A Beginner's Guide to Burning Agarwood Chips

An Introduction to Agarwood

Agarwood, also known as oud, is one of the most precious and revered natural substances in the fragrance world. This rare resinous heartwood forms in the Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees, primarily found in Southeast Asia, when they become infected with a certain type of fungus. The trees respond by producing a dark, fragrant resin, which imbues the wood with a complex scent profile that is highly sought after and super addictive! 

We are thrilled to announce the introduction of pure agarwood chips at Lotus Zen. Our chips have been carefully selected for their quality and we've made sure to feature a range of affordable woods. We hope this guide leads you to discover a totally new way of experiencing incense and feel free to contact us with any further questions.

A Deep Religious and Cultural History

In Middle Eastern cultures, agarwood, or oud as it's commonly known, is more than just a fragrance; it's an integral part of the social and religious fabric. Used in the form of oils, wood chips, and incense, oud has been a symbol of hospitality, with its scent often welcoming guests into homes and public spaces. It is also used in religious ceremonies and personal grooming, embodying both purity and luxury. The Prophet Muhammad is known to have used oud, enhancing its status within Islamic traditions.

Buddhism, particularly in East and Southeast Asia, also holds agarwood in high esteem for its spiritual significance. Agarwood's calming and contemplative scent is believed to aid in meditation and you will often smell oud incense being burned in Buddhist temples.

Two Methods of Burning Agarwood Chips

There are two main methods for burning agarwood chips. Traditionally the chips are burned on charcoal, however it is possible to use a charcoal-free burner for a similar experience without too much smoke. There will be some differences depending on which method you choose. Here's a step-by-step guide for each method:

Using Charcoal

  1. Preparation:  Begin by preparing a heat-resistant burner. Fill it with ash or sand to insulate the bottom.

  2. Igniting Charcoal:  Light a piece of charcoal with a lighter or a match until it is glowing red and covered with a thin layer of ash. This usually takes a few minutes.

  3. Placing the Charcoal: Carefully place the lit charcoal in the center of the burner, on top of the insulating ash or sand layer.

  4. Adding Agarwood Chips: Once the charcoal is ready, gently place a small piece of agarwood chip on top of the charcoal. The heat will begin to release the agarwood's fragrance.

  5. Adjusting the Heat:  If the fragrance is too strong or the chip burns too quickly, you can adjust the distance between the charcoal and the agarwood by adding more ash or sand.

  6. Enjoy the Fragrance: As the agarwood chip smolders, it releases its rich, complex fragrance. Add more chips as needed, but do so sparingly to avoid overwhelming the space.

Without Charcoal

  1. Setting Up the Burner: Set up your burner. If you're using our charcoal free burner, place a tealight under the metal pan and adjust the height to control the temperature. Alternativley, you can use an electric burner for better temperature control.

  2. Placing Agarwood Chips: Once the burner is ready, place one or two small pieces of agarwood chips on the heated surface.

  3. Adjusting the Temperature: Monitor the fragrance intensity and adjust the burners temperature accordingly. Higher temperatures release the fragrance more quickly but can also burn the chips faster.

  4. Enjoying the Fragrance: Like with charcoal, the agarwood will slowly release its scent. Adjust the number of chips or the heater's temperature as needed to maintain the desired fragrance level.

Choosing whether or not to use charcoal really depends on your personal preference and the intensity of the fragrance you want. Charcoal is the traditional method, it allows for a level of authenticity and ritual. However the 'charcoal-free' method offers convenience and cleanliness with much less smoke and fuss!

Selecting the Right Agarwood

To conclude, here are a few extra things to know about agarwood chips to help you select the right type. Each chip is sourced from a specific region (Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia etc) and are often graded with various terms like 'Triple Super', 'Underwater' and 'Sinking'. Here's a quick breakdown of what these descriptions mean.

  • Double Super (DS): High amount of resin in each chip
  • Triple Super (TS): Very high amount of resin in each chip
  • Sinking/Underwater: These agarwood chips have so much resin that they sink when placed in water!

The different regions will also impact the scent profile of each chip. Here's a brief overview of some of common agarwood origins and their difference in scent:

  • Cambodia: Cambodian agarwood is known for its fruity sweet tones. Evocative of berries, figs, caramel, cinnamon and vanllia. 
  • Vietnam: Vietnam produces some of the best agarwood in the world including the highly prized Kyara. This agarwood is typically warm, sweet and bitter.
  • Burma: Similar in scent to Vietnaese agarwood - spicy, warm and earthy.

When it comes to selecting the right chips for you, it may be best to experiment until you find your favourite type of oud scent! Now that you know a little bit more about the world of agarwood chips, take a look at our collection of woods and leave a comment below, we'd love to hear about your agarwood experiences.

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