What is Oud? [Hint: It’s a Type of Wood]

oud tree

Oud, oudh, or aoud is a fungus-infected heartwood from the Aquilaria tree (agarwood). This infection changes the tree and the infected area is harvested as oud. This area is called oud wood as it is a piece of wood, later turned into an essential oil.

Once the oud is removed from the tree, it has to be cleared of all the healthy or uninfected parts of the tree. If for some reason this process isn’t very precise, the oud will be spoiled.

Oud-making techniques and where does oud come from?

There are a few methods used to harvest the oud smell, depending on its intended use. Traditionally, it is made by boiling. Today, oud is made on a larger scale by distillation.

Traditionally making oud by boiling

One of the simplest methods to get concentrated oil is by using boiling techniques. Small parts of the infected (using piercing techniques) oud wood are boiled. Its oils raise to the surface of the water (oil doesn’t mix with water). The oil is collected with the hand and scrapped off into a container and turned into all types of cosmetic products which include fragrances.

Making oud by distillation

Distillation seems the modern alternative to collecting oud by hand, but it goes back centuries as well. Today, oud is made by distilling the ground oud woods at 100 degrees Celsius. This distillation process lasts between 8 and 10 hours. The result? At the end of the day, 40kg of oud create up to 45ml of oud essential oil.

This is how oud is made by distillation.

What is oud scent?

Oud comes from the Aquilaria tree (and rarely from Gyrinops and Gonystilus), and there’s plenty of mystery behind the ingredient. It can cost up to $10,000 for 10ml and it varies in quality and purity as well as in scent.

If you’re asking yourself how does oud smell like you need to know its scent is reminiscent of timber, grass, smokiness, and certain dampness. It’s this dampness that makes people either love it and never want to smell anything else or hate it altogether.

Pro tip: Did you know oud matures with age?

Unlike most essential oils, oud matures and changes in the smell with age. It adds depth to fragrances.

Agarwood closeup

What is oud in perfume?

In perfumery, oud is used to add an oriental appeal to a composition. It also adds an element of mystery as many interpret it differently. Here are a few great scent combinations for oud.

Rose Taif

A unique aromatic rose from the Middle East.

Amber

Amber is warm and inviting, a little bit less than an oud.

Musk

Musk might be hard to find as a natural compound, but it has top uniqueness.

Labdanum

Labdanum can’t be overlooked in amber formulations.

I can only recommend 3 oud perfumes

Types of oud

Agarwood and resin distillate extracts are known as oud. Many come from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand. They are made from the following types of oud or Aquilaria trees.

  • Aquilaria acuminata
  • Aquilaria apiculata
  • Aquilaria baillonil
  • Aquilaria banaensae
  • Aquilaria beccariana
  • Aquilaria brachyantha
  • Aquilaria crassna
  • Aquilaria cumingiana
  • Aquilaria filaria
  • Aquilaria grandiflora
  • Aquilaria hirta
  • Aquilaria khasiana
  • Aquilaria malaccensis
  • Aquilaria microcarpa
  • Aquilaria rostrata
  • Aquilaria sinensis
  • Aquilaria subintegra
The tree of
Aquilaria Sinensis

Why is oud so expensive?

Oud comes from the rare tree of Agarwood. Oud is an infected part of the tree that is removed in small or large chunks. It had no novelty element in the Middle East as it is used for centuries as perfume or home aromatic burned similarly to frankincense.

Oud and ambergris are the most expensive perfume raw materials in the world. They are even more expensive than gold.

Both the source of the agarwood and its age determine its price. With aging, oudh becomes mellow and this increases its price. The most expensive oud has been aging for 30 years. If you’re visiting the Middle East, you might even smell oud as old as 150.

Natural oud is also expensive as it is finite. There are no large quantities of oud on the international market at any time. Synthetic oud is never the same. Companies that make synthetic oud include Firmenich and Givaudan and they use complex compositions to recreate the oudh smell with ingredients such as Palissandrol.

FAQ

What is oud oil used for?

Oud oil is used as a fragrance, for aromatherapy or for religious purposes. It is mixed as a perfume compound or burned as incense.

Is oud good for health?

Traditionally, it is believed oud is beneficial for arthritis. But it can certainly be used for relaxation in aromatherapy. Other health benefits limited research shows oud can be seen as an aphrodisiac or it could be used in ear disorders.

Is oud natural?

Oud is a natural ingredient that is very hard to replicate in aroma chemicals. It comes from the Agarwood tree and in its raw material form, it is a type of wood.

Does oud expire?

Oud doesn’t expire. In fact, old oud mellows and it becomes considerably more pleasant as it matures.

What is oudh called in English?

Oudh is called Agarwood in English.