The Future of Oud Pt. 2: Organic Oud

QUESTION: What is “Organic Oud”?

ENSAR: There are three things to rule out when labeling an oud ‘organic’. Chemical fertilizers; synthetic pesticides; and artificial inoculation via Biotech vaccine and the like. Not all cultivated wood is inoculated artificially. The bare minimum, which every farmer apart from select Assamese planters implements is to drill holes into the trunks of the trees. This will trigger natural resin formation, as the tree will fight to heal the wounds. Very few farmers stop there.

Then there are farmers who insert honey inside these holes to attract ants. The ants will swarm inside the holes, eat the honey and proceed to other holes carrying with them bacteria that spreads the infection of the tree. The more widespread the infection, the greater the resination.

Others will take the leftover water from hydro-distillation along with some of the cooked agarwood dust and inject that into the holes in the trunk. Presumably the bacteria that is still found in the dregs from the previous distillation can trigger a new infection in the uninfected saplings.

Then of course you have Biotech. This is the most widespread artificial inoculation method. Yet it is worthy of note that more than an inoculation method it is used as a catalytic agent used to speed up the infection rather than trigger it. As the old adage goes, ‘Good things happen to those who wait.’

In labeling an oud ‘organic’ then, we look for trees that were planted without the use of chemical fertilizers; not sprayed with synthetic pesticides; and not injected with Biotech. In all of Thailand we’ve only found three farmers whose trees fall under this category.

There are no harmful chemicals at play when distilling oud from trees injected with Biotech. I have an oil like that here which I procured specifically with the intention to study it and see how Biotech affects the fragrance in the long run.

But if we can produce organic oils, which are the closest thing both from a chemical and from an olfactory standpoint to the wild oil, then why remove the process that much further from the way it occurs in the wild?

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