A Brief History of Oud (And What You Need to Know About the Scent)
If you take even the briefest of looks at the Elite Perfumery range, you’ll notice that a huge number of our fragrances make use of oud.
Many you will already know that oud has been a common perfume ingredient, especially in Islamic circles, for centuries. But what you may not know is that oud has an even longer history that takes in far more countries than you may realise.
In this article, we’re going to briefly chart the history of oud and look at a few of the things that you need to know about this wonderful perfume ingredient.
The Early History
Though we often associate oud with Middle Eastern countries, the earliest records of the ingredient being used in fragrances come from a different area of Asia. While Dubai may be the oud capital of the world today, it’s actually China that may have the biggest claim to being the first country to use it.
Records that date back all of the way to the third century make mention of Chinese making use of the extract. Those same records also point to Vietnam as being a country that made heavy use of oud. So, it’s likely that the Chinese may have been the first to record its use. However, it may well be the Vietnamese that were the first to actually use it.
Fast forward to the 16th century and there’s a bustling oud trade.
Vietnamese trades sell it by the bucket load to both Japanese and Chinese importers. However, neither country seemed to realise just how much potential oud had as a perfume. In both cases, it seems like the main use for oud was in incense. These wonderful sticks release a gorgeous aroma when burned, as the oud incense that you can buy today still does.
However, it seems like neither the Chinese nor Japanese connected the dots to find that oud could be used in perfumes.
That’s where the Islamic world comes into play.
While the Chinese and Japanese burned it for incense, many people in Middle Eastern countries were applying the oil onto their skin for use as a perfume.
But this period of oud purity didn’t last as long as you might expect.
The Dilution Starts
Oud quickly became a valuable commodity as its use extended through different countries. Exporters found it more difficult to keep up with the rising demand, which means that the price of concentrated oud oils started to rise.
During this period, Western countries still hadn’t started to import oud themselves. In fact, you could make the argument that the ingredient has never found widespread use in the West.
But the problem was that the increases in prices also proved unmanageable for many regular people in Middle Eastern countries. Oud went from being a fairly popular fragrance to becoming a rare commodity that cost a lot of money.
Faced with the prospect of having a product that many people wanted but few could afford, oud manufacturers started to look for alternatives.
And that led to widespread dilution.
Instead of selling the oil in its purest form, manufacturers would mix it with other ingredients. Most common among these Amyris and patchouli. Both ingredients were far more affordable than oud, which meant that manufacturers could stretch the oil further. And because they could make more product, they could also bring their prices down to help meet the ever-growing demand.
Pure oud still sold for a premium.
But these blends are what led to the oil attaining widespread use again. And this dilution also had an unexpected effect…
Oud Becomes a Perfume Note
Think about what the average perfume is for a moment.
It is usually not a single oil. Instead, most perfumes offer up a blend of ingredients that are carefully combined to create a specific scent.
That’s what we started to see once manufacturers began diluting their oud.
Rather than completely weakening the oil, these “dilutions” were actually more akin to the blends that we see in modern perfumes. The Amyris and patchouli lent different tones to the oil, making the scent created more complex, even if the oil itself was diluted.
And of course, as perfumes became even more desirable (and people’s bank balances began to increase), experimentation began. Manufacturers no longer mixed oud with other ingredients in an effort to dilute it and stretch out their supply.
Now, they wanted to experiment with different blends to create the most attractive fragrances possible.
And that’s what’s led us to the situation we’re in today. Now, we have oud perfumes that include a blend of different ingredients that supplement the oud oil, rather than dilute it.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to buy pure oud oils. In fact, there’s still a huge market for the stuff.
But for those who want to experiment with different fragrances, there’s now a huge array of oud perfumes for them to sample.
That’s what you’re going to find when you search through the Elite Perfumery catalogue!
And that leads us to a final question…
If you want the purest form of oud, just how much will it set you back in the modern age?
According to Forbes, a single pound of oud carries a $5,000 price tag. In fact, retailers can sell a small bottle containing three grams of the stuff for about $300.
That’s $100 per gram, or about £75 at the current exchange rate!
The Final Word
Oud has set its stall as perhaps the most desirable perfume oil in the world. While there are those that exist that cost a little more, oud may have the largest demand versus supply.
So, what’s next for this most remarkable of oils.
We believe that oud still has the potential to reach a wider audience. As mentioned, many people in the Western world still haven’t adopted oud fragrances for regular use.
Perhaps that’s the next frontier?
Either way, Elite Perfumery will be here to see what happens. And right now, we offer a wide range of oud oils and perfumes on our website.