Last time, in Part I, we looked at the issues and methods that Feel Oud used to make its high-end artisanal oils, so today there will be 9 reviews covering the actual scent profiles of a range of different ouds and sandalwoods. What surprised me in several cases were the amazing number of complex olfactory facets and nuances that a single piece of wood could manifest, resulting in a bouquet that was really more like a fine French perfume with evolving layers and stages, rather than a mere distilled oil. It’s due solely to the things we covered in Part I, the complicated, laborious way in which that one piece of wood was treated in order to extract the maximum number of scent molecules. When more than one type of wood was used or when a rich floral essence was added to the mix, the result could be quite mind-blowing indeed, and I say this as someone who doesn’t always have the greatest degree of comfort around oud.
There are a few wrinkles and limitations to the reviews, however, and it’s best to explain them at the start. I was sent tiny samples of different Feel Oud oils back in December 2016, shortly before I took a break that ended up being 6 months in duration. In that time, all but two of those oils sold out and/or are no longer available. It is an inevitable result of having small artisanal batches and such a long period of time elapsing. So, on one level, the reviews are rather obsolete.
On the other hand, I thought having a handful of mini-reviews might be useful for a few reasons: first, it might be of interest to anyone who bought one of the oils beforehand; second, it should give you an idea of the complexity of aromas involved; and, third, it should reassure some of you that not all ouds smell like barnyard cow poo patties. Actually, two of the oils I was provided had stages that strongly resembled extremely good Islay single-malt whiskys like Laphroaig and Ardbeg. (I was rather over the moon at that.)
Plus, Russian Adam has kindly provided names of some upcoming oils that are either somewhat similar to the scent profile of certain oils described below, or related scents with a stronger profile, a bit like a sibling or flanker scent. So, reviews of the past scents can serve as a rough guide to oils that will be appearing on the website within the next week or two weeks.
I would like to emphasize one more time that I’m neither an “Oud Head” nor an expert in this very specialized field of high-end artisanal ouds. In fact, some types of oud (like, for example, Indian or Hindi agarwood) are extremely challenging to me, whereas a true oud lover thinks even the stinkiest kind smells like sunshine in a bottle. So, my tastes probably skew towards the easier, tamer, more approachable, and more plebeian sort of bouquet than the type which would appeal to the hard-hitting Oud Heads, and the types of oils which were sent to me were, for the most part, intentionally less challenging as a result. I wasn’t sent any of the truly funky heavy-hitters with skanky, fecal, or animalic bouquets, but they definitely exist in the collection line-up if someone loves that sort of thing. (There is one oil called Funk Master Burmi that sounds hardcore!) I also wasn’t sent any of the elite Royal line of oils. So please consider the reviews below to be a mere snapshot of just some of the olfactory scent bouquets that are offered.
OUD OIL REVIEWS:
SUPER KL OUD (Supreme Wild Category):
Super KL Oud is a co-distillation of wild origin trees from Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and India. I wish it hadn’t sold out because it is truly excellent and has an astonishing array of unexpected aromas. It opens on my skin smelling of raw tobacco layered with oud that is peaty, mossy, leathery, smoky, camphorous, medicinal, and mushroomy. An oily turpentine-like aroma runs under the top notes that works surprisingly well next to the peaty earthiness, the leather, smoke, and woodiness. What Super KL reminds me of more than anything else is one of the mega peaty, smoky Islay single malts, Ardbeg, my new obsession in life. This oud’s opening is basically Ardbeg in agarwood and oil form, only Ardbeg on fire and with turpentine and camphor added in.
Like so many of the Feel Oud oils, the bouquet mellows out over time, the individual aromas are rounded out in their edges and force, and the scent turns smoother as a whole. In the case of Super KL, the very earliest signs of what is to come start roughly 40-50 minutes into the oil’s development, but with full effect midway during the second hour. The turpentine and camphor disappear in the second hour, replaced by something which very much resembles a smoky, grassy vetiver. From the start of the third hour onwards, Super KL Oud is a mossy, peaty, smoky, vetiverish, leathery, green woody Ardbeg-like scent that is refined in its smokiness and wonderfully inviting. I absolutely loved all of it, and it’s unquestionably one of my favourites. Really, top marks from me from beginning to end.
Using only a single drop smeared on the tip of a paper clip gave me about 8.75 to 9 hours of longevity. Using roughly twice that amount resulted in about 15-16 hours of longevity, although the scent was close to the skin after the 10th hour. As a whole, the bouquet was forceful but airy, and the sillage after the first two hours was discreet, although there were definite smoke and leather vapors trailing up at me when I moved. (As a side note, please don’t expect powerhouse “beast-mode” sillage or projection from natural oils because they are typically softer than even extraits or parfums, since there isn’t any alcohol to provide a lift to the notes and make them project, nor any synthetics.)
