What is Oud & What Does it Smell Like?

One of the most expensive raw scents in the world, this precious mold-infected wood is often referred to as "liquid gold." Highly coveted, this precious oil comes from the wood of the Southeast Asian Agar tree. Oud or Oudh in Arabic, translates to "the fat of the wood."

What Is Oud?

One of 15 different species, the Agar tree, also known as Aquilaria, grows around much of Southeast Asia. When the tree becomes infected with a specific parasitic mold (Phialophora parasitica), the tree reacts by producing this luxurious musky-scented resin. This fragrant resin secretes as a product of the Agar tree's defense mechanism designed to protect itself when wounded. This stress-induced aroma is created after years of saturating the naturally pale yellow bark transforms into a rich red. To get to the pure oil of oud it is extracted through distillation or by melting the resin. 

Demand for Oud Oil

Oud gets its name "liquid gold" due to its rarity, high demand, and the difficulty of harvesting it. This rare phenomenon occurs in only 2% of Agar trees, creating not only a limited supply of oil but depletion of the trees as well.  

The annual oud market is estimated to be around $6 billion to $8 billion, and its value is often estimated as one-and-a-half times the value of gold. (1) The enormous demand created by this limited supply results in prices that are higher per ounce than gold. Forbes reported that it can cost up to $5,000 per pound. (2) The quality of this wood determines its price as naturally occurring oud is more expensive than that produced by an artificially induced Agar. A black market for poaching has emerged in places like Hong Kong, (which translates to Fragrant Harbour after these Incense trees). Poachers will stimulate the production of Oud oil by chopping into the tree’s base or drilling into its trunk to trigger the Agar's defense mechanism. 

What is oud, its scent, and its history. Six fast facts about oudh fragrance

What Does Oud Smell Like?

A scent as mysterious as it is coveted, the smell of oud is described differently by each wearer. The complexities of creating this oil are showcased through its everchanging aroma for those lucky enough to try. Sensual, smoky, sweet, and slightly sour for some, this mysterious scent is as unique as it is expensive. In its unadulterated form, the aroma raw oud will change depending on its origin. Variations and nuances in the scent can change based on "the climates the trees were grown in, the age of the trees, the distillation and aging techniques" according to Agar Aura, a leading Oud supplier. (3)

As a deep and long-lasting note, Oud is commonly used as a base note for a complex composition as it stays on the skin or in the air long after the top and heart notes. This alluring Agar tree oil gives fragrance warmth and depth, creating aphrodisiac-like qualities. 

Our Montauk candle uses oud oil as a base in combination with tonka bean and balsam at its heart and amaretto and powder for an initial tantalizing top note. Our oud base mixes marvelously with both light and dark musk and rum to create a smooth, sensual scent that is sexy yet masculine. Montauk reminisces of moments spent in Suffolk county amongst the woods that line the seacoast.


(1) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2019.00840/full
(2) https://time.com/4288304/hong-kong-environment-incense-tree-poaching-agarwood-china/
(3) https://agaraura.com/oud-info.html#4

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