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September 13, 2015 7 min read

Dear friend

I don't know what brings you to this page. But I guess you are curious about what agarwood smells like.

Agarwood is a unique and luxurious product that has been used for centuries in religious and cultural ceremonies. It has a distinct, rich, and complex aroma that is difficult to describe. Some say it smells like a mixture of woody, floral, and spicy scents.

You have heard of it from the Holy Bible ( mentioned as "aloes"), the Noble Quran, the Buddhist Scripture or some other religious texts.

You learnt that God loved this divine aroma, so you wanted to know more about it.

You performed a Google search, and you ended up here.

Many people described the smell of agarwood differently. Some people hate it, while others love it to the moon and back.

What do people say after trying Agarwood Oil?  

What does Agarwood oil smell like? This is a question that people often ask before trying it for the first time. People have described the scent as both good and bad, with some common descriptors being woody, peppery, leathery, sweet, and spicy. If you're curious about what Agarwood smells like and are curious about the aroma here are some negative and positive reviews

Here are some of the bad ones:

  • "It smells like burning plastic."
  • ".... like a garbage truck passing by.."
  • " smells like poop."
  • ".. dead rat, decomposed note."

Fortunately, there are also many good ones:

  • "Heaven smell on earth."
  • "I felt connected to God when smelling this"
  • "It makes me remember my father."
  • "It is so complicated; it is sweet and spicy at the same time."
  • "Very woody, peppery, leathery."

So which one is true? What will you feel?

Surely it could not be good and bad at the same time, right? That might be what you believe.

People tend to find the scent of Agarwood very individualized. It can smell differently to different people and even the same person at different times. This is because our sense of smell is strongly influenced by our mood and emotions.

If you are feeling good, then everything will smell great. But if you're feeling down, even the best scent can smell terrible. For example, some people grow up close to a cow farm and live happily, and the smell of manure does not bother them. When they move house and smell this again, they will remember home and all the happy moments. The same manure smell may make others run away or avoid it.

I will walk you through the three most common Agarwood products: Agarwood chips, Incense and Oil (Oud or Oudh)

Let's talk about Oud Chips first


Agarwood chips

Agarwood chips are small pieces of wood that have been carved or scraped out of the infected Aquilaria trees.

You can see the below image. The white wood is healthy wood while the dark brown one is resin, known as Agarwood. We separated the Agarwood from the white wood, then we will have Agarwood chips.



There are mainly two colours in this piece of wood. White and brownish/ blacklist colour. The white part is healthy wood.




The scent of agarwood is very subtly sweet and woody at room temperature.

When you heat Agarwood chip under burning charcoal, you will find its heavenly scent. The smoke from Agarwood chips smells complex, it has a classic vanillic deep, woody smell. It also has sandalwood and cedar notes.

If you ground these Agarwood chips, you will get Agarwood powder. And you can use this powder to make incense and distil Agarwood oil.


Agarwood incense

Agarwood incense is made from the pulverised Agarwood chips (resin) of the Aquilaria tree. The resin is a dark, aromatic substance that has been used for centuries in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Agarwood incense has a rich, earthy smell that is often described as woody, musky, or sweet. It is used in many cultures for its purported ability to promote relaxation and well-being.

When you burn Agarwood incenses, you can enjoy the aroma within a 40 cm distance between the incense and where you sit. Within minutes, you can feel sweet vanillic, uplifting woodiness. Suitable for scent enjoyment, spirituality, yoga, and meditation.  

Agarwood oil

Agarwood oil is extracted from the resin of the Aquilaria tree. The oil is a dark, aromatic substance that has been used for centuries in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Agarwood oil has a rich, earthy smell that is often described as woody, musky, or sweet. It is used in many cultures for

Agarwood essential oil is made from the steam-distilled resin of the Aquilaria tree. There is another way to get Agarwood Oil by extracting the pulverised wood through Co2 odourless solvent. The oil has a strong, woody smell that is reminiscent of cedarwood or sandalwood.

Also known As Oud has a very distinct and pleasant smell that is often described as a combination of woody, sweet, and floral scents. The main chemical components of agarwood oil are sesquiterpenes, which account for its characteristic fragrance. The oil is used in many different ways including as perfume, incense, and medicine. Agarwood chips are commonly used in religious ceremonies and have a strong, pleasant smell that is often described as woody or musk

This is when the smells go funny, and it could be extreme:  

You will find its scent is mainly woody because, in its natural form, it is wood. Please note the woody note is a base note. It means that you might not detect this note immediately but several hours later.

