A new era of Oud is upon us. This magical ingredient long known in both the Far and the Middle East came in to the hearts and minds of those in the West via perfumes, lotions and potions creators who utilised it and built many scent products around this most exclusive of ingredients.
Oud (agarwood, Aoud, aloe wood, eagle wood, gaharu) has been used since biblical times across a range of continents, such as a medical treatment for example in east Asian mythologies, as a type of ink for important papers in some cultures and lastly in the Middle East where it is most popular and has been so for centuries as a scent. It has also historically been used in India, China, Japan and other Asian countries as an incense burner in households as well as in royal palaces, places of worship and for gatherings of friends and family. Likewise, Oud has been used in celebration of a newborn and for the mourning of a recent death.
Oud oil has also been used as a medicine, and for therapeutic benefits by Chinese, Indians and Arabs for centuries. The Oud itself comes from tropical evergreen trees which particularly grow in the rainforests of Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Northeast India, the Philippines, Borneo and New Guinea. When this tree is attacked by a certain fungi in its heartwood, the tree responds to this attack by releasing a type of resin to defend itself. This resin inside the tree gives rise to the formation of resinous heartwood which is known as Oud.
Oud oil, distilled from Oud, has been used as perfume, in its pure raw form, as well as blended with other natural perfume ingredients like sandalwood, musk, saffron and amber. It is one of the oldest materials used in perfumery and is considered to be one of the costliest perfumery raw materials. Oud oil is mystical, tantalising, alluring and intoxicating, so diverse and complex in fact that words fail to capture its continuously evolving aroma. It can be sweet, floral and vanillic on the one hand, and yet on the other it can be bitter, spicy and leathery. Oud lends a mesmerisingly heavy, deep and warm animalic, spicy, leathery, balsamic, woody notes to the perfumes. In more modern times, Oud as used in the Middle East is very much part of modern living, as well as modern perfumery; it will be burnt in homes, or people will light coal and walk through it after bathing or burning it around their clothes so they smell from skin to cloth of the exotic scent. Many homes will have an array of perfumes in their home to offer guests to wear when they enter the home – such is the importance of scent in middle eastern homes.
So why Oud? The chosen perfumes loved in the Middle East tend to be heavily rich and fill bodied. And? Because in a hot climate, perfume evaporates quicker, so stronger smells work best with Oud since it is so deeply routed in the culture for thousands of years; where as the Far East has little tradition of actually wearing personal scent, but have a long tradition of utilising Oud for many other purposes. Around 10 years ago, Western style perfumes began to fall in love with Oud. This was partly due to a Western marketing effort to tap into travelling Middle Easterners who loved to shop for new and exotic scents. So perfumes were likely made to tailor to this market which then grew into many Europeans loving the rich dark intoxicating wood overtime. Then suddenly there was Oud everywhere, from the highest end of niche perfume, to high street teenage body wash for boys….
Well it seems we are now entering the next Oud phase, with not one but two new releases arriving at Harrods. Firstly, comes Sri London, with 5 different scents all named after a precious stone and built around where a Middle Eastern Oud base, meets multitude of softer scents more accustomed to the Far east with the collection giving five different aspects to the deep dark oil. Scents that perfectly harmonise the delicate balance inspired by the sensual, exotic Orient, and the strong formidable qualities of Middle Eastern Perfumery. Founder Kristiana Sripetchvandee, who already started the brand Gold Bar in Dubi, grew a profound love for fragrance from her discovery of how perfumes were viewed while working there.
Yet the name Sri has its origins in Sanskrit, (a language of ancient India ) and has a meaning of “diffusing light or radiance”. The name is also synonymous to grace, splendour, lustre, wealth, affluence and prosperity – all attributes to define the chracter of any wearer of the scents. It is said that the best Oud comes from the South East Asian region, particularly in Kristiana’s home country, Thailand, along its borders with Cambodia. Through SRI London, Kristiana combines her heritage, influences of the Orient and elements of Middle Eastern perfumery, to provide an offering that seamlessly fills the gap in the world of perfume. The results are sophisticated fragrances that are more nuanced and multifaceted; with each of the five-piece collection introducing a new facet.
Emerald Oud and Orchid
Starting with emerald, (that deep rich green stone), is probably the strongest of all five; it pays a quite but large homage to the Middle East from its Oud in Kashmir, through amber, cedarwood, patchouli, vanilla, and vetiver base which moves into clove, incense, jasmine, lily of the valley, myrrh, rose, saffron (hot sexy and floral) settling on tops notes of dried fruits, cardamon, davana, and olibanum. So if any perfume celebrates the very heart and soul of Oud in the Middle East, this is it: the florals in the middle bring a little of East Asia to the mix, and make it a lovely commercial perfume.
Sapphire Leather and Oud
Next comes sapphire, a (sharp mid blue) leathery angle on Oud, with amber, patchouli, sandalwood, and saffron which follows into cooling lavender and cardamom, giving a warm slight spice finished at the top with armoise, grapefruit and cypress for a twirl of greeny- fruit. Again, a good commercial perfume for all, but can easily worn as a summer evening fragrance.
Amethyst Oud and Saffron
The third is amethyst the purple ‘spiky’ stone that is a mythical colour for spiritualists. This fragrance more than any other in the collection crosses the bridge of Middle and Far East, from dark Ouds and woods via florals to a top citrus hit – it’s dark to light all the way. Base notes for depth are cedarwood, amber, Oud, saffron, musk, where they meet with the middle notes of Jasmine, violet, rose, pink pepper, orris for a sexy fresh floral scent which are set off at the top with a hit of sparkling citrus.
