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November 13, 2021 3 min read

How to choose the agarwood oils that you like

There are hundred of Agarwood oils on the market. Some of them we could not have a chance to experience because they are so rare.

At Grandawood, we have around 9 sustainable agarwood oils but for the purpose of simplicity I will do a brief introduction of 6 popular ones. I have summarised them in an interactive graph (move your mouse over to experience) 



Disclaimer: The above graph is a general guideline only.  The actual may vary as these are natural products that are slightly different from each batch of distillation. 

The duration of this change is around 2.5 hours on my skin. After that, the intensity of other notes subside while  the woody notes remain for many hours later. If you apply an agarwood oil on a piece of cotton, it would last for many days or weeks not hours. 

Please also note if you store your agarwood oil in a cool dark place with limited air exposure, your agarwood oil will become viscous, and the woody notes will be much smoother; your barnyard, leathery, spicy and peppery will be less noticeable. The reason: as time goes, the volatile scent molecules will "escape" in the air, get oxidised. In contrast, woody notes generally are stable so it will last. If you smell aged oud oil, this could be the only notes that you could detect. However, the woody notes are from different molecules. You will feel different notes of woodiness. 

Purpose of this graph: The change in aroma of Agarwood oil over time

To give a general idea about the aroma of agarwood oil when they have not tried oud oil before

I only mention 8 main notes in these 6 agarwood oils. The actual notes are much more than this.

Let me explain

Woody notes: Pinewood smells woody. Cypress smells woody, too, even though these two are different woody aromas. To identify the difference, we can say “pinewood smell” or “cypress smell” because Pine and Cypress are different species.

There are more than 200 scent molecules of agarwood oils. Out of these 200 molecules, there are more than 20 that has a description of woody. It means there are 20 different woody scents. It is difficult to represent them in words. Therefore anything that smells like wood, I will group them under “woody nutty”.

But what if the woody smell comes from the same species and smells differently? For example, cedarwood from plantation A vs cedarwood from plantation B. You may say, well, ok, let’s call it plantation A cedarwood and plantation B cedarwood. The problem is, what if you have not tried any of these cedarwoods from these plantations before? How do you describe, so everybody understands?

That is a challenge that we are facing right now. 

So to make it easier for you to have an idea of how it smells, I will choose 8 main notes with some basic descriptions that most of us know.

Out of these 8 notes, there should more than one that you like. Most people enjoy the "mellow balsam vanillic note" and "Woody, nutty". 

  1. Barnyard: Imagine you are on a farm. You will find this smell: peat, cattle manure, animalic, or fermented smell. While somebody hates this note, many people crave it. Please note there are different types of barnyard smells too. You probably have heard someone say: “my sh!t is better than yours”.  In this case, it illustrates one point, the same barnyard; one is better than the others.
  2. Leathery: the smell of a genuine leather bag. When you smell a leather jacket, or leather bag or leather seat of a new car, you get a good idea. 
  3. Herbaceous: dried grass, herbs. There are many different herbs. But if you have been in a Tradition Chinese Medicine clinic or store, you will get a good idea of this smell.
  4. Spicy, Peppery: the smell of black pepper is quite close to describing this scent
  5. Mellow, Balsam, Vanillic: sweet pleasant: In general, most people find this note pleasant
  6. Green grassy: freshness, smell like grass clippings when you mow your lawn
  7. Sweet, Honey floral: sweet smell: the smell of honey, flower. Very bright and pleasant
  8. Woody, nutty: the main notes of agarwood oil. These notes are the base notes of agarwood oil. And the woodiness of one oud oil is different from others.


The below list is not conclusive, as time go on, researchers discover more scent molecules in agarwood. However give should gives you the aroma complexity Agarwood oil

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