Oud Extraordinaire is an utter delight – and I say that as one who isn’t really an Oud Head. Its gourmand opening evokes Serge Lutens‘ signature of spices, stewed or candied fruits, and ambery, honeyed sweetness (along with Christmas and Persian Sohan sweets) before the thick, rich scent transitions into the conventional oud bouquet of incense, tarry leather, charred woods, and medicinal camphor and then into a velvety, ambered fusion of both. When you add incredible longevity and a reasonable (current sale) price, Oud Extraordinaire is an oud worth considering.
Oud Extraordinaire is a pure oil that was distilled in 2020 under the direction of Ensar Oud from aged wild agarwood trees in the Rayong region of Thailand. (Wild, organic, and aged trees are often considered to be the best, most complex-smelling type. See, Oud background guide, Ensar Oud Part I.)
Ensar Oud has a description of the oil on his site that is too lengthy for me to quote in full, so I’ll share some relevant olfactory parts here and let you read the rest on your own if you’re interested. Let’s start with the age of the trees, a factor that is relevant to the complexity and/or depth of scent which ensues after distillation:
Oud Extraordinaire is a one-in-a-thousand bottle of oud. It’s what all oud wants to be—organic and wild—but doesn’t put in the time to become. The maturity of the fruitiness, the depth of the woody-incense backdrop, all of it hinges on the kind of resin you work with.
The trees distilled to make Oud Extraordinaire have been maturing far longer than most cultivation practices would allow them to. With every passing year, they didn’t get harvested, growing to be around 40 years old (the norm is that cultivated agarwood trees are harvested at 5-15 years old).
In terms of olfactory aromas and texture, Ensar Oud writes:
The oil itself is honey-thick, which boosts longevity because it lets the scent linger on the skin longer than less viscous ouds. It also intensifies the woody base, and sharpens the strong incense heart notes already imbued with a darker shade of peach-plum that gushes into a contrast of cherry tobacco and a playful citrus-infused sencha. A soft chord of rose petals underneath… it all lets you in on the caliber oud you’re smelling.
Oud Extraordinaire opens on my skin with a medicinal, sweet, and fruity bouquet. Oud wood smoke, eucalyptus, and camphor muscle rub aromas swirl around sticky, molden honey that is poured lavishly over thick cherry jam, stewed apricots, prunes, candied plums, candied ginger, fresh and candied sugar almonds, and a muted touch of soft oriental spices.
I find it fascinating. Even more intriguing are the scent’s textural qualities. Not only is the actual oil as viscous as honey but the olfactory bouquet itself is practically tactile in its chewiness.
5 minutes in, Oud Extraordinaire shifts when the medicinal camphor retreats to the background and its place is taken by rich waves of toffee brittle candy, caramel, and honeyed roasted nuts. The whole thing feels as though Christmas treats or sweets have been captured in a bottle, reduced down to their most concentrated liquid form, then magically zapped to be olfactorily intensified tenfold more, resulting in a chewy density that you can practically feel and taste on your tongue. Amazing. It’s also so delicious that I’d like to lick my arm.
There is a naturalism and balance to the gourmandise that I really appreciate. As regular readers know, I dislike uber sweet, sugary scents, but that is because they are frequently shrill, shrieking, and unbalanced wretches of excess imbued with olfactory artificiality.
That is not the case here. There is nothing cloying about the toffee, honey, caramel, candied or sticky cooked fruits, roasted nuts, and ginger confit. Instead of feeling like I’ve been dunked into a barrel of diabetes-inducing saccharine, I feel as though I were in a kitchen after a grandmother has spent the day baking Christmas delights. The warmth of the kitchen is matched by the warmth of ginger plums and mouth-watering toffee almond brittle straight from the oven. The air is golden, sparkling with the olfactory glitter of honey, and also spicy from fiery but sweet ginger laced with sharper spice notes like pepper (black and pink), nutmeg, and star anise.
Furthermore, the sweetness is kept in check and counterbalanced by darker and drier notes that slowly begin to emerge as Oud Extraordinaire unfurls on the skin. First, there is the aforementioned eucalyptus, though it lies on the sidelines. Then, 15 minutes in, a nuanced black accord starts to gust beside it, smelling like charred woods, campfire smoke, tarry black leather, dark incense, and just a smidge of the sort of burnt industrial aroma which ensues from soldering.
30 minutes in, this multi-faceted darkness billows onto the array of honey-drenched Christmas treats and overlays them like a thick filter. It changes both the balance of individual notes and the overall bouquet.
