When it comes to Agarwood and the oud oil it produces, the real tragedy of the situation is its reputation for having an unsavory smell. It’s a certain aroma that assaults the nostrils and tends to stain one’s opinion on the otherwise wonderful oils. It’s been described as “fanky”, an unflattering combination of funky and stanky, by several different sources. The fragrance is reminiscent of a barnyard or the burnt rubber o f an abused car tire. In short, it stinks. But the sad fact is that this unpleasant smell should not be the true representative of oud oils and Agarwood. It is but a shadow of the true wonder of oud, and it does the beauty of Agarwood no justice. In fact, it tarnishes the fantastic experience of discovering oud oils in its pure and intended form.
There’s a very specific reason why the mainstream consumer is introduced to the more rubber-like oud scent rather than the savory and unique aromas of pure Agarwood. To keep it simple, the oud oils used to make the more popular designer fragrances are either synthetic or of an incredibly low quality. Focusing on the latter point, the companies that specialize in exotic fragrances are forced to work with distillers who market pure oud oils. The truth is, however, that these distillers are drawing their oils from poor quality Agarwoods. They push, prod, and squeeze every last drop of oil out of these low-grade woods without a single shred of consideration for the quality of the product itself. The only thing they have on the mind is, of course, money. They buy cheap, produce cheap, and then sell expensive in a slimy approach to making money. They take the extravagance of Agarwood and oud oils, and pervert it with cheap production and cheap materials.
One of the main methods of increasing oil yields in the Agarwoods is to soak it in water for months. While this is a very important step in the process, the environment in which it is soaking is just as important, if not more so. You see, there’s an art to the distilling process of Agarwood. A master of the craft knows that you can’t just let the wood soak in the water and call it a month. Not to mention the quality of the water it’s soaking in. These corporations tend to soak their product in contaminated waters and just, sort of, leave it there to collect mold, mildew and various other bacteria. This is exactly what one would expect to happen after leaving anything in water for that long unattended. Why should it be acceptable here? In no other industry could we sell water-damaged materials.
A true purveyor of the art of distilling Agarwood of its oud oils knows the secret to a perfect aroma is experimentation. It’s this willingness to try new and innovative methods to distilling the woods that we get the wide and varied assortment of luscious scents out of the high-quality oils. It is this that oud oil should be famous for, not the musty barnyard smell we’ve all come to associate it with.
When the masters go in and get their hands dirty to bring us the best oils they possibly can, it’s rarely with the same tricks from the year before, or even the month before. One method they’ve worked with was to soak the wood in hot water, making sure the temperature is consistent for a month. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, they’ve tried soaking it inside of a refrigerator. A more unusual method is to whisk and churn sawdust within the water daily, as well as changing the water. This can help the wood to become softer, while at the same time preventing any foul odor from presenting. No two scents come out the same, whether the water is filthy and shallow, or deep and clean, or any variation of that. Each one is unique and special, and a trophy to the hard work and dedication of the artisans who produce it.
With all of this knowledge regarding the processes of creating the oud oils, and truly understanding and appreciating just how important having the right environment and care for the Agarwoods are, there is no way I, nor anyone else, can ignore the travesty that is the big business pushed, low-quality, cheaply handled, and borderline fake oud oils. When you open up that bottle and suddenly find your nostrils filled with the unsavory barnyard scent instead of the enticing aroma of true Agarwood distilled oils, you’ll know that it wasn’t handled with half the care it truly deserves. They let it sit in dirty water and collect bacteria for months without a second thought, depriving every fragrance enthusiast the chance to experience a life changing, one of a kind aroma like no other.