• Know your Oud Mar 13, 2013

    Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Oud world and the fuss created by certain people who barely have had a decade of experience in the Oud business, dissing the traditionalist Oud companies of the East and giving out Oud misinformation to the lesser informed fine consumers of the West, we thought a line has to be drawn, quickly, before this ancient knowledge is polluted and tainted. It is the intention of this blog to frankly educate consumers regarding Oud.

    There are a few things you should consider when buying Oud, especially Oud woods and chips. A couple of important questions you should ask before purchasing are the following:

    Cosmetically altered Oud to 'enhance' its grade. Very light in weight but unnaturally glazed in appearance

    1) Is the Oud wild or cultivated (farm Oud)?

    2) Is it treated superficially to enhance its grade?

    Many of the Oud that is readily available nowadays in retail stores, especially in the Middle East and elsewhere, claim to have stock of only the best and quality Oud wood for their consumers. But a visit to these stores by experienced Oud veterans would uncover the true nature of these products. 

    Retailers have the tendency to glaze their Oud in order to enhance its grade. This is due to the simple fact that it is not practical to provide wild premium grade Oud to meet high general consumer demands. The wild premium grade Oud wood, being touted as 'rare' and costly as it is currently, is sold only to VIP customers and is seldom stocked in normal retail shops.

    We had a chance to visit one Middle Eastern top fragrance company, based in Riyadh. The usual Oud woods they had on display in their Oud vaults in the stores are exactly like the picture you see here, glazed and glossy. A feel of them would quickly tell you these are either farmed Oud or entry level grade due to their light weight. These Oud also exhibit an artificially strong aroma, like those from Oud oils, due to being smeared with lower grade diluted Oud oil to enhance their scent. From experience, we know that wild Oud does not exhibit a very glazed appearance. Quality wild Oud that exhibits scent has a distinct wood scent profile that differs from agarwood or aloeswood essential oils.

    A further request by us to see their higher grade Oud was met with the manager opening up for us a hidden vault, behind what seemed like a cabinet near their sales counter. We were told that these are the most high end Oud they have in stock currently. We were surprised to see the most premium Oud they have in stock are what our industry calls the 'kacang' grade. Small strips, broken pieces of medium to low grade Oud. These can be sourced very cheaply if they happen to get it from an agarwood plantation source. The difference in quality will only be apparent to you once you start the fumigation. 

    This, however, is not a true reflection of the general quality of this Middle Eastern company's Oud products. We understand that, as one of the business methodologies of this particular company is to expand through franchising, a new store therefore generally will not carry high end products until after a few months of being in operation. 

    Though big perfumery companies may not stock excellent grade Oud in some of their new stores, this does not mean that these companies do not have premium Oud. We have noticed amateurs in the Oud world who like to think highly of themselves and their products, dismissing the authenticity and integrity of the bigwigs of Arabian perfumery companies. To cite that these big players of oriental perfumery which have decades of heritage and tradition do not have excellent or authentic grade Oud, or that all or most of their Oud oils are synthetics, are complete baseless remarks. We have first hand accounts of witnessing the procurement head of big companies like Abdul Samad Al Qureshi and Arabian Oud buying not kilos, but tonnes of wild Oud of all grades from a source whom we have affiliation with, all in one go.

    The bulk of these great Oud, of course, would go to their high end customers including the Royalties, and the general Oud layman who patronises their store once in a while for Oud, could possibly still be kept in the dark of what exactly are the scent notes of excellent Oud and the bliss they carry.

    Oud is indeed part of the culture of the Middle East, but smart buyers would know that this ancient jewel of the forest does not originate from there, unlike the Frankincense. They would know where to get premium grade Oud that gives them the full measure of the price they are paying. Sultanul Oud, being stategically located at the nerve center of the Agarwood producing region, promises quality, authentic agarwood for all levels of Oud lovers. 

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