Oud Assam 
Rania J (2013)

Average Rating:  20 User Reviews

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Oud Assam by Rania J

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About Oud Assam by Rania J

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Rania J
Fragrance House
Rania Jouaneh
Perfumer

Oud Assam is a shared scent launched in 2013 by Rania J

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

Reviews of Oud Assam by Rania J

There are 20 reviews of Oud Assam by Rania J.


On her website, Rania J advises people to be cautious. She asks them to try this before buying, because it can be 'challenging for non oud lovers'.

The reason for this warning may be the knife edge overtone that appears at the top of the scent. It gives a sharpness to the antiseptic smell of natural oud; and, if it's worn (discretely) in a medical setting, Oud Assam blends perfectly with the background hum of strict hygene. But if you are wearing it in quantity, this opening could be too strident for those who aren’t used to such things.

Under the synthetic note and the disinfectant oud, there are smoky and leathery facets which are faintly touched with orange.
And, with incense and pepper it's unsweet-bitter. But having said that, I detect something softer and sweeter, almost floral, which (according to Wikipedia) is a mark of real agarwood. Later, there's the rich acid barnyard note - which could be mixed with narcissus, and the cheesy aroma, which oud lovers will know...

I get fruity maroon, leathery, woody, cheesy and fungal Breton cider from the empty sprayer - the smell of rotting apples on the humid earth.
And then there's a dry floral, and a salty note of vetiver, and musk from my cuffs ...
This really is complex stuff, and a welcome change to yer regular high street pong. I wish I had more juice to do a fuller review, this empty sample gave out a few paltry squits and now it’s gone.

I'm no oud expert, but it strikes me this is an authentic hybrid that blends Eastern oud with scintillating Western highlights; something which Rania J is able to do with authority. Having grown up in the middle east and africa, she now lives in Paris.

And despite her warning, I think that this - with familiar tones in it’s strange coloured brew is a good place to start, especially as you can buy just a 2ml sample.


First application of Rania J's Oud Assam last evening and before I get into my thoughts, the fact that my wife approved, scent (sic) shock waves through my very being. That's probably because Oud Assam is "roseless".
Now, I like---even love rose, but honestly, in conjunction with Oud, it has begun to get on my nerves. I just sold a bottle of Montale Black Aoud, because it was frankly nauseating. But I digress...
Oud Assam starts out of the gate with a true, legitimate Oud punch. The reviews that call it fecal, I would strongly take issue. It does have barnyard, earthy, aged blue cheese notes, but isn't that EXACTLY what Oud-lovers want? It's what I want...and Oud Assam delivers in spades.
The dry down is very good and, if possible, even more powerful, but rather intensifying in the Oud, the musk accord moves to the forefront.
I still get a faint whiff this morning, twelve hours later, but it has all but faded away. So, I rank longevity at a 7/10. Sillage is strong at the onset, but doesn't seem to shoot off of your skin...moderate, 6/10.
For most of its life on your skin, you are going to get a musk perfume,
which, imo, is slightly disappointing, as I would have preferred a more linear perfume, with more time devoted to the top notes.
This still gets a thumbs up from me. Rania J is a talented perfumer and I was quick to procure bottles of Lavande 44 and Ambre Loup.
Would I "blind-buy" this? I did. Your mileage may vary.


This fragrance stinks: let's just get this out of the way now. This smells like a horse stable before it's been mucked out, a combination of straw-like dryness mixed with the pungency of horse shit. There's a salty freshness that lingers too and the stench of the oud becomes so disgusting in the first few minutes in particular that it veers back and forth between the stables and the dairy, the latter of which is responsible for the fact it also smells like a stinky French cheese that's been left out in the summer sun.

The opening is a blast of orange that stands on its own for about three seconds. Almost immediately, there's something that smells ‘middle eastern‘; it may have you thinking that this is simply going in the direction that something like Mancera's Red Tobacco does, for instance, of being an ambery, gummy, sharp or spicy fragrance with an Arabic feel to it. But no: something wicked this way comes...it's an odd feeling, of something being ‘off', of not quite believing that, yes, the aroma that is growing is in fact the one you are smelling, and it is getting stronger and more prominent by the second.

This odd smell quickly becomes something quite off putting and it is evidently oud. It keeps getting stronger every moment for the first 30 seconds or so. It's an odd mix of cheese, salt, and earthy horse poo. There's ‘more' going on, clearly: I detect a sweetness even in the opening, and some kind of peppery incense as well as a woodiness. However, and I cannot stress this enough, trying to ‘dissect' this fragrance, or appreciate the other nuances, or even just smell the damn thing is a chore. The overwhelming aroma is of a sweaty, faecal oud. It genuinely smells like the smell of a Glastonbury portaloo (not something one should seek out if you are unaware of this aroma) made in to a fragrance.

