Oud perfume
Oud, a prized resin of the Middle East, is an essential aspect of Arabian perfumeries. Here are some of the best ones in 2024. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Liquid gold - that was once the name for oud, a resinous material derived from the Aquilaria tree.

It’s not just any resin though: it forms only when a specific type of mould infects these trees, that are found in Southeast Asia. This particular mould triggers a defense mechanism of the tree, causing it to produce a dark, fragrant resin – the highly prized oud. This powerful resin is a rare, and much sought-after ingredient, with a scent that encapsulates a spectrum of aromas, ranging from deep and earthy, to floral elegance, as explained by fragrance experts and conoisseurs Shaneela Qamar, author of the book The Fragrance: The History of Perfume in Arabian History, and Neeti Singh, a Dubai-based fragrance expert.

Editor's tip
Luxury perfumes are up to 50 per cent off on Amazon, so pick your favourite ones at slashed prices.

As oud captivates so many people's imaginations, we're taking a look at some of the best oud perfumes available right now. Based on our experts' recommendations, we curated a list of oud perfumes that suit all styles and budgets. Pick one during the ongoing sale, with Prime membership, to bring your new signature scent home, as early as tomorrow.

1. Best Overall: Ajmal Perfumes 1001 Nights Alf Laila O 

One of Qamar’s recommendations, Ajmal Perfumes' 1001 Nights is inspired by the tales of the Arabian Nights. The perfume has an unusual blend of floral, spicy and musky notes. It is filled with the alluring notes of black pepper, cardamom and saffron, which are complemented by oud. In this formulation, it also has a touch of a floral scent - jasmine and rose - with hints of spicy elements like clove or nutmeg. The base is essentially musk, which encourages the scent to linger for hours. It also includes other woody elements like sandalwood, cedarwood, or amber. This is a unisex perfume, perfect for both men and women. Amazon reviewers have hailed it as “legendary” and call it a “good and solid” perfume.

2. Best Budget: Ajmal Perfumes Amber Wood 

Another one of Qamar’s recommendations, Amber Wood opens with a mix of fruity and spicy notes. It includes apple, white pepper, lavender, and cardamom, which creates a sharp impression, according to Qamar. As the fragrance unfolds, you slowly experience woody notes like cedarwood and orris that take center stage, enveloped by the smooth and creamy aroma of sandalwood. Finally, it settles into a base anchored by amber and oud, along with additional touches of vanilla and musk. Compared to other luxury oud fragrances, this is a far more affordable option.

3. Best for Longevity: Ajmal Perfumes Dehnal Oud

“This [perfume] actually celebrates the essence of oud,” explains Qamar. Oud takes centerstage in Dehnal Oud, providing a rich and aromatic fragrance. It has a warm and woody scent, and depending on the kinds of oud used, you can experience hints of smokiness and sweetness. Some variations also incorporate rose, amber and sandalwood. As a concentrated perfume oil, Dehnal Oud offers exceptional projection and longevity. When you apply it to your pulse points, it leaves a lingering scent for hours. However, as the fragrance is rather potent, this particular perfume might not be for everyone.

4. Best for Evenings: Swiss Arabian Shaghaf Oud 

This unisex eau de parfum by Swiss Arabian offers a blend of rich, woody oud notes balanced with gourmand elements, crafting an “unforgettable” scent, as many Amazon reviewers say. The top notes include saffron, which has a warm honey-like aroma. The oud then takes centrestage, with a touch of praline. The combination of caramelised sugar and nuts provides the perfume with a gourmand quality, contrasting it with the woody scent. There are also floral touches of rose. Finally, the base notes include vanilla, along with sandalwood and musk. As Shaghaf Oud can be particularly potent, Qamar advises starting with a light application to see how it develops on your skin before layering with other scents. Moreover, this perfume is better suited for cooler months, as it can get abrasive in warmer weather.