The aromas of Agarwood oil vary largely. People compliment as well as complain

Here is why

Before the distillation takes place, the distiller soaked the pulverised wood into many barrels. 

During this process, fungi will develop because it loves moisture. It is the fungi that "add flavour" to the aroma.

When soaking is short, usually, the Oud does not have an "off" smell. 

When soaking is long, "smell like a farm", "barnyard" notes will develop.

And if it is too long (more than one month), "Smell like a garbage truck passing by" would fit the description.

I am not saying it always follow this rule; I just explain it in a simple term so you can understand the process.

Believe it or not, some people love to smell "poop", and "decomposed notes". They even asked for a stronger one.

However, the majority would love a pleasant scent. Something is woody and sweet. Or something is a bit leathery and peppery.

Overall experience: the smell of Oud chips, incenses, and oil

To me, it triggers my "brain"; it fills me with a sense of pleasure. 

Physically, I would describe the scent as: 

  1. A combination of sweet, vanillic, sour and bitter 
  2. Woody scent with a hint of spice (this depends on the demographic where the tree grows) varies from floral to warm spice. You could detect a bit of everything: tobacco leaves, leathery and medicinal herb, honey, botanical. To sum up, a pleasant fragrance. With some oil, it is animalistic, barnyard which might offend some people. Oud oil could be overwhelming for some people, especially those who have not tried it before.
  3. Your imagination or your feeling. It is hard to describe in words. For example: dark, warm, and nostalgia are used to describe the smell but there is no real definition of how they smell.

The smell of Oud chips, incenses, and oil? To me, it triggers my "brain"; it fills me with a sense of pleasure. 


The beauty is for each agarwood product; it produces a different smell. 


Scent Profile

Ideal for

Agarwood beads

The woody scent, light but detectable in a closed distance to your nose, fragrance mainly sweet and spicy.

Prayers, lucky charm, spiritual objects

Agarwood incenses

The scent is stronger covers a larger area, detectable in 20 cm range, quickly fill a small space in 10 metre square per stick after 5 minutes of burning.

Sweet, uplifting woody, slightly burning wood similar to a campfire.

Olfactory enjoyment, spiritual, yoga, meditation.  


Agarwood tea

Fresh leaves scent, refreshing herbal leaves

Constipation relief, sleep aid, body detox and cleansing.

Agarwood oil

The aroma is highly intricate and deeply intense, capable of surrounding you with its captivating presence. Just a single drop is sufficient to last throughout the entire day.

This multifaceted fragrance is derived from various sections of the tree, each with their own distinct scent. It is highly sought-after in Middle Eastern nations due to its diverse and sophisticated scent profile.

Personal wear as a perfume

Relaxation for bathing


Create your unique fragrance by combining your existing perfume with a drop of Oud, and you are sure to be noticeable.  The POWER OF ATTRACTION

The pharmaceutical manufacturer extracts some compounds out of the oud oil to use them as ingredients for cancer treatment.




The chemical component of Agarwood oil which makes up the scent profile

You won't find all of the accords per below table but you will find some of them. You will also detect some that other people are unable to detect. It is also true in the other ways around, people will tell you that they found a,b, and c notes but you could not feel it.

Don't worry, and relax. It will help you to enjoy agarwood more.

Overall, the smell can be described as a fruity, sweet, and woody aroma with green, herbaceous, and floral undertones. There are also noticeable hints of citrus, nutty, and camphoraceous elements, along with some sulfurous, vegetable, mushroom, and spicy nuances. The presence of minty, fresh, and medicinal notes adds to the depth of the fragrance.

Here is an easy way to put it

Imagine walking through a magical garden full of yummy fruits, pretty flowers, aromatic herbs and big trees. This smell is just like that! It's like taking a deep breath and smelling all the sweet fruits, fresh green leaves, and the woody trees all at once. Sometimes, you can also catch a whiff of some cool mint, like when you brush your teeth (not all Oud has minty notes).

It is a fun mix of all the great things you can find in nature, making you feel happy and excited


 Source: Identification of Odor-active Components of Agarwood Essential Oils from Thailand by Solid Phase Microextraction-GC/MS and GCO




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