I spoke to Russian Adam rather mournfully about Super KL being sold out, and he told me that there will be a related scent available shortly. It will be called Global KL Oud, and he described it as a flanker of sorts, except significantly stronger and not quite so airy. He said that the Super KL was actually one of his own personal favourites, and the Global one will be sort of the intense or “Extreme” version. When I asked him if the new oil would have all the nuances of the original, he replied very honestly that he wasn’t sure if a few facets were lost in the amplified strength, but he said the two scents were unquestionably similar in their overall aroma and vibe. Global KL Oud should be posted on the Feel Oud website around July 19th or 20th when Russian Adam returns from a trip, so I’ll try to update this section later with a direct link.
PIARA (Wild Category):
This one is still in stock and is quite a ferocious little thing at first. On his website, Russian Adam provides a detailed explanation for how Piara was sourced, prepared, distilled, and produced, but I’ll just stick to the simplest of basics: it’s made from wild origin trees from Borneo Island in Malaysia. It’s one category below the Supreme level.
Piara’s opening was very challenging to me and I can’t say I was crazy about it. It smells extremely tarry and raw — like smoke-laden, uncured animal hides before being treated and turned into leather. It’s too smoky and phenolic for my tastes, but what I struggle with the most is a sort of black, oily coating on top that smells, simultaneously, like turpentine, diesel, camphor medicine, and Vick’s chest rub.
Yet, despite the rather ferocious growl of the scent, there is something undeniably sexy about such an intensely rugged, butch, and macho bouquet. This is the olfactory and oud equivalent of a devil-may-care Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, his eyes narrowed in a contemptuous glare, and with skin so leathery he could strike a match against it. What also came to mind was an equally tough young Marlon Brandon in a black Perfecto leather jacket and crotch-hugging jeans, leaning against a motorcycle in the Wild Ones, with an insolently cool stare. Like them, Piara is no pretty boy leather or de-fanged oud. The barnyard cow poo may be nowhere in sight, but instead there is campfire smoke, motorcycle gasoline, camphor vapor rub, and pure growling black leather, all rolled into one, and it’s sexy enough to exert a strange pull and attraction.
The olfactory bad boy is slowly, gradually, tamed. About 1.75 hours in, the various aromas begin to mellow out, losing their bite, at least as compared to that intense opening. What I love, though, is what happens early in the third hour when Piara turns into completely satiny, immensely buttery calf skin leather with some rougher leather mixed in, in addition to deliciously peaty Laguvulin or Laphroaig-style smokiness, mossiness, and vetiver-like tonalities, and with even a touch of turpentine deep below.
Good lord, it’s sexy. At one point in my testing, I was in the supermarket and, every time I moved, I kept getting these delightful wisps rising up at me from my arm, smelling of buttery, creamy leather topped with Islay peaty mossiness and smoke. (Not an Ardbeg degree of smoke, but definitely an Islay-style of peaty greenness.) I couldn’t get over how much Piara had changed from that difficult, rough opening. At one point, I stopped completely still in the produce section, standing before the lettuces to sniff my arm for several long, drawn-out minutes with a completely bemused, happy expression on my face. (Yes, I received quite a few stares and looks of confusion. No, I didn’t care. I smelled damn good.)
Piara doesn’t change in any significant way after that, merely turning softer, milder, and greener. From the 6th hour onwards, it’s basically a mossy, green, smoky, peaty, woody, and vetiver-ish leather with a wonderfully silky smoothness. I accidentally applied all 2 or 2.5 drops in my tiny sample vial, and I kid you not when I say that Piara lasted more than 24 hours and through a shower. The sillage was initially quite forceful, about 6-8 inches, then gradually dropped in incremental degrees. Piara turned into a skin scent around the 10th hour, although I could detect it with zero difficulty well into the 18th one. However, I have to emphasize again, I used quite a bit of oil, more than I did for other Feel Oud scents and more than I would normally.
Still, it was worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed Piara, even if I had to brace myself through the butch, testosterone overload of the first 30 minutes. Have I mentioned yet how sexy it becomes?
COCO ZEN (Blend Category):
Coco Zen comes from wild origin trees from Sumatra, Indonesia whose wood was soaked in coconut water prior to distillation.
