The Perfumist Expose The Power of numbers !
So, you probably heard many people talking about oud, musk, ambergris, rose, etc. (oud this oud that). From the ancient houses and distilleries of India and Cambodia that made some of the rarest and most beautiful oils in the world, to the mass-produced air fresheners that are sold and marketed as oud in so many places yet doesn’t have anything in common with oud except the name, and only the name. Here I have to say that I strongly doubt that any perfume house, perfumist, or distillery will publish the information that you are about to read or would even like anyone to publish it or like it to be published. You may wonder why and that is because it will give the normal person, buyer, or customer a true and real idea about what they are buying and what they are paying for and showing what is happening in numbers, and remember, numbers don’t lie. Again, this is not simply thoughts or opinion, these are facts in numbers. So here it is:
Generally, a treated tree (treated: means it’s producing agarwood through human interference and not 100% wild. It’s still natural but can’t be compared to a 100% wild tree).
(Kindly note all our oud oils are inherited and very old; some are considered extinct and they are all from 100% wild trees not from harvested or farmed trees for two reasons. The first is that 50 years ago, it was easier to cut and distill wild trees than treating and making a treatment plantation. Second, it can easily be proven through lab tests on the specific materials or percentages of those materials in the oil that exists in wild oud).
So, a tree will produce between 20 to 30 dry kilos (depending on the region, age of the tree, and the kind of treatment) if we want to talk about real agarwood.
You will need between 30 to 40 trees (depending on your pods, fire, and mixture) to make 1 liter of pure oud oil.
A regular size farm or plantation field will have about 300 to 400 trees ready for chopping and distillation, so that is approximately 10 liters of oud oil (give or take).
So how do the big perfume companies, especially the ones in the Arabic world, have a minimum of 10 liters of oud oil or more in every store, in every city, in every country? Sf we said that the company has 100 stores and resellers, that’s over 1000 liters of oud oil and that is just what’s on the shelves - how about their online store, their warehouses, their storage centers?
When you (or anyone who distilled or made oud before) add the numbers together you realize that if those people harvest the whole of south-east Asia it still won’t add up to that much oud oil.
Rose is a big world with lots of different species and it depends on what kind, where and how, so let’s talk about something familiar and common, the Rosa Damascene or the Damascus Rose. This is considered by many nowadays as one of the best and most sought-after rose oils. It was made hundreds of years ago and is still produced and made mainly in Isparta, Turkey; Damascus, Syria; , Saudi Arabia, in the city of al Taif, and parts of northern Iran. To distill the oil from the rose you will need about 12 thousand roses to get one tola or (11 grams) and it’s extremely costly and time-consuming to make a large amount of oil. If you simply want to harvest a field of roses, use a distillery, hire workers and pay for bills you will end up paying the same or similar to what you would pay for distilling pure oud oil. So next time someone is advertising or selling “100% natural, organic, pure, certified, etc., etc.,” Rosa Damascene oil for $10 per tola, please don’t buy it and if you want to buy it then please don’t believe it, and if you do believe it, please don’t go around to makers and perfumists and ask why they are selling it for ten times the price, that you bought it for only $10.
Many people may not know this, but a full musk pod is between 30 to 50 grams (depending on the region and the animal) when opened and fully dried it will shrink to 20 to 30 grams. The price of a real musk pod is between $5000 to $7000 minimum; that’s just for the pod itself, not adding any trips, expenses, or communications involved in the process, so we can make a fair guesstimate and say it’s about $10000 per pod. Now of course that’s if you know what you are buying and from where you are buying it and not getting cheated or fooled with some fake machine made hairy ball that looks like a pod and has some very strong smelly things inside that don’t relate to musk at all (trust us we have seen many people fall for this trick and even some well-known people in the perfume industry).
To make pure musk oil, the pod is usually broken down and gets mixed with a carrier oil or a supportive oil like sandalwood, rose, coconut or jojoba and there are many ways to do this. But if you wanted to make real solid musk oil you would mix 1 to 3 (one measure of musk to 3 measures of oil), 1 to 5, 1 to 7, or even 1 to 10 which is considered on the light side. Anything after that wouldn’t be considered as musk oil but some kind of oil with some musk in it. So, if we said you got the best deal and got your pod after all expenses and bills paid, for $10000 and that it’s the biggest pod on the market after fully drying which is 30 grams. If you then made an oil from it with the maximum diluting formula and that is 1 to 10 with 30 grams of musk to give you 300 grams of other oil and that gave you 300ml or so of musk oil (that is about 25 tola). That means the cost of the oil for you without paying yourself or making any profit is about $400 per tola, if you simply want to break even. After your time and effort, you would sell it for $500 per tola and that’s not only if you got lucky but if you used the maximum diluting formula 1 to 10. So here I beg the question of how some companies and people are selling liters of what they call “pure 100% natural Kasturi deer musk oil” for $50 per tola? Ask yourself that next time someone presents what they call a pure musk oil to you.
I strongly doubt that any perfumist or perfume house is or was as crazy about ambergris as us. From studying Chinese medicine books to knowing the uses and benefits of ambergris, carrying out multiple analyses to understand the components and the chemistry ending up with distilling what many people think is the best and purest ambergris oil in the world, so when it’s about ambergris - we have done it all.
Ambergris is usually in 3 different qualities or levels (black, gray or white) or sometimes a mix of the three. Starting from the black, which to many people consider the lowest, and ending up with the fully dried musky royal white ambergris that many people tell us smells like heaven, or at least that’s their impression of it. Ambergris changes and fluctuates in the market, just like any other commodity, but it always has a low and high borderline that it never goes under and usually never goes above with some rare exceptions. So, it starts from $50 per gram if you are simply buying a few grams of white top grade ambergris and about $40 per gram for black or gray ambergris depending on the shape, weight and quality. Now, if you are buying bulk (one kilo or more) directly from a supplier you can get it down to $30 per gram for the white ambergris and $25 for the black or gray ambergris and that is the lowest it gets.
So realistically to make any kind of ambergris oil you will need a minimum of one kilo and that is (1000 grams or a minimum of $30000). This is just the raw material, you haven’t even started to grind, distill or mix yet. Now if you are crazy enough and trying to make pure essential oil from ambergris as we did a hundred years ago, then you will go through kilos before getting a simple drop of oil. But if you are like any other perfume maker or enthusiast about ambergris and want to make an oil that smells like ambergris then it doesn’t matter how you mix it or what is going in the mix, you won’t be able to get any kind of real ambergris smell out of the oil if you pass the 1 to 3 ratio (one measure of ambergris to 3 measures of carrier or supportive oil). So, you can make about 3 liters, give or take, based on the density and weight of the oil. That is $10000 per liter and that is still just cost - add your work, time, expenses and all the parts and the materials involved in the manufacture and you will realize why real ambergris can’t be used in mass-produced colognes and perfume and why most companies won't even dare to talk about it, never mind try to make it.
Those were very simple calculations and information about some of the basic raw materials. In conclusion, you will realize that not many people know about the real industry and business and it may be surprising to you, as it’s surprising to many people, that only when knowing and adding the numbers does the real big picture show up. We hope that you enjoyed reading and learning from this article. If you liked it, please share it with others and let other people know about it, and as always, have a wonderful day.