The powerful and captivating sustainably sourced Oudh is at the heart of our new parfum, Moudh. Its scent takes you on a journey deep into the purest of jungles, blanketed with ageing woody ground cover and laced with Parma violets and fresh citrus. MELIS Moudh leaves you mesmerised wanting more as it allures you, and those in your surrounds to its charm and soul stirring power. If you’re new to Oudh, this blog will help you understand where Oudh comes from, why it’s so rare and how it’s produced along with the differences between wild artisanal Oudh, plantation natural and synthetic Oudh.
What is Oudh and why is it one of the most expensive ingredients in the world ?
Oudh comes from a highly fragrant resin, called Agarwood, found within the wild ‘Aquilaria’ tree native to the rainforests of South East Asia and India. It is also known as Aloeswood, Eaglewood, Kyara, Ood, or Ud, depending on the wood’s grade and country of origin. Cambodia, India and Thailand are perhaps the most well-known sources, although agarwood also grows in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, China,
Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
As an oil and wood, it has been popular in the Middle East for centuries and is highly sought-after for its divine fragrance. Its use for perfumery goes back several thousand years, and is referenced, for example, in the Old Testament several times using the term ‘aloes’. It is known as “The Wood of the Gods” used as a consecrated item for worshipping, in sacred oil blends and for ceremonial anointings. Due to its rarity, high demand, and the difficulty of harvesting it, oudh oil is one of the world’s rarest and most expensive commodities – kilo for kilo more costly than gold. Leading perfumers and investors have recently been beguiled by Agarwood’s unique scent resulting in diminishing supply as consumer demand grows and the tree from which it is sourced becomes increasingly endangered.
How is Oudh oil produced?
In order for the resin within the Aquilaria tree to form, the tree needs to have been infected by a parasitic fungus called Phialophora parasitic. In the wild, damage to the tree by external forces, such as animal, insect or weather impacts, sporadically results in the growth of this fungal infection. The tree’s defence is to produce a stress-induced aromatic resin, which is dark and moist. After several years of constant defence, the resin spreads and transforms the wood, from white to dark brown striped wood known as Agarwood. In nature, only one in a hundred Aquilaria trees may have Agarwood.
The manual process for removing the resinous Agarwood and distilling it into Oudh oil is an artisanal skill and requires chiselling and scraping the resinous wood from the surrounding white, non infected odourless wood.
Further, there are over 150 compounds within agarwood that all create a distinct smell. The artisan is tasked with separating different pieces of wood which will result in various essences of the pure oudh oil. Two distillation techniques are common – forced steam distillation and hydro-distillation. These methods and the skill of the artisan distiller, using the right combination of equipment, temperature and water to elicit nuanced fragrances, leave their distinct scent on the final oudh oil and can influence the Oudh’s final price.
Once the oudh has gone through the distillation process, it is kept in open sunlight to evaporate any excess moisture, ensuring its purity.
Oudh’s complex and exquisite fragrance is a precious, rare and intriguing gift of nature that creates an olfactory experience which has been described as soul stirring, luminous and unforgettable.
Oudh in perfumery – synthetic, artisanal wild and natural plantation Oudh
To meet the needs of mass production, large perfume ingredient manufacturers produce synthetic oudh aromas which only portray a single profile from the range exhibited by natural oudh, These synthetic products are sold as ‘oud, aoud parfum, oudh eau de toilette’ but in fact rarely contain any actual agarwood oil,
Synthetic oudh often exhibits cedarwood-like and leathery notes with some resembling fecal fermented profiles. Half a litre of these aroma chemicals can be readily purchased for little over USD $500, about $1 per gram compared to artisanal natural oudh valued at more than USD $1,700 per gram.
Given the huge industry, agarwood is also now widely cultivated in plantations covering hectares of South-East Asia, however, the olfactory profiles produced from the plantations commercially are a faint echo of the great history of wild oudh.
For boutique natural perfumers like MELIS, natural plantation oudh is a more approachable, reliable and sustainable option. The material available from the these plantations provides a very high quality authentic scent of oudh and its aromatic characteristics . It makes pure oudh oil accessible for curation into our artisanal scents, satisfying our love and appreciation of the art of perfumery.
The scent of Oudh
Oudh descriptions can range from a deep woody smell rich in nuances, ranging from sweet undertones to earthy, smoky, honeyed, vanillic, spicy, herbaceous, amber, camphorous, creamy, light floral and sweet. Notes of leather, pepper and tobacco or sensual animalic notes resembling musk/castoreum can also be described.
Commercially, broad categories of scent are assigned to the regional variations – generally oudh from India is animalic, Cambodia fruity, and Thai oudhs sweet.
What we know to be true of Oudh, like all natural ingredients, is that Oudh will reveal its true self to its wearer as the wearer’s own consciousness and awareness of its senses expands. It can be a true love affair with the self and nature when you are in the space to allow the unfolding and acceptance of the majestic beauty of Oudh.
MELIS’s selection of Oudh
The development of the MELIS Moudh took several years and a significant investment to benchmark leading Oudh parfums and trial various selections from multiple suppliers from various countries, including Cambodia, Thailand, India and Vietnam.
This research enabled us to understand the diversity and breadth of Oudh’s allure and which Oudh would best enhance our final Moudh scent.
The final selection was based not only on its scent, but its sustainability, traceability and accessibility for future releases. It is sourced from a reputable forest in Vietnam where the trees are sustainably harvested and periodically replanted. The trees are inoculated by hand when they reach 10 years of age; after the infection has been allowed to propagate for 2 – 5 years, the trees are manually harvested for distillation.
We have on hand the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna And Flora ) certification that notes this product was legally imported and cleared.
New release MELIS Moudh (mood)
Our highly anticipated new release Moudh was inspired by our debut Motus No 4 scent. New Oudh and violet accords were developed to create our new release Moudh (or Moudh No 4).
The Oudh selected for Moudh is warm, soft and friendly with the least amount of barnyard notes, yet is divinely complex and long lasting with multiple layers of wood notes and an opening spice.
It provides hypnotising notes of sweet warm leather and mild smoked tea that melds with the scent’s uplifting evergreen Fir Needle, mild black pepper spice and fresh violets providing a nuanced, and sophisticated fragrance. If you appreciate Oudh then you will be mesmerised by Moudh wanting more as it allures you, and those in your surrounds to its charm and soul stirring ability.
Top Notes: Grapefruit citrus and Black Pepper spice
Heart: Warm leather Oudh and Violets
Base Notes: Amber and nuanced Woods
Moudh’s full aromatic ingredient list includes Grapefruit, Black Pepper, Labdanum, Cedarwood, Rosemary, Fir Needle, Agarwood/Oudh, Orris and Ionone Alpha Natural Isolate (EU Standards)
Click here to purchase or review our MELIS Moudh
Want to learn more about Oudh?
- “Perfumery material: Oud/Aloeswood/Agarwood & Synthetic Substitutes,” Elena Vosnaki in Perfume Shrine, December 2009
- “Featured Documentary – Scent From Heaven (about oud),” video production by Al Jezeera English, Grasse Institute of Perfumery, March 2016
- The 6 Most Expensive Perfume Ingredients in the World, Julyne Derrick for Byrdie.com May 2022