"Oud is a tantalising material" – MiN New York's Chad Murawczyk
In conversation with the nose
O ud is an ingredient that is as captivating as it is commercial. With more designers sourcing the natural scent for inclusion in their fragrances, Buro 24/7 Middle East's columnist Farouk Chekoufi speaks to Chad Murawczyk, the nose and namesake behind MiN New York — a modern luxury brand that is pushing the boundaries, while honoring the qualities of niche fragrance creation...
Describe your fragrance Dahab?
From a formula standpoint Dahab has top notes of galbanum, cinnamon, saffron lime and nutmeg. The heart is frankincense, benzoin, cypress and geranium. Then it's built on a base of cedarwood, musk, amber and oud.
What is oud?
Oud is derived from the tropical Aquilaria tree, which is thought to have originated in the Assam region of India. Oud is produced as a reaction to the tree becoming infected with the mold Phialophora Parasitica. There are many varieties of "oud" that range from not so expensive to stratospheric in cost. This is due largely to the level of scarcity and age of the material.
Describe oud in five words...
Organic, spiritual, grounding, resinous, precious.
What inspired you to create the fragrance?
Dahab for me is a vivid memory of when I was on an adventure many years ago. I spent a lot of time in the Sinai scuba diving. At night I would sneak up onto a rooftop and sleep under the stars. Off in the distance would be a few Bedouin campfires, which swirled in with the desert air. I made a point of etching the evenings into my mind for future recall. Many years later I returned to this mental archive and wanted to recreate these important moments through scent.
What is your first memory of oud?
I first got my nose on oud about 25 years ago while in a souk in Jordan. It was so interesting to me and I loved how it opened a completely new olfactive path in my mind. It was like learning a new colour for the very first time!
As a nose, what makes oud so unique and charismatic?
The fragrance market largely serves the Middle Eastern client who knows and appreciates quality fragrance creations. The Western world only learned of oud five years ago and became instantly fascinated by its unique and exotic characteristics. The Middle East is light-years ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to understanding and appreciating oud.
OUD IS A TANTALISING MATERIAL AND I FEEL IT HAS AN ADDICTIVE ASPECT TO IT
What is the history of oud?
It is thought that preachers originating from the Arab Peninsula went to the region of Assam in India. The local villagers were burning a distinctive scent to warm their homes. The preachers were gifted some wood and then took it back to the Arab Peninsula and presented it to their Sheikh, who then gifted it to his friends, dignitaries and other Sheikhs. It was appreciated as a rare and exotic gift. The Sheikh was then asked to return to India to collect more oud wood, which was only viewed as acceptable by the villagers after he married a woman from the village and resided with them. The Sheikh then asked his sons to transport the oud to the Arab Peninsula and the business flourished. One of the sons was able to extract oud from the wood, which further accelerated the trading business. It was not until synthetic oud was created that it became scalable for broad use in the perfume world.
What's your opinion on synthetic oud?
Many mass lines are now using synthetic oud just so they can join the luxury niche fragrance conversation. Oud to me is a prized material and should be treated accordingly. I have other concerns regarding sustainability and the harvesting of oud too, but the industry is now moving in an intelligent manner on this front, which is great to see.
Now, read about another perfumer's oud journey, as Chekoufi speaks to Francis Kurkdjian and his award-winning LVMH-owned perfume house.