Scarlet Amber and Jasmine
Another comes with a fruity tone, although very much the same vain as the others in the collection. Hopwever, scarlet, does not in fact have Oud in it; yet it starts with a similar warm base of amber, cedarwood, and rooty vetiver which moves into neroli, jasmine, cardamom, muguet and orris, filling the warmth of the base with a fruity spice and the top blends into aniseed, red fruit, grapefruit for a real red hit of sexy fruitiness.
Magenta Midnight Rose and Musk
Last in the collection is Magenta, that has a not so subtle burst of bright powerful pink. Magenta does have the Oud base which also includes musk, cedarwood, amber and saffron for the woody anamlic slant, which then grows into the middle of sexy jasmine, violet, rose, pink pepper, and orris and like amethyst finishes with a burst of citrus.
An interesting collection of Ouds that fuse together both the Middle and Far East to bring a new user that may have formerly been afraid to try Oud, while giving them a great starting place. Exclusive to Harrods with prices ranging from £190 to £250.
So important is the world of Oud to Harrods they have collaborated with another brand to create a truly deep sexy and voluptuous range. Nejma as a brand was started by Marie Lise Bischoff after attending a reading on an Arabic tale and falling in love with the heroine, Nejma. The story goes she was captured by pirates and sold into the slave market, and was chosen by the ‘Vizire’ to be his wife due to her stunning beauty, her spontaneous sweetness and the enhancing perfume naturally exhaled by her body.
From the union of Nejma and the Vizire, were born 7 beautiful daughters. To pay tribute and to immortalise their mother, each daughter created a fragrance as their interpretation of their mother’s maternal perfume. This is the way seven fragrances were created, mixing different ingredients but always with accompanying Oud.
From these original seven fragrances that were created initially they have now been transformed into extraits (the purest most intense of all perfume with the highest concentration of scent). As a collaboration with Harrods and of course exclusive to Harrods until the end of this year, shows the esteem to which the brand is held. In order to say ‘pump up the volume’ as such each fragrance has been taken and rebuilt with a base of Oud and Leather. This turns the fragrances into scent you literally ‘Dive into’ . they surround you engulf you like a cashmere blanket on a winters night. Nothing is more beautiful than being enveloped in a perfume deep enough to swim in; these fragrances are for true lovers; of fragrance and of life!
So what are the seven made up of?
Nejma Extrait No.1
Its base is made up of Aoud Wood, Patchouli, Black Wood, Dark Leather, giving this deep rich dark base which sets off the middle of Bulgarian Rose Thyme Pink Pepper and Italian bergamot with Rose jasmine and candid fruit at the top. A spiced edge to this woody oriental.
Nejma Extrait No.2
As with number one number two also have Aoud Wood, Black Wood, Dark Leather and here added to the base is, Sandalwood. Floral and fruity in the middle with White Rose, Centifolia Rose, Ottoman Rose, Candied Fruit, all creating the space for top notes to entice of Saffron, Ylang Ylang, Aldehydic Fresh, Italian Bergamot for this rich oriental floral ; a great big bouquet of roses.
Nejma Extrait No.3
Starts with a base of Aoud Wood, Sandalwood, Oak Moss, Black Wood, with Oak Moss that brings a sophisticated chypre feel . Yet right in the middle we find flowers and leather via Bulgarian Rose, Hibiscus Flower, Dark Leather, Candied Fruit and at the top Ylang Ylang, Cardamom Seed, Bitter Orange Oil, Italian Bergamot, which makes for a cross between a chypre and an oriental perfume with a slightly mysterious undertone.
Nejma Extrait No.4
This is another take on the chypre and the oriental. Chypre is considered by many if fragrance to be the most sophisticated of all the fragrance families and flowers will be ever popular so it make sense that there are three in the collection, however this time the base utilises Aoud Wood, Amber, Cedar, Black Wood giving a different accent which follows through in the middle with Jasmine, Indian Tuberose, Dark Leather, Candied Fruit then finishes with a burst of sharp fruity freshness with Mandarin, Neroli Oil, Pear, Italian Bergamot; for those with a true love of majestic flowers
Nejma Extrait No.5
The third of the chypre is a floriental; again starting with the base around the ever present Aoud Wood, with lovely ‘rooty’ Vetiver Bourbon, Black Wood, Dark Leather. The middle comes with the sweetness of candid fruit alongside the floral bouquet of Bulgarian Rose, Wild Narcissus, and Tunisian Neroli whilst the top is the warmth of Wild peach and deep luscious Blackcurrant with grapefruit and bergamot to shimmer and sparkle.
Nejma Extrait No.6
Moves from number 5 a floroiental to number six an oriental; where it meets with musk for an oriental musk; so it manifests with a base of Aoud Wood, White Musk, Benzoin, Black Wood. In its heart its vanilla-esque powdery Tonka bean, Incense Resinoide Dark Leather and Ambergris with a slightly gourmand top of Cinnamon Bark, Coconut, Italian Bergamot and the Lavender which gives a slight dry top. This of all the seven was by all accounts the most difficult to develop.
lastly in the set is
Nejma Extrait No.7
A sweet floriental that in the original range was always the best seller. That wonderful base again of Aoud Wood, Patchouli, Black Wood, Dark Leather, a middle that mirrors the orient with Star Anis alongside Cocoa Bean, Coconut Milk and Neroli Flower; as sweetly addictive as your favourite chocolate or sweetmeat.
As mentioned we have already had our first love affair with Oud around ten years ago but these Nejma fragrances take the story to a truly higher level of intensity, of depth and intricacy
The Extraits are priced at £345 for 50ml and are available exclusively at Harrods.