It also marks the transition into Oud Extraordinaire’s second main stage or what I call the “fusion stage.” Whereas I’d estimate that roughly 85% of the scent during the first 30 minutes consisted of the gourmand accord described above, the next 30 minutes is dominated by the dark accord – roughly to the tune of 60%. It initially lies over the sweet notes much like the distinct concrete layers in a Mark Rothko painting. Gradually, however, over the next 20 minutes, and as the first hour draws to a close, the two separate blocs begin to merge together. Though the dark elements still dominate in terms of scent and ratio, the cumulative effect structurally is a blurry but seamless, harmonious fusion.
Truth be told, I rather wish the full-on gourmand stage with its intensely evocative nature lasted longer than 30 minutes, but that wasn’t a very conventional oud bouquet to begin with. It was more like something that Serge Lutens would release during his Arabie days, only in an intensely treacly attar-like form.
In my experience, the tarry leather, incense, camphor, and charred woods bouquet is far more consistent and typical of the scent of genuine, high-end oud. I also think that it’s the scent which many purist Oud Heads expect. So, if you’re one of them and if you’re initially disconcerted by the intense gourmandise and fruitiness of Oud Extraordinaire, just give the oil some time to develop and bloom.
One thing that I’d like to add: it will never cease to amaze me what notes, nuances, and complexity arise from a single natural raw material – oud – in the hands of masters. I’m describing Oud Extraordinaire’s aroma as though I were covering an eau de parfum or parfum comprised of ten different materials, but let’s not minimize just how remarkable all of this really is when it comes from a single type and varietal of tree. Nor should we forget just how remarkable and unusual it is for any oud varietal to yield gourmand aromas like candied ginger, honey-roasted nuts, toffee, stewed fruits, baked treats, and all the other things that are to come as Oud Extraordinaire develops over time.
That development is slow, incremental, drawn-out, and fluid. Oud Extraordinaire has three broad stages on my skin: a gourmand opening; an extended, main fusion heart; and a slightly different fusion drydown. Since the scent typically has 24-hour longevity on me and the fusion heart stage encompasses a good chunk of that time, the olfactory changes are primarily one of degree.
Put another way, the changes are almost entirely to the prominence, order, and clarity of individual notes or accords, as well as to the overall balance or ratio of these elements vis-à-vis each other, but the fragrance itself doesn’t change in any major or significant way. The result may be deemed linear when taken as a whole, but I think that is to be expected from an oil distilled from one single raw material. Again, I find it amazing that Oud Extraordinaire is as complex as it is.
Moving onto the fragrance’s development, late in the 2nd hour or about 1.75-hours in, Oud Extraordinaire’s sweet and spicy elements re-assemble themselves in a way that mimics the mouth-watering decadence of Sohan, a very honeyed, buttery, toffee’d Persian candy or brittle that has saffron, pistachios, almonds, cardamom, rosewater, and enough butter to sink a battleship. I’ve tested Oud Extraordinaire three times, and all three times the Sohan-like accord appeared on my skin.
I’m a sucker for Sohan and for any similar saffron, rosewater, cardamom delights. (E.g., Persian Sholeh Zard or Indian Kheer.) It’s due to the aroma as much as the taste, an aroma mimicked perfectly in Oud Extraordinaire to the point that it even has the subtle floralcy of pink rose petal water at the start of the 3rd hour. It wasn’t until I reread Ensar Oud’s description that I noticed the phrase “a soft chord of rose petals underneath” and breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t going crazy. (In hindsight, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so astonished given the remarkable rose, lilac, violet, iris, vanilla, and fruity notes derived from agarwood in Ensar Oud’s famed Oud Yusuf.)
In addition to the “Sohan,” Oud Extraordinaire continues to manifest in its 3rd hour: fruitiness (dried, candied, and stewed); spicy candied ginger; honey; pepper; and strong waves of masculine-skewing dryness and darkness. The latter accord consists of the same wood smoke, smoky tarry leather, charred woods, incense, aromatic eucalyptus, and medicinal camphor muscle rub as before, but now they’re joined by an amber-like, treacly resinousness and a slightly vetiver-ish peatiness.
I realize that the dark and sweet blocs sound like completely disparate accords that could not possibly mesh well together, but they do. Smoke-tinged gourmandise or sweet-layered darkness are not new things in perfumery after all. In addition, the notes here are both beautifully balanced and harmonious.
The cumulative effect translates in my mind as:
About 3.10-hours in and throughout the rest of the 4th hour, Oud Extraordinaire begins its gradual transition into a less gourmand scent.
This process culminates early in the 6th hour (or about 5.25 hours in) with a very different balance of notes and scent: a predominantly dark, camphorous, medicinal, resinous oud leather infused with lesser amounts of incense, musky amber, and tiny slivers of peaty greenness.
