Oud: A Precious Substance Worth More than Gold"
OUD: A HISTORY IMMEMORIAL
Ancient peoples across South-East Asia were mystified when sometimes they split open ordinary trees and found instead a rare, sensuous heartwood: sticky, dark and complexly fragrant.
Oud has been used for centuries, with the earliest known use occurring in China in the third century AD. It was used as medicine, incense, and perfume since it was thought to have healing properties that could treat a number of illnesses.
The popularity of oud only increased throughout Asia and the Middle East, where it was greatly prized for both its unique aroma and spiritual significance. Because to the belief that it might ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, it was extensively used in religious rites and celebrations.
The Quran, which describes oud as a gift from heaven, is one of many holy writings in Islamic culture that reference the product. In Islamic cultures, oud has a long history of association with spiritual devotion and is thought to have been a favourite of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
In India, where it is believed to have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2,000 years, oud has a distinguished and lengthy history. It was used in religious ceremonies and regarded as a representation of spiritual purity.
Europe began to employ oud during the Middle Ages, where it was valued highly for its aroma and used to create both medicines and perfumes. Royalty and the wealthy also used it as a prestige and luxury symbol.
The popularity of oud decreased during the 19th and 20th centuries, and it eventually turned into a scarce and costly item. Nonetheless, it has recently gained popularity as a result of its inclusion in many luxury and designer fragrance houses.
ZOUSZ’s parfumiers stand at the head of a lineage of luxuriant bespoke products that stretches back into the mists of time.
OUD: THE MYSTERY REVEALED
These days, its origin is no longer mystical. Tall Aquilaria trees, or ‘lign-aloes’, grow in a wide climactic band of rainforests in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
Its wood is usually light in both colour and weight, but when the native Ambrosia beetle burrows into the tree to lay its eggs, a tiny percentage of trees catch a harmless infection of mould (Phialophora parasitica).
It is this mold infection—occurring in less than 2% of wild Aquilaria—that triggers a magical change in the physiology of the tree, hardening its wood, darkening its resin, and drawing it together into the dense, mottled heartwood that captivated those ancient peoples.
"Oud," meaning "a rod or a stick," is the name traders in the Middle East gave this wood, where its use as incense is strongly traditional. Whilst it might evoke nostalgia in Iran or Saudi Arabia, for Western sophisticates, its smoky, seductive scent is the East’s best-kept secret.
The ability of oud's scent to elicit strong emotional reactions in individuals who smell it is a mystery. When they smell oud, many people claim to feel at ease and relaxed, while others claim to feel enlivened and stimulated.
The fact that oud has been utilised for millennia in traditional medical procedures where it was thought to possess strong healing and calming powers may be a contributing factor. Hence, the scent of oud may be connected to sentiments of health and optimism and may subtly affect our mood and emotions.
Because of its complexity and depth, oud fragrance is highly prized. It is frequently described as having warm and sensual notes with woody, spicy, and floral undertones that are exotic and sophisticated. Oud is regarded as one of the most precious and valuable things in the world because it is so rare and has such a pleasant aroma; it is worth more in terms of weight than gold.
PRODUCING AND SUSTAINING OUD
The Aquilaria tree, which is indigenous to the dense forests of Southeast Asia and India, serves as the starting point for the production of oud. Infected by a fungus, the tree produces resin, which is then harvested and made into precious oud oil or wood chips. Because the highest-quality oud can only be obtained from naturally infected trees, it is extremely rare and expensive.
Oud is harvested and processed in a labor-intensive process that calls for close attention to detail. Carefully removing the wood from the tree is required, and it must then be processed into wood chips or oil. The wood chips are used to make incense or traditional medicines, while the oil is created using a steam distillation process that draws out the wood's aromatic compounds.
Black Oud oil is painstakingly distilled from the aguru heartwood by careful steaming, and its yields are incredibly small: 70 kg of even the densest wood will not yield more than a 20-ml bottle of pure Oud.
Concerns have been raised about the long-term viability of oud production because of the high demand and limited supply. Due to a decline in the Aquilaria tree population brought on by overharvesting, high-quality oud is now much harder to come by. Aquilaria trees are legally protected in some countries, like Vietnam, to prevent their extinction.
The Aquilaria trees are now protected by the CITES treaty, and international trade is closely watched to make sure it can survive.
Why Oud Is So Expensive
In conclusion, the labor-intensive and complicated process involved in creating and maintaining oud accounts for both its high price and value. The rarity and mystique of oud have made it a highly sought-after material that is connected to wealth, style, and spirituality.
Despite initiatives to encourage sustainability and safeguard the Aquilaria tree's natural population, oud continues to rank among the most precious and valuable materials in the world due to its high demand and constrained supply, it is more valuable than gold by weight.