Just like in fashion, scents and fragrances also have trends and seasons. The latest in fragrance fashion nowadays is the scent of oud.
Oud actually goes back to the ancient times as early as 1,400 years ago, as mentioned in the Koran by the prophet Mohammed: “Treat with Indian Oud, for it has healing for seven diseases.” Oud boasts of a rich religious and cultural history spanning hundreds of years; its highly distinguished scent has been applied in perfume and incense manufacturing. It has also been used as a rare essential oil in Ayurvedic systems through centuries used to heal certain conditions like ulcers, cough, arthritis, halitosis, and leprosy.
Oud’s popular use spans the world’s Eastern and Middle Eastern sections – it has been utilised for meditation by Buddhist monks, with the explanation that it helps in the transmutation of ignorance; Sufis applied it during esoteric traditions; Tibetan monks are convinced it relaxes one’s spirit; the Chinese believed it to possess psychoactive attributes; and the Pharaohs back in Ancient Egypt used it to embalm their departed. Whether as a medicine, aromatic oil, or as incense, oud has been serving its many purposes for centuries already.
Oud traces its ancestry from the wood of the Agar tree, originally coming from the India’s Assam region, and from there scattered through the rest of Southeast Asia. When a particular mould variety, known as Phialophora parasitica, touches the wood of this tree, the resulting reaction is an astounding, dark and aromatic resin, which in turn becomes the scent ingredient oud.
Oud is very rare and originates from only eight out of fifteen species of Aquilaria. There 8 species originally can only be particularly found in these countries: Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Nature’s course dictates that only under 10% of the trees in an Aquilarian forest would be affected by fungus and result to oud. A way around this would be to infect all of the trees with the fungus. Due to excessive harvesting of the Aquilaria trees that produce oud in the past 30 years, production has become low and price to be high.
A hydro-distillation process results to essential oil from Agarwood. In this process, the raw material is submerged in boiling water, the mix of essential oils and steam enters a condenser, and lastly the essential oil is isolated from water. Carbon dioxide distillation would be an alternative process to acquire oud essential oils.
The result of the extraction process is the astonishing distinct lovely scent of oud. Oud’s scent is described to be a lovely blend of sweet and woody complex aroma. It comes in forms of oud oil or raisin. Oud oil is achieved from wood distillation or raisin-melting, is not irritating when applied to the skin directly, or it may be added to a scent mixture as a base.
Because of its uniqueness and rareness, plus the complexity of its harvesting, oud is considered as the most exorbitant oil essence to ever exist. In fact, it is valued 1.5 times more than gold’s value, hence the title, Liquid Gold. Due to its high demand and regard, and its flexibility as a perfume, oil essence and incense, its trees are now considered as endangered species and are being carefully watched by the CITES convention and under rulings from various countries.
But even though Liquid gold has been priced highly, the trend of oud in scents has taken the perfume market by storm in the past years and seems to have no plans of slowing down. Well-known perfume labels such as Byredo and Dior has come up with their own oud-based fragrances. Despite the fact that some oud-based fragrances already contain synthetic oud mixture, the smell does not differ largely and they still do very well in the market, proof of the high demand of this scent.
The oud scent is definitely one of a kind and hard to forget once you have been captured by this aroma. Other famous scents may come in and out of the trend list, but it is oud that has been proven to stand strong since its conception in the ancient times, and will more likely stay here in the present century fragrance market.