5. Best for Men: Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau De Parfum

In Tom Ford's Oud Wood, the top notes see rosewood and cardamom take centrestage, crafting a rather warm and spicy introduction. Rosewood provides a touch of sweetness, while cardamom adds to the zest. The oud then enters the spotlight, and it’s a rather refined oud here, which has a smoothness to it. This is complemented by sandalwood, which leaves a rather memorable fragrance. The perfume has a luxurious base, with the help of tonka bean, with vanilla. The amber ensures a sense of depth. It’s marketed for men, but many Amazon reviewers have noted it for its unisex appeal. Do note that as it is a luxury fragrance, it comes with a higher price tag. It’s also best used in cooler months, rather than in the summer.

6. Best for Women: Ahmed Al Maghribi Perfumes Oud & Roses Perfume

Ahmed Al Maghribi Perfumes' Oud & Roses offers a delicate interplay of both oud and rose. It opens with a strong statement, as oud takes centrestage. You might experience hints of smokiness, or sweetness, depending on the type of oud used. As the fragrance continues to unfold, there is a touch of rose blossom, which empowers the perfume with a floral elegance. Finally, it settles into elements like musk and labdanum, which ensure a sense of depth and longevity. It is characterised by its rather bold and captivating scent, explains Singh. It is more suited for the cooler months.

7. Best Floral Perfume: Lancome Paris Maison Oud Bouquet Eau de Parfum

Another luxury perfume that captures a gentle blend of rose and oud, Maison Oud Bouquet's top notes are rose and praline. “The rose provides a touch of elegance and floral sweetness, while the praline adds a touch of gourmand delight. This is what draws you in,” says Singh. Smoky oud catches your attention next, and you might note touches of raspberry that crafts a sense of fruity goodness. Finally, the base includes amber or benzoin, which provide a grounding sense to the fragrance, according to Singh. The praline is a beneficial touch, however, it might be too overwhelming for those who prefer drier fragrances.

The significance of oud in Arabian perfumery

Oud isn’t just a fragrance; it’s a cultural touchstone. There are many debates surrounding its actual origins, as well. It is commonly believed that the history of this perfumed resin goes all the way back to the second century AD, where it formed a crucial component of trade routes, according to Qamar. Oud, along with frankincense, became some of the most valuable commodities that were traded between the Arabian Peninsula and the West.

Owing to its memorable scent, it was considered a precious commodity. It began to be used as a kind of perfuming agent, as there was a dearth of such things in those times. There was almost a supernatural quality associated with oud and it was even believed to have healing abilities. It grew to become a ritualistic part of tradition and culture.

Today, oud is a mark of hospitality, our expert tell us. Qamar explained: “The wooden bark chips are burned for their fine and strong fragrances. It’s also a way of showing hospitality. If you go to an Arab person’s house, they will likely burn incense and pass it around. So you smell the scent, and the idea is to make you feel more relaxed and at home."

Oud's captivating complexity allows it to be paired with a variety of fragrance notes, added Singh. She shared a breakdown of some common and successful pairings:

  • Spicy: Spices like cardamom, black pepper, clove, and cinnamon add a warm quality to oud, highlighting its smoky and musky facets. This pairing is often found in traditional Arabian perfumes and creates a bold and assertive scent profile.
  • Woody: Sandalwood, cedarwood, and vetiver complement the woody character of oud while adding depth and richness to the fragrance. This pairing creates a warm and sophisticated scent, perfect for cooler months or formal occasions.
  • Floral: Rose, jasmine, and saffron contrast with oud's rich scent. “The floral notes add a touch of sweetness and elegance, which makes the fragrance more versatile and appeals to a wider audience,” Singh said.
  • Vanilla: The creaminess of vanilla balances the intensity of oud, creating a warm fragrance. This is both popular in traditional as well as modern perfumery, which makes oud accessible for those who find it too strong on its own.
  • Gourmand: Praline and caramel can add a pleasant twist to oud, explained Singh. It creates a unique and unconventional fragrance.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.