Thanks to all our guinea pig friends who tasted & tested the Agarwood (Oud) Spagyric as it was being developed last year. We’re happy to announce that the first in our series of Agarwoods, the Borneo, is done- click here to find it in our store, or read on for more information about this special substance.
Agarwood trees, genus Aquilaria, grow in many tropical countries of southeast Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Borneo. There are fifteen different types of Agarwood, and eight of these species produce Oud, the incense resin for which they are prized.
This resin is produced by the tree as a protective substance in response to attack by a mold. In older trees, this resin eventually suffuses the grain, turning it dark, shining, and so heavy that very resinous wood no longer floats. The Japanese, who treasure Oud for incense, call it Jin-Koh, which means “sinking incense”, and its Chinese name, Chén-xiang, has the same meaning.
As this resin forms throughout the wood, strange forms take shape and the pieces of wood often get a sculptural quality from the transformation, which can take hundreds of years. To collect the Oud resin, the pieces are boiled or steamed, and then further extraction can be done on the resin that comes out, or it can be used as is in incense, perfume, or medicine.
Oud resin and the oil from it are some of the most precious materials in the world. Between the scarcity of the tree, the extreme rarity of the synergy between the tree and the fungus, and the labor-intensive procedures needed to process it, the market is already strained. Add to that fanatical devotion to this amazing scent in Oriental and Arabic cultures and it is no wonder that the finest Oud oil can go for $60,000 a kilo!
Oud is also one of the most variable materials we have worked with, which makes it frustratingly hard to know true from fake, but also makes it a fascinating study in the variability than can come from ecosystem diversity.
So, what is Oud like, as a scent and a Spagyric? The scent varies quite a bit, but is always woody, balsamic, and earthy, with variations on the balance between those elements. Some Ouds are very earthy, like the Assam which has a barnyard quality, while the Malay has a wet earth quality, like after a rain, and the Chinese smells of tea. The Borneo reminded us of the sweet smell of fruitwood smoke.
Our Borneo Agarwood Alchymical Initiatic was made from the beautiful horn-shaped piece at left. It carries one of the most important energetic qualities for which Oud is revered: bringing deep, meditative states of calm with uplifted energy and an all-encompassing feeling of sacredness. It creates a level of peace and clarity that feels like the results of an hour of meditation, a light, connected feeling that moves throughout the body and adjusts all of the being.
We are very happy with our experiments with Agarwood so far, and are working on several more varieties which all have different, but equally amazing, character so far. We look forward to sharing them all with you, and hearing what you think of them.
If you’re interested in reading more about Oud and Agarwood, here are some good resources:
Click here for an interesting article discussing the differences in just six of the Agarwoods used in Japan.
White Lotus Aromatics offers beautiful essential oils, and although they don’t have Oud right now, there is a fascinating series of articles on their Agarwood quests, indexed on their newsletter archives page.
Oudimentary is a blog run by another Micah, the Oud importer and aficionado Micah Anderson. Their wood is excellent, and their writings show their devotion to the sacred aspects of the tree.