This one turned my head at first sniff and made me do a double-take at its opening which was centered on dark, bitter chocolate, layered with a gorgeous, multi-faceted oud that smells funk-laden, earthy, green, woody, spicy, and slightly camphorous. The two aromas are fused together with an incense-like note that is a surprisingly fragrant, aromatic, and even a little herbal in its smokiness. Drizzled on top of this sultry, sexy, and bold bouquet is what I’d swear was a boozy malt bourbon aroma that is infused with slightly smoky, Bourbon vanilla-like sweetness. The latter only lasts a few minutes and is really more like a micro-note, but the scent which remains after it leaves is still fantastic, especially when the oud begins to project a smoky, peaty, mossy tonality that smells a lot like Laphroaig single malt Islay scotch. It’s simply astonishing to me that all these various, complex, and unrelated perfume aromas are stemming from one piece of wood.
Coco Zen changes quite quickly in its first hour. The chocolate turns out to be another micro-note that follows the vanilla and disappears after 10-15 minutes, but the mix of oud funk and single malt scotch is still a pretty delightful and intoxicating alternative. Roughly 30 minutes in, Coco Zen turns simpler, greener, grassier, muskier, woodier, more mushroomy, and a bit more herbal. To my sadness, it loses its booze, malt, spice, and sweetness. What’s left is nice, but it doesn’t have that “Oh my God, wow!” impact of the early moments. This is a more reflective, calmer, and more meditative scent where a green, slightly herbal incense stick is layered between agarwood.
Things turn south, unfortunately, when the coconut water arrives on scene about 90 minutes in. At first, there is merely a subtle milkiness that lurks around the edges and it’s muted enough to be an interesting accompaniment to the incense-y, woody, grassy, and softly herbal green aromas. Once I adjust to the mix of milkiness, grass, and incense, it actually works in an odd way, creating a sort of bucolic aroma that makes me think of sunny afternoons rolling around in meadows while incense burns.
Alas, the coconut eventually turns quite sour on my skin, particularly during the late stages of Coco Zen. Starting around the 4th hour, Coco Zen smells like grassy, vetiver-ish, herbal oud wood layered with incense and sour milk. By the 7th hour, the sourness turns quite unpleasant indeed and I keep thinking of milk that has turned bad. In its final hours, all that’s left is a sort of grassy, incense-y, vaguely oud-ish melange dunked in curdled sour milk. In total, using a single large drop, Coco Zen lasted just shy of 11.5 hours on me. The sillage was soft after the first hour.
Putting the coconut aside, what Coco Zen demonstrates in abundance is the complexity in aromas and nuances that can be extracted from a single piece or variety of agarwood when it’s been subjected to extensive, detailed distillation techniques. Coconut water just might not be the best companion.
BLACK DURIAN (Blend Category):
Black Durian consists of “Thai agarwood oil infused with durian fruit.” It’s currently available on the website, no doubt because most people shy away from any mention of the notorious fruit, which is why Feel Oud has felt the need to state in bold lettering:
Black Durian oud oil has nothing in common with the controversial, unpleasant scent of the durian fruit. We thank God almighty that infusion turned out to be very sweet, juicy, creamy and delicate with a total absence of any unpleasant notes.
On my skin, it’s absolutely true, Black Durian smells nothing like the noxious fruit. In fact, I enjoyed the oil, in particular its opening.
On me, Black Durian opens with chocolate, deeply resinous stickiness, tarry leather, and immensely patchouli-like aromas that are layered with camphor, earthiness, and a spiced, smoky woodiness. These notes are tied together with threads of oud smoke and oud funk, burnt honey, musky black truffles, and a hint of dark, molasses-like fruitiness. Overall, it’s a delightfully chewy darkness that skews more to the leather side than oud woodiness. There is a sort of industrial cleanness that combined with the tarry, smoky leather in a way that replicates the scent of my old Perfecto jacket when it was first purchased and not yet broken in.
That scent perception grows stronger after a mere 10 minutes when the chocolate, “patchouli,” spice, truffles, and honey aromas vanish, and the Perfecto leather is surrounded by growing waves of incense smoke, oud smoke, tar, camphor, and even a hint of diesel. The suggestion of fruitiness remains and it’s now joined by a sort of cold stoniness, like campfire stones gone cold in the light of day, a hard-to-describe quality that reminds me a lot of Kilian’s Pure Oud combined with the revised but still vintage version of YSL‘s M7.
Black Durian doesn’t change much beyond that. For its first 4 hours, it smells largely like black leather, incense, smoke, tar, and cold campfire stones with hints of raspberries or berried fruit underneath. Eventually, a soft creaminess arrives to turn the leather into something comparatively milder and softer, though always smoky and oud-ish with tiny whispers of fruitiness and incense lurking deep below. It’s nice. Not as enjoyable as the chocolate-y, patchouli-ish, honeyed truffle opening, but it’s a nice leather oud. And it has absolutely zero resemblance to durian on my skin. Not one iota.
