Agarwood, also known as oud, oodh or agar, is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees (large evergreens native to southeast Asia) when they become infected with a type of mould. Prior to infection, the heartwood is relatively light and pale coloured; however, as the infection progresses, the tree produces a dark aromatic resin in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin embedded heartwood.The resin embedded wood is commonly called gaharu, jinko, aloeswood, agarwood, or oud (not to be confused with 'Bakhoor') and is valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and thus is used for incense and perfumes.First-grade agarwood is one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world. A whole range of qualities and products are on the market, varying in quality with geographical location and cultural deposition.
Oud oil is distilled from agarwood, it fetches high prices depending on the oil's purity. The current global market for agarwood is estimated to be in the range of US$ 6 – 8 billion and is growing rapidly.There are seventeen species in the genus Aquilaria and eight are known to produce agarwood. In theory agarwood can be produced from all members; however, until recently it was primarily produced from A. malaccensis. A. agallocha and A. secundaria are synonyms for A. malaccensis. A. crassna and A. sinensis are the other two members of the genus that are usually harvested.
Agarwood is reputed to be the most expensive wood in the world. There are many names for the resinous, fragrant heartwood produced primarily by trees in the genus Aquilaria. Most commonly, the resin is known as agarwood, aloeswood, eaglewood, gaharu, agalocha or oudh (In Arabic).Agarwood has been used to make high quality incense since centuries. The Chinese describe its smell as "a sweet, deep but balanced fragrance" and use it in religious and festive celebrations, and so do Arabian, Indian and Japanese people.Agarwood is also part of many traditional pharmacopoeias, dating back to medieval times and Chinese doctors still prescribe it for colds and disgestion problem. Oil extracted from agarwood is used in Arabian countries as a perfume.
The Indian sub-continent was the main source of agarwood for many centuries but as trees became scarce in the middle of the twentieth century, extraction intensified in Indochina. Later on it was extended to Indonesia and Malaysia. Today Agarwood plantations exist in a number of countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.It can grow on a wide range of soils, including poor sandy soil. Seedlings of most species establish best in shady, moist conditions, but large adult trees sometimes become emergent in the forest and can withstand full sun. Some species can be found growing on steep, rocky, exposed slopes, and in regions that experience a hot, dry season. The trees grow to 6-20 m tall.The leaves are alternate, 5-11 cm long and 2-4 cm broad, with a short acuminate apex and an entire margin. The flowers are yellowish-green, produced in an umbel, the fruit is a woody capsule 2.5-3 cm long. At least fifteen species of Aquilaria trees are known to produce Agarwood.
The smell of Oud cannot be described in words , one of the most complex odours showing Animalic , mossy , woody , forest , moist and lingering. Currently most of the manufacturers are marketing a fragrance with this oil or in most cases a substitute. Together with Rose , Patchouli and Sandalwood , and a touch of Saffron will form a beautiful mukhallat.