Photo credit: photodune.

10 beautiful oud perfume mixes for women and men

Photo credit: photodune.

Photo credit: photodune.

By Dustin Craun

One of the many things I love about traveling to the Gulf is shopping for oud (aloeswood). While I have yet to find pure oud wood or oud oil that matches what I can get locally here in California at Oudimentary. During my travels (almost all the Oud I have seen in the Gulf is waxed, which ruins the natural smell of burning oud) I always enjoy smelling the new Oud mixes by regional and global perfume houses. Three years ago I visited Saudi Arabia and you could seUmmah Wide White Logoe the beginnings of the big global perfume companies making oud fragrances for middle eastern markets. Today you would be hard pressed to find a major player in the global perfume trade who does not have at least one oud fragrance on the market.

Like most things in life my tastes have changed with age, I used to love pure oud and would wear it almost daily, but as I started to get into the mixes I found them to be more balanced as a daily fragrance. This is a short list of ten of my favorites as of now, almost all of which could be worn by men or women and are sold generally as unisex perfumes. While it is easier to find these scents because they are concentrated together at shops like Areej or in the Duty Free shops in the airport in the Gulf, in the United States you can find most of these fragrances at Neiman Marcus. Click on the name of the perfume in each section to see more in depth reviews by Fragrantica.

Leather Oud?—?Christian Dior

On this trip, my favorite Oud mix was surprisingly Leather Oud. I say surprisingly because when you first spray it the leather notes are very strong. I sprayed this for the first time before a short flight and I spent the next hour and a half smelling my hand and was amazed by the depth of this fragrance. It is such an incredible fragrance because it transforms every 15–20 minutes and the Oud base notes stand out beautifully. It is also one of the longest lasting oud mixes I have ever worn.

Oud Royal?—?Giorgio Armani

Oud Royal was by far my wife’s favorite fragrance on our trip, this unisex perfume has long lasting but light oud notes. However, because of the amber and floral notes you could say that this fragrance leans towards a feminine smell. More than anything I think it is a balanced and beautiful fragrance.

Mukhallat al Shams?—?Ajmal

The strongest Oud fragrance of all the perfumes on this list and also the hardest one to find in the United States, Mukhallat al Shams is a classic fragrance. Founded in India, Ajmal is today headquartered in Dubai. Mukhallat al Shams is the lightest of three perfumes in this series with each step up representing a more pure oud smell (try Dahn Oud al Shams if you want something stronger). We also like the new series from Ajmal called W, especially the Amber Wood.

Check out this video on the future of Oud and the competition of all these international brands featured in this article by Abdulla Ajmal the general manager of Ajmal perfumes.

Amouage?—?Honour Woman

We spent a lot of time in the Amouage shop in Abu Dhabi that was attached to our hotel, while the range of this Oman based perfume company is incredible, this scent stood out as my favorite. In Amouage’s general line of perfumes they use one color and one name and then make different Men’s and Women’s fragrances tied to each of these. Honour for women stood out as a soft floral scent that was beautiful in its depth.

Oud Maliki?—?Chopard

I received Oud Maliki as a gift after I first fell in love with it back in 2012. Chopard is known more for its over the top watches and jewelry than its perfumes, but this is a long lasting beauty with deep oud notes. While I really do like this perfume the spicy cinnamon like notes in it make me take long breaks from wearing it.

Oud Tobacco?—?Tom Ford

Like most real oud enthusiasts, one of my favorite things is to wear oud in layers where you dab the oil and then burn oud wood on top of it for an entirely deeper and transformative smell. I knew I loved Oud Tobacco by Tom Ford the first time I tried it precisely because it smelled like this long lasting fragrance of oud wood burned over oud oil. I am also a fan of oud fleur in this collection, and less so of Tom Ford’s oud wood.

Oud Ispahan?—?Christian Dior

Oud and rose mixes are one of the oldest combinations in the long history of perfume. Oud Ispahan is a deep oud and rose fragrance that has a balance in a way that other oud/ rose mixes cannot come lose to. The key with this type of mix is not allowing the rose to totally over power the fragrance as is most often the case. That is what makes this perfume special as the oud stands out especially as it dries down.

Precious Oud?—?Van Cleef & Arpels

Precious Oud is another floral fragrance that we recently ran into at Nieman Marcus after we returned home. The oud balanced with jasmine, tuberose petals, amber, vetiver and sandalwood create a beautiful fragrance that is more likely to be worn by women.

10 Corso Como

10 Corso Como was one of the first European based fragrances to really embrace the power of oud. This perfume was first released in 1999 and is considered a classic with its notes of rose, geranium, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, oud wood resin and incense.


A number of fragrances from Amouage caught our attention, from their library series, to epic man, interlude man, and one of their newest fragrances journey. Definitely worth a visit to one of their shops if you are in the region though we have also seen their perfumes at specialty perfume shops throughout the United States.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Ummah Wide.

