Raw Materials OUD SERIES: Fragrance Du Bois – Agarwood Plantation

OUD SERIES: Fragrance Du Bois – Agarwood Plantation

06/23/14 13:21:07 (14 comments)

by: Jordan River

Looking at the fine print that came with a sample of Oud Bleu, I read that the perfume house, Fragrance Du Bois, claims to use only 100% pure, sustainable, ethical oud; a claim that no other fragrance brand can make. Intrigued, I approached Fragrance Du Bois and their candid response was, “If you have some time, come visit our plantations and we will show you where our oud comes from.”

Many people have tried growing their own agarwood without much success, due to the complications of inducing the resin that changes the Aquilaria tree into agarwood. Fragrance Du Bois states that the Oud in their perfumes is from their own plantations, is sustainable, 100% pure (unusual in perfumery due to cost), traceable, and sent to Grasse for perfume production by French perfumers. I was keen to verify these facts and having smelt the output of this relatively new perfume house, I was intrigued. We will look at the Fragrance Du Bois perfumes in detail, further along in this series and also explore their history in Grasse. Two of the perfumes blew my mind, my nostrils, and I even opened my wallet with the confidence to explore this company’s operation from soil to oil to perfume.

This company has agarwood plantations in several areas of Thailand, so, despite martial law, a curfew and 38 degree heat, I hopped on a plane for some fragrant fact-checking.

Jordan River and Sirichai Chaobangrak (Khun Jack)

Arriving in Bangkok, I was welcomed by an employee of Asia Plantation Capital, a related company in the Fragrance Du Bois operation. I was told by Sirichai Chaobangrak, whose nickname is Jack, that Fragrance Du Bois has an exclusive supply agreement with Asia Plantation Capital, which secured their sustainable supply of Oud. We traveled to their plantation in Nakhon Nayok, which is two hours out of Bangkok. The next day we traveled to the plantations in Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom which are in the Issan area of Thailand near the border with Laos. I was astounded at the knowledge that Jack had; he looked no more than 20 years old and spoke about the plantations with such erudition as well as passion. I detected a fierce pride in the company as he explained how the company’s management of the plantations helped to regenerate the local community. He was very excited about the initiatives that the company had put in place for the workers and also for their families. These initiatives included providing school uniforms, computers to the local schools, clothing for the elderly and even organizing annual New Year’s Eve “get-togethers” for the local communities. He also mentioned that this year, they are working on extending a road that leads into the school and building basketball courts for the kids. These projects were made possible because one of the company directors grew up near one of the plantations and saw how she could help the local people.

Jack explained the first step to Oud supply is the growth and maintenance of the trees. After that, decisions had to be made on how long to grow the trees and whether they were being grown for the carving market or the perfume oil market. Part of the reason for the depletion of wild Oud stock was due to the outrageous sums that newly rich Mainland Chinese were prepared to pay for a fragrant carving or even just a beautiful piece of agarwood. This had diverted around 80% of agarwood sales from perfumery to carving and also had driven up the already high price of pure Oud oil.

Jack revealed that while Asia Plantation Capital brought in experts to "manage" the plantations, there was a definite company policy to use local workers and to offer knowledge transfer so that the community benefitted from this. One would be cynical to think that a global company would do this, but in fact, it created a loyal workforce.  The acquisition of land for growing agarwood also reunited some families that had previously been spread all across Thailand for work.  Parents now work on the plantations while their grown children have taken on office and administration roles.

As noted in Part 2 of this series, The Oud Oeurve, the agarwood tree is critically endangered and two steps aways from extinction in the wild. This means that the transport and sale of a agarwood is governed by CITES, an international organization that prevents the sale of illegal agarwood as well as other trees, ivory, animals and other items. This also means lots of paperwork as large trucks are often stopped by the police or the army in Thailand to prevent the transport of illegally felled teak, agarwood and other endangered items.

The Nursery

A team of people are responsible for maintaining tree supply.

It is all very well to have a nursery of agarwood trees. However that step does not an Oud oil make. The trees must be planted, watered and after approximately six years, must be inoculated to induce the resin within the tree. In the wild this effect may be caused by a lightning strike, a bark tear by an elephant tusk or human intervention with a nail hammered into the tree. So, in the wild it is a completely random process which may or may not work. Many an agarwood plantation has been liquidated due to failure at this step. There are several patented options which claim to start the Oud resin process. These can cost US $30 to $50 per tree, a considerable sum for any plantation especially in a developing economy. Various natural substances as well as a some chemical ones can be injected into the tree. Fragrance Du Bois would not reveal the formula of their inoculation kit, understandably, due to competitor concerns.

In the next photo you can see the holes that were prepared for the injection that induces the production of the Oud resin.

Next we see the effect of the innoculation response: the darker portions of the wood are agarwood; the Oud resin prior to chopping, grinding and distillation.

Images: Fragrance Du Bois – Oud Plantations in Thailand

After inoculation the next steps are chopping, soaking and distillation. We will look at these in the next part of this series with distillation expert Dr Pakamas Chetpattananondh from Prince of Songkla University.

Jordan River is the host of The Fragrant Man and also writes for Olfactoria's Travels and Australian Perfume Junkies.

He recently covered the first harvest of Santalum album sandalwood grown in Australia. Jordan has been been reading Fragrantica and other fragrance websites for many years and enjoys the confluence of subjectivity, knowledge and opinion. He is not a Perfume Pontiff and is always happy to be enlightened by your own knowledge and challenged by differing opinions.

His high rotation 'fumes are Jubilation XXV, Cuir 28, Fate Man and Puredistance BLACK. Special occasions scents include Cuir de Gardenia, Spiced Citrus Vetiver, Ensar Oud Oils and RealOud Feral.

