True Oud, the new Herrera Confidential fragrance, explores and celebrates an aroma that is deeply rooted in arab tradition
The woody-floral formula of this Eau de Parfum is inspired by a sign of identity and belonging: the powerful accord of Oud as it is burned during Middle Eastern ceremonies or on special occasions with family and friends.
The fundamental role of aromas in Arab culture is something that Carolina A. Herrera is very familiar with. She discovered it on the many trips she made with her mother to the Gulf, where she visited markets and immersed herself in the unique world of oriental perfumes. In 2017 she created the Eastern Treasures family of perfumes (part of the Herrera Confidential collection and including Gold Incense, Platinum Leather, Bronze Tonka and Gold Myrrh Absolute), inspired by Arab perfumery. These four fragrances are now joined by True Oud. It is a perfume inspired by the Carolina Herrera beauty creative director’s latest experience in the heart of the Middle East: what she smelled, felt and learned as a guest as night fell and she joined family celebrations, and all with one special ingredient. Oud.
“A lot has been said about these rituals. Most people know that the furniture and furnishings are perfumed before guests arrive as a sign of respect, and that when you sit around the table there is always an oil burner. But being there and observing first-hand is when you understand that the importance of aroma goes beyond hospitality,” Carolina A Herrera explains. It’s really about their identity, it’s what defines them.” She was accompanied on her trip by perfumer Jordi Fernández, who has spent over 20 years learning about Middle Eastern traditions and has superb insider knowledge. He showed Herrera that many people come home from work in the afternoon and spend their time in living rooms and dining areas with family and friends. Any guests are invited to assess the quality of what they are going to burn.
On special occasions, they bring out some of the most sought-after ingredients in perfume. Oud is just such an ingredient. It comes from the Aquilaria tree, although not just any Aquilaria tree. Out of a hundred trees, only a few will produce the dark, aromatic resin that can take up to fifty years to form. That is why its essential oil is compared to liquid gold and why as soon as she sat at the table the beauty creative director was asked to preside over testing the Oud with a glass of water.
“The Oud splinters did not float, which meant it was very high-quality, “she explains. Normally from there begins an afternoon accompanied by tea, coffee and dates as the smoke from the burning splinters slowly impregnates every detail, from clothes to hair and the curtains and even the conversation itself. The fragrance seeps into the laughter, anecdotes and intimate confessions.
Even the memory of these afternoons are imbued with the aroma, months or maybe years later. In fact, burning Oud is central part of the culture. It is something people from the Middle East associate with home no matter where in the world they are. If you grew up in the Middle East, if you smell Oud being burnt in London, New York, Madrid or Shanghai you’re immediately transported to times with your loved ones, surrounded by them at home.
“For me, there’s no more precious aroma than a personal one because it’s about you and that’s something you should want to shout from the rooftops,” explains Carolina A Herrera. She describes how the fifth perfume in the Eastern Treasures family is designed to do just that: “The idea is that, whether you’re a man or a woman, the fragrance is present at important times with your loved ones and creates a powerful sillage that will follow you wherever you go and speak about who you are and where you’re from.” Essentially, highlighting the roots that make each of us genuine and authentic.
How the woody-floral formula of True Oud was created
After her visit to the Middle East, she knew immediately that the new unisex fragrance should be based on natural Oud, while avoiding the more common touches that it acquires in perfumes such as a more animal feel or spicy components. Instead, to enhance the formula, perfumer Jordi Fernández explored the least known facets of the ingredient, its floral features, which he combined with a woody cocktail of base notes that, when bottled, recreate the same nuances as Oud used in the air like incense.
“We needed to achieve that aroma because it’s what really defines experiences among family and friends and what creates those moments at home. And because it’s a much more intense aroma than an essential oil,” the perfumer explains, “we needed to work with Oud that can be produced sustainably so that it doesn’t lose its strength and purity over time.” The Oud in this fragrance has that purity: it has been grown in Thailand for decades. The formula is also cleverly mixed with 10 other accords, all responsibly produced and precisely developed:
The base notes... sandalwood essential oil (from various regions in Western Australia) provides the soft, creamy texture required by the earthy and woody notes of Patchouli heart (from Sulawesi in Indonesia) combined with a spicy touch of Akigalawood, musk and a generous helping of Ambrofix.
The heart notes... are exclusively sweet. Oil from Thai Oud trees, profound and complex (certified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), combines with the balsamic touch of myrrh resin. The fresh jasmine blossom from Egypt creates a fruity sensation at the heart of the fragrance.
The top notes... the whole fragrance fills the air as soon as it is used. What helps it do this is the Osmanthus blossom (from China) with an apricot-like feel, as well as olive which is enriched with saffron and freesia accords. The result is light but, as with Oud incense, True Oud’s mission is not to create an immediate shock, but to create a halo of fragrance that is at first subtle, but evokes intense and powerful memories when encountered again.
When trying to express something as complex as identity and roots, what is needed is persistence rather than immediate impact. That is why True Oud embraces Middle Eastern layering rituals to ensure that its floral-woody formula can intermingle and be personalised with other aromas from the Herrera Confidential collections. In fact, the refinement of True Oud is further highlighted when combined with just a few drops of Sandal Ruby, Emerald Musk, Saffron Lazuli, Iris Empire or Amethyst Haze; Eaux de Parfums inspired by precious stones and all belonging to the Herrera Gems line.
Anyone looking to add a sophisticated accord can create a sillage using one of the six fragrances from the signature collection: Herrera Tuberose, Burning Rose, Amber Desire, Nightfall Patchouli, Oud Couture and Mystery Tobacco. But what if you want something more opulent? That is easy. From Gold Incense or Platinum Leather, to Bronze Tonka or Gold Myrrh Absolute, any exotic aroma that you choose from Eastern Treasures will enhance the potency of True Oud.
This custom couture spirit was also something that the beauty creative director experienced during her trip: when the evenings finished she noticed how a tray of perfumes was passed around for each guest to create their own personal fragrance there and then as a keepsake. “Instead of taking a photo of everyone together, which is what we’d do in the West, they prefer to remember important moments through aroma. This means they can relive them when they’re far away, or remember the day they met someone special or share them with future children and grandchildren,” Carolina A Herrera explains. “There are many ways of remembering who is who, but I honestly think this is the nicest, most fulfilling way of doing that.”