What Does Oud Smell Like? [A Tale of Mystic Aroma]

Written By Zarin Tasnim

If you ever explore Middle Eastern culture it’s pretty obvious you are familiar with the world’s most expensive raw scent Oud.

It is deeply rooted in various cultures and has intrigued many people around the globe for centuries. Due to its high value and luxurious aroma, it is often referred to as liquid gold.what-does-oud-smell-like

But, what exactly is oud? Where does it come from? And, what does it smell like?

If you have these questions in mind, then you are in the right place because today I will be breaking down everything you need to know about oud, right here in this article.

What Is Oud and Its Origin?

Natural oud originates from the wood of the agarwood trees when it gets infected with a specific type of mold. As the fungus Phialophora parasitica infects the tree, it reacts by producing a dark, heavy resinous liquid as a protective layer.

This musky-scented resin is then collected and further processed to derive the essential oud oil before being used widely in fragrances, medicines, and cosmetics.

Though the history of oud can be traced back to ancient Persia, these trees are native to Southeast Asia, and parts of the Middle East and predominantly produced in countries such as India, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.


Origin and History of Oud

Oud has a rich and illustrious history for its alluring smell. It has been featured on many religious and traditional occasions.

For example, in Arabian culture, it is used at home and especially during prayer due to its aromatic spiritual quality. They also burn oud to offer hospitality to their visiting guests and give them a sweet aromatic refreshment.

Egyptians are thought to be the first users of this heavenly aromatic oud. Over 3000 years ago they used it for death rituals and later incorporated it in cosmetics, medicines, and prominently in perfume making.

Traced back to the third millennium BC, it appears in the Sanskrit Vedas as a substance indicating wealth and luxury. Buddhist scriptures and the Old Testament also contain several significant references to its divine aura.

From ancient times to modern days, it is still considered a sacred and integral part of cultural and religious history.

What Does Oud Smell Like?

Oud has an enticing aroma with a unique scent profile. It lends a woody warmth to a fragrance that often feels intensely earthy, spicy, and animalic. Its brooding smoky nuance gives it a church-like smell, ensuring a more complex, dark, and bold dimension to any composition.

The aroma of oud isn’t that simple, it’s very mysterious and has several distinctive edges in it.

As you first take a sniff, you are met with a powerful, harsh scent that almost has a medicinal quality to it and smells like wet forests, balsamic resins, and leather.

This, unfortunately, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and many say that it’s rather too medicinal and harsh to be of their liking.

Upon maturing oud unleashes sweet undertones of tobacco, dark chocolate, and amber. At this phase, the aroma becomes smooth, refined, and more likable.

It is most often used as a base note that anchors the whole scent and enhances the other notes, making the different dimensions of the fragrance play out brilliantly.

Smell Variation Of Oud According To Type

Basically, Oud has two types of planting methods that are wild-harvested oud and farm-harvested oud.

In the wild harvested (authentic natural) process, the plants are naturally infected with molds whereas in farmed oud the harvesters use nails to stimulate the infectious process and extract the resin.


So, here I’ve tabulated a short comparison of natural and cultivated oud including its smell and appearance to make it easier to recognize:

 Wild OudFarmed Oud
Creation MethodThe tree is attacked naturally by fungus, molds, and insectsRequires human intervention where the trees undergo cutting, and drilling with special fungus or chemical
SmellHas a rich intense long-lasting aromaLess resinous and synthetic
QualityProvides good quality resins.The longer the age of the tree, the better the scent it producesThe resin quality varies depending on the age of infection and the grower's techniques.
VersatilityThe aroma is so appealing that calms the mind and feels pure and realDoesn’t feel satisfying to wear, and might have off-putting metallic characteristics
Difference In AppearanceWild oud which are naturally infected have small holes made by insects on their surfaces.Farmed ouds often have larger holes in the trees due to drilling and nailing by artificial tools.

Factors That Influence The Smell Of Oud

Besides special factors like time and favorable conditions, many other aspects can influence the aroma of oud oil.

These include the classification of trees, geographical region and climate, manner of cultivation, and finally, the distillation methods to extract the refined and solid end product.

Now, let’s have a closer look with some details knowledge about the factors that influence the smell of oud:


Among the wide variety of plants, only two genera of trees called Aquilaria and Gyrinops produce oleoresin. Within the Aquilaria, 21 different species of trees are responsible for producing oud.

Similarly, Gyrinops has another 9 species which also produce good-quality oud oil. So even though the aroma differences between the species are subtle, Aquilaria produces the best quality, intense, and heavy essential oils.