In terms of longevity and sillage, like all the Feel Ouds oils, it depends on how much one applies but I got anywhere between 9 to 15 hours each time I tried it, depending on whether I used merely a few swipes of a wetted paper clip end, a full drop, or two drops.
DR. HINDI (Organic Oud Category):
Dr. Hindi was derived from farmed organic agarwood of Bangladesh. It opens on my skin as a cheesy oud infused with barnyard funk, smoke, leather, a touch of cow poo patties, and a hint of sweetness. The cheese smells like cream cheese made from both Gorgonzola and goat cheese. The leather note is closer to a brown calfskin rather than a black leather.
Dr. Hindi changes quite a bit after 30 minutes, turning smokier, darker, drier, muskier, and immensely tarry. There is very little cheese, cream, barnyard funk, or cow patties. It’s predominantly tarry, smoky leather with burnt wood and a furry, dark musk. It’s not animalic in a skanky way but, rather, animalic in a purely animal pelt, fur coat, and rawhide way, like uncured animal hides with the fur still remaining.
I won’t pretend it’s my thing. It’s not. I reached the conclusion a long time ago that I simply don’t like Hindi or Indian agarwood, no matter who does it, no matter the brand. I don’t like its intensely tarry, smoky, and raw aromas on my skin, and part of that is due to skin chemistry. My skin does things to certain materials like, for example, vetiver which it turns into an intensely hardcore minty thing in 9 out of 10 compositions that I’ve tried. With Indian agarwood, my skin turns it into a 5-alarm fire and even the smallest amount in a larger composition ends up acting like a bulldozer. So, you can imagine, a pure, solo Hindi oud oil was never going to be my thing.
Feel Oud will be releasing a similar but supposedly less challenging type of scent in the upcoming weeks called Hindi Alsi.
TAWAU AL AWWAL (Supreme Wild Category):
Tawau Al Awwal comes from wild trees from Borneo, Malaysia, and the town of Tawau in Sabah, a state in Borneo. It opens on my skin as smoky, camphorous dark leather with only subtle peat accents. It’s extremely smoky, raw, and tarry on my skin, so much so that I thought it had to be Hindi oud before I asked Russian Adam its source location. After 30 minutes, the raw quality fades away, the tarriness lessens a hair, and the leather begins to waft an unexpected suede note, a bit like the untouched, slightly industrial-scented pristine suede in an expensive new handbag or jacket. The leather and suede are tied together with thick, strong chords of black smoke and wood smoke. The latter smells like wood that’s been burnt in a fire. Yet, it’s not a dry scent as a whole because there is a thread of sweetness which runs deep below. For the most part, though, Tawau Al Awwal is primarily a smoky leather oud on my skin. It remains that way without any change for roughly 2.5 hours.
In its second stage, Tawau Al Awwal changes in its nuances, although not in its core essence. Roughly 2.5 to 2.75 hours in, the smoky oud leather turns muskier and loses both its suede and the underlying suggestion of sweetness. Taking their place is a thin layer of smoky greenness below. The leather is dry, but not too dry and definitely not parched or harsh in feel. So, it’s still a smoky leather oud, only with different subtext. The longevity, sillage, and projection were in line with the other oils.
Tawau Al Awwal was not my thing, but I could see it appealing to guys who love leather ouds. If that’s your style, you can ask Russian Adam what upcoming scents resemble this one.
ROYAL TRAT (Organic Oil Category):
Royal Trat which comes from organic, plantation Thai trees of superior quality. The scent continuously shifts in its facets, in ways large and small, and is extremely complex in its nuances. I really enjoyed it.
Royal Trat opens on my skin with a beautiful floralcy, sweetness, and almost a bright, summery fruity quality running underneath the woods. The oud itself is soft, airy, quietly spicy, and with an aroma like white mushrooms. Initially, there is a surprisingly clean, almost fresh aspect to the wood, but it quickly begins to take on spicy and smoky tonalities. Imagine soft shavings of clean white mushrooms and clean, newly shaved wood, laced with wisps of smoke, spice, floralcy, sweetness, and just the ghostliest whisper of fruitiness and you would have the oud in Royal Trat.
