Oud (in Arabic, Oudh) is one of the most expensive perfume ingredients in the world. But why is it so expensive? And why is it in such high demand at the moment?
Oud is an exotic resin that comes from the wood of the Agar (Aquilaria) tree. These trees are mainly found in South-East Asia, probably from the Assam region of India. The resin is produced when the tree is infected by a certain fungus (Phialophora parasitica). The wood then turns dark and has a typical earthy smell. In spite of the fact that Oud has been introduced to Western countries in recent years, Oud already has centuries of old uses. For instance, the Egyptians used Oud to mummify and the Chinese to expel bad chi from the body.
When you are in the Middle East you can smell it almost everywhere, from luxury department stores to mosques to hotel lobbies. Oud is there like what lavender is to us.
What does oud smell like?
Oud has a smoky and mysterious smell. In the perfume world, the oil is valued for its sweet, woody, aromatic and complex scent. In the West, the scent is associated with seduction, while in the Middle East, Oud stands for comfort and protection.
Oud has by now acquired the nickname of 'liquid gold'. This is because its value is currently estimated at 1.5 times that of gold. The rarity of the oil and the increasing demand are the reason for this. In the wild, only 7% of the Aquilaria trees produce the resin. There are now several Agarwood farms where the trees are artificially infected. However, this resin is no match for the original.
For the best Oud, you need a mature Aquilaria tree, which means around 30 years old. Asia Plantation Capital (APC), one of Asia's largest commercial agarwood farms, is trying to save the trees by planting sustainable agarwood. They claim to have planted over 10,000 young trees in 2009. It really will be some time before these trees are mature and can be used. Meanwhile, the mature trees are subject to poaching. Despite the 10-year prison sentence, this does not stop the poachers from looking for older trees that are naturally infected. After all, these are the most profitable.
In fact, the story goes that in 2012, Sultan Qaboos paid a staggering $7,000 for half a teaspoon from a miracle year-old tree.
Oud used in perfume
In 2012, the number of perfumes containing the ingredient Oud rose by 34%. Nowadays, one in eight new perfumes contains Oud, but due to the complex characteristic of Oud, it is not so easy to develop a good Oud perfume. Below are two brands where Oud is the common thread in the fragrances and they have managed to process this complex ingredient into sophisticated perfumes.
Created from the legacy of Perfumer's Workshop. They are the evolution of 'costume made perfumes' and have gained recognition for this visionary concept, developed 45 years ago. Since 1971, Donals Bauchner, owner of Perfumer's Workshop, has been captivated by the luxury ingredient Oud. Because of its complexity, they took five years to develop the fragrances. AMOUROUD now represents a collection of olfactory memories and stories, where Oud is the base and is interspersed with other luxury ingredients such as orchid, rose and saffron.