A rather intangible honeyed sweetness lurks behind the dense, thick wall of masculine-skewing night, but it is a lighthouse’s small, flickering glow amidst a vast, inky ocean at midnight. There are no clear, easily noticed aromas of honey-roasted nuts, candied ginger, or stewed fruits. However, when I move my arm, there is an occasional, quiet whiff of vaguely Sohan-ish, honeyed, floral, saffron-driven sweetness that floats gently past, trailing in the black wake of the hefty, powerful central core. It is but a momentary and muted thing, though.
Over the next 6 or so hours, Oud Extraordinaire’s only real changes are to the order, prominence, degree, and/or nuances of its individual parts. While the leather, incense, and wood smoke remain central, they fluctuate in strength as the hours roll by. Also, the leather gradually takes on a textural plushness and no longer smells tarry or like birch tar. The camphor remains a constant but it is a secondary note or, sometimes, a tertiary one. The scent’s ambery, golden warmth, its resinousness, and its plush feel gradually grow stronger. The intangible honeyed sweetness continues to be a lurking background note until, at the end of the 9th hour, it slowly begins to re-assert itself and inch towards the foreground.
By the end of the 10th hour and the start of the 11th, Oud Extraordinaire has realigned its parts, both individually and cumulatively. The bouquet is now a blurry haze of dark, smoke-infused, honeyed and ambered sweetness paired with medicinal, quietly woody, heavily ambered oud woodiness.
Weaving the two together is the Sohan-like accord which has returned in full, emitting strong saffron tonalities imbued with lesser whiffs of almonds, toffee, caramel, muffled flicks of rosewater, and a tinge of something resembling cardamom. I’m guessing that the agarwood’s ambered resinousness is translating on my skin as the toffee, caramel, honey, and buttery, spicy saffron which are so characteristic of Sohan, but I continue to be amazed at its additional nutty and floral attributes. Ditto the fact that the “Sohan” returned all these hours later and the fact that this was a consistent trend in all three of my Oud Extraordinaire tests.
Oud Extraordinaire’s drydown begins roughly around the start of the 15th hour and lasts almost as long as the heart stage. It continues to be, in the most reductivist reading, a fusion stage, except the feel and balance of notes are different from what came before. On a purely olfactory level, we’ve returned to Sohan honey saffron (almond, cardamom, rosewater) brittle infused with amber and generic dark smoke as the primary, driving force. The eucalyptus menthol, camphor, and smoke-licked oud woodiness trail behind, comprising 35% of the scent – at best – before continuing to shrink further with every passing hour. There is no leather or incense on my skin.
What really marks this stage are two things. First, the way that the increasing levels of warm ambered goldenness take over as the fragrance’s driving force. Second, a dramatic change in viscosity: Until roughly the 10th hour, Oud Extraordinaire felt olfactorily and texturally chewy, sticky, dense, and hefty — as hefty as the olfactory equivalent of the Great Wall of China placed brick-by-brick on my arm. In fact, the oil was itself so literally sticky on my forearm that two of Apollo’s hairs caught on it in one test and stayed glued there until I noticed. At the end of the 10th hour, the fragrance starts to transitions into something less chewy in mental visuals and less dense in notes. It is also at this point that the bouquet begins to turn texturally plush and velvety on the skin.
However, it is not until the drydown that Oud Extraordinaire’s bouquet shifts into entirely new territory: Light and airy in both body and weight; paradoxically still fairly strong in aroma when I smell my forearm up close. (Note, I said “up close.”)
As the drydown progresses and as the 15th hour gives way to many others, Oud Extraordinaire dissolves further, lightens further, and grows even quieter. During the 20th hour, it’s a golden haze that is simultaneously dry, sweet, warm, smoky, and quietly spicy. Instead of the velvety, plush texture that marked the debut of the drydown, the scent is now a mere silken whisper. In its final hours, all that’s left is a sort of golden aura infused with sweetness and a tinge of smoke.
Oud Extraordinaire has exceptional longevity but generally low sillage when taken as a whole. Because it was an oil, it was difficult for me to apply a consistent amount of scent the way that I might with a thin liquid in spray form. Also, the little 2 gram bottle that was kindly sent to me had a convenient glass stick within, so I didn’t apply drops so much as I smeared a roughly similar amount from the little wand over a wide 1.5-inch to 2-inch swathe of skin on my forearm. At a rough guess, it might be the equivalent of 2 large drops or 3 tiny ones? Whatever it was, I applied roughly the same amount in all three of my tests.