Things change about 10 minutes in. The fruitiness disappears, replaced by a complex honey note that is floral, sweet, light, dark, heavy, and faintly smoky all at the same time. The sense of white floralcy turns into something like an iris-y cleanness that is floral but not floral at the same time. It’s a difficult aroma to explain, and matters aren’t helped by the fact that it’s a muted note that is largely overshadowed by a sort of silky softness that is equally difficult to elucidate. It’s not creamy, per se, not wholly woody, and yet, it is all those things and more.
About 20 minutes in, the satiny softness turns into an incredibly buttery, smooth, calf-skin leather that reminds me of the smell of new Hermes luxury leather goods. The difference is that this leather also bears aroma of honey, honeyed smoke, dark and light woods, creaminess, and an iris-y cleanness. What I find so interesting about Royal Trat in this stage is that the scent profile never loses its identity as “oud” and, yet, the nature of the nuances, facets, quality, and smoothness all work together to elevate this oud into something both ultra-refined and, at the same time, more than oud. Somehow, the aromas coalesce in a way that turns Rotal Trat into the bottled essence of Hermes’ luxury leather department, while still retaining the sense of something exotic and different at the same time.
Roughly 90 minutes in, Royal Trat changes direction entirely. The multi-faceted mix of tonalities now coalesce to form yet another scent profile: a spicy, buttery, nicely smoked, sweet-dry woodiness that smells a hell of a lot like really good, aged Mysore sandalwood on my skin. Sometimes, far more Mysore-like than oud-like. The Hermes new leather and iris-y floral cleanness disappear, while the honeyed sweetness is now subsumed within the new sandalwood-oud bouquet.
Royal Trat continues to change in small and large ways. By the end of the second hour, the scent turns smokier, drier, darker, and less like sandalwood. Now, the focus is on a buttery, lightly spiced, smoky, leathery oud whose edges are licked by wisps of peaty greenness rather than anything floral or honeyed. By the 5th hour, Royal Trat is smoky campfire leather with bits of moss and vetiver-ish greenness clinging to its edges. It remains that way until the end. The sillage, projection, and longevity numbers were similar to the other Feel Oud oils.
I asked Russian Adam if there was an alternative to Royal Trat amongst his current or future offerings. He said that Trat Selvagio is similar because its trees are from the same origin. On his website, Adam describes Trat Selvagio’s scent profile as: “candy sweet, vanillic, resinous, juicy with a soft woody base note.” It’s priced at $75 for a 2.5 gram bottle which is a good deal, if you ask me. A few small drops are all you need per wearing.
LEE LAWADEE (Blend Category):
Lee Lawadee was another one of my other favourites, and each time I tried it, it turned my head. It was made with organic Southern Thai plantation oud that was infused with distilled frangipani flowers. Feel Oud will release a new oil next week that Russian Adam says is in the same genre, but I’ll tell you about that at the end.
Lee Lawadee opens on my skin smelling of rich, sticky, molten honey poured lavishly over an indolic white floralcy that smells like a fusion of tropical frangipani, indolic fruity orange blossoms, and indolic, musky, syrupy jasmine. The triple repetition of the word “indolic” is quite intentional. The sultry, sensuous, ripe, head-turning flowers are cocooned within a camphorous, indolic blackness and a heavily golden, almost resinous, molten, ambered warmth. It feels like a floral oriental attar oil in its richness, heaviness, and sweetness, although it is softer, quieter, and, sometimes, almost airy in feel as well. At times, it reminds me of a softer cousin to Arabian Oud‘s frangipani-infused (oud-free) Kalemat Floral, but this is significantly better quality and smoother. It’s also all natural, not synthetic.
I love every bit of it, and also all the changes which ensue. The floral bouquet is quickly anchored upon a woody base that initially just smells like a wonderfully spicy woodiness that’s been licked by smoke and that ends up smelling a lot like really aged, expensive Mysore sandalwood in its olfactory attributes. Roughly 5 minutes in, however, it’s joined by a more overtly, obviously oud-y bouquet that smells like the softest, cleanest mushrooms. Soon after that, a third type of woody aroma joins the mix. This time, it’s a green woodiness that’s been coated with sticky tree resins and aromatic sap. The sum-total of all these wood tonalities ends up creating a wonderful olfactory cocktail that resembles: spicy, aged Mysore sandalwood; sweetly mushroomy, silky smooth oud; and something that is greener, fresh, aromatic, and sappy, like pine and cypress combined.
Roughly 15-20 minutes in, the top and bottom halves of the scent merge together, fusing seamlessly in a multi-faceted floral-woody-oud bouquet that is mesmerizing in both its aromas and its complexity. Half the time, the balance of notes in Lee Lawadee’s first hour skews towards the floral, half the time towards the woody, but all of the time, those two central chords are accompanied by tonalities that are: honeyed, sweet, spicy, smoky, aromatic, sappy, piney, indolic, camphorous, musky, resinous, dry, creamy, and warm.
