’s finest sashimi and most expensive sushi.
You see, rather than learn the roles of aromachemicals in a course in Grasse, I did my time in the forests and countrysides of the Far East, struggling to coax the insanest oils out of agarwood. I can’t give you fake oud if my life depended on it. Much like the guys from Frag Street can’t give you what I’m giving you if their lives depended on it.
Dig into a movable feast of an Oud that breathes out the resinous ooze of old-school Sumatran agar, bathed in the nose-piercing green incense of walla. What’s best is how this crazy montage sucks in your own skin and brings to life — doesn’t cover up — your natural pheromonal aroma, like on that day on the boat with the marlin hanging high, when you biked back home. That’s what good perfumes ought to do.
This is Oud, my friend. Now you know.
Uncap, spray, step through the mist… and let others know, too.