With that quantity, Oud Extraordinaire opens with about 4 inches of projection off of my arm before briefly expanding to about 8-9 inches after 25 minutes. At that point, there is a small bubble around me that, as noted earlier, is so chewy in olfactory notes, liquid viscosity, and textural feel that I can practically feel it on my tongue. However, there is no real trail following me as there might be with a lower concentration of fragrance; the more concentrated and dense an olfactory composition, the more its scent tends to stick closely to your skin. My larger point is ultimately this, though: If you judge a fragrance by “beast mode” (a wretched standard, if you ask me), then O/E will disappoint you.
Oud Extraordinaire drops incrementally until, at the end of the 3rd hour and the start of the 4th, the scent projects 2 inches above my skin. There is no trail unless I move my arm around my face and head. About 6.75 hours in, the projection is 0.5 to 1-inch above my skin. At the end of the 10th hour, Oud Extraordinaire is a skin scent, though still easy to detect up close without any effort. It becomes harder at the start of the 16th hour, but I don’t have to actually push my nose into my arm and inhale hard until the 20th hour.
In total, Oud Extraordinaire lasted over 24 hours in all three of my tests. Depending on wearing – and with every effort made to smear roughly the same amount – my numbers were 24.5 hours and 25.25 hours in two tests, and just a wee hair over 26.5 hours in another where my quantity application may have strayed a little closer to 3 small drops rather than just 2 good ones.
I loved Oud Extraordinaire – for all the reasons why some hardcore Oud Head purists might think it is a lesser scent as compared to their beloved Cambodi or the vaunted Kinam/Kyara (沈香) oils. This is not a balls-to-the-wall, purely masculine deluge of unremittingly medicinal, camphorous, intensely leathered, tobacco, earthy, peaty, green, smoky, and incense-like aromas. Nor is it a spiritual and deeply meditative, churchy incense-driven oud. Instead, it was actually that wholly unexpected anomaly (in my experience) of being quite gourmand and mouth-watering — two words that I don’t recall ever writing about a non-synthetic, single-note oud composition — during a number of points in its development.
So if you’re looking for a wall of blackness and masculine grit or olfactory spirituality, this isn’t it.
But… if you’re looking for a unisex fragrance that features gourmand sweetness along with conventional oud qualities, that has easy, comfortable approachability along with many nuances, and that is practically baroque heft and opulence, then this is your oud.
For other opinions, you can read customer reviews and experiences on Ensar Oud’s listing for Oud Extraordinaire. There is no Fragrantica listing. While there is a Basenotes discussion thread about Oud Extraordinaire, the first comment is from late 2018; the oil that I’m talking about is explicitly, officially listed as being something that was distilled in 2020. Furthermore, a number of the comments say that the oud trees were cultivated in the scent that they’re talking about as opposed to being organic and wild as they are here. In short, I think the Basenotes discussion is about a different version that was launched several years earlier and is therefore not applicable or informative about this scent.
Oud Extraordinaire is currently on sale at Ensar Oud. Prices start at $199 for a 2 gram bottle and go up from there. (See, Details section below.) Given the scent’s appealing and complex bouquet, the age of its trees, its superb longevity, its smoothness and top-grade quality, and the significantly loftier prices for many of other Ensar Oud creations, $199 feels quite reasonable, at least relative to the crazy nose-bleed world of artisanal luxury ouds. I’ve seen some oud oils from EO or other artisanal houses and in similarly small bottle sizes going for $799, $899, $1000, or even more. Yes, the spectrum may be completely skewed and loony, but $199 is still a good price, in my opinion, for a scent with all the positives that this one has.
Bottom line: Thumbs-up from me.
Disclosure: My bottle was provided courtesy of Ensar Oud. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.
Dear Kafkaesque – I am continuously enthralled by the depth of your knowledge in the world of scents and become totally immersed in that world through your words and sharing of olfactory experience. I have just returned from Paris where I discovered Serge Lutens and his shop at the Place du Palais Royal – Spent a wonderful couple of hours learning about him and his perfumes and purchased a flacon of Bois Oriental which evoques many old memories of time spent in the Middle East many years ago. Thank you for sharing your incredible gift and imparting your knowledge to us all so we may travel and dream through the senses.
You’re too kind, Maria. Thank you. Also, I’m so glad that you’ve discovered “Oncle Serge” and his genius and that you got to spend time at the Palais Royal Mecca.
Ensar does make some affordable, and yet compelling work.
Thankyou for the very in-depth review.
I’m confused how you dropped sultan pasha and deleted everything relating to him, but promote a clear liar and manipulator that almost everyone in the oud community has had problems with.
You’re free to be confused.