Weather Environment

The countries and regions the Agarwood trees grow in also act as an important indicator. The quality of soil, moisture level, and humidity can also shape the growth of plants and the smell that they produce from their extracts.

For example, the oil extracted from a dark, dense forest can be richer and darker than the extract from a well-drained sun-exposed area.

Extraction Process

Even Though you collected the best raw material for preparing essential oil, the extraction method and its variable factors can ruin the quality and smell of oud. To ensure the best quality you have to look at certain factors.

The factors that need to be considered for the distilled extraction method of oud are given below:

  • The time period of soaked raw material.
  • Well sterilization of the equipment.
  • Quality of the distillation tubes (glass or plastic).
  • Temperature inside the distillation tubes.
  • The mineral content of the distilled water.
  • Exposing the oil to air or force aging.

Why Is Oud Expensive and Popular In The Middle East Perfumery?

Over the years, oud has been thriving and making its mark in the Middle Eastern perfumery world.

It has become synonymous with the Middle Eastern religious culture where the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) begins the tradition of fumigating oneself with oud. He also referred to it as an item found in paradise.

For Arabic society, oud is more than a fragrance. It is a living tradition that creates a bridge between ancient and modern life, helping us to connect with our cultural roots.

In the 21st century, this natural substance coined as black gold is desired by every niche and luxury perfume house.

It enchants scent enthusiasts worldwide by holding the power to transform the fragrance and elevates the olfactory senses with its rich intoxicating, compelling aroma.

Reasons Why Oud Is Expensive

Now, it is a known fact that Oud is very expensive. But did you know that it is even pricier than gold? Well, yes, it is more pricey than gold.

You might be wondering what exactly makes oud such an expensive ingredient!

Let’s dig in and find the reasons behind Oud’s costliness:

  • Firstly, the agarwood tree that oud comes from is super rare around the globe.
  • It takes ages for the tree to become infected with a certain type of mold that causes the production of the resinous heartwood, which is where the oud comes from.
  • Only a tiny amount of agarwood trees produce the resinous extract. As estimated only 1 in 10 trees in the wild become infected with phialophora parasitica. So only about 2% of trees produce oud.
  • The process of getting the oil out is also really time-consuming and requires a lot of hard work and practical knowledge.
  • The heartwood has to be steam distilled, which means heating the wood to release the desirable aroma. But it can take weeks to get even a small amount of oud oil.

Oud is used in fancy perfumes, incense, and other luxurious products. Since there’s only so much to go around and everyone wants some, the prices have gone through the roof.

So, I guess that pretty much sums up why oud extract is one of the priciest oils out there.

What Are The Benefits Of Oud?

Although oud is popularly known for its aroma and use in the fragrance, candle, and incense industries, its allure is not limited to olfactory use only.

Besides its unique and captivating aroma, it also has some medicinal herbal qualities that have desirable effects on our bodies and minds.


So, if you are curious about these benefits of oud, they are as follows:

Calming Nerves & Relaxation: The rich, earthy, and woody aroma of oud have relaxing effects on our bodies and minds. It calms your nerves and helps you unwind whenever you are feeling stressed. Oud-infused candles and incense are widely used for their calming effects.

Aromatherapy: Oud has a relaxing and stress-reducing effect which makes it perfect for aromatherapy, and it has been used for centuries to promote a sense of relaxation and well-being.

Boosts Immunity: The oil extracted from oud has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial characteristics which boost your immunity and reduce any kind of inflammation or infections.

Aphrodisiac: The deep, earthy, sensual aroma of oud is said to excite the senses, boost desire, and increase libido. It is believed to enhance affection, passion, and love, for which oud oil has long been used as an aphrodisiac.

What Makes Oud Smell Unique In The Perfumery World

In perfumery, Oud ensures an outstanding and luxurious aromatic olfactory journey that lingers for a long time. Its complex aroma adds depth and a mysterious character to fragrances, making it unmistakably unique.

Fragrance Family of Oud and The Notes That Pair Well

Oud falls under the woody fragrance family, which is associated with warm, powdery wood scents. It usually gets more elevated and sensual when it merges with the smell of jasmine, rose, or other floral aromas.

Fragrances containing oud notes are often intense and dark but they can be earthy and sweet as it blends seamlessly with base elements.

In men’s cologne, this natural element mostly fuses with the earthy smell of patchouli, vetiver, or other woodsy notes to bring a polished and sophisticated gentleman vibe.

