What Is Oud (Oudh) Fragrance And Why Is It So Expensive?

Known as the “five thousand dollar per pound scent,” Oud or Oudh is by far one of the most expensive raw fragrance ingredients in the world. Also known as agarwood, this essential oil is extracted from the fungus-infected resinous heartwood of the agar tree, which is primarily found in the dense forests of Southeast Asia, India and Bangladesh. It is either extracted by distillation from the wood or by melting the resin.

It is believed that for every ten trees in the wild, only one will have an infected heartwood. Expert perfumers seek out these older trees because of the superior richness of the resin’s aroma. Unfortunately, many of these older trees are now considered threatened species.

Due to the fact that the resin is only triggered by the formation of the mold, it’s estimated that a total of 2 percent of these trees produce it. This contributes to its status as the most expensive commodity on the essential oil market.

The Value of Oud Essential Oil

The Value of Oud Essential Oil

The annual Oud market gleans around $6 billion, and its value is often estimated as one-and-a-half times the value of gold. For these reasons, it is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold.” Forbes has reported that it can cost $5,000 per pound. Oud retailers often sell just a 3-gram bottle for $300 or more. They claim that only a little oil is needed per application and that one bottle should last the average daily user an entire year.

The fragrance is comprised of many diverse aspects. It is simultaneously pungent, yet very pleasing, invoking warm, smoky notes with tinges of dampened wood. Although subtlety blended with touches of floral and fruit, the predominant scent is musky and sensual. The complex and exquisite fragrance of Oud is a precious, rare and intriguing gift of nature that when blended with other essential oils creates an olfactory experience that permeates any interior environment with a sense of opulence, luxury and supreme comfort.

A Brief History of Oud

Historians can trace the use of Oud back to ancient times and incontrovertible evidence lies within the scriptures of various ancient cultures. The Prophet, Muhammad, held the tradition of fumigation with agarwood, which is a practice that continues in the Muslim world to this day. The Holy Prophet referred to agarwood as a distinct item found in Paradise. In Hebrew tradition, The Song of Songs describes Oud as a form of incense, and King Solomon as “coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense.”

Brief History of Oud Essential Oil

Early records in central Vietnam dating back to the third century A.D. mention the extraction of agarwood and the export of Oud to China and Japan where it was burned for centuries as incense. Wealthy Chinese ancients were known to make their coffins out of this resinous heartwood. There is also a strong association with the use of this aromatic substance and the tradition of Fengshui, a discipline of governing the flow of energy in a particular place. 

In Buddhist tradition, the most precious string of beads numbering to 108 is made of agarwood. Historically, the Islamic world valued the precious resin as both an essential oil and a personal perfume. As the use of Oud spread to Europe, the royalty of France, particularly Louis The XIV (The Sun King) who was known for his outrageous indulgences, loved the fragrance so much that he washed his clothes in Oud.

The Use Of Oudh In Modern Perfumery

In today’s world of complex fragrance formulations, Oud has gained considerable interest and popularity. In recent times, some famous designers have launched their own fragrances utilizing this cherished essential oil. Some examples include: Giorgio Armani’s Oud Royale and Tom Ford’s Oud Wood. The rise of boutique hotels back in the 1980s brought about a new and very opulent traveler experience and with it, rare and exotic scents catering to those with luxurious tastes for whom money is no object.

When used in a perfume composition, Oud is most often a base note, which tends to remain on the skin long after the others dissipate. Since they form the perfume’s foundation, base notes are very rich, heavy and long-lasting (up to six hours and more). They serve to enhance the scent of other ingredients; and, in some cases, they impart a fragrance all their own. While most wood notes are known for their earthy qualities, Oud provides a pleasant sweet scent and is often featured in a synthetic version because it is so costly to harvest.

Use Of Oudh In Modern Perfumery

Numerous Benefits and Uses of Oud

This exquisite essential oil has many applications that range from spiritual to therapeutic and medicinal. It is often associated with harmony, serenity of spirit and when applied regularly, the removal of destructive and negative energies in the home. A highly effective aid for meditation, it is also known to enhance mental clarity and ease neurotic and obsessive behavior. 

In the Middle East, both men and women burn Oud wood chips to scent their houses and their clothes. Many Muslims believe that their prayers rise with the scented smoke of agarwood and are carried straight to the Creator.

Alpha Aromatics And Our Use Of Oud

We’re a creator, manufacturer and supplier of custom fragrances for use in scented products and we are in a unique position as both a leader and a pioneer within the perfume industry. Our master perfumers are meticulous in their selection of essential oils, which are always the foundation of any new fragrance. 