There are some ‘nice' elements in here – the aforementioned supporting notes for instance – but it's like having a meal where you typically enjoy most of it apart from one absolutely disgusting ingredient. The one bad element ruins the whole plate and, frankly, this is the case here, as the bad element is the central note.

It settles after a few minutes in to something much tamer than the first 5-10 minutes of hefty stink and it becomes what it is for much of the rest of its duration: a relatively tame earthy-salty mix of a horse stable, underpinned by some tonka to soften out the rough edges. After about 2 hours or so it has slowly transitioned and become less overtly pungent and unpleasant but by this point I am left asking...what is the point? Or, at the very least, it simply takes too long smelling unpleasant to get to a base/drydown which is actually sort of nice: intriguing, deep, musty, almost like ambergris at times, with a heavy dose of tonka doing a lot of the legwork to give it some ‘sex'. In terms of the tonka it's a good way to employ it and it is not only integral in to taking the edge off the oud but it also possibly reveals a more interesting use for it than the way it seems to be used by most contemporary designer and niche brands: namely, to be paired with something animalic, musky, salty etc. I'm not sure if this is an existing trend in Arabic perfumery but it does have some echoes of the way Micallef's Avant Garde treats tonka, too. I would suggest that, given the fact most people are probably enjoying this fragrance because of its heavy use of tonka, if you enjoy elements of Oud Assam but couldn't abide the faecal oud - try the Micallef. Once again, I am left bemused and disappointed at the decision to use such a faecal oud as there is potentially a lovely fragrance here given the scaffolding that has been constructed around the ‘horse', so to speak.

It's certainly an ‘interesting' aroma, I'll give it that. It's definitely something relatively...rich smelling, in that there are layers of complexity to it. But it's honestly like saying to someone to go and smell the new bathroom air freshener just after a Mexican trucker has deposited a load in the toilet after 18 hours of hauling. Yes, if you wait long enough, it'll eventually become a pleasant experience...well, relatively speaking. But why should anyone have to look past the stank? Even once it has dried down and is a more muted affair, the lingering wafts of cheese and horse are very much still present as an overtone and last for the duration of the scent to my nose. Conversely, I assume many people like this precisely because of the ‘stank', and in the grand scheme of things this is evidently not as faecal as oud can get, but there is a big difference in my mind between sniffing something novel or interesting for a few seconds, to wearing something for several hours where you and those around you cannot choose to sniff or not sniff. A big, big difference.

Even allowing for the undoubted climatic, cultural, and geographical differences that have resulted in perfume being treated very differently in the Middle East as opposed to Europe, America, or parts of East Asia – and the effects that high heat has on the body and the perhaps desirable use of ingredients like oud – I simply do not understand how anyone could possibly dare to wear this anywhere in the western world unless they stay indoors for at least 3-4 hours after applying. I cannot conceive of a single public space where, if you have applied enough to be smelled by others, this is anything but utterly disgraceful. Maybe it will be perceived differently where oud is a more traditional aroma but that is something I simply cannot comment on. All I can do is offer my own suggestion that cultural sensitivity probably shouldn't extend to the point you're willing to put up with faecal, equestrian sweat posing as a wearable fragrance out of either politeness or a disposition towards exoticism (the latter of which I assume plays a big part in why people are drawn to such a fragrance). I don't doubt that the worst offenders in this category are going to be westerners who are enamoured with the exoticism inherent to real oud and who lack the requisite honesty and self-awareness to tread carefully when wearing it. Fortunately, the performance is relatively weak in the grand scheme of things, both longevity and projection are fairly muted for something so ‘rich'. I get roughly 6-8 hours of scent but then I have been deliberately stingy in the volume of liquid I apply. One can only assume that those who are prone to overspraying may well ensure they are as perceptible and as inescapable to poor members of the public when wearing this scent as they could possibly be. Please...don't be such a person.

I tend to find the proclamation of ‘masterpiece' or even unqualified and unbridled qualitative overenthusiasm to be just about the most utterly useless form of review possible; not least because there is part of me that is prone to believing (or at least, be open to) such a declaration from time to time, only to receive the fragrance and discover the truth for myself. I'm sure I'm not alone in that tendency to entertain other peoples' enthusiasms with good faith and as such I try my best to avoid unqualified praise (or criticism, which is relevant in this instance and something I have also tried to avoid) when it comes to offering my own subjective thoughts and judgements on scents I like. To simply declare something a masterpiece says nothing to other people – which, to my mind, is the purpose of reviewing; to help people who have yet to smell the fragrance conceptualise the scent. Masterpiece? Compared to what? With what authority are such lofty claims made? And why is something deemed to be special – and why not provide this information if it can be conveyed? This, of course, is by no means a criticism that belongs solely (or even specifically) to this fragrance but it has crystalised in my mind while trying this scent simply on the basis of how utterly impractical and repulsive a key part of it is which jars sharply with the relatively respectful or outright exultant reviews it seems to have received.