So oud’s versatility and multifaceted nature allow it to be used in various ways. It can pair well with a wide range of notes and in fragrance making it is undoubtedly a stunning option for both males and females.

Well, there are other things as well that set the smell of oud apart from other scents. Interested to know them? Let’s hover to the following list:

  • Scarcity and exclusiveness of the real oud.
  • The cultural significance of oud.
  • Extreme versatility.
  • Remarkable longevity.
  • Leaves a royal and luxurious impression.
  • Blends gracefully with any skin type.
  • Provides a strong foundation for the fragrance.
  • Captures people’s attention with its lingering trail.

What Are Some Popular Fragrances With Oud?

After reading so much about the fascinating note that is oud, you must be wondering what some fragrances have oud as a part of their scent profile.


Well, oud has been used in perfumery for centuries, and even in recent times, it is extensively used in designer and niche fragrances.

Oud is mainly used as a woody, balsamic base note in these perfumes and colognes. It enhances the other notes and adds depth to the fragrance. It also increases the longevity of the fragrance.

Besides these, the complex aroma of oud makes the perfume much more sensual, layered, and potent.

Below, I have included three popular fragrances that feature oud as their keynote:

Oud Wood By Tom Ford

The first cologne is Oud Wood by Tom Ford released in 2007.

This unisex creation by Richard Herpin has a very warm, woody, and sensual aroma where oud’s presence plays a significant role.

The oud note in Oud Wood gives the scent more depth and richness while also imparting a warm, spicy scent that remains on the skin for a long time.

It blends well with the opening notes where the oud is combined with additional woody notes like rosewood, the smell of vetiver, and sandalwood to produce a rich and elegant scent that is suitable for both genders.

Over the years I have come across many similar fragrances that smell like Tom Ford Oud Wood but only a few could beat its pleasant, smooth, woody-spicy well-blended aroma.

Oud Satin Mood Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Oud Satin Mood by MFK is another iconic fragrance with unisex appeal that features oud in it.

Launched in 2015 this aroma has a generous dosage of oud that tunes melodically with powdery, sensual rose and violet.

Vanilla and benzion also add a sweet intoxicating dimension to this oud-centric fragrance, making it persistent and more captivating for intimate dates or romantic setups during winter nights.

Well, its incredible 12-hour longevity might impress you but if its hefty price tag overshadows your mood, don’t worry there are also several affordable perfumes similar to MFK Oud Satin Mood.

Oud Bouquet Eau de Parfum Lancôme

In 2014 Lancome launched a new fragrance in oriental style based on accords of oud under the name Oud Bouquet EDP.

In the first sniff, this perfume reveals an elegant and subtle floral smell of saffron and roses. Slowly the sweet, caramelized hint of praline and vanilla starts to harmonize its core with its addictive gourmand essence.

In the finishing, the strong and bold presence of Oud does all the work to make it a unique masterpiece that demands all the attention.

On your skin, the bold, evocative woody nuance of oud lasts more than 15 hours. And for its tremendous sillage and alluring smell, people still look for perfumes that smell similar to Lancôme Oud Bouquet.


Is oud feminine or masculine scent?

Oud is widely used by both genders. Its multifaceted, bold aroma blends well with various notes from floral to spicy and amazingly suits any kind of personality.

How long does the oud smell last?

Oud has a strong and intense aroma that lasts for several hours sometimes even for a whole day long. Oud fragrances slightly have a longer lifespan than many other fragrances which also makes it a popular note.

What is the best season and occasion for wearing oud fragrances?

Though oud fragrances can be used throughout the year, I feel its warm, woodsy aroma shines best during the colder seasons or more formal and luxurious occasions.

Why do Arabian people use oud?

For the aromatic and spiritual quality of oud, the people of Arabs incorporated it into their day-to-day lives. It has become an integral part of the Muslim culture where it symbolizes luxury, and hospitality during religious occasions and social gatherings.


To sum up, oud is an excellent note that smells woody, animalistic, earthy, and somewhat balsamic. It doesn’t only smell luxurious and exotic, but it is also very expensive and tricky to harvest.

Besides the aroma, oud also has many physical and spiritual benefits that only add to its merits.

I hope this article was helpful in answering your oud-related queries. Let me know which fragrance note you’d like to read next!

About The Author
Hello, I am Tasnim, a senior content developer at 10 Fragrances. I am passionate, brave, and up for challenges. From trying new and timeless fashion trends, I gradually leaned toward the amazing world of perfume, where scents do all the talking.

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