At the helm of the perfume industry for decades, our expertise is clearly exemplified every single day in the development of their many unusual fragrances that stimulate the human imagination and pleasure the senses.

Commercial Benefits Of Synthetic Fragrances

Our chemists and researchers work behind the scenes and painstakingly develop new formulations at our 85,000-square-foot Technology Center, which is located a stone’s throw from downtown Pittsburgh. Our facility, which is equipped with the best state-of-the-art tools that money can buy, lies at the heart of our constant state of innovation within the world of industrial science. We specialize in premium perfumes, personal care products, candles and diffusers and fragrances for both private and commercial use.

5 popular Alpha Aromatic fragrances featuring Oud

The following five blended fragrances were created by our teams at Alpha Aromatics and use the exotic power of Oud within each of their base notes.

Olive Blossom Oud

Steeped in biblical history, the olive tree has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years and its blossoms, although they are indeed flowers, have a scent that is barely floral and more earthy and sophisticated. Its top notes of delightful lemon verbena, juicy, mild and zesty tangelo and uplifting pink grapefruit soon surrender to formidable middle notes of green Olive Blossom, musty Cylcamen, metallic, marine Violet Leaf and sweet, creamy Gardenia. The final base note is comprised of warm, smoky Oud, strong, slightly sweet, intoxicating and musky Patchouli and woody, fruity, floral Rosewood. This aromatic composition works well for both men and women.

Tonka Oud Patchouli

Warm, juicy and citrusy Blood Orange coupled with sweet, floral and fruity wild berries hallmark the top notes of this captivating fragrance. These fade away to heart notes comprised of sweet, rich jasmine, bright Lily rose, light, floral and bitter Neroli and romantic, musky Rose. The fragrance finishes with a memorable base note blend of smoky, musky and fruity Oud, intoxicating, dark and earthy Patchouli, warm, resinous Amber and vanilla almond Tonka Bean with oriental tinges of cozy, fruity Cinnamon, bittersweet, soft and earthy Saffron and intimate, spicy Clove.

Tonka Bean In Scented Products

Black Musk And Oud

This attar, which is an essential oil derived from natural sources, represents a melange of a very strong Black Musk, and an equally potent Oud oil. In tandem, they become a fragrance that is woody, and of distinct character. The pungent top notes leave a sweet fresh and flowery scent comprised of sweet, dark, berry-like Cassis, sharp grapefruit-infused, citrusy Pomelo and bitter, tart and mildly spicy Bergamot. They give way to heart notes of delicate, sweetly-scented and powdery Muguet, aka lily-of-the-valley, fleeting Violet and intoxicating, tropical, Night Blooming Jasmine. The fragrance completes with base notes of earthy, woody Musk, pungent, smoky and fruity Oud, dark and sensuous Patchouli and warm, milky and cozy Vanilla.

Damascena Oud

Exquisitely floral in character, this fragrance is built upon top notes of succulent, juicy Mandarin, refreshing lemon-lime and subtly sweet D’Anjou Pear. The middle notes of lemony, fresh, powdery and feminine Rose Damascena, rich intoxicating Jasmine and creamy, sweet Magnolia surrender to base notes of soft, pungent leather, dark, potent Patchouli, warm musky Oud, rich honey-like Amber, and sensual Musk.

Frangipani Oud

Crisp, clean Lemongrass and fresh Citrus Rind form the top notes of this romantic, luscious, mysterious and playful fragrance. Its allure as an aphrodisiac is well known. These initiating notes soon give way to heart notes of floral, banana-nuanced and erotic Ylang Ylang, green, slightly sharp and earthy Vetiver, stringent and medicinal Tea Tree, and sweet, rich Jasmine. Base notes of slightly powdery, creamy and woody Sandalwood, warm and inviting Oud, strong, intoxicating and earthy Patchouli and dry, green Oak Moss with a scent reminiscent of the wet floor of a rain forest finish this complicated and comforting fragrance.

In Conclusion

If you’re a product developer or formulator, senior cosmetic chemist, product development scientist, brand owner or purchaser or an business owner looking to add a fragrance to your product line, contact our teams today and let us make your company signature scent one that is truly unforgettable because of that mysterious and elusive ingredient that world has come to know and love as Oud.


This blog was created with the insight and direction of Alpha Aromatics’ President and CEO, Arnold Zlotnik and our amazing Alpha management and quality control teams. Learn more about our perfume manufacturing center, our mission and our commitment to creating the world’s finest scents while meeting every environmental and quality standard set by RIFM, IFRA, Oregon Tilth, ISSA and the NPA.

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