Lee Lawadee changes in incremental degrees after the first hour but, somehow, before you know it, it ends up as a very different scent. At the end of the first hour and the start of the second, the scent turns less intensely floral and even more Mysore-like than before with a heightened degree of redness, spiciness, smokiness, and honeyed sweetness. By the start of the third hour, the floralcy is very muted, an elusive ghostly suggestion that is largely buried within a predominantly woody bouquet of oud with a continued Mysore-like vibe.
The start of the 5th hour marks the beginning of Lee Lawadee’s long drydown. At this point, the last ghostly traces of floralcy disappear, and so does any aroma resembling Mysore sandalwood. Lee Lawadee is now purely an oud scent with overtones of smoke and honey, and undertones of slightly mushroomy oud funk, earthiness, leatheriness, and creaminess. It’s semi-dry but still very warm. From this point until it finally dies away, Lee Lawadee is predominantly a warm, resinous, smoky and slightly leathery oud scent with fluctuating, varying degrees of oud funk, sweetness, and creaminess layered deep below. I preferred its floral or floral-woody stages, but the drydown has something appealing about it and is quite sexy at times.
The sillage, projection and longevity numbers were generally a bit below the other oils, except when I applied a lot. I received two vials of Lee Lawadee in total and, in my last test, I up-ended the entire remnants of one miniscule container on my arm. So, instead of using 1 drop or even less (via the paper clip method), I must have used something roughly like 2.5 to 3 drops (?) perhaps. With that amount, the opening sillage trail extended about 5-6 inches, it took about 7 hours for Lee Lawadee to turn into a skin scent, and it lasted roughly 15 hours in total. With one drop, I got roughly the same numbers as I did for the milder, less intensely smoky Feel Oud oils: about 2-3 inches of projection and 3 inches of sillage in the opening hour, reduced numbers thereafter, and about 8-10 hours of longevity.
Lee Lawadee is no longer available but Russian Adam said a new floral blend will be available next week, roughly around July 20th, that will involve a lotus flower infusion. He said it’s not identical to Lee Lawadee and won’t smell the same, but it’s roughly in the same overall genre and style. [UPDATE: If you’re tempted, I can tell you that the price for the new Lotus infusion oud blend will be roughly around $100 for a 2.5 gram bottle.]
FEEL OUD FEEL SANDAL & OTHER SANDALWOOD OILS:
I was provided with one of Feel Oud’s earliest sandalwood distilled oils called Feel Sandal. Russian Adam says he “blended 3 different sandalwood oils distilled in a customised boiler in order to achieve a perfume like effect with a multi layered character.” It sold out within days.
Feel Sandal does indeed, have a perfumed character, opening with a milky buttercream, and rather green sandalwood that is laced with a delicate floralcy and subtle undertones of spice and what I’d swear was an almost fruity, almost boozy sweetness. Over time, tiny smoke vapors join the mix as well. The primary character, however, is that highly perfumed buttermilk, green and creamy woodiness. Every time I’ve worn it, I’ve thought, “If only fans of Amouage’s discontinued Sandal attar could smell this. They’d flip their lid.”
For my personal tastes, though, the aroma is too green and milky because I prefer something very spicy, more resinous in feel, and much redder in visual vibe, but Feel Sandal is nevertheless worlds apart from what passes for “sandalwood” these days with undisputed superiority in quality and with impressive smoothness. It’s lovely to wear.
Feel Sandal is initially a strong scent up close but extremely airy. It has a sort of potent weightlessness, if you will. It has good longevity and decent sillage for an oil, although the numbers for both those last two categories depended a lot on how much I applied. The sillage with only a small smear was about 3 inches, but increased with a more generous application. Longevity was good, too. The merest light dab of the glass application stick gave me roughly 6.5 hours of longevity, while a big smear resulted in almost 11 hours.
Feel Oud subsequently released three additional sandal oils, refining and perfecting the methodology in order to bring out the greatest nuances, perfume, and richness, and culminating in what I’ve heard is a mind-blowing oil called Sandal 100K. This is the one which I would have loved to try. Russian Adam somehow stumbled across the buried, rooted remnants of a 100-year old Mysore tree in Indonesia, and that became the basis of his Sandal 100K distilled oil. He has a long explanation, history, and description on his website, which I find to be really interesting as a glimpse into the techniques used for sandalwood, as opposed to agarwood.
