The Wood of the Gods

DESTINATION: QATAR

Soft wisps of a sweet and earthy musk float out of the perfume stalls in Qatar’s old souk marketplace as sellers burn small cuts of dark wood to entice passersby. Unbeknownst to most foreigners, these sticks are worth more than their weight in gold because of that signature scent derived from oud oil—a familiar fragrance for men and women from the Middle East and Asia for centuries. And just one deep breath of what the locals call the “Wood of the Gods” is enough to convince anyone of its intoxicating powers.

Derived from the Southeast Asian agar tree, the raw scent of oud is one of the most expensive ingredients in the world. When agar trees become infected with the Phialophora parasitic mold, the tree reacts by producing a resin from which the oud is sourced. Due to both moisture and time, it’s not surprising that the distilled fragrance has a distinctively damp and woody smell mixed with a warm and bittersweet balsamic nuance. Part of the allure is that the scent of oud constantly evolves, changing with each use. Although agar trees are ubiquitous in the Middle East, the high cost of oud itself derives from its rarity with only 2% of agar trees producing the necessary resin. 

Throughout history, oud has been used as a perfume, in religious ceremonies and for holistic medicinal purposes. In many cultures, it’s also used as a meditative fragrance for calming the mind and body—including psychoactive properties, according to some believers. Across the Middle East and Asia, oud is also used as a powerful aphrodisiac—repelling enemies while simultaneously attracting the object of one’s desire. In the past few years, this distinctive scent has traveled across the globe to European and American markets as a coveted fragrance, appearing in high-end men’s colognes and luxury personal care products where this rare ingredient connotes a mark of distinction.

With its provocative and woody scent, oud invites its wearers on a journey back to the exotic markets of Qatar to experience the magic and mysticism of the Arabian night air where anything can happen.