Explaining the correlation, Ahmed revealed that the diseased gaharu tree is the source of a rich dark resin within the heartwood known as oud by the Arabs. The secretion process of the resin, which is nature’s way of suppressing the parasitic attack, gives off a distinctive smell.
“In a natural forest only about seven per cent of the trees are infected by the fungus. This rarity makes oud valuable,” said Ahmed who has 24 years of experience as a perfumer.
The highest quality of resin has to come from a tree’s natural immune response to a fungal attack. If the tree has been artificially inoculated with the same fungus, the resin will be considered inferior.
According to Ahmed, the grading of oud lies in the experience of buyers like himself. For the uninitiated, there is a high chance that he may be cheated.
“The only way to make sure that you are getting genuine oud oil or incense is to go to a reputable dealer,” affirmed this Bangladeshi who set up Oud Line in Malaysia in 1999. The company also has boutiques in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta and Sylhet, Ahmed’s home state in Bangladesh.
“Many French and Swiss perfume companies use oud oil as a basic note to give their perfume blends a richer touch. Samsara, a perfume by Guerlain, is one example,” Ahmed said.
Though the smell of oud oil may come across as over-powering and acrid to the first timer, Ahmed assured that one will get used to itafter a period of exposure.
“It is a healthy smell. When you get used to it, you will not like any other smell,” claimed Ahmed.
Ahmed also revealed that many people have misconceptions that oud is only used by the Arabs.
“The Japanese are the largest consumers of oud incense as they use it for religious ceremonies like the Kodo festival. The wood is also made into fashion accessories and sculptures and feng shui pieces,” he said.
To sample a whiff of oud, Oud Line is located at 68, Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100, KL. Tel: 03-21455077