What may interest you, however, is the olfactory description of the aromas that ensue from the use of such ancient wood because a new, upcoming oil is said to be quite similar, so I think it’s worth sharing parts of Russian Adam’s account for anyone who is a hardcore sandalwood lover:
What we have managed to put our hands on is sandalwood roots from ancient trees ( +/- 100 years old) dug out from underground. The species Santal album, grown on one of Indonesian Islands. Even on that isolated island all of the ancient sandalwood trees were cut down many years ago. (Now try to imagine the state of affairs on every continent not to mention the tiny province of Mysore, India … ) The oldest standing trees on that isolated Indonesian island are no more then 50 years old. Still amazing for making oil, however this time we were after something even more special.
Fully sinking chunks of sandalwood from the roots of trees likely to be well over 100 years old when felled. They were cut down long ago but the roots have just been sent to us to be chopped and distilled in a manner that most likely sandalwood has never been distilled before…
The chips were hand cut and then ground into powders of 3 different sizes. (Size of powder hugely impacts the aroma as well as the yield). Then these 3 lots were soaked for different periods of time in nothing but the finest mineral water from the Alps. Most likely, this is the first time in history of Sandalwood distillation that the powder from ancient roots meet the virginal, pure Alps mineral water. (Water is another critical variable in distillation that highly influences the aroma). Finnaly the cocktail was distilled for 8 days in a traditional food grade Portugese copper pot with fluctuating temperatures of the condenser as well as boiling water (another vital viriable that if wisely controlled adds beautiful nuances to the aroma).
The oil came out white in colour just like a creamy coconut butter. [¶] Once it has been cured it turns completely transparent. (It is well know that some of the finest quality sandalwood oils are transparent).
The delicate, airy, crystal clear and silky smooth aroma of Sandal 100K takes time to be fully appreciated and admired. At first sniff I was expecting a super sweet, creamy and intense opening which was simply not there. Instead my nose faced one of the softest and gentle scents I have ever experienced in a sandalwood oil. The nuances, depth and variety of notes start to come out slowly layer after layer.
The opening notes bring a milky, creamy, slightly powdery and airy shine. In another few seconds it start to increase power building up its seductive aura. If one sniffs just deep enough a sweet, creamy and slightly bitter taste reaches the throat. Smelling it has a slight uplifting effect akin to when it’s hydrosol is drank. [¶] One of the richest, juiciest, butteriest woody notes that I have ever experienced resides in the heart of this aromatic bliss.
As I mentioned, Feel Oud will be offering a new sandalwood oil at the end of July that is similar, although not identical, to everything described above. It will be called Sandal 100K Hybrid because it was distilled in a hybrid copper and stainless steel vat, instead of just a copper one as was used in Sandal 100K. The key thing, though, is that this new “100K” variation will be similar to the apex-version of sandalwood oil that sold out.
In addition to the forthcoming Sandal 100K Hybrid, Feel Oud will be releasing another sandal oil, possibly as soon as the end of next week called Bengal Sandal Aira. I don’t have any information about it other than the wood is from an area of Bangladesh that is near the border of Assam, India. As a point of interest, the Feel Sandal that I tried also derived from Bengali sandalwood.
In any event, if you are a sandalwood addict (and I know many of you are), then you may want to keep your eyes peeled on the Feel Oud Sandal section starting at the end of next week. [UPDATE 7/19: Both new sandalwood oils are now up and listed on the website: Bengal Sandal Aira and Sandal 100K Hybrid.]
PRICES, SAMPLES, SUGGESTIONS & CONCLUSIONS:
I talked about pricing in Part I but, having actually described the scents, it may be worth briefly refreshing your memory. The starting prices for the oud oils range anywhere from $45 or $60 to $150 and up. Something like Trat Selvagio is $75 for a 2.5 gram bottle, other oils start at 1 gram in size, like Piara ($120 for a 1 gram bottle) or Black Durian ($150 for a 1 gram bottle). The Supreme Wild oils are obviously going to be more expensive than the regular wild oils, but, even amongst the Supremes, you can find something for $65 if you’re willing to go for the tiniest size (0.2 grams). 1 gram full bottles go for about $150 and up, some being $350 or more, but this is the Supreme section, only one step below the Royal line, and the prices really depend on both the type of super high-grade of wood and the number of types used.
What I’ve tried to show through my reviews is that you can find enjoyable ouds in all 5 categories, whether it’s the Organic, the Blends, or something else. The country of origin of the wood may matter more than the category of oil in terms of whether or not it appeals to your particular taste.
