The Science behind the Scent

Nothing is more fascinating to the Oud-lover that the extraordinary mystery and intrigue behind the scent of Oud. Oud oils have the unique ability to evolve or “mature” with age. Just like wine, a bottle of a relatively young Oud essence now may smell even nicer in two, three years or even months down the road! As for the development of the scent upon application, the Oud scent can have different timelines of maturity - some may evolve over a short period of time while others take longer. For a swift-developing Oud oil, users may be able to detect a change in the scent notes from first application to just minutes or an hour or more later. The initial scent whiffed from the opening of the Oud bottle can be generally termed as the “opening note”, and thereafter, as the oil oxidises and develops, comes the “middle note” and the “end note” or "dry down". And this is the development on the immediate range. Where the whole scent profile of the Oud is concerned, Oud's unique attribute makes it such that the Oud that you smell today may have a markedly different smell and scent notes if you were to have a whiff of it a few years later. This interesting nature of the scent of the Oud coupled with its highly prized value have led many to regard Oud as a great investment item.

So where do Oud Oils get their distinct aroma?

Oud Oils owe their distinct aromatic scent to naturally-occurring organic compounds called terpenes and terpenoids.

Chemical composition of Oud Oils

A terpene is an organic compound which is widely produced by a variety of plants. These terpenes can be found in the essential oils and resins of plants as well as in the scent glands of flowers, and often are characterised by their strong smell and aromatic qualities.

Chemically, a terpene is an unsaturated hydorocarbon which consists of a combination of isoprene units (C5H8) and have the general formula (C5H8)n. Simple terpenes can be modified chemically through the natural process of oxidisation (reaction with oxygen in the air) to produce more complex compounds known as terpenoids. These natural terpenes and terpenoids are the major constituents of the essential oils of many plants and flowers.

Terpenes are structurally diverse and may take on different molecular structures despite having similar chemical formulae. Subtle variations in the basic terpene molecular structure have resulted in tens of thousands of unique terpene profiles present in our natural environment, each possessing its own unique chemical and aromatic qualities. Some plants may possess a particular terpene profile which gives the plant its distinct flavour. Other plants, on the other hand, may possess an endless variety and combination of terpene profiles, resulting in these plants having a wide diversity of possible aromas and flavours.

Why are Oud Oils so diverse in aroma?

Precisely because of their chemical composition (above). Different terpene profiles can be found even within the same species of agarwood tree. The type of terpene known as sesquiterpenes is an active compound in agarwood. The possible sequisterpene chemical structures of each extracted agarwood essential oil are endless and coupled with the various rates of oxidation, would result in an even wider diversity of Oud scent profiles.

Factors which may affect a particular Oud Oil’s chemical composition and scent profile includes the age and quality of the agarwood tree’s fungal infection, the age, species, environmental conditions and geographical location of the agarwood tree, the age of the extracted oil and the amount of its exposure to air and sunlight (this affects oxidisation), the type of distillation used and the purity of the oil (blended v. pure, diluted v. undiluted).

Terpenes and terpenoids are known to contribute to the scent of eucalyptus, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, ginger, and menthol, among others, which are just some of the scent notes typically found in Oud.

We welcome you to begin this ancient olfactory journey of yours with Sultanul Oud premium range of woods and oil and discover the diverse aroma of Oud.

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