Perfume Review – Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood: An Approachable Oud

One might argue that Tom Ford ushered in the new dawn of oud fragrances — whether or not anyone wanted it — when he launched M7 for YSL fragrances in 2002. And, judging by the latter’s market bomb, no-one did want it. M7 was not just a trail-blazer and the first of its kind; it was also too original, unique, bold and, it seems, shocking for a world dominated by the freshness of (the revolting) Acqua di Gio. As I’ve discussed previously in my post on oud as the most popular, new trend in perfume, M7 was far ahead of its time.

Tom Ford Oud WoodWhen Tom Ford left YSL and began his own fashion line, it’s hardly surprising that he tried to remedy what may have been his first official failure. He returned to the oud well and launched Private Blend Oud Wood in 2007. Only, this time, he tried to make the oud (or agarwood) palatable, approachable and mild for the mainstream masses. (To read more about agarwood, you can turn to the Glossary, or to my post on the oud trend linked up above.)

And, he succeeded. Oud Wood is lovely and infinitely easy to wear, especially by the standards of many other agarwood fragrances in the market today. The reason is that — at the end of the day — Oud Wood is not a very oud fragrance at all. This is no nuclear Montale — a niche perfume house that has around 27 oud fragrances, all of which radiate post-apocalyptic intensity. And it’s not M7 either, a much sweeter, more potent, hard-core treatment of the subject. Though I’ve only tried the reformulated version of M7, I have to admit, I far preferred it to Tom Ford’s second foray into agarwood.

Oud Wood is a unisex perfume which Fragrantica categorizes as “Oriental Spicy.” On his website, Tom Ford describes it as follows:

Exotic Rose Wood and Cardamom, blended with exuberant Chinese Pepper, envelop the wearer in warmth. Eventually, the center exposes a smokey blend of rare Oud Wood, Sandalwood and Vetiver. Finally, the creamy scents of Tonka Bean, Vanilla and Amber are revealed.

The full set of notes according to Now Smell This (NST) are:

rosewood, cardamom, Chinese pepper, oud, sandalwood, vetiver, tonka bean, vanilla and amber.

Oud Wood opens softly. Extremely softly for a Tom Ford fragrance, if I might add. It may be the softest opening I’ve ever experienced for one of his perfumes — Private Blend or regular collection! The very first impression is of rose and sweet, nutty cardamom. It’s lovely. There is also Szechuan pepper, earthy vetiver, and hints of rich vanilla as if from a freshly cut Madagascar bean.

Following in their footsteps is the faintly medicinal tones of oud. There is no huge bite to the oud, and I don’t think it’s mutedness is due to the fact that it is covered by a veil of spice and sweetness. Even putting aside the unique nature of Montale’s fragrances, the oud here is different to others that I have smelled. For example, the By Kilian oud fragrances in the Arabian Nights collection range from cold, stony oud in Pure Oud to almost no oud at all in Amber Oud. Tom Ford’s Oud Wood may be closest to Rose Oud with its rose and soft agarwood, but there is still a difference that is hard to explain. It’s as if the oud has been hidden here such that it’s merely providing small cameo performances here or there. It’s not the star, but it’s also not one of the main supporting actors either.

Thirty minutes in, it remains a fragrance that is predominantly rose, cardamom and oud. The latter has become slightly more prominent now with a heavier element of camphor. Its chilly undertones provide a balance to the rose notes that are frequently present in oud fragrances. And the combination of oud with the nutty, aromatic, sweetness of cardamom is absolutely gorgeous. But, despite that, Oud Wood is still much less sweet, and much dryer, than the (reformulated) version of M7. And, frankly, I think I would have preferred a little more sweetness.

It’s around this time that there is an unexpected twist: I’m convinced I smell mocha! Something in the interplay of the nutty, sweet cardamom with the agarwood and the earthy rootiness of the vetiver has led to a strong impression of mocha ice cream. I’m an enormous fan of the latter, so I’m very happy (though somewhat perplexed). Yet, despite that surprise, Oud Wood isn’t a particularly complex or complicated fragrance. It doesn’t morph or fundamentally change in a huge way, but perhaps that’s why it’s such an easy fragrance to wear.

About two hours in, the vetiver starts to truly emerge and it remains prominent for the length of the perfume’s development. Oud Wood is now primarily a vetiver, cardamom and (vaguely) oud fragrance with the rose becoming increasingly fainter. At the three-hour mark, sandalwood makes its appearance, pushing the rose completely off the stage and blending with the vanilla, cardamom and the earthy vetiver in a truly lovely manner. At times, it seems as though Oud Wood is mainly a vanilla vetiver with hints of oud and spice. At other times, it’s mostly sandalwood with vetiver. The perfume fluctuates and undulates, showing just how well-blended it is.

