The Agarwood oil termed as ‘Oudh’ in the Middle East is highly valued for its fragrance, it can go upto astonishingly high prices due to the level of demand that exists. Agarwood Oil finds use in both attars and perfumes. The fragrance is a complex woody aroma which can easily be described as “exotic” or “oriental.”
Traditionally Agarwood Oil was produced from infected trees growing wild in forests. Even today the top grades of Agarwood Oil are harvested from trees in the wild. But deforestation and non-sustainable harvesting of forest grown trees has led to greater environmental awareness and the rise of sustainable Agarwood Oil production through the use of nursery grown agarwood trees and artificial methods of infecting them.
The rising price of Agarwood Oil had led to a boom in the planting of agarwood trees as an investment, but for many investors, the investment in agarwood trees has been of questionable value as the agarwood produced from nursery grown trees has yet to match the quality — and value — of Agarwood Oil produced from older, forest grown trees.
Infecting the tree with own-guarded secret.
18~24 months later, harvest is possible.
Once patches of the tree have darkened with the infection-fighting oleoresin, the wood is harvested. and the darkened sections of wood are chipped off the logs for oil production. The undarkened wood has no value in the fragrance industry.
Chop the tree into wood block.
Parting machine, to cut the log into smaller part
Chip infected wood off agarwood logs. Only the infected wood can be used for Agarwood Oil production
Chips are left in the hot sun to dry for 2 or 3 days to remove as much water from the wood as possible.
After the chips of infected agarwood have been left in the sun to dry for a day or two they are gathered up and put through a mechanical chipper which reduced them almost to sawdust. The purpose of sun drying, being to ease grinding into sawdust and killing unwanted fungal / bacteria prior to the following process, ie soaking for fermentation.
Mechanical chipper to crush chip almost to sawdust.
These sawdust-like “chips” are now soaked in water in barrels and allowed to “ferment” for 10 to 15 days, some even upto several weeks. Starting off a light brown, they gradually darken, giving off a foul aroma.
Soak into water for fermentation
The agarwood mash is now placed in distilling pots and covered with several inches of water. The lid is closed and the pot heated until the water boils. The boiling water ruptures the cells of the wood and the vapor of Agarwood Oil and steam rises to the top of the pot and escapes released through a tube leading to a condenser which cools the vapor.
After its soaking, the barrels of agarwood mash are emptied into distilling poots and placed over wood fires for distillation.
The condenser itself is repeatedly cooled by water. As the vapor passes through the condenser and is cooled, it reverts to liquid form and is collected in a vessel where the oil and water separate.
Agarwood oil collection
Oil and water don’t mix! The water is drawn off leaving Agarwood Oil.