The story of Oud

Black Gold

Some call it Black Gold, others have named it Liquid gold, but whatever you call it, OUD or OUDH  is a rare precious oil distilled from the Agarwood, a dark aromatic resin, and one must know that it is so rare that the price per kilo is more than Caviar. Infact it is not measured in millilitres like most oils, but in Tola’s.

The measurement of a Tola

What is Tola?, you may ask. Well the tola formed the base for units of mass measurement under the British Indian system, and was also the standard measure for gold and silver. It is a traditional South Asian unit of mass, now standardised as 180 troy grains the equivalent of 11.6638038 grams.

Protected species

The price of a Tola of OUD is so high, that the tree that produce the Agarwood, the agarwoodinfecteAquilaria species, is now a listed by CITES because the trees were becoming an endangered species due to illegal felling. You see, Agarwood is the result of the Aquiliria tree being infected by a mould or fungus, and its natural defence mechanism to protect itself is the production of an aromatic dark wood resin. However from the outside one cannot see if the tree has the Agarwood, which is normally a defect that affect only 7% of the trees. One needs to fell the tree to discover the dark wood and so the precious element. It is this dark part of the wood, that is collected, by hand and then distilled to give the oil of OUD which is used in Asian and Oriental perfumery for centuries. The Agarwood, can also be burned to give the essence or used to make incense.

How does OUD smell?

Well it is an intoxicating  deep wooden odour, that wraps around you, enfolding a mystery, earthy, malty. In the Middle East, one may just wear pure OUD oil, as their culture refrains from wearing any type of alcohol. OUD has been used for millions of years as was first mentioned throughout one of the world’s oldest written texts – the Sanskrit Vedas from India, gaining great cultural and religious significance in ancient civilizations around the world. It was also renown for its medicinal qualities. Burning raw OUD wood chips elevates the soul and calms the heart like no kneaded incense can.

innoculationToday, thanks to the CITES protection, and due to the high demand of the OUD oil, many have come to plant and sustain the Aqualiria tree and working together with scientists, have developed technological methods to produce the Agarwood by inoculating the mould, so that 100% of the plantation is productive. Sustainable Forestry has developed in Asia notably, Malaysia, Thailand, SriLanka, where large corporations are replanting the species and helping the village lives around the plantations with schools and work for the locals.

Despite OUD being very popular in Middle east and Asia for centuries, OUD is used today in many modern fragrances, and if you spend a little time wondering through the perfume halls of department stores, you will see many brands that carry the OUD name. Some brands have even made it their emblem of their brand.

OUD Fragrances

Here are a few lists of OUD fragrances complied by some other bloggers, I, will make my list another day….

GlobalBlue listed 14 fragrances with OUD,

Ummah Wide lists his favourite 10 OUD perfumes

The Non Blonde Top 10 list of OUD perfume

MensFitness list of Top 10 OUD perfumes

FashionBeans lists the Top 8 Mens OUD fragrances

3 thoughts on “The story of Oud

  1. Hi Helen,

    Love your story and that of Fragrance du Bois. Just got back from the launch at Jovoy and am currently wearing 1) pure our oil on my left wrist; 2) Green Oud by Olivier Pecheux on left hand (my favorite so far, maybe because it makes me think that spring is almost here), and 3) and Sahraa Oud on my right wrist which I’m liking better and better in the dry down. Oh yes, and on the way home from Jovoy I applied a little Oud Jaune Intense from the totally cool and handy little Fragrance Pen which has now found it’s place in my handbag. Would probably not have chose that one because I’m not usually a fruity type person, but this is quite smooth and working well, and love the sassy little Yla-Ylang who seems to be winking at me as if saying “I told you so.” Interestingly, none of this is clashing, none is overpowering. Just delicate little reminders intermingling in pleasantly warm wafts as I go about my day. Bravo to you and the team! Looking forward to seeing you again tonight. Cheers, Sarah Colton

    1. Thank you Sarah, the pleasure was all mine, will contact you once back from the Paris Frenzy, for a nice lunch!

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