"The Seine at Le Grande Jatte" by George Seurat.

“The Seine at Le Grande Jatte” by George Seurat.

Four hours in, the perfume is extremely close to the skin and predominantly sandalwood with vetiver. The latter is increasingly sweet, fresh and bright green, reminding me of the aromatic fragrancy of lemongrass more than anything earthy or dark. It’s lovely, especially when combined with the spiced creaminess of the sandalwood. There are faint traces of vanilla and tonka, and the oud occasionally pops up like a fleeting Jack in the Box, but those are all minor things. The dry-down is mostly just sandalwood and vetiver.

I’m truly taken aback by the moderate sillage and brevity of the perfume. The  projection is surprisingly mild and tame for a Tom Ford fragrance. Even more surprising, it has an unusually shortest duration: around 5.5 hours on my skin. I know I have peculiar skin, but I’m not alone in this one. From the review on NST to comments on Fragrantica, a large number of people have noted the average (or, for a Tom Ford, extremely below-average) projection, softness and mildness of the fragrance. On Fragrantica, there are repeated comments about how Oud Wood simply doesn’t last. (It’s enough to make one convinced that Tom Ford intentionally went to the exact opposite extreme of every single thing he did with M7.)

My greater difficulty, and one which has made this review a struggle to write, is that Oud Wood is hard to get extremely excited about. Please don’t mistake me, it’s an absolutely lovely fragrance and, if I had a full bottle, I would wear it. In fact, I would probably wear it frequently! It’s versatile, easy, uncomplicated, rich-smelling and that sandalwood dry-down is simply delicious. Oud Wood may even be my second favorite Tom Ford Private Blend fragrance. (I shall have to ponder that one.)

But it’s simply not remarkable. It’s hard to muster up enormous excitement for what is — by today’s standards in particular — a very average oud. I’m not criticizing it for that, especially as “average” was the express goal! Tom Ford already did “remarkable,” and fell on his tush. Personally, I’m still obsessed with smelling un-reformulated, original M7 but, since both it and the reformulated version have been discontinued, I’m out of luck for the moment. (It sometimes appears on eBay, so there is always hope.)

For those of you who have been unsuccessful with agarwood thus far but who really want to find an accessible oud to try, Tom Ford’s Oud Wood should be right up your alley. It’s really just a spiced, vanilla, vetiver, woody fragrance that simply happens to have some oud in it. It’s neither particularly sweet nor masculine. But it’s infinitely wearable, far from potent, very approachable, and utterly delicious at times. For those of you who have been previously traumatized by the bullying or “frat boy” aspects of some Tom Fords, you too may have better luck with this one. But if you’ve had greater exposure to the plethora of ouds on the market or are looking for a true agarwood fragrance, then this may be too tame for you.

Cost & Availability: Private Blend Oud Wood is an eau de parfum, and is available on the Tom Ford website where it retails for: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, $280 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. In the US, you can also find it at fine department stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman MarcusSaks Fifth AvenueBergdorf Goodman, and others. In the UK, you can find it at Harrods where it sells for £195.00 for a 100 ml bottle or £300.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. (They are either sold out of the small 50 ml bottle or else, it’s not listed despite an initial reference to 50 ml on the main page for Oud Wood.) The smaller size is carried at Selfridges where it costs £135.00. Tom Ford Beauty doesn’t seem to be carried by retailers in France, but it is in many European nations from Denmark and Belgium to the Russian Federation. You can use the store locator on the website to find a retailer near you. In Australia, the Tom Ford line is supposedly carried at David Jones stores, but Oud Wood is not one of the 16 Tom Ford fragrances carried on the David Jones website. Elsewhere, Tom Ford fragrances are carried in numerous different countries; hopefully, you can find one near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website.
Samples: You can find samples of Private Blend Oud Wood starting at $3 on Surrender to Chance, or on other decant/sample sites like The Perfumed Court. I think Surrender to Chance has the best shipping: $2.95 for any order, no matter the size, within the U.S. Unfortunately, international shipping has leapt up in price (from $5.95) due to the U.S. Postal Service’s recent (and large) price increases. It is now $12.95 for most orders going overseas. (It is a wee bit higher if your order is over $150.)

36 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood: An Approachable Oud

  1. Loved the review! I should add that I’m using Oud Wood for more than a year now to the point that I think it has become my signature scent(although I didn’t believe in signature scents before). I find it the most versatile and easy to wear scent from the Private Blend collection . Also it’s amazing for blending(my favorite is Arabian Wood+Oud Wood combination). It lasts long on my skin but its not too potent. My favorite part is its dry down with creamy tonka bean and sandalwood. Sometimes I get mocha feel from it too. I guess it depends on the temperature.

