A Journey into The World of Oudh

Part Three

My One Year Anniversary with Oud

Just about a year ago, in late November 2014, I acquired my first bottle of agarwood oil. In many ways, it's hard to believe that my journey with Oud has been so brief. Having experienced agarwood oils from about two dozen companies so far, and over 100 different types of agarwood oil, I've learned a great deal about the diversity of the Oud experience.

I discovered that I don't, for example, like heating agarwood itself in a burner, as it is very polluting to the lungs, and not, in my opinion, worth the experience. (And one of the top agarwood purveyors surprised me by sharing that he feels the same way!)

Grades of Oud

In my extensive explorations, I've come up with my own grading system for agarwood oils. The following starts with the best and descends from there:

Artisanal Ouds

Top of the line Ouds are made with very careful attention to every detail of their creation, including:

the quality of the wood used,

the source of the water,

the vessel used for the distillation,

the temperature and length and other conditions of the distillation itself,

and the amount of aging before release.

We are fortunate to live in an age where there are several companies offering Ouds of this quality.


Well-crafted oils

These are also excellent oils, and only lack the depth and psychic impact of artisanal Ouds. Why? Usually because the quality of the wood used is simply not as good (i.e. younger, less resinated, etc.)


Pure Oud oils

These come in three classes: fine, good, and mediocre.

They are well-distilled but no attention has been placed upon bringing out the best that the wood has to offer.

Many companies offer this grade of agarwood oil.

(The mediocre ones are usually not aged, made from the cheapest wood, and blended in an attempt to increase the complexity of the scent.)


All of the oils in the top three categories (above) are usually clear: i.e. transparent or translucent, amber to brown in color, and a bit thicker in viscosity than water.


Second Distillation Ouds

In an effort to get as much oil out of the wood as possible, some of the distillers run the wood through a second distillation process.

The result is agarwood oil that has much less complexity, depth and intensity (i.e. more has to be applied and the odor lacks persistence unless adulterated).

This is the type of oil sold cheaply in public venues.


Blended Ouds

Many of the Ouds available on eBay and Amazon are meant to be used a perfumes, not as aids for meditation and spiritual practice, nor for medicinal purposes.

As such, they are blends, sometimes of better quality Oud with lesser quality Oud, but often with added essential oils to "enhance" the fragrance, and extenders like glycerine.

Ensar Oud writes about this here.

These Ouds typically smell "perfumey" and don't have the "punch" or complexity of real Oud.

In fact, most of the best perfumers in the world use traces of Oud in their perfumes, in order to enhance their quality.


Uninfected agarwood oil

Some companies sell agarwood oil that has never been infected.

In the past, it has been called Boya, and it's colorless or white, sweet-smelling, and often waxy, and has absolutely none of the psychic effects or properties of the real thing.

I recommend avoiding these.


Adulterated and Synthetic Oils

Unfortunately, as with most expensive commodities, some agarwood oils are adulterated with chemicals or even counterfeited.

One of the companies sent me two synthetic Ouds, just so I could see what they were like, and they were nothing at all like genuine Oud.


Postscript: I sent this page to the two foremost Oud experts I know for feedback, and they both said that I did a great job and that it's completely accurate.


How to Choose a Fine Oud?

In section two of this blog (see link below), I list several of the top companies, and their offerings. These are safe to explore.

Since personal taste varies so much, I recommend purchasing sample sizes of Ouds to begin with, to discover what types you like.

I like resinous, flowery, and fruity agarwood oils, and don't like ones that smell of camphor, must and mildew, tobacco, or barnyard, and so I stick with Ouds from Cambodia and Thailand in general, and usually avoid Malaysian and Indonesian ones unless I try a sample first.

In any case, half the fun is in finding great Ouds and experiencing their diversity.


End of Part Three

Here's Part One
What is the origin of Oud? and What does Oudh smell like?

Here's Part Two
The Effects of Oudh and Sources of an amazing diversity of Ouds

Here's Part Four
What is Oud?
What are the uses of Oud?
and Two New Sources of Oud

Here's Part Five
The Oud companies that I've Explored,
Really Great Ouds

Here's Part Six
My Favorite Ouds

Here's Part Seven
A Spotlight on one Oud company

Here's Part Eight
Evaluating Samples from one Oud company: Shebar Oud

Here's Part Nine
Oud from Aromatherapy Companies, Where to get the best Oud

Here's Part Ten
A Kinam Tale

Here's Part Eleven
The Medicinal Properties of Agarwood oil

Here's Part Twelve
Five new Ouds from Ensar Oud, and What to ask an Oud purveyor before ordering from them

Here's Part Thirteen
New Top Ouds and My Unique Take on Oud

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