Known as the “five thousand dollar per pound scent”, Oud or Oudh is one of the most expensive raw fragrance ingredients in the world.
Also known as agarwood, this essential oil is extracted from the fungus-infected resinous heartwood of the agar tree, which is primarily found in the dense forests of South East Asia, India and Bangladesh. It is either extracted by distillation from the wood or by melting the resin.
It is believed that for every ten trees in the wild, only one will have an infected heartwood. Expert perfumers seek out these older trees because of the superior richness of the resin’s aroma. Unfortunately, many of these older trees are now considered threatened species.
Due to the fact that the resin is only triggered by the formation of the mould, it’s estimated that a total of 2% of these trees produce it. This contributes to its status as the most expensive commodity on the essential oil market.
The Value of Oud Essential Oil
The annual Oud market gleans around $6 billion, and its value is estimated at one-and-a-half times the value of gold. For these reasons, it is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold.” Forbes has reported that it can cost $5,000 per pound.
Oud retailers often sell just a 3gm bottle for $300 or more. They claim that only a little oil is needed per application and that one bottle should last the average daily user an entire year.
A Brief History of Oud
Historians can trace the use of Oud back to ancient times and incontrovertible evidence lies within the scriptures of various ancient cultures. The Prophet, Muhammad, held the tradition of fumigation with agarwood, which is a practice that continues in the Muslim world to this day.
The Holy Prophet referred to agarwood as a distinct item found in Paradise. In Hebrew tradition, The Song of Songs describes Oud as a form of incense, and King Solomon as “coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense.”
Early records in central Vietnam dating back to the 3C AD mention the extraction of agarwood and the export of Oud to China and Japan where it was burned for centuries as incense. Wealthy Chinese ancients were known to make their coffins out of this resinous heartwood.
There is also a strong association with the use of this aromatic substance and the tradition of Fengshui, a discipline of governing the flow of energy in a particular place.
In Buddhist tradition, the most precious string of beads numbering to 108 is made of agarwood. Historically, the Islamic world valued the precious resin as both an essential oil and a personal perfume.
As the use of Oud spread to Europe, the royalty of France, particularly Louis XIV (The Sun King) who was known for his outrageous indulgences, loved the fragrance so much that he washed his clothes in Oud.
The Use Of Oud In Modern Perfumery
In today’s world of complex fragrance formulations, Oud has gained considerable interest and popularity. In recent times, some famous designers have launched their own fragrances utilizing this cherished essential oil.
Some examples include: Giorgio Armani’s Oud Royale and Tom Ford’s Oud Wood. The rise of boutique hotels back in the 1980s brought about a new and very opulent traveler experience and with it, rare and exotic scents catering to those with luxurious tastes for whom money is no object.
Numerous Benefits and Uses of Oud
This exquisite essential oil has many applications that range from spiritual to therapeutic and medicinal. It is often associated with harmony, serenity of spirit and when applied regularly, the removal of destructive and negative energies in the home.
A highly effective aid for meditation, it is also known to enhance mental clarity and ease neurotic and obsessive behavior.
In the Middle East, both men and women burn Oud wood chips to scent their houses and their clothes. Many Muslims believe that their prayers rise with the scented smoke of agarwood and are carried straight to the Creator.