    • You get Mocha too??!! I’m glad it’s not just me. I thought it was a such a lovely surprise. Ross, you have some great ideas for layering. I never once thought of that! Now I’m obsessed with wondering how Oud Wood would layer with Tobacco Vanille. I bet the latter would be perfect for it (for me) as it would give some of the sweetness I would have liked. Oh lordie, the two together….. Mmmmmm. 😀

      • I highly suggest blending Tobacco Vanille and Oud Wood. The combination is wonderful. But use TV as a base scent. I find Oud Wood blends pretty much with every other private blend fragrance. Lots of great choices! 🙂

  2. Nice review, Kafka. I get excellent longevity from Oud Wood. If I wear it the day before, I can easily smell it the morning after. You are right that it stays close to the skin. It’s not a skin scent but it’s has a timid projection.

    I think the Private Blend fragrances are a couple of notches above the mass market fragrances. They are not trend-setter but definitely hold their weight on the market. My favourite is Tuscan Leather and a second close Violet Noir. I like Oud Wood too but I rarely get in the mood to wear it.

    • The “timid projection” as you put it so nicely was quite a shock coming from a Tom Ford Private Blend perfume! I shall have to try Violet Noir — I’m intrigued by the name. 🙂

      • Violet Noir is loaded with ionones and has a tinge of old-fashionedness. I wear it when I will be around people and I want to have a little bit more presence. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

    • Of course, reapplication is one way around it. But some people aren’t so keen on reapplying perfume every few hours, especially not when the smallest bottle costs $205! I read one comment to the effect of “this lasts such a short time, I regret buying the perfume.” So, it was something I had to mention, especially as it was not just my personal experience with it. 🙂

  3. That’s a one long and in-depth review of Oud Wood. I just can’t believe how many notes, or their associations you had smelling this one while on me it turned into a monster which resulted in scrubber. We definitely have some different tastes.

    • I thought of you, Lucas, and how much you hated the perfume while writing the review. LOL. If it wasn’t for our mutual love of Safran Troublant, I’d wonder if we were what some call “Evil Scent Twins” since are tastes can be so polar opposite. 😀 Have you found an Oud you liked, btw?

      • I think I need some sort of oud-ucation (groan at the pun, it’s fine) because I don’t think I really understand what it’s supposed to be. I’ve smelled a few different ouds and they’ve all smelled pretty different to me. Do you have an idea of any scents that allegedly capture the essence of what oud should smell like?

        • I’m not sure I do either, Kevin, because they can vary so much. There is the basic medicinal, plastic bandaids, slightly camphorous smell that comes out but, even then, it can vary a lot. And how is one to know if a perfume’s name is not really just marketing, as opposed to the actual real thing? After all, none of us have access to real, genuine agarwood in its natural state to know what it smells like! It’s hardly like cardamom or pine trees!

          I think By Kilian’s Pur Oud was the coldest, stoniest one around but, again, how does one compare? The rest all balance/blend the agarwood with either roses, other florals, spices, vanilla or something else, so it’s truly hard. I have to wonder about the rose note that accompanies the vast, vast majority of agarwood fragrances because I can’t imagine that rose is a natural undertone to “the noble rot” (as agarwood is called). Perhaps Kilian’s Pure Oud is closer by virtue of not having it? Ultimately, I don’t think any of us really know.

          • So, basically, I need to sample more! TWIST MY ARM, WHY DON’T YOU?! 😉 You make a good point. I looked at StCs sample pack of Ouds and they list Noir de Noir and Ormonde Man (as well as Oud Wood, of course). Honestly, Xerjoff’s “Oud Stars” line made me sort of scared of oud. Heh. I shall keep trying.

          • Hmmm, TF’s rose Noir de Noir is not one that would immediately spring to mind if someone asked me about Oud!! Not one bit. Yes, it has agarwood in there but, still! I wouldn’t think of any of these are real ouds. They merely have a dash of oud along with a number of other ingredients but it’s not a supporting player, never mind the star of the show. Montale perfumes are much more agarwood-dominant but, of course, they come with a whole other set of problems….. *shiver*

          • Yeah, I had no idea NdN had even a suggestion of oud, and if it does, I can’t smell it. And yes, those Montales frightened me a bit, too. Of course, everything in my mind is now gauged against those Xerjoff perfumes. So the question is: Will Lime Oud be better, or worse. And if worse, should I have a will notarized now so my estate is in order, because I think I might die of compulsive vomiting if I smell something worse. Haha!

