Raw Materials OUD SERIES: How to burn Oud Wood

OUD SERIES: How to burn Oud Wood

01/29/14 20:15:07 (15 comments)

by: Jordan River

Photo: Saeed Al Khaili

David Falsberg, the perfumer at Phoenicia Perfumes, has an Alpha-dog nose as the result of a serious illness. He has since tuned his nose to perfumery with remarkable outcomes, some of which we will be reviewing later in this series. Let’s discover more about David and another olfactory interest of his: the burning of Oud wood. Over to you David …

Oud Wood Chip, Photo: Saeed Al Khaili

My Scented Journey via Agarwood

When I was asked to write a “how to/FAQ” on burning agarwood for The Fragrantica Oud Series, I was immediately confounded by both the simplicity of the subject—take a hot charcoal and place a piece of real agarwood on top of it and let it rip—and the complex issues of ethnobotany, psychoactivity and spirituality that arise as one spirals deeper into the mysteries of the journey. Sounds a little like Carlos Castaneda and it should.

Agarwood is created when bugs crawl into a certain type of evergreen indigenous to Southeast Asia causing the tree to become infected. Agarwood—aka Oud—is a resin the tree produces to combat the infection and over time the infection and the agarwood immunity will spread within the tree. For other "resin activators" see Part Two of this series.

In the not too distant past wild agarwood was abundant but today the demand for agarwood far exceeds the supply of wild wood and outside Indonesia most trees are now cultivated and scientifically innoculated to stimulate the production of the holy resin. Statues made of agarwood are all the craze in nouveau China and the dearth of wood also creates a black market in the production of fake chips and oils of dubious derivation.

Oud wood chips from Agarwood Indonesia

I have tried and smelled it all—fake wood made from painted sticks filled with epoxy to the holiest grail kyara wood from Vietnam for which its owner paid almost a thousand dollars for less than a gram of wood. Suffice to say that on a regular basis I burn cultivated woods acquired from reputable dealers although I occasionally splurge on wild woods that come from Borneo, one of the few places where it’s still out there.

Burning oud chips captures the essence of the wood in a more complete scent profile than does the wearing of oud oil, albeit in the perfect world of a sheikh one will anoint oneself with the oil and then while standing in a tent over the burning coals will allow the smoke of the burning chip to fumigate one’s clothes and hair and beard.

Oud wood chips from Agarwood Indonesia

Nowadays there are electric burners but charcoal in a bowl or an Arabian mubakhar are the most efficient methods.

An Arabian mubakhar for burning Oud wood chips, Photo: Saeed Al Khaili

I started burning oud during a very dark time in my life where I believed I had little to live for and was seeking higher grounds in my spiritual life. My nose had become extremely hypernosmic after suffering problems with my other senses so I was learning a lot about both perfumes and burning woods and resins and I decided to burn some chips.

Burning with charcoal is the most effective way to heat up your oud. It is also a lot messier than an electric burner so I often use the electric burner to save time and stay neat.

However, I pursued the “grasshopper” method and learned to burn using a clay bowl filled with rice ash and Japanese charcoal to heat the wood.

The utensils you will need for this style of burning are a clay bowl, white rice ash to fill the bowl and circulate the heat, bamboo charcoal (don’t use the instant light charcoal which contains saltpetre) and a little pair of tongs to place the wood on the heated ash and a tiny shovel to pile ash over the charcoal to achieve the desired burning temperature. All these utensils are available through Essence of the Ages and they ship globally.

White rice chaff ash from Essence of the Ages
Photo: Essence of The Ages I think that learning to burn oud is an exploratory experience; just make sure the charcoal is heated all the way through. I usually wait 20 minutes, and fill the bowl fairly high with rice ash which helps spread and circulate the heat. Personally I always put ash on top of the charcoal to keep the wood from burning too fast and giving off a rubbery odor. Some people like to suck on the oud chip to slow the burn. A lot of the cultivated wood is now cut in slivers and can even be lit and burned directly.

For me there was great zen-like experience in playing with the coals and making little fortresses of ash to protect my dear chips from over-heating. Always burn oud with the round side down and only burn it on one side. If you turn it over it will produce foul smoke and ruin the psychoactive ambience.

Photo: David Falsberg

You can order the cultivated wands from Essence but for higher levels of ouducation one must turn to a small cadre of elite oud dealers, Ensar Oud, AgarAura and Oudimentary are the safest albeit priciest bets. If, like me, you are obsessively curious about things once you get interested then there are several forums on the net where you will hear tales from those who worship agarwood as the holy grail and gamble their fortunes on wild wood from oud hunters who forage the jungle in search of the last wild oud on earth.

Sinking grade Sumatran Agarwood chips, Photo: Agarwood Indonesia

My olfactory interests have expanded to the point I can no longer spend all my time and resources chasing this grail. But I will say that the psychoactive nutrients in agarwood kept me on the path of life when all else was darkness. With diverse sources of oud there are different scent and psychoactive profiles based on location, age of the tree, age of infection; it is a world of nuance as deep as you care to go. I have inhaled and felt grounded by the rich smell of real Indian oud, soothed by the coumarinic notes of Cambodian and Thai ouds and been uplifted to places beyond terra firma—literally heard whisperings from voices on high—while inhaling the high spicy wafts from wild Borneo chips.

It is a journey albeit in some ways a sad one, reflective of our ecology, smelling chips from trees that will never exist in the wild again but there is hope at the same time; there is hope in the cultivation and development of agarwood plantations and in advances in the science of innoculation that this noble resin will live on into the future. If we all inhale oud and stay sane enough this noble resin will become sustainable and the psychoactive and aromatic properties of agarwood shall enlighten generations to come.

Brunei Supreme Agarawood Chips, Photo: Ensar Oud

Thank you David Falsberg for adding this area of your expertise to The Fragrantica Oud Series.

Next week we will start to look at some recent perfumes which are composed with real Oud. Later in the series we will visit the jungle with the Orang-Asli, the jungle dwelling people who are the original inhabitants of Malaysia, as they search for the increasing rare wild agarwood trees. There will be tigers; we will hear a ROAR and it won’t be from Katy Perry.


Selected Links:

Phoenicia Perfumes – website
Facebook Page – Phoenicia Perfumes
Ida Meister – Fragrantica review of FAR NWEST from Phoenicia Perfumes

Related articles:

Notes:

kayu gaharu – kayu means wood, gaharu means Oud in Bahasa Melayu (Indonesian / Malay)
 

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.

 



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bu merdas
bu merdas

شكرا على المقال الجميل
حرق العود و التبخر به امر يعود بنا قديما جدا في عمق الثقافة العربية خصوصا و الاسلامية عموما ...
للحرق تقاليد و اعراف تختلف من مكان الى اخر .. الغريب و الجميل في نفس الوقت ان العود بنفسه لا يهبك و لا يعطيك النفحة و الرائحه و العبق بنفس الدرجه او المرتبة دوما و هذا جمال الطبيعة ... نوعية القطعة المحروقة و شدة العود بها ثم طريقة الحرق ايضا .. الطريقة المتبعة في الخليج العربي هي وضع القطعة من العود على الجمر الحامي و عدم تقليبها او لمس العود و تركه يحترق في مرة واحدة... هذه الطريقة تعطي العود فرصة واحدة للاحتراق و اعطاﺀ النفحه العطرية المميزه لنوعية العود المحترق ... تغير الرائحه يتضح جليا بعد انتهاﺀ احتراق الراتنج او دهن العود

Thanks for shareing your love of oud ..

Burning oud is a very old ritual in our arab and islamic culture ...

There are diffrent burning cultures from place to another... the amazing thing is that oud it self wont give the same exact essence even from the same tree..
tree type, age, risen intensity and the way its burned make a big diffrence..

In arab gulf we put the oud chip on top of burning charcoal and try not to move the chip or disturp it so it burnes smoothly and slowly but not very slowly ... this way we think will give the chip the best and only chance to gift us with its exclusive and rare essence ..

In general the larger the chip the more aroma and pleasure we get and enjoy.

Feb
22
2014
mimikins24
mimikins24

I own both wild and organic artisan oud oils. There are wonderful examples of numerous oils from both sources available from reputable producers.

If you read the articles and blogs from some of these artisnal producers, you will see the reverence with which they (and some of their consumers) view oud. The use of oud to prepare oneself for prayer is also a part of the Muslim religion (as I understand, though I am not Muslim myself).

To me, part of the draw to artisnal oud, either wild or organic, either wood or oil, is that each batch is special and cannot be replicated. From the type of wood to the type of vessel used for distillation to the water used, it is utterly unique.

I am all for sustainability, which I support through purchase of organic oil, but I also love wild oud. I view wild oud like I do some of the vintage perfumes I own. They contain ingredients that are no longer available and are precious for their rarity, as well as their smell.

