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April 17, 2021 7 min read

What are you missing out on using lab-made Oud?

Disclaimer: My family are agarwood farmers, and I am about to show you some good uses of agarwood -which lab-made Oud does not have. As such, you may feel this article contained biased opinion.

A story of a soap maker

A week ago, a soap maker asked me what agarwood oil he should use to make his soap.

I asked him how much his customers were willing to pay.

He told me no more than $7 USD per 120g bar soap.

The answer is clear: lab-made  Oud (synthetic)

Although my family are distilling agarwood oil (oud), I do not recommend oud oil to him. In this case,supplying oud essential oil will be a disservice.

Here is why

First, let’s define  what lab-made Oud is 

Lab-made Oud is synthetic Oud produced in laboratories. It replicates the natural accords without the lengthy time and laborious effort required to obtain agarwood oil. Lab-made Oud is derived from  the below

  1. 100% Petroleum by-products
  2. Compatible Oud: a formula that contains essential oil and petroleum by-products. It is a mixture of synthetic, artificially modified notes and other natural products.

The cost of lab-made may vary between $1200 USD to $2500 USD per kg. The genuine one is around $12000 to $20,000 USD per kg - 10 times more than the lab-made one. 

If the customers of the soap makers know the value of Oud ( Agarwood) Oil, the majority will not buy his $7 USD bar-soap. Besides, if he uses genuine oud essential oil, his cost will be around $4 USD per 120 soap bar (packaging + 3% blended oud and other essential oils). He is not making money if he has other expenses (rent + labour + other overheads).

Almost everybody knows diamond, and most expect diamond rings would have a high price tag. It is easier to sell a $1000 diamond ring than a $20 one.

So back to the bar-soap, if it is $7 USD for 100g. The soap maker would have a hard time convincing his customers to buy his soap, especially those who know the value of oud oil.

That is why I recommended that he use synthetic or lab-made oud to “flavour” his soap instead.

I have tried many lab-made synthetic Oud soaps, shower gel, hand wash and they are great.

Lab-made Oud is a great invention, and here are the reasons why perfumers and fragrance manufacturers are using lab-made Oud.

Lab-made Oud is superior in performance.

I do not know precisely what is inside these lab-made (synthetic) oud formulas. But the manufacturers claimed that they are suitable for making perfume, soap, shampoo, and shower gel, and the scent lasts for months on the products.

Here are my questions: 

  • How strong is the aroma of a botanical perfume when you spray it on your wrist?
  • How strong is the aroma of the same perfume now after you wash your wrist with soap or a body wash?

I tried it and usually came to the same conclusion. The scent of the botanical perfumes (i tried many different ones) is far less intense after I wash them with my soap. You see, the perfume I try contains 15% to 20% essential oils and the soap I am using can wash them away. Imagine you put essential oils to scent your soap; how long would that last? It could be 2 months after the opening with essential oils scented soap because essential oils will be oxidised when exposed to air.

But if the soap is scented with synthetic fragrances, it would last a lifetime of soap at a much lower cost (they will be oxidised too, but usually it takes longer).

Stable of supply

The quality of lab-made (synthetic) Oud is almost identical for every batch, while natural Oud oil could be slightly different per batch. (essential oil or co2 extract oil)

Large manufacturers who mass produce their soaps in hundreds of kg per batch will likely choose synthetic fragrance ( synthetic oud included) because they want consistency. Their customers are large and regular. Imagine how many complaints would these manufacturers have if the fragrance is different from time to time?


Synthetic oud is often synthesised in a lab. I bought a few of them to experiment and to see how it performs. Besides, I even did some patch tests oud these synthetic oud oils.  There was no adverse reaction on my skin.

Through some personal connections, I discovered that these synthetic oud oils are widely used. For example, bodywash with oud and other aromas. I bought two bottles, and they are great. I like the scent, and they work well on my skin.  

The body-wash manufacturers said they complied with the IFRA’s requirement, so generally, it is safe to use.


If lab-made oud is so great, then why should people use planted agarwood -oud oil?

Apart from being cost-effective, chemists invent synthetic Oud fragrance because getting wild oud costs the earth. Due to high demand, hunting wild Aquilaria trees has caused deforestation. Making synthetic oud will save the environment. 

However, what if people can get oud oils (via hydrodistillation or Co2 extraction), without damaging the environment? Would consumers be interested in using them?

They would.