          • ROFL! Nothing will compare to the blue cheese and manure scent that you described of the Xerjoff! No, Lime Aoud is a totally different sort of experience. It’s not so much the actual smell but the potency and concentration *in conjunction with the screeching, bullying synthetics* that will get you. In terms of actual notes, it’s not akin to something that will make your stomach hurl. Of course, that’s even assuming your nose lasts long enough to smell the notes which are pretty damn linear, if you ask me. So, it won’t be death by compulsive vomiting. You’ll just be in the shower wanting to scrub it off. Did you read Ferris/DKChocoman’s experience with Black Aoud that he posted the other day? THAT is supposed to be one of the good ones and it well-nigh killed him, making him run to the shower to scrub it off. I believe “toxic” was one of the nicer words he used….

          • Heh, I’m reading it now. It sounds…unpleasant! In addition to the negative things I’ve heard about Montale, I HATE their bottles. They look so cheap and hairspray-like. They totally remind me of something Axe or something similar would come in. And that may be snobby, but dammit, don’t ask people to spend $50+/ounce and then have the juice come in something that somehow looks both tacky and industrial, and in the worst possible way for both.

      • Looks like I was a motor for you to write a really good and appealing review after mine short impression that was completely negative.
        It’s not that bad, we have some other notes in common (I hope so)
        Well, I love Rose Anonyme which has an oud too, HdP Rosam is gorgeous and for me Montale White Aoud it good too. And there’s one oud from Perris Monte Carlo which is nice

  4. Great review, as always. I liked this one when I smelled it on paper, but I need to try to get a sample of it to try on my skin.

    P.S. I finally caved and got a few decanting supplies, so I am hoping I can get you some M7. 🙂 It may take a while before I get my goods, but assuming I can figure it out, hopefully you’ll have some M7 in March! 🙂

    • Yay, decanting supplies! Did you use that place that I bought my stuff from and which other bloggers use? And thank you for the offer of real M7. That’s incredibly sweet of you and, I’ll be honest, I can’t wait. Just a small amount and I’ll be a happy camper!

      • No, but only because I literally only bought enough to do a few decants/don’t have a ton worth decanting. Well, maybe I do (debatable!), but I want to see if I’m able to do it without creating some sort of fragrance Chernobyl on my dining room table. 🙂 I was able to find an unused, vintage glass syringe from eBay (coming from Russia, so we’ll see how that goes…LOL) which I figured might be better for reusing purposes (since plastics tend to hold on to the smell and I don’t necessarily want to buy a bazillion syringes) and a handful of 2ml decants. And I got a couple teeny tiny metal funnels on Amazon for 5 bucks. I may have paid *slightly* more per piece this way, but if I don’t end up getting the hang of it I won’t have a bunch of supplies I’ll never use. Knocking on wood, knocking on head that I have some success and you can smell the M7! I’d also like to give you a bit of vintage Chanel No. 19 if you’re interested (I remember you saying you hadn’t smelled it in years and didn’t remember it). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts (not even in review form, just casually).

        • The glass syringe is a super idea! But coming all the way from Russia….!! LOL! I’d love to try some vintage Chanel No. 19, but only if it’s not more than a small 1 ml vial. I’d feel far, far too guilty to accept anything else. I can’t wait to hear how your decanting adventures go. I’m hoping you’ll find it is a lot less difficult than you’d imagined. xoxox

          • The idea of a glass syringe is giving me some weird Gone with the Wind amputation scene/Downton Abbey S1 pericardial-sac-draining-scene flashbacks, but whatever. LOL. I just hope my plans actually work!

            My bottle of Chanel No. 19 is quite large, and I wouldn’t offer if I weren’t willing to part anyway (believe me, I’m definitely that selfish! :)). Besides, what’s the fun of perfume if you aren’t willing to share a little bit now and then? It’s a cologne concentration, so it’s different than what you probably smelled many years ago (although this too is vintage). I’ll have to look to see if I have anything else you don’t have/haven’t tried. Maybe some of the George Sand that Scented Hound was so enamored with (I found a bottle for a steal on eBay and snapped it up a while back after being enticed by his glowing review). It really is lovely and I can see why he was so enchanted with it.

            Of course, this is all cart before the horse because I will have to see if my shaky hands are able to do this without some sort of horrible hazmat-necessitating incident.

  5. Oud Wood isn’t for me – which isn’t too surprising if to take into the account that I’m not a big agarwood fan: I can stand it in very small doses. Still nice review: it’s a good perfume and it deserves a good review.

    • Thank you, Undina. I have an iffy relationship with agarwood too, but a lot of that is due to Montale and lingering traumatic scars. *shiver* This one was mild enough for me to take well and appreciate. I’m currently wearing a sample of Neela Vermeire’s Trayee and the Oud there is strong, but the perfume has so many lovely spices, I can take it. 🙂

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