Oud vs. Bakhoor: What is the Difference?

In the realm of luxurious fragrances, you may have encountered the terms oud and bakhoor. These two scents play a significant role in Arabic culture and are highly prized for their distinctive and captivating aromas.

Oud, also known as Oudh, is primarily derived from the resinous heartwood of Agarwood trees. When these trees become infected with mold, they produce a rich, dark resin that is then transformed into oud, a profound scent that is revered across the Middle East and increasingly around the world. So, “oud” refers to either the agarwood chips or the pure essential oil extracted from the agarwood. 

bakhoor-burn-in-mubkhar
Bakhoor burn in mubkhar

Barhoor, or Bukhoor, on the other hand, is not a single ingredient but rather a complex blend of fragrant oils and aromatic materials, including woodchips, often laced with essential oils or synthetic scents. Bakhoor may incorporate Agarwood in its composition but can just as well be based on other ingredients like Sandalwood. It’s known for its traditional preparation method that resembles ancient practices, some of which can be traced back to the age-old Egyptian incense known as Kyphi.

These two tradition-rich fragrances are revered for their ability to welcome important guests, scent cloth, and even oneself, creating an ambiance and sensorial experience that is both traditional and enchanting.

Oud and Bakhoor

History and Origin

Oud, also known as agarwood, has been cherished across the Middle East and Southeast Asia for centuries. It originates from the Aquilaria tree, a tropical species vulnerable to a specific type of mould infection that produces a dense, fragrant resin within the heartwood. The rarity of this natural resin contributes to oud’s high value and esteem.

Bakhoor, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in Arabic culture and serves both as an aromatic practice and a traditional symbol of hospitality. Unlike oud, which is a pure resin, bakhoor typically combines various natural ingredients, such as wood chipsresinsoils, and herbs, to create scented bricks or a fine powder.

Production and Processing

The production of oud involves a complex process. Once the Aquilaria tree’s wood is infected and the resin is formed, the resinous wood is harvested and distilled to extract the essential oil. This natural resin transforms the wood into a valuable material for perfumery, often described as liquid gold due to its expense and desirability.

Aside from extracting essential oils, oud chips can also be used directly as incense. Oud comes in various grades and different prices. In China, oud is also crafted into bracelets and other artisanal items.

oud-chips
Oud chips

Bakhoor’s production is more of an art form, blending wood powder from different trees with various oils; oud can be one of the possible ingredients. Traditionally, the recipes for Bakhoor are closely guarded family secrets passed down from generation to generation. But It is known that Bakhoor is “cooked” and often incorporates sugar, as well as essential oils, attars, or synthetic fragrances.

While it typically has a wood base, it can also include resins. Similar traditional incensees exist in Africa, such as “Uunsi. Here is a detailed tutorial on how to make bakhoor at home. If you’re interested, you can check out this article.

Forms and Components

Oud can be found as a pure essential oil, often used in small quantities due to its intensity and potency. Or just wood chips, for incense burning.

Bakhoor is typically available in solid form, such as bricks, slabs, or chips.

To enjoy Bakhoor our Oud chips, you’d typically burn these components over hot charcoal in a mubkhar, or incense burner, allowing the smoke to perfume garments, hair, and spaces with their rich aroma.

Cultural Significance and Usage

Bakhoor and oud play a crucial role in creating an inviting atmosphere and ambiance, particularly during religious ceremoniesweddings, and other special occasions. The burning of Oud or Bakhoor is a time-honored tradition that adds a sensory dimension to celebrations and is believed to invoke a sense of spirituality.

In the context of aromatherapy, these scents are chosen for their calming and meditative properties, helping to create a peaceful environment. Whether you’re using traditional mabkhara or contemporary methods, the impact of these Arabian scents on your surroundings is both profound and uplifting.

Comparing Oud and Bakhoor

Difference in Price

In terms of price and perception, oud is typically more expensive due to its scarcity and the laborious extraction process. It is commonly considered a luxury item. A top-grade agarwood may cost a hundred dollars per gram.

Bakhoor is usually more affordable. The price depends on the ingredients, though premium blends can be highly sought after. The popularity of both varies by region and personal preference, often influenced by their perceived value and the depth of their scent.

Difference in Form

The appearance of oud and bakhoor also differs due to their distinct forms and compositions:

  • Oud typically appears as dark, resinous wood chips or as a clear to dark essential oil if distilled. The wood chips can vary in color from light to dark brown or black, depending on the concentration of the resin and the age of the wood. The oud oil, when extracted, is usually thick and can range from a golden hue to a very dark, almost opaque color.
  • Bakhoor, on the other hand, appears as fragrant blocks or chips that are often a mix of different colors, reflecting the variety of ingredients used. These can include lighter woods soaked in fragrant oils, which may be amber-colored, along with other additives that could be yellow, brown, or green, depending on the specific ingredients and the oils used for scenting.

The visual distinction is quite clear: oud looks more natural and uniform, reflecting its origin from a single type of wood, while bakhoor has a more varied and artisanal appearance tends to be more sticker.

Difference in Scent Profile

The scent profile of oud is characterized by a deep, rich, and complex aroma with woody, musky, and sometimes animalic notes. It is known for its singular, consistent fragrance that can have nuances such as sweet, smoky, or earthy tones, which can vary based on its origin and age.

bakhoor-and-oud-essential-oil
Bakhoor and Oud essential oil

Bakhoor, being a blend of various ingredients, offers a more diverse scent profile. It combines the fragrances of the woods, oils, resins, and other aromatic substances used in its creation. As a result, bakhoor can have a wide range of scents, from floral to spicy to sweet. It mostly depends on the recipe. 

Handling and Storage Secrets

Proper handling and storage are key to preserving the integrity of both oud and bakhoor. Since they are natural products containing essential oils, they are sensitive to environmental factors. Here are some secrets to keep them at their best:

  • Oud: Preserve it in a cool, dark place, ideally in airtight containers to prevent oxidation which could alter its complex scent profile. Glass containers can be a good option for storing oud oil.
  • Bakhoor: Use a sealed container and include a layer of inert material, like wax paper, to protect it from humidity. Ensure that you keep bakhoor away from direct sunlight to maintain its subtle nuances.

Conclusion

In conclusion, oud and bakhoor differ significantly in price, form, ingredients, and scent profile. Oud, being a rare and natural resinous wood, is typically more expensive and has a consistent woody and musky scent. Bakhoor, a crafted blend, is generally less costly, with a customizable and varied scent profile due to its mix of ingredients. Here’s a table summarizing these differences:

AspectOudBakhoor
PriceHigher (rare)Lower (more common)
FormNatural wood/resinCrafted blend of materials
IngredientsAgarwoodVarious woods, oils, resins
Scent ProfileWoody, musky, uniformVaried, customizable
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