I wonder what it is that leads someone to gush over a fragrance that, at least in part, smells almost exactly like the warm wafts of horse shit? The only conclusion I can muster is – jaded nostrils. Severely overexposed, overindulged olfactory senses; and dare I suggest pretensions of grandeur, too: “if it's this bad, it must be good!”. I feel like we're staring at Duchamp's lavatory here in all its self-indulgent snideness, yet no one is brave enough to point out the obvious – and in the most literal sense, although perhaps said toilet has had a detour via the Grand National stables. It would explain the smell. While I can see ‘why' people are comparing this to a chocolate orange – it's the tonka and orange, basically - If Terry's produced confectionary that tasted like this they'd be out of business before next Christmas due to the litigation. Wake up and smell the cheese, everybody!

This fragrance concluded any latent interest I had in committing ‘proper' money to trying an array of real oud fragrances – while I have dipped my toe in to natural oud scents and some tiny oil samples, and have found some I am intrigued or impressed by, the ultimate impression I took from the process is that even at its apparent ‘best', I couldn't chime with oud. I like the actual craft that has gone in to constructing a perfume around the oud here and, with a less pungent source of oud, I don't doubt that this could be a decidedly lovely fragrance: it's just a shame that the oud here is so animalic. Such aromas may be fine or interesting to be used in certain ways – as incense, for instance; as something you can smell momentarily but then stop smelling – but my own understanding of perfume does not extend to the first few hours of Oud Assam's faecal wafts. So, instead, I will qualify this accordingly and say, to anyone who likes all the varied iterations of real oud: I am evidently not the kind of reviewer you should be taking to heart.

2.5/10 - a rather cruel joke is being played here. There's something ‘interesting' about this, but interesting in the way that slasher movies induce primal revulsion among most people who are dulled by the safety of modern life and want something briefly ‘shocking'. While there are always exceptions to the rule, I cannot fathom why smelling like cheesy horse shit is a good idea for any human being. 66% of the time, it will work every time...to repulse people. “It's made with bits of real horse.” Well...maybe not. But consider the irony: “it's made with real oud”. Yeah, but it also smells like bigfoot's appendage, so big whoop. In spite of the way Rania J has sought to soften and freshen the oud with a pleasant orange, tonka (in my opinion, this must be the main reason why some people enjoy the fragrance, not the oud – tonka is an almost universally appealing aroma, so it makes sense), and more ‘typical' incense-woody base, this ultimately proves to be unwearable. As I said, though, there are always exceptions to the rule.


Real Oud

Starts cheesy/stanky. Its got some rough personality in the first half hour that is going to smell quite bad to a significant portion of the population. It settles down after that, bringing forward the incense, though the oud is still the central player. Its nice to have an oud without rose.

Say whatever, its interesting.


Rania J. Oud Assam is a peppery smoky woody oud mix with very slight animalic touches but mostly a centeredness of woods around the oud, which is not a prominent oud note in the medicinal or animalic sense. It starts out spicier but dries down mellower, a sort of dry, stereotypically masculine mix that almost has an herbal side to it. The standout notes are the oud, cedar, vetiver, and black pepper, with hints of tonka and musk, as there is something sort of smooth and sweet about it under the surface.

Most of the suggestion of an animalic side is gone within the first hour and I'm left with a very balanced, fulfilling mix of woods and spice, primarily. It's interesting, for sure, while not demanding quite as much attention as Ambre Loup. Still, I imagine Oud Assam is more wearable for more people given that it lacks an attribute that some would find especially off-putting like Ambre Loup's frankly-decadent sweet-and-spicy blend.

I reapplied a dab just to reacquaint myself with the opening again and it is very much a slightly animalic sort of wood varnish / leather mix that predictably calms down, and I like that evolution: more initial provocation followed by a more wearable, agreeable blend. The pepper of the opening gives way to the tonka of the drydown, though both aspects are present throughout.

Overall, I'm very pleased with Oud Assam. It has an interesting sweet pepper leather oud slightly-animalic mix that I've not gotten elsewhere. Hardcore oud fans will likely find it to be underwhelming as oud goes, but I find that it's a tastefully restrained use of oud while featuring some of the other players more so. A solid option for cold weather, especially.

Oud Assam is priced at $149 for 50ml at EDP concentration, like the rest of the line. The Rania J. line is only sold in the US via Luckyscent, I believe, and that's where I obtained my small dabber sample.

8 out of 10

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