 



Previous Raw Materials Next


Advertisement

oobunillaoo
oobunillaoo

clearly a lot of time, care, and passion went in to putting this article together. loving the entire series; there is much to learn. many thanks to Mr. River for your dedication.

Jun
27
2014
rogson
rogson

Too bad the oud in Fragrance du Bois scents is in such minute quantities that you can't even detect the oud note.

Jun
26
2014
originaldeftom
originaldeftom

The "take home" message must and always will be that mother Earth has enough for us, if we allow her to grow it at her own pace.

Everything can be done with long-term planning to achieve SUSTAINABILITY.

Just like financial wealth that needs to be gradually built, you must never live on credit and always maintain a healthy cash flow.

That cash flow is a healthy flow of biological integrity, in the context of any process of OUTPUT (here the oud wood).

For ever tree fallen, thou shall plant at least 3 more: one of the variety you want, 2 other ones of supportive ecological species.

Monocultures are BAD NEWS!

Mother nature does not have "Monoculture" in her dictionary.

Jun
26
2014
Gaharuguru
Gaharuguru

Hi love this piece !!!! , I work with Fragrance Du Bois and am very happy to see this helping tell the brands incredible story , real oud fragrances containing 100% pure oud are worth every cent and this research by Jordan helps people see what goes into every bottlle and the people behind it..Happy to help anybody experience these in one of our boutiques in Singapore, Kuala Lumpa, Bangkok or Dubai and of course at our perfumery in Grasse.

Jun
25
2014
Jordan88888888
Jordan88888888

Thank you all for your supportive words. Glad to have you as companions on this fragrant journey.
@zoka - Afganistan does have an orange blossom harvest which coincides with a poetry festival. There is also a rose oil initiative there to replace opium with rose fields. I like your idea!
@Akahina, @picasso and @pattnail - When and how to smell the Fragrance Du Bois perfumes from these plantations will be revealed in the next 3 parts of this series.
@Taleb - smell first! But there are less expensive options within the range which we will explore here on Fragrantica soon. The issue here was to verify that the price was for real oud not an aromachemical.

Jun
24
2014
Labaloo
Labaloo

Beautiful!

Jun
24
2014
Taleb
Taleb

Nice report as I scanned through it....their prices though are very high. Starting at about $500+ for their regular Oud collection.

Jun
24
2014
Chilly28r
Chilly28r

Jordan, your article and style of writing is terrific. I really enjoyed reading this piece and seeing the complimentary pictures supporting your first-hand research. Thank you for posting :o)

Jun
24
2014
picasso_x
picasso_x

Great review, I'd to see and smell real Aghar Wood tree in Thailand.

Jun
23
2014
Akahina
Akahina

I sure would love to try several of these, but where and how?

Jun
23
2014
pattnaik
pattnaik

Very informative read. Though I have been to Thailand several times, never realized of the fact that Jordan brought to lime light. Thank you.

Jun
23
2014
chanelnumerocinq
chanelnumerocinq

Thank you for the enjoyable and informative read :)

Jun
23
2014
henriklestreus
henriklestreus

Great review, Jordan. Please contact me with a personal message.

Jun
23
2014
zoka
zoka

This is what I call research journalism. Good job Jordan River. This reminded me on the movie Secret Life of Walter Mitty once I talk with Jordan he is in New Zealand, then New York after that he is flying to plantations of AgharWood in Thailand... I wonder will you visit Afghanistan next.

Jun
23
2014

Add Your Review

Become a member of this online perfume community and you will be able to add your own reviews.

Advertisement

Advertisement

New Perfumes

Bonbon Spring SummerViktor&Rolf
Bonbon Spring Summer

Sun Pop Green FusionJil Sander
Sun Pop Green Fusion

Sun Pop Coral PopJil Sander
Sun Pop Coral Pop

Sun Pop Arty Pink Jil Sander
Sun Pop Arty Pink

Sunkissed DreamsHawaiian Tropic
Sunkissed Dreams

Island ResortHawaiian Tropic
Island Resort

Summer DreamsHawaiian Tropic
Summer Dreams

Golden ParadiseHawaiian Tropic
Golden Paradise

Evening Rose D`OrAerin Lauder
Evening Rose D`Or

Tangier Vanille D`OrAerin Lauder
Tangier Vanille D`Or

1881 SignatureCerruti
1881 Signature

Pure Grace Summer SurfPhilosophy
Pure Grace Summer Surf

First Instinct for HerAbercrombie & Fitch
First Instinct for Her

Leather SensationByblos
Leather Sensation

Metal SensationByblos
Metal Sensation

Solarissimo MarettimoAzzaro
Solarissimo Marettimo

Musk MalakiChopard
Musk Malaki

Bonjour SeñoritaTous
Bonjour Señorita

Mia Me MineHalloween
Mia Me Mine

Gisada UomoGisada
Gisada Uomo

Gisada DonnaGisada
Gisada Donna

KastellorizoMaison de Parfum Berry
Kastellorizo

AdoualaMaison de Parfum Berry
Adouala

Ambre 35Maison de Parfum Berry
Ambre 35

Coeur NoirMaison de Parfum Berry
Coeur Noir

Violette RebelleMaison de Parfum Berry
Violette Rebelle

PortraitMaison de Parfum Berry
Portrait

CathédraleMaison de Parfum Berry
Cathédrale

Éblouissants RefletsMaison de Parfum Berry
Éblouissants Reflets

MystiqueMaison de Parfum Berry
Mystique

Popular brands and perfumes: