Raw Materials OUD SERIES: The Smell of Oud by Terroir

OUD SERIES: The Smell of Oud by Terroir

03/10/14 16:20:25 (4 comments)

by: Jordan River

Today we are continuing our Oud Education or Oudifcation with Oud Connoisseur, Neeshee Pandit. In Part 2 of this series we briefly mentioned the following which I will repeat here:

Hindi/Indian: I like to think of “barnyard” as the smell of Mother Nature regenerating. There are also other words used to describe this aspect of some Oud oils, especially the Hindi oils which are known to open with hard-hitting fecal notes.

Cambodi Ouds (agarwood trees grown in the Cambodia/Thailand area) are less barnyard-y, while the Papuan Oud is more floral. In Borneo the scent profile changes to Oud with light fruity sweet notes. A burnt rubber note is found in Oud from Irian Jaya. Laotion Oud is even more of a shapeshifter, making this a fantastical perfume ingredient. The medicinal/Band-aid/dentist’s chair note is a fleeting feature of many true Oud oils. These are very broad descriptions; a universe of scent swirls around in each Oud oil.

We will look at these regional differences in greater depth today. Aquilaria crassna is a species of agarwood. The term, Crassna, is used below to differentiate this resin from Aquilaria gyrinops which is the other Oud producing tree.



Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Oud Bengal
Image: Agaraura

Bangladesh: The only Oud oil I have smelled from Bangladesh is an older release from Agar Aura, “Oud Bengal.” At the time, I only had a sample vial, and I regrettably did not buy a bottle before it sold out! The smell of Oud Bengal was sweet suede wrapped in wet semi-swampy notes that were reminiscent of a Papua oil like Ensar Oud’s Oud Emerald. It was close to having more of an Indian profile, but it did not have the notes of hay, or the rich intensity of an Indian Oud. A very classy oil.



Borneo Kinam
Image: Ensar Oud

Borneo: Oils from the Borneo region are typically very light and sweet. Borneo oils are sensually provocative, expressing a uniquely ethereal intoxication. The best Oud from this region will possess the syrupy and resinous smell of high-grade Oud chips, with a touch of vanilla added in. A great choice for females and the uninitiated.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Oud Idrees
Image: Ensar Oud

Bhutan: Oils from Bhutan are rare and hard to come by. The government has strict standards for agarwood harvestation. Nonetheless, in Ensar Oud’s Oud Idrees, we have an Oud oil from Bhutan, from trees over 100 years old. An outstanding oil, Oud Idrees gives a glimpse into the characterstic Bhutan scent profile. Very close to Indian, but with rounder edges. The scent profile is soft, rather than cutting. In the case of Idrees, the aroma has notes of amber and the intoxicating smell of Indian Oud, robust with resinous notes mixed with hay and incense.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Oud Kampuchea 
Image: Agaraura

Cambodia: I do not know what true “Oud Cambodi” smells like. I can only say that of all the Cambodia oils I have smelled, the characteristic profile is fruity with notes of berry jam and sometimes grape. Cambodian oils are more robust than Borneo oils, boasting medium sillage and sweet syrupy notes.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Chinese Exclusive
Image: Ensar Oud

China: Oils from China tend to lean closer to the scent profile of Indian oils or to the scent profile of Cambodian oils. A lot is determined by the distillation process (soaking or no soaking, type of pots, etc.). Ensar Oud’s Chinese Exclusive is the hallmark scent I would go to for a Chinese Oud scent profile. It is barnyard-y for sure, but not quite fecal. Beautifully pheromonal, and still clearly showing evidence that it's a Crassna oil. An interesting mix of Cambodian and Indian profiles, it is lighter than a typical Indian oil, but just as rich.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Image: Agaraura

Indian Oud oil is the classic and most cherished agarwood aroma. Indian Oud has gained a reputation for being very stinky, funky, and “barnyard-y”. However, this is only partially true. The intense fecal and barnyard notes often found in Indian Oud is due to the extended soaking of wood prior to distillation. During this soaking period, a fermentation process takes place, resulting in the funky aroma that many associate with Indian Oud. Aside from this, Indian Oud inherently expresses notes of sweet hay and deep resinous woods. It is the longest lasting of all Oud oils, with a robust and very rich aroma. It has the loudest sillage of all the Oud oils as well. Depending on the distillation techniques and the raw materials used, Indian Oud can range from possessing sharp fecal notes to displaying notes of ripe fruit amidst an almost chocolatey aroma. Make no mistake, Indian Oud is a full-bodied Oud oil, and epitomizes what “Oud” is to everyone today.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Image: Kacha stones

Indonesia: Indonesian oils have a vast scent profile. The epitome of Indonesian Oud oil can be found in sinking-grade distillations from Maroke, in Ouds such as Oud Sultani and Oud Royale No. 1. Beautiful oils. The Indonesian profile is quite different from Indian, Cambodian, and Borneo oils. It is typically strong in the mid-range, boasting pleasant jungly notes, fresh rainforesty notes, and most significantly, the smell of burning Oud chips is expressed so clearly in oils from this region. If distilled properly with high-grade wood, Indonesian oils can be among the most intoxicating of Oud oils, able to communicate a clarity of agarwood scent that is unparalleled in my opinion.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Maroke 2004
Image: Ensar Oud

Papua New Guinea: Papua oils are similar to Indonesian oils, but with more green and leafy notes, with greater emphasis of jungle, wet notes, and that tropical rainforest feeling. Oud Royale No. 2 stands out to me as an example of a world-class Papuan oil. Absolutely intoxicating, with notes of violet and other floral suggestions, amidst a cool jungle.


Oud Bengal Image: Agaraura

Oud Yusuf
Image: Ensar Oud

Thailand: Oils from Thailand are similar to oils from Cambodia. They are all Crassna distllations. But the Thai oils definitely have a distinct profile. They are a little less exuberant on the fruit, and instead have a kind of mineral note that tops the scent profile. I don’t find this note in Cambodian oils, but it is always present in Thai oils. Very difficult to describe in words, but you will know it when you smell it. Thai oils tend to be a little zesty and overall more low key than the enthusiasm found in Cambodian profiles.

Thank you Neeshee for sharing your knowledge!

If you are a fragrance lover I recommend adding one Oud oil to your collection. The point is to let is age. Open the bottle and smell it once a year to observe the deepening of the scent. Many collectors also swipe Oud to relax and contemplate the universe; the universe within, without and the universe contained within a drop of Oud oil.

Coming up: we will look at the various methods of soaking and distillation and how these effect the scent profile of Oud. We will also visit a sustainable Oud plantation in Sakon Nakhon which is in Thailand near the Laos border.

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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fazli ikram
fazli ikram

what about malaysia oud oil..how does it smell? i know the country is also one of those who produces a lot of oud oil....please elaborate...

also the fact that beside region..the type of trees,fungi used to infect the trees is one of factor in producing the type of smell..please elaborate..

please also elaborate which is the favourites..according to region, europe, us middle east etc..i find that they differ a lot..

Thank you


Dear Jordan, this series is an ongoing pleasure - and this article in particular, so very helpful and descriptive.
Thank you !!!!!!!!

Ginger Kitty
Ginger Kitty

Reading the latest updates of this series is a joy and I am continually fascinated by your breadth and depth of knowledge of Oud with it's subtle differences.

Hopefully there might be an opportunity for you to collate, print and bind this series in a book format for keeps for the curious and like-mind souls :o)


This is one of the most comprehensive articles in this series and very interesting. I know that quality is literally dependent from batch to batch and from producer to producer but making global overview and characteristics of oils from different parts of the world is brilliant idea.


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