One of the most popular ingredients in fine perfumery today is Oud, a scent derived from Agarwood, a material as ancient as the art of perfumery itself, literally rooted in the cultures of the Middle East and highly prized for its unique sensual aroma.
Agarwood is a “dark, resinous heartwood” that forms in Aquilaria trees, where a specific type of mold changes the color and density of the wood, leaving a strong, dark resin (the oud) within the core.
Over the past few years this rare and expensive ingredient has also made its way into Western style fragrances in the form of numerous perfumes focused around Oud and it has occasionally been used in smaller amounts in niche fragrances, especially in men’s fragrances.
Due to the rarity and high demand, the finest quality Oud is a very expensive fragrance ingredient. This situation created several major problems:
1. Vast forests of mature Aquilaria trees present in countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet Nam, and India have been over harvested for the precious Agarwood raw materials to a point where some countries have actually forbidden companies to remove more mature Aquilaria trees.
2. Since only mature Aquilaria trees can produce the highest quality Oud raw materials, several steps have been introduced to shorten the time needed to harvest Agarwood such as injecting immature trees with Agarwood-producing fungus. While these methods do produce Agarwood, the quality produced from these methods is much lower than Agarwood taken from mature trees.
3. The chemical industry is producing Oud fragrances synthetically, while at the same time lobbying aggressively to have naturally produced Oud fragrances forbidden.
There are no obvious external signs that a wild tree may contain agarwood and, if it does, the quantity can only be fully determined after the tree has been felled and cut open. The search for the product therefore results in indiscriminate felling of wild trees and degradation of habitats, causing a loss of the ecological niche for agarwood producing species and a dramatic decline in wild aquilaria species in the last few decades.
The International Perfume Foundation’s Sustainable Aquilaria Planting Program is designed to preserve the highest quality Agarwood and Oud fragrance materials through sustainable farming of Aquilaria trees within Far East countries. This is an important and long term solution.
The highest quality Agarwood takes decades to develop in mature Aquilaria trees, so sustainable farming methods have to be employed to insure farms have other crops grown along with Aquilaria trees that will produce more immediate revenue for the farms while waiting for the Aquilaria trees to properly mature.
The role of the International Perfume Foundation is to protect this beautiful heritage of natural fragrance of Aquilaria trees. We recognize that unsustainable Aquilaria harvesting in natural forests have resulted in the near extinction of this tree genus.
Only through programs like the IPF Sustainable Aquilaria Planting Program can we be assured of having continuous, sustainable sources of these high quality, precious and valuable materials so important to the cultures of many countries around the world.