Oud across the centuries has been designated by a wealth of names and orthographies due to its long history and wide geographic pattern of diffusion as both a much sought-after woody scent and luxury perfumery material. To track the presence of this aromatic material in the course of the history of perfumery, you would need first to round up as much as possible its terminology which amounts to dozens of different terms.
Oud was already known in the Antiquity and Dioscorides called it "agallochum." Later it became known as "xyloaloes." Less well-known terms today which reveal the complexity of the history of the material are "calambac", "calembour" which reveal the itineraries of long sea voyages from the Portuguese to the Italian and to the Malay and French shores. More frequently occurring terms today are oud, oudh, aloeswood, jinkoh, gaharu, eaglewood, agarwood, to name but a few of the possible lexical occurrences.
Highly prized in the Middle East, this material is less central to European perfumery but nevertheless present. The fervor it encounters in the Middle East is however not matched in Western culture where it is often perceived as a difficult material fit for a connoisseur nose only whenever it is showcased rather than blended in.
It also does not possess the same tradition of being seen as an aphrodisiac as in Islamic countries, as the body of texts we know of in Europe devotes that kind of central erotic value rather to musk and civet.
This aphrodisiac property was however examined in Europe. In the 19th century, experiments were conducted by French veterinarians on cows about the possible enhancement of their reproductive abilities relying on oud and concluded to the working aphrodisiac properties of the ingredient.
Today, some Europe-based brands such as Montale, Micallef, Oriscent have an ongoing focus on oud and are seen as specialists of this material but are not perceived precisely for this reason for being unexpectedly creative with oud.
This natural excretion from contaminated, diseased wood is rare, costlier than gold, which contributes to its mystique. Oud however is now also harvested. Synthetic blends created by major fragrance companies are now also part of the perfumer's palette such as Oud Blend F (Firmenich) and Black Agar Givco (Givaudan).
In 2009 an oud trend influenced by Arabian perfumery is perceptible with a rather large group of oud-centered perfumes appearing. This oud interest started gaining momentum in 2007...
but 2009 has seen the development of a significant oud trend in perfumery, on a par with the wave of iris perfumes that broke on the perfume scene in 2007, the latter succeeded by a smaller one for violet perfumes, a cousin smell.
The 2009 oud wave did not come unannounced but was preceded by what can be seen retrospectively as the oud interest of 2007. In particular, two perfumes that year heralded the 2009 oud trend of clearly-labeled and focused oud compositions: Guerlain Oud Sensuel and Tom Ford Oud Wood.
In 2008, the trend continued without a hiatus (cf. timeline below)
This general interest in oud cannot be just happenstance and visibly the ingredient was promoted at different levels of the industry. On the internet (and even in my mailbox) one can find the contact information of fragrance suppliers from Indonesia, Malaysia pitching their wares, namely, cultivated oudh from those countries as well as from Cambodia and Thailand. Oud in these sales pitches is advertised as expensive but precisely profitable for that reason.
In the very recent period, it seems thus that perfumery actors came up with the same idea: to turn to oud to restore the image of luxury perfumery thanks to it being an ingredient with personality and its connotation of luxury. The perfume industry has been visibly trying to put glamor and exclusivity back into perfume at the top of the pyramid to counteract the propensity of the market to become more democratic, a trend also encouraged by the economic recession.
The problem from a creative standpoint is that this rather mechanical-sounding filling of a thematic olfactory gap gave birth to a contingent of fragrances instead of preserving the potential originality of the inspiration. If oud had been used in mainstream perfumery as notes before, it had less often been showcased, a distinct characteristic of the 2009 Oud trend.
If however the collective focus on oud might seem more of a problem from an artistic standpoint, it is not so much of an issue if you think of perfumery as simply aligning itself with its sister field, fashion.
Just like there are fashion trends decided in advance, it seems that the construction of fragrance trends can contribute for the consumer to a sense of being of its times, being in the know, being up-to-date.
The negative aspect of this phenomenon would be that like fashion, rapid turnover is expected thus working against one of the defining ideals of classic perfumery, permanence.
With the pace of fragrance development seemingly getting inspiration more and more from Taylorism and perfumes being brought to market by up to a group of four officially-named perfumers each working on selected aspects of a composition, a perfume trend does not even need to be pre-planned a year in advance, it can just snowball in the course of any given year.
I propose a timeline of oudh in perfumes in the mainstream and niche markets below. If oudh can help make a point about anything this year, it would be that despite the impression that niche perfumery may appear to be led by independent small houses, it cannot avoid the representation of its industrial cohesiveness when you see the sector moving into the featuring of oud as an ensemble cast.
(Axis Caviar Oudh-Wood, date unknown)
1987 - Calvin Klein Obsession for Men
1995 - Nina Ricci Deci Delà, a fruity chypre which uses the raspberry facet of aloeswood.
1999 - 10 Corso Como by 10 Corso Como, a reference best-seller niche oud perfume
2002 - Yves Saint Laurent M7
- Lacoste pour Homme
2003 - Sonia Rykiel Woman, Not for Man!: violet, rose, dates and oud
- Czech & Speake Dark Rose
2004 - Yves Saint Laurent M7 Fresh
- La Prairie Silver Rain
- La Base for Her
2006 - Cerrutti 1881 Black
- Juozas Statkevicius/Josef Statkus
- Jacques Bogart Silver Scent
2007 - Guerlain Oud Sensuel Oil
- Agallocha Arabia Felix Collection
- Puma I Am Going for Men by Puma
-The People of the Labyrinths A Maze
- Tom Ford Oud Wood
-Tom Ford Noir de Noir
- By Kilian Cruel Intentions Tempt Me
- Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline
- Anya's Garden Kaffir
- Anya's Garden Temple
- Amouage Jubilation XXV
- Costume National 21
2008 - Juicy Couture Dirty English
- Voluspa Opulence Kyara EDP
- Esteban Orientalissime
- Jo Malone Lotus Blossom & Water Lily
- Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily (Kyara incense)
- Annick Goutal Musc Nomade. I am adding a note here. This is the real scent of Arabian women freshly disembarked from the Gulf. I was sitting next to them at Charles de Gaulle airport and their clothes smelled just like Musc Nomade.
- Parfumerie Générale L'Eau Guerrière
- Serge Lutens Serge Noire
- Lisa Hoffman Japanese Agarwood
- Ed Hardy Love & Luck for Men
- Trish McEvoy Precious Oud
- Versace pour Homme
2009 - Le Labo Oud 27
- Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Oude Arabique
- Comptoir Sud Pacifique Aoud de Nuit, Aouda, Nomaoud, Oud Intense
- Bath and Body Works Twilight Woods
- Dior Fahrenheit Absolute
- Comme des Garçons Daphne Guinness Daphne
- By Kilian Arabian Nights Pure Oud
- Korres Saffron/Amber/Agarwood/Cardamom
- Juliette Has a Gun Midnight Oud
- Boadicea the Victorious Winter Oud Collection
- Bond No.9 Harrods Swarovski Crystal Oud Edition
- Bond No.9 Signature Perfume
- The American Line US Marine Corps Devil Dog
- Soivhole Oudh Lacquer
- Amouage Epic for Men and Women
- L'Artisan Parfumeur Al Oudh
- Le Labo Oud 27
- Jacques Bogart Silver Scent Intense
2nd picture from amalalkuwait.com