Welcome to Fragrance Friday, where each week we’ll be keeping you abreast of the newest and most iconic releases in the dynamic world of men’s fragrances. Born out of the desire to showcase one of the most overlooked, yet versatile, elements of any discerning man’s style this weekly column will help you finesse your own signature scent.
“Is that Oud?” A question posed to be a few months ago by someone who was thinking of buying an expensive fragrance as a gift for her boyfriend. It wasn’t oud. Not at all. In fact, I was wearing Amouage Enclave, which has no trace of oud (although it has plenty of vetiver and leather) and instead is defined by its very forward spearmint-like freshness. She admitted she didn’t know much about perfume beyond the typical brand names you’d find lining any display window at Chemist Warehouse, but her question does reveal something about oud.
Oud has become somewhat of a buzzword synonymous with high-end perfume. I guess you have the inescapable quality of perfumes like Tom Ford ‘Oud Wood’ to thank for that. And when an ingredient becomes synonymous with such a diverse and highly varied industry such as perfumery, you know it’s time to move on.
Perfumery is kind of stuck on oud. And that’s not much of a surprise. The strong musky scent is heavy and often used in the base of a perfume, typically sticking around much longer than the other notes and lingering sweetly with a warm, woody smell that’s highly attractive when used right. Although considering how overharvested oud, which comes from the wood of the Agar tree, has become, it’s now much more common to across a modern perfume that uses synthetic substitutes that are slightly juicy.
Oud can be incredibly intoxicating and likeable. But it can also be same-same and a bit too boring to build a signature scent around. More than a few of the BH boys have been moving away from those raw and rich woody and leathery scents that have become too closely associated with masculine fragrances.
The other side of the same coin is the ubiquity of citrus-forward zesty scents locked into an image of the Mediterranean. And while these are typically perfect fragrances for your European summer, they similarly run the risk of running stale due to overuse. Perhaps fresh summery scents that don’t rely on citrus could make for another Fragrance Friday edition when Australia skews towards summer (assuming summer exists anymore).
I don’t mean to sound too cynical about oud. I still really love oud-focused fragrances every now and then, and they can be incredibly sexy like a current fav, Juliette Has A Gun ‘In The Mood For Oud.’ But maybe it’s time to think a bit differently when it comes to rich woody fragrances.
These are three woody fragrances you should check out that contain no trace of oud, instead focusing on the others like the warm elegance of sandalwood or the creamy, slightly chocolatey nuances of patchouli. Make sure these ones are being considered for your collection in addition to those typical oud bombs so you’ve got a broad selection when it comes to woody fragrances.
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Three Great Woody Fragrances (That Don’t Rely On Oud)
Aqua Di Parma ‘Sandolo’
Even though it also has a perfume that relies almost exclusive on oud (and does it very well), Italian luxury house Aqua di Parma slide towards sandalwood with Sandolo. It’s an excellent, complex fragrance that starts off spicy and zesty before then melting down into those warmer notes, leaning on the sophistication of sandalwood blended with tonka bean and amber. It’s delicious and absolutely a woody fragrance worth the high price tag.
That being said, their Aqua di Parma Oud is quite nice as well and is nowhere near as oud-heavy as you’d expect. Similarly to this one, the brand seems to have used citrus to help restrain the oud substantially, bringing out a very natural, smoked wood character in the base.
Top notes: Orange, Calabrian bergamot, lemon, petitgrain
Middle notes: Lavender, cardamom
Base notes: Sandalwood, tonka bean, amber
Maison Crivelli ‘Patchouli Magnetik’
Approach this one with caution. As the second ever perfume extract from Maison Crivelli, Patchouli Magnetik can be very overwhelming for some, with super strong projection worked well by perfumer Quentin Bisch to – obviously – bring in a bit of a patchouli-bomb for those who are addicted to the chocolatey wood.
Marketing materials suggest this new perfume extract was chiselled with an image of a motorcycle ride through patchouli fields during a tropical storm, and it makes sense with the almost obnoxious powdery opening drying down to this gorgeous bouquet of peach and white flowers that really sing.
Much like the brand’s first extract, Hibiscus Mahajad, Patchouli Magnetik can be very divisive and there’s every chance that this might not gel well with your signature scent. I would suggest tracking down a sample before making the investment but for those who love it, this scent can be very rewarding, especially in the dynamic dry-down. You’ve just got to make it past the powdery opening, then it really reiterates that woody fragrances need not rely heavily on oud.
Top notes: White peach, gardenia
Middle notes: Patchouli, sandalwood
Base notes: Benzoin, vanilla
Jo Malone ‘Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne’
I’m including this one here as a slightly more affordable option compared to the perfumes above, shedding the high price tag without compromising on quality – offering a really nice, likeable scent that isn’t too strong but still throws in a lot of those seductive woody notes but skews more coastal with a salty base.
I’ve really disliked some Jo Malone perfumes in the past, so it’s nice to have a good, reliable one that I’d happily return to any day of the week. While it’s got that really fresh aquatic-ozonic element to it, that woody sage detail at the start really sells this unisex perfume for me.
Top notes: Ambrette seeds
Middle notes: Sea salt
Base notes: Sage