or agarwood is a very rare natural fragrance that is diminishing
rapidly from forests that once used to have abudant agarwood trees, and
their rarity has driven people to come up with various cheating
Cheating is found at all
wood supplier, the distiller, the wholesaler, and the retailer. We will
go over some of the common techniques below.
Practiced with Oud Oils
oils from different origins
It is common practice to
from less popular regions to oils from regions that are highly sought
after, like India or Cambodia. The resulting oil is then sold as
'Indian oud' or 'Cambodian oud' to the uninformed buyer.
oils of different qualities
A higher quality agarwood
also be mixed with a lower quality oil to decrease the total cost, and
will then be sold as as high quality oil.
oils with adulterants
This is the most common
cheating techniques, and occurs in 99% of cases. Extremely
foul-smelling low grade oud oils are spiked and tamed with essential
oils like vetiver or fennel oil. The use of synthetic perfumes is not
uncommon. Almond oil, DPG and glycerin are used to stretch the oud oil,
and some distillers even use a certain type of synthetic glycerin which
is harder to detect, to stretch the oil. Certain powders are used in
the distillation process itself to make the oil thicker, which a lot of
people incorrectly think is an indication of quality.
Practiced with Oud Wood
1. Using wood other than
In Indonesia, one of the
cheating techniques employed is
selling Bouya or other wood under the guise of agarwood. It is painted
dark brown or black and some oud oil is smeared onto it which bubbles
when placed on a lit coal. This gives the unaware novice the impression
that it is real oud, and that the bubbling is the resin being release
due to the heat. An easy way to find out if this has been done is by
breaking a chip in half and comparing the color inside to the color on
the surface. 'Black magic wood' is a particularly outrageous technique,
where someone will go to the extent of injecting aromatic substances
into the wood. This clever technique ensures that the fragrance as well
as the color penetrate deep into the wood's fibers.
foreign objects into the wood
This makes the wood
heavier, and the
uninformed buyer will think that
the weight is due to the abundance of resin. Lead, sand, and various
other things are used to make wood feel heavier than it is.
grading of wood
One of the main
witnessed in the Arabian oud market is the
complete lack of knowledge of proper grading of oud. Everything is put
into one of three categories: regular, super, and double-super. The
Western oud market is even less exposed to the world of oud wood, since
wood chips are still nowhere near as popular as oud oil. I have seen
wood that is black magic wood, or B-grade some other lower grades,
being sold as A-grade or 'First Grade' or with other names denoting
quality. 'Singer oil' (a sewing machine lubricant) and other substances
are commonly used to darken wood chips, to make them appear darker and
more resinous than they really are.
In reality, there are
14 grades, and each grade has
tell-tale signs. Most of what is being sold is over-graded and in most
cases, wood chips of an inferior grade are mixed in with a superior
grade of wood to increase the quantity of the latter. This occurs at
all levels of the supply chain.
4. Mislabeling of wood
Indian and Cambodian oud
traditionally been the two most common
ouds exported to the Arabian oud market, and have thus acquired a
reputation. This is why oud from other countries is commonly sold as
"Oud Cambodi" or "Oud Hindi", given the demand that exists for these
two particular varieties. Thai wood, as an example, is often sold as
Cambodian oud. Low grade Indonesian wood is regularly exported,
adulterated and then sold as anything but itself.
Take the guesswork out of
buying oud. Buy
assured that you get what you pay for.