Agarwood, also called aloeswood (in religious texts), gaharu (in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea), jin-koh (in Japan), Ch’en Hsiang or Ch’en Xiang (in China), Chim-Hyuang (in Korea) and oud (in the Middle East), is a resin produced inside a tropical rain forest tree called Aquilaria. The dark resinous wood has a magnificent aroma when burned. It is considered the finest natural incense and has been used for cultural, religious and medicinal purposes for millennia. Agarwood was traded from Asia to the Middle East in ancient times and its long history of use is cited in the buble and other early religious texts. This rare and exquisite resinous wood, coveted by Kings and royalty, is now available for everyone to enjoy.
On FD 2nd Sniff Party which was held on June 13 at M Lounge M Pacific Place, we educated our nose with oud. Gandrasta, our own fragrance connoisseur, brought 2 small bottles of pure oud oil. The first one is the grade A oil which smells sweet and fruity, almost honey-like while the other one, which comes from a different resin considered to be a lower grade, smells more bitter and medicinal.
Gandrasta also showed us a short video about illegal poaching of agarwood in West Papua and how it affected the community surrounding the area. These practices are considered a blessing and curse for the people. FYI, until recently the only source of agarwood was from old growth trees growing in tropical rain forests of Asia. It takes decades to hundreds of years to form. With less than one tree per hundred producing the resin and no way of knowing which trees have the resinous wood, indiscriminate cutting has resulted in very few old growth Aquilaria trees remaining in the wild. Although protected by law in most countries and by international treaties, illegal poaching still occurs and old growth trees are endangered. Most authentic agarwood on the market is from rare, old trees cut illegally. Conservation groups and international organizations have mounted efforts to inform consumers of the environmental problems associated with buying agarwood products that originate from wild forest grown trees. Many other agarwood incense products offered for sale are fake substitutes containing a blend of other herbaceous materials and do not have the true fragrance of agarwood.
Why does the illegal cutting and trade of agarwood still persists? Because it is considedere the most precious essential oil. Per kilogram of agarwood oil is priced around IDR 250 million. Because of the high price, not many perfumers in US and Europe uses this material. The oil is mainly used in the Arab world where it is in high demand. The largest market for top class incense is Japan with its long tradition in incense making. Both the Arab countries and Japan are interested in high quality agarwood and manufacturers in these countries prefer to process the raw material themselves. This also avoids the mixing of high grade agarwood with wood of lower quality.
There are many information regarding illegal harvesting and trading of agarwood and its future, one interesting article, you can read here.
Anyway, we also had a chance to sniff some oud-based fragrances from 2 famous Arab perfumers : Ajmal and Amouage, courtesy of Solaia. Amouage is a niche brand from Oman which produces some of the most expensive fragrances in the world.I fell in love right away with this brand – from the beautiful bottles, promo pictures, websites and of course the fragrances itself!
The participants of Sniff Party were also lucky enough to witness the debut of Gandrasta’s career as a perfumer. He introduced to us “Muhammad de Muhammad Doni” – a bold & gutsy fragrance consisted of jasmine sambac, orange, oud, sandalwood. With the introduction of this fragrance, Solaia also showed us that she has a knack for still photography. Check out her impromptu shot of the perfume that she did right at the M Lounge of M Pacific! We have so many incredible undiscovered talents on our forum!
The event was closed with the doorprize and FD’s own editor Deszell won the gorgeous Al Rehab Saat Safa courtesy of Gandrasta!
Special thanks to M Pacific Place for allowing us to use their lounge for us to babble nonstop about perfumes.
Photos courtesy of Solaia, Luckyscent.com, http:/forestpathology.cfans.umn.edu/agarwood.htm and Fashionese Daily.