Gulf Perfumers Smell Opportunity

* Increasing global interest in Arab fragrances

* Local manufacturers see opportunities but competition fierce

* Regulation, marketing muscle are obstacles

By Martina Fuchs and Rachna Uppal


Men visit the Ajmal fragrance store in Dubai Mall, August 4, 2011. Saudi Arabia is the Gulf’s largest regional market for fragrances, accounting for $827.5 million last year; the UAE was in second place with $205.8 million. By 2014, it expects fragrance sales to have grown 14.4 percent in Saudi Arabia and 16.5 percent in the UAE. Some predict even faster growth because of tourism and business travel to the region, in addition to rising competition as an increasing number of international players move into the Middle Eastern fragrance market. Picture taken August 4, 2011.

REUTERS/Mosab Omar

DUBAI, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Walk through any of Dubai’s immaculate, air-conditioned shopping malls, and the scent of spicy perfume becomes an integral part of the shopping experience.

From boutiques to sales clerks offering samples, there’s no shortage of fragrances lingering in the air, part of a tradition dating back thousands of years.

“I don’t count the layers my wife puts on every day, but her smell always blows me away,” says Mustafa al-Muhana, a Saudi Arabian visitor to one of the specialist perfume stores.

Per capita consumption of perfumes in the Gulf region is among the highest in the world. Men and women equally enjoy applying layer upon layer of scents which linger long after the wearer has disappeared from sight.

“If a perfume doesn’t leave a trail, it’s not good enough,” says Abdulla Ajmal, deputy general manager at Ajmal Perfumes, a United Arab Emirates-based fragrance manufacturer.

That belief is providing healthy sales for foreign makers of perfumes in the Gulf and also supporting a growing fragrance manufacturing industry within the region, which is struggling to diversify away from its traditional reliance on energy exports.

Saudi Arabia is the Gulf’s largest regional market for fragrances, accounting for $827.5 million last year; the UAE was in second place with $205.8 million, according to consumer research firm Euromonitor International. By 2014, it expects fragrance sales to have grown 14.4 percent in Saudi Arabia and 16.5 percent in the UAE.

Some predict even faster growth because of tourism and business travel to the region, in addition to rising competition as an increasing number of international players move into the Middle Eastern fragrance market, including Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Guerlain.

“The growth of the Gulf perfume industry will be exponential,” says Shazad Haider, chairman of Fragrance Foundation Arabia, the regional outpost of the Fragrance Foundation, a group which represents the industry’s interests globally. “We will see a minimum twofold growth over the next three years.”

The people of the Arabian Peninsula have used oud, a perfume resin from the agarwood tree, as well as sandalwood, amber, musk and roses for over two thousand years; they are still the dominant ingredients in local perfumes.

Perfume is repeatedly mentioned in the Islamic hadiths, which record the actions and words of Prophet Mohammed, and it is reported that he himself never refused perfume, intensifying its significance for all Muslims.

Many perfumers say they have identified a trend in which traditional Arab fragrances are starting to attract broader, global interest.

“We have a strong line that uses other Western notes but the interesting point is that our European, American…customers are looking for the oriental notes, especially the oud oil,” says Shadi Samra, brand manager at Saudi Arabia-based Arabian Oud, which has flagship stores in London and Paris.

In Dubai’s warehouse district, Ajmal Perfumes operates a $10 million, 150,000-square-foot (14,000-square-metre) factory that makes around 50,000 bottles of Arab and French fragrances a day.

Abdulla Ajmal said the turnover of the family-owned business in 2010 was $200 million; sales were dampened by the political unrest in the Arab world this year, but Ajmal said he still aimed for 6 percent growth in 2011.

For now, however, many local manufacturers may struggle to achieve their international ambitions because they do not comply with global industry standards covering restricted ingredients and quality control.

“If you want to export to anywhere else, not just to the West, but also Asia, you are going to have to comply with IFRA standards,” said Stephen Weller of the Brussels-based International Fragrance Association (IFRA). He added that the association currently had no Gulf members.

And while Gulf Arab perfume manufacturers seek growth abroad, they face stiff competition from French and global players on their home ground.

L’Oréal Middle East, the regional arm of the French cosmetics giant, accounted for 9.6 percent of fragrance sales in the UAE in 2009, the biggest share, followed by Ajmal with 9.2 percent, according to Euromonitor International. The three largest domestic makers, Ajmal, Rasasi and Designer Shaik, together accounted for 21 percent.

“Most of the international houses work very closely with consumers here in the region…They adapt and introduce something customised, or they modify some of their product ranges to fit the taste of the region,” said Mohamed al-Fahim, chief executive of Paris Gallery, one of the largest regional fragrance retailers.

At the store’s Dubai Mall branch, Arabian-style glass bottles now carry the names of brands such as Guerlain and Clive Christian. Armani Prive and Tom Ford, among others, have developed ranges specifically for the region, and others plan to follow.

A 50 ml bottle of French brand Kilian’s Arabian Nights collection retails for about 1,500 dirhams ($410). In an ackowledgement of the heavier-than-average use of perfume in the region, a refill sells for half-price.

Global fragrance houses which can adapt to brand-conscious Gulf consumers still enjoy hefty advantages over most local perfumers in the form of bigger marketing budgets, technology and general experience of the industry.

“We still have a way to go to produce something of the same level or even better than what is produced in Europe or the U.S.,” Paris Gallery’s Fahim said.