Feb
06
2014
agarwoodindo
agarwoodindo

aging oud actually is to get rid the waters and to make the molecular bonds tighter thus having that "mature" smell, what make real oud oil different is they are a lots of variety of smell, but the barny fecal type is the most well known, actually not oud oil smell that way, it is the soaking that make that fecal smell. I dont soak!

Feb
06
2014
realoud22
realoud22

Aging occurs in two ways, the first is the age of the infection, not the age of the tree. A tree that has been infected for forty years will produce aged oil. Also, letting the oil rest after distillation is the other form of aging.
Regarding sustainability, there are different levels of "poaching", scavenging and hunting. Basically all of SE Asia has been cut down thanks in great part to the Chinese love of "lucky tree" carving. There is even a mafia I've heard told that forces families that own aged trees to sell infected pieces from old trees only to them and from there to China.
However, in jungles and swamps in other countries, I wont even name them to protect these remaining vestiges, there are hunters who practice their own brand of sustainability. They do not cut down whole trees, they simply keep revisiting infected trees every six months or so looking for infected pieces. They also forage in swamps for wild pieces. My message is sustainability and ethical cultivation and I am sorry you view my comments as advocacy of anything other than sustainability. Many of the collectors of wild wood will only buy pieces that are already aged so there is no further contribution to deforestation.

Jan
30
2014
Gojira
Gojira

Brilliant, loved it!

Jan
30
2014
Eeyore III
Eeyore III

Good article: thank you.

I have had a few questions that perhaps could be addressed in a future article. One often sees for sale oudh oil that is "aged." Exactly what is aged, and how? Is the agarwood itself aged, or the oil? Is it aged in glass, wood, a container lined with agarwood itself, or what? Is it cellared at a cool temperature, a hot temperature, or what?

Any light you could shed on the specifics of oudh aging would be appreciated.

Jan
30
2014
Jordan88888888
Jordan88888888

Hello RedHeartSunglas - Thank you for your reaction. We will be exploring the sustainability of Oud in depth shortly. There are organic plantations which are just really coming into play now; these plantations supply resin as well as wood for burning. Here's to ecological conscience.

Jan
30
2014
b+
b+

Redheartglasses Oud exists for thousand years already and it is cultivated for a long period.
If everyone will follow logic which you suggest, there should not be mankind on sacred Planet Earth.
Take a deep breath and stay open to good things. Or better plant and grow your own Aquilaria Trees as Ajmal family does for three generations for example.

Jan
30
2014
RedHeartSunglasses
RedHeartSunglasses

Yeah, to hell with the environment! Let's support the poachers and the extinction of a species just for our own gluttonous enjoyment!

" If, like me, you are obsessively curious about things once you get interested then there are several forums on the net where you will hear tales from those who worship agarwood as the holy grail and gamble their fortunes on wild wood from oud hunters who forage the jungle in search of the last wild oud on earth."

I guess all the quality sustainably harvested oud that is being offered to counter this very thing just isnt good *enough*, and that's a perfectly acceptable reason to condone wiping out a species from the wild?

This article isn't beautiful to me at all, it simply turns my stomach. I know I'm going to be criticised and told to lighten up or something stupid, but if you write about burning oud and suggest sources without talking about sustainability, and especially if you go an make comments like what I quoted, you absolutely open yourself up to this kind of criticism.

Jan
30
2014
chayaruchama
chayaruchama

More goodness from Jordan <3

Jan
30
2014
Elena Vosnaki
Elena Vosnaki

The rice ash addition is a great tip not just for burning oud wood chips (which I would rather have tinctured, if you ask me, as the burning seems so "wasteful") but also for my regular frankincense/myrrh on coals censer.
Thanks for the interesting info!

Jan
30
2014
realoud22
realoud22

Muznabutt, burn away, it takes much larger particulates to set off a smoke detector than will ever waft from your incense burner - unless you are mixing your frankincense with cheese.

Jan
30
2014
maja314
maja314

Very interesting, thank you for sharing!

Jan
29
2014
Muznabutt
Muznabutt

Great reading... i love the concept but worry about setting of fire alarms in the houses in UK with all that smoke!

thank you for another great article!

Jan
29
2014
b+
b+

Thank you for beautifully deep materials! I enjoyed reading already 3 times! Waiting for new portion!

I thought that only fialophora fungus manages agar creation. Please tell little bit more about these bugs.

Jan
29
2014

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