So what’s the whoop with oud wood? Every fashionable fragrance coming down the pike these days seems to have at least a drop of the stuff. Until recently, this ancient material was unfamiliar to western noses, but found everywhere in the Arab world -- from perfume to mini-braziers plugged into car cigarette lighters. Sure beats a cardboard tree hanging off a rear-view mirror.
As far as the history of perfume goes, oud wood is an OG, complete with Old Testament shout-outs. Oud is a byproduct of the Aquilaria tree, a large evergreen native to Southeast Asia. The tree produces an aromatic resin as a natural immune response to fungal growths.
Whoever first shoved their nose into goo oozing from gnarly old moldy trees certainly were smarter than they looked, because it turns out that oud has an incredible olfactory profile.
Depending on the source, oud can smell medicinal, leathery, amber-woody, sour, bitter, herbal, sea-salty or fecal. The effect of oud in a fragrance is like desert air -- it sucks the moisture out of everything it surrounds, intensifying the scenario. It lends thickness to a fragrance, gives it a dark past.
Complicating matters are oud’s many aliases, including:
Okay, so maybe I made that last one up, but it fits.
Montale White Aoud is oud with saffron, sandalwood and vanillic rose -- very elegant and smooooove. The hardcore Montale crackies consider White Aoud “entry-level oud”, because you can still breathe it in without searing your sinus tissue, unlike the denser Montale ouds with their harsh Ajax scouring powder accord.
Montale crackies are like the people who prove how buck they are by eating the hottest Vindaloo curry available. Their eyes may be streaming tears, their nose gushing snot, but by gum, they’ve cowboy’d up!
As far as the perfume bullies are concerned, if you don’t find Montale Black Aoud delightful with its Murphy Wood Oil Soap stank, or Montale Aoud Lime charming with its eau de Chernobyl niff, then you’re just a wussypants. And you don’t get any wussypants-er than a fragrance wussypants, so you must really be a wussypants.
Well, call me a wussypants, because the wisp of oud in White Aoud suits me just fine. Although -- now that the dab of Black Aoud I applied six hours ago is starting to settle into a rich, woody rose, I’m finding that stank...delightful.