The Magic of Aud Oil Based Fragrance
Oud oil is distilled from the Agarwood tree.
Agarwood is reputedly the most expensive in the world. Oud oil is specifically from the resinous, fragrant heartwood produced primarily by trees in the genus Aquilaria. There are approximately 15 species of the genus Aquilaria. The resin has many names including agarwood, aloeswood, eaglewood, gaharu, agalocha or Oud (In Arabic).
Aquilaria species that produce agarwood are found throughout Asia, while occur naturally in South and Southeast Asia. The Indian sub-continent was the main source of agarwood for many centuries but as trees became scarce in the middle of the twentieth century, extraction intensified in Indochina. Later on, it was extended to Indonesia and Malaysia. Today Agarwood plantations exist in a number of countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Agarwood has been used to make high quality incense for centuries. The Chinese have described its smell as “a sweet, deep but balanced fragrance” and use it in religious and festive celebrations,as do the Arabs, Indians and Japanese. Agarwood is also part of many traditional pharmacopoeias, dating back to medieval times and Chinese doctors still prescribe it for colds and disgestion problem. Oil extracted from agarwood is used in Arabian countries as a perfume.
Agarwood or Oud forms as a reaction to fungal or bacterial attack. Trees, occasionally become infected with a parasite mould and they secrete a fragrant, protective oil into wounded areas (roots, branches or sections of the trunk), which gradually become harder and dark brown to black.
Why is Oud perfume oil (Agarwood oil) expensive?
Low yield from plant material, typical and labour intensive process of extraction. These are all very few reasons of high costing of Oud perfume oil. For example, even when using a low grade of resinous wood for oil production, it normally requires a minimum of 20kg of agarwood to produce 12ml of oil.
Another reason of agarwood being expensive is a threat to becoming endangered. The most important resin-producing species of Aquilaria are A. agollocha, A. malaccensis and A. crassna. A. malaccensis is protected worldwide under the CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) convention as well as by the World Conservation Union, IUCN. A. crassna was listed as an endangered species few years back by the Vietnamese Government but is now listed as a protected species in Vietnam.
There are three methods through which agarwood oil is distilled namely, hydro-distillation, steam distillation and super critical CO2 extraction. However, the most common methods of distillation are hydro-distillation and steam distillation. Another thing that has its mark on the distillation of the oil is the age of the tree. Older trees have a higher resin content and just like a wine, old resin gets better with age.
As with most things, the price you pay reflects the grade of Oud.