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 a 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 of 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 to him.
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
100% Petroleum by-products
Compatible Oud: a formula that contains essential oil and petroleum by-products. It combines 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 difficulty 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, and hand wash. They are great.
Source: self-taken Grandawood
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 using 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. Genuine Oud oil cannot have the exact same scent profile every time
Synthetic oud is often synthesised in a lab. I bought a few to experiment with and see how it performs. Besides, I even did some patch tests oud these synthetic oud oils. There was no adverse reaction to my skin.
Through some personal connections, I discovered that these synthetic oud oils are widely used. For example, body washes 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, Generally, it is safe to use.
If lab-made oud is so great, then why should people use planted agarwood -oud oil?
Besides being cost-effective, chemists invent synthetic Oud fragrances 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?
With advances in technology, there are many agarwood plantations in Asia. Oud oils distilled from these plantations help the local economy and are invaluable to the aromatherapy and perfume industries.
Sustainable agarwood oil distillers distil their oud oils from cultivated agarwood - or agarwood from the plantation.
The oud oils are made up of resin and wood. And the properties of resin and wood are what lab-made (synthetic) Oud does not have.
What is Oud?
Oud, also known as agarwood, is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria trees (some people call it Agarwood tree or agar tree) when they become infected with pathogenic fungi. The tree produces a defence mechanism against the fungi, which forms this dark and fragrant wood. In the natural world, this is very rare to encounter oud wood (wood that has Agarwood). Hunters only find oud wood one in a hundred Aquilaria trees (agar trees).
Wild Agarwood Nha Trang
Source self taken Grandawood
We will have pure oud oil to Pulverise this oud wood as raw material and place it in a hydro distillation system.
Wild Agarwood oil distilled from Wild Agarwood
Cultivated Agarwood oil - Evergreen- distilled from cultivated Agarwood
Differences in aroma between natural Oud and Synthetic Oud
Pure Oud Oil is an essential oil with a complex aroma that changes over time. In addition, if isolated and distilled in each part of the tree, the oils smell slightly different from each part. Different regions, different species, different soil, different climate, different ways of distillation, and different skills of the distillers will provide other scent profiles of oud. Regarding sustainable cultivated agarwood oil, we have around ten different aromas of agarwood oil. There are hundreds of small agarwood plantations with million trees grow in Southeast Asia. Oud oils from these regions smell different too. Synthetic oud has limited options compared to oud essential oils.
Synthetic Oud has a consistent olfactory profile because the manufacturer wants to make it this way. That is the main advantage but also the disadvantage. You may get bored quickly.
Perfume composition: differences in Synthetic Oud perfume and Hydro-disilled Agarwood perfume
Synthetic Oud perfumes are produced commercially while Natural Agarwood Perfumes are crafted in as smaller scale.
The sweet woody notes of the oil distilled from resin is very different from the one in the lab.
Both lab-made oud and natural oud oil could be used to make male, female and unisex fragrances.
Blend with musk, and sandalwood you will get a masculine scent
Blend with rose, jasmine, labdanum absolute and other floral notes, you will get a personal perfume for ladies.
An intense aroma Oud Spirit: Glory of the Pain:
a spicy sweet woody fragrance a perfect harmony blends of oud distilled from older trees, sandalwood, citrus, floral
The benefit of agarwood oils:
Agarwood oil is rich in sesquiterpene compounds, Sesquiterpenoids, which have anti-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)
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 relax 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.
Imagine you are a customer, would you like to get essential oil massage or synthetic oil massage?
Essential agarwood oil is valuable, some people may find it 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 agarwood lovers owned many 3g of pure Oud in bottles. Some heavy users even have 100g of aluminium containers.
When they used up all their Oud oils, many of them disposed of the bottle because they believed there were 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
Get your used-up bottle of Oud.
Pour ethanol into your used-up bottle until it roughly reaches half of the volume. You can use your eyes to estimate as there is no need to be 100% accurate.
Close the cap of the bottle tightly and give it a good shake
Watch the colour change (ethanol is transparent, and oud oil is goldish to brownish)
You have just created an Oud hand sanitiser with 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 finish 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.
People have been heating agarwood wood chips in some mosques. They have also been using essential oud oil on their praying carpets for many decades.
In the earliest times, anointing oil was used for 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 in oud fragrances?
Maybe, but the feelings will not be the same.
You see, when people use natural products, they feel like they connect with nature. It is the same with Oud oil. By using authentic agarwood oil, you are spiritually connecting with the tree.
When a perfume has botanical ingredients, it also has the energy of that plant. This is why we feel calmer when we smell lavender or jasmine.
On the other hand, when we use synthetic products, we are not connecting with anything real. The energy is not there. The feeling is not the same.
This is why many people feel Oud oils have a calming and spiritual effect on them. It is because they connect with the energy of the agarwood tree when they use it.
You see, people take religious rituals (religious ceremonies) seriously. Imagine how they feel when offering synthetic Oud .to God when praying.
Diffuse Agarwood essential oil is beneficial.
The same goes for diffusing agarwood oil in your home. The benefits are there because the oil is from a real plant. When you diffuse synthetic Oud, you are not getting the benefits of the tree.
So, what are the benefits of diffusing agarwood oil?
Agarwood oil has a calming effect on the mind and body. It helps to reduce anxiety and stress.
The oil is also an excellent mood booster. It has a positive effect on our emotions and can help to lift our spirits.
Agarwood oil is also said to help promote restful sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping, diffusing agarwood oil in your bedroom may help you to sleep better.
Agarwood oil is one of the most expensive oil, and that is the reason people love it.
Some people like to buy expensive things because they feel it is a status symbol. It shows that they are successful and have the means to afford luxury items.
Others believe that buying expensive things is a way to treat themselves. They deserve to splurge on something special now and then, and they see buying an expensive item as a way to do that.
Still, others believe that you get what you pay for. They would rather buy an expensive, well-made item that will last a long time than a cheaper item that will need to be replaced soon. Oud oil is very special; the longer you leave it, as long as you store it in a cool dark place, it improves with age. Yes, it may sound expensive, but what you buy today smells better in 6 months. How good is that?
Agarwood oil (known as liquid gold) is one of the expensive perfume ingredients. Perfume makes form it is called oud perfume.
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 of Oud, get essential Oud oil and feel the differences yourself.