With advances in technology, there are many agarwood plantations in Asia. Oud oils distilled from these plantations help the local economy and provide invaluable to the aromatherapy and perfume industries. 

Sustainable agarwood oil distillers distill their oud oils from cultivated agarwood - or agarwood from the plantation.

The oud oils are made up from the resin and wood. And the properties of resin and wood are what lab-made (synthetic) Oud does not have.

Differences in aroma

Oud Essential oils have a complex aroma that changes over time. In addition, if isolated and distilled in each part of the tree, the oils smells slightly different from each part. Different regions, different species, different soil, different climate, different ways of distillation, different skills of the distillers will provide other scent profiles of oud. In terms of sustainable cultivated agarwood oil, we have around ten different aromas of agarwood oil. There are hundreds of small agarwood plantations along with South East Asia. Oud oils from these regions smell different too. Synthetic oud has limited options compared to oud essential oils.

The benefit of agarwood oils:

Agarwood oil is rich in sesquiterpene compounds, Sesquiterpenoids, which haveanti-inflammatory activity. 

Sesquiterpenoids, and specifically sesquiterpene lactones from Asteraceae, may play a highly significant role in human health, both as part of a balanced diet and as pharmaceutical agents, due to their potential for the treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancer (Chadwick et al 2013)

2-(2-phenylethyl)-chromones found in agarwood oil  exhibited promising neuroprotective, cytotoxic, acetylcholinesterase inhibitory, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities (Ibrahim and Mohamed 2015)

Sesquiterpene β-Caryophyllene from the Essential Oil of Aquilaria Crassna (agarwood oil) has Anticancer, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties (Dahham et al 2015)

Many spas and therapeutic massage parlours diffuse essential wood oils (including oud oil) because they have a relaxing effect on the nervous system and its benefit.

You see, these service providers are not diffusing synthetic fragrances (synthetic Oud included) because they do not have the same healing benefits.

Essential agarwood oil is valuable, some people may find it is costly. And if you are using them, I would like to show you a saving trick.

How to get more Oud oil in a used-up oud bottle

Many of agarwood lovers owned many 3g of pure Oud in bottles. Some heavy users even have 100g of aluminum containers

.When they used up all their Oud oils, many of them disposed of the bottle because they believe there are no further uses. 

If you also do the same, I would like to show you how to get more Oud left in the used-up bottle.

The older an Oud oil is, the more viscous (thicker body)  it becomes. Over months, oud oils stick on the wall of your containers and dry. 

When you throw away your oud containers, you are throwing away money because there is more oud left than you think.

Oud oils dissolve in alcohol. You can now save them using Ethanol- a perfumer’s alcohol (do not use methanol because it is poisonous) . Here is how

  1. Get your used-up bottle of Oud.
  2. Pour ethanol to your used-up bottle until it reaches half of the volume roughly. You can use your eyes to estimate as there is no need to be 100% accurate.
  3. Close the cap of the bottle tightly and give it a good shake
  4. Watch the colour changed (ethanol is transparent, and oud oil is goldish to brownish)

Done? Congratulations !

You have just created an Oud hand sanitiser that has real oud essential oil.

It kills the bacteria, and it smells great.

If you are creative and know what you are doing, you can add a few drops of different essential oils to create your oud perfume.

When you finished your luxurious Oud perfume or hand sanitiser, give your attar bottle a rinse with Ethanol and water, and you can reuse your bottle with something else. Next, let's discuss the spiritual value of agarwood that synthetic Oud does not have.


In some mosques, people have been heating agarwood chips and using essential oud oil on their praying carpet for many decades. 

In the earliest times, anointing oil was used as spiritual healing. It is a ritual act to pour aromatic oil over a person’s head. There was no synthetic formula back then, and until today, people prefer their anointing oil made with botanical ingredients.

Can people replace essential Oud oils with synthetic Oud?

Maybe, but the feelings will not be the same. 

You see, people take religious ritual seriously. Imagine how they feel when offering synthetic Oud to God when praying?.

My final thoughts

It is excellent to use synthetic oud to make perfume. Synthetic Oud is also a cost-effective solution for perfumers who want some Oud scent in their perfumes. It is safe and aromatic. And it does what it is supposed to do: adding Oud scent to a fragrance at a great price.

However, if you want more than the aroma from Oud, get essential Oud oil and feel the differences yourself.

Want to try our essential oud oil? Click here



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