For those of you who are new to this level of oud or to artisanal oud oils in general, I have two suggestions. First, if there is a particular oil that has caught your eye and/or fits your budget but you’re unsure whether it will be exactly your thing, I suggest writing to Russian Adam via Feel Oud’s Contact Page to see what he says about the scent in relation to your olfactory preferences. Second, try the Discovery Sample Pack that Adam so kindly agreed to offer to my readers (as well as everyone else, obviously). There are 5 oils, the samples are small (0.2 gram in quantity) and you won’t know which ones you’ll be receiving, but they range across a number different categories from Supreme to Wild, Organic, and Blended, so it’s a good way to explore a genre that may be new to you at this level. The Discovery set costs $50. ($65 with the lowest level of shipping.)
If your primary interest is in the sandalwood oils, I’m afraid I have no pricing information on the upcoming releases to share with you and there isn’t a sample set. I should have asked but I forgot. (Plus, I’ve pestered poor Adam enough on his trip with an endless litany of questions about the ouds and the distillation process). All I can say is that the oils sell out very, very quickly. Genuine Santalum Album/Mysore wood is a rarity in this day and age, it’s hugely beloved, and Feel Oud doesn’t make a ton of bottles, so most people buy them blindly when they show up on the website. If sandalwood is a favourite of yours, then I would suggest keeping an eye on the Sandal section of the website starting around July 19th or 20th for the Bengali oil, or around the end of the month for the new Hybrid flanker to Sandal 100K. Or, if you’re really keen, you can write to Adam for pricing information and dates, and to see whether there’s any chance he’ll let you reserve a bottle.
[UPDATE 7/15: Russian Adam said that the price of the two new sandalwood oils and the new Lotus flower oud infusion will be roughly around $100 for a 2.5 gram bottle, perhaps less for the Bengal. The bottles are exactly like the one with the gold cap that I showed for Feel Sandal in my photos up above. He has roughly 100 ml of oil in total for the Sandal 100K Hybrid. So it’s a good quantity, and the oil probably won’t sell out almost instantaneously like the others. That said, I would be surprised if supplies lasted more than 2-3 weeks beyond launch date.]
[UPDATE 7/19: Both new sandalwood oils are now up and listed on the website: Bengal Sandal Aira and Sandal 100K Hybrid. Prices for the Bengal are $45 for a 2.5 gram bottle and $130 for a 10 gram bottle. The Sandal 100K Hybrid only comes in one size and costs $120 for a 2.5 gram bottle.]
One thing that I’ve hoped to demonstrate with my reviews is that agarwood can have the complexity and range of a good niche perfume with its stages, pyramids, and list of ingredients when that wood has been subjected to an arduous, complex, and detailed treatment process. The months and months of work that go into refining the oud and bringing out the maximum range of odor molecules results in something quite different than the peppery, often piercing, pink rubber bandage aromas of the synthetic oud in many Western fragrances. Whether a particular oil will suit your personal tastes and olfactory note preferences may depend as much on the geographic type of tree, the number of varieties used, and what may accompany them, but all the oils are smoother and more luxurious in feel than what I’ve encountered in the majority of Western niche perfume, even many luxury ones. While I personally may not enjoy something like a 5-alarm Hindi forest fire, that oud was still significantly better than the aromachemical “ouds” I’ve encountered in high-end or niche brands like, to give only two examples, Guerlain or Orto Parisi. (Don’t even get me started on the horrors of Montale.)
So, even if you’re not an “Oud Head,” even if you’re brand new to the real thing and even if oud is way, way outside of your normal comfort zone, I think this quality and level of oil is worth exploring, just once, if only to see why some people are so obsessed and passionate about agarwood that they don’t want to wear anything else. Many of them collect the oils the way some of us would collect chypres or ambers, even if the cost is sometimes astronomically different. In fact, oud addicts can make vintage Guerlain collectors and even the most ardent perfumistas look like novices in their fervency. So what is it about real oud that incites such passion? That would make a professional with a master’s degree in business in London completely change his life to move to Thailand to turn into a distiller? There is something there worth exploring, no?
It’s understandable if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the varieties, options, scent profiles, and types out there, but take baby steps. Try a sample set, read about Feel Oud on Basenotes, along with other top brands like Ensar Oud and Agar Aura, and let your nose slowly adjust to this very different scent world. Perhaps, just perhaps, if you’re patient and give the complex oils a chance, you’ll find an unexpected beauty in the oud yourself, whether it is floral, honeyed, leathery, mossy, vetiver-ish, creamy, or like the finest Islay scotch.
I have to say, I absolutely loved some of the Feel Oud oils that I tried, and I think some of you will as well.
Disclosure: My samples and one sandal bottle were kindly provided by Russian Adam of Feel Oud. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.