Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Encounter with Agarwood Oil

Recently, I was talking to a perfumer and she introduced my to agarwood oil, commonly known as oud oil. Here's an explanation of what agarwood is according to Wikipedia:

Agarwood, also known as oud, oodh or agar, is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees (large evergreens native to southeast Asia) when they become infected with a type of mould. Prior to infection, the heartwood is relatively light and pale coloured; however, as the infection progresses, the tree produces a dark aromatic resin in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin embedded heartwood. The resin embedded wood is commonly called gaharu, jinko, aloeswood, agarwood, or oud (not to be confused with 'Bakhoor') and is valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and thus is used for incense and perfumes.

It's apparently extremely expensive and, apparently, can cost as high as $6/drop in some places!

It also happens to be from Indonesia...

I asked around for suppliers and sure enough, I found one.

There's a wide range of prices and they smell so different, I wasn't even sure I was smelling the same oil. The supplier explained to me the smell differences come from location the tree grows in, and whether the wood was once or twice distilled. The oil that comes out on the first distillation is thicker and more fragrant. Distilling the wood another time squeezes more oil out of it, but the oil produced has a significantly milder smell. 

I tried sniffing the most expensive oil for fun (I can never afford it), the cheapest oil, and the oil that's most popular among perfumers. 

So here's my experience:

Most Expensive Oil 

Malinau National Park
Image found on:
Sourced from Malinau, Indonesia

Kill this thing with fire! What the hell is this?? It has a strong bitter fungi smell. It smells like walking into a traditional Chinese medicine store. People canNOT make a perfume out of this. Oh and that bitter smell is strong. It's so strong, I taste it at the back of my throat. Eventually it smells like wood. Not the romanticized wood. The wooden planks you get to make furniture, that has some wood resin smell that makes your eyes water.

Apparently the reason this is so expensive is because this is usually the oil used for Chinese medicine. So yes, that's why it smells like Chinese medicine. This oil comes from the darkest (ie. most infected) part of the wood, where the wood is almost black in colour.

Samarinda port
Image courtesy of:

Cheapest Oil

Sourced from Samarinda, Indonesia

This smells less medicinal and more like perfume. The mushroom smell mellowed out into a creamy truffle (the fungi, not the chocolate) smell with a bit of a sweet wood smell. It's definitely a unique smell I've never smelled before. After a while, it smells vaguely like incense. I thought I liked this until I tried the perfumer's choice. 

Perfumer's Choice Oil

Image courtesy of:
Sourced from Sumbawa, Indonesia

Holy crap, what is this magic? My first thought was, "This is what a magical Arabian palace would smell like."

It's a sweet, sensual wood smell with a hint of something earthy. The cheapest oil smells so mild afterwards.  I wanted to get this immediately, but the guy was nice and told me to think about it first. He put drops of all 3 oils on tissue for me to sniff again later and I still like this the most.

And you know what's funny? This is relatively much cheaper than the most expensive oil. I guess it's because people would pay more for medicine than perfume.

No comments:

Post a Comment