How do you make a cologne out of oud oil? This is a question that burns in the mind of an oud man. This is how Monsieur Oud began.
Colognes and oud are like the in-laws that never get along. You can’t imagine the zest and citrus that define classic colognes backed by the dark, leathery animalics commonly associated with oud. Colognes are bright, ouds dark. Oud is everything a cologne is not. And vice versa.
Still, there is one type of oud that’s as floral and zesty, as citrusy and cool as a cologne: Sri Lankan oud.
Monsieur Oud took shape in my mind’s nez because of my infatuation with Walla Patta. The notes of frangipani and osmanthus and orange blossom and mimosa it naturally displays.
Some will recall the days I would wear Suriranka Senkoh like there was no tomorrow, taking swipes that probably added up to a few hundred dollars a day. I’d wear it to bed, then again at breakfast, when heading out, when coming home, swimming unendingly in its heady florals and aquatic caress.
Then the desire crept into my artistic other to bring out these notes and accentuate them with the actual flowers. To create a cologne-like citrus bomb, rounded off with all the frangipani, mimosa, osmanthus tonalities of pure Walla Patta.
There are three main chords humming in the base: my oldest and one of my most precious sandals, Mysore 1976, contrasted and paired with Pacific sandalwood from Vanuatu. These are exalted by vintage 2001 Kupang sandalwood from Timor. Each of these oils is a collectible aroma in its own right. But I haven’t even gotten to the base proper.
The true pulse of Monsieur Oud’s foundation beats loud and clear with wild Sri Lankan aloes. Featuring a duo of the mintiest, greenest Walla Pattas I’ve distilled to date, paired with the incense-grade shavings bubbling on a coal smell of one of my other Wallas. Crank up the base with the historical distillation of Chugoku Naya to thrust the Sri Lankan legato into turbocharge.
In the heart notes, you’ll smell the most expensive flowers on Earth. From Tasmanian boronia to Thai frangipani, French mimosa, osmanthus, iris, and sumptuous orange blossom, paired with rare flowers sourced from Italy, Bourbon coffee blossoms from Madagascar, and the most sought-after jasmine in existence: It’s so unique you won’t even recognize it as jasmine, but rather as pure animal musk.
For the top notes, I picked the choicest bitter yuzu from Japan and sweet yuzu from Korea. Italian bergamot, Paraguayan guaicwood, Brazilian rosewood, and balsam of the fir tree, silver fir, and rare petitgrain—all spiced up with lusty top notes of pink pepper… and a touch of civet.
Monsieur Oud is an encyclopedia of flowers, of oud, of natural perfumery that I’m never really going to consider finished. It’s gone through so many revisions in the past 14 months I’ve lost count. And I’m still working on it. Some close friends of mine own versions of it which I don’t have the recipes to anymore, due to working and reworking it day in and day out, like a work of poetry which you keep editing and revising, printing and reprinting, because the subject is so close to the heart you never really can be done talking about it.
Unlike working with synthetic ingredients, the interplay of natural aromatics coming together takes time to happen, profiles change, develop in unforeseen ways. One slip of the pipette and it's back to the drawing board—or the waiting list for next year's harvest… which may or may not turn out the same.
Any writer, painter, or filmmaker knows that a big part of your self goes into what you create. Monsieur Oud has been, hands down, my most ambitious composition to date. The most expensive, labor-intensive, and personally humbling creation I’ve put out in the last 15 years.