What is the role of soaking in the distillation process? What is the effect of soaking the wood prior to distillation? Does it increase the ability for the resin to be released? Is it considered superior not to soak the wood?

Ensar Oud

Well-Known Member
Soaking is done for two reasons; to soften the resin so as to facilitate extraction, leading to more yield; and to improve / modify / tweak the fragrance of the oil. In India it is standard practice to soak the wood prior to distillation for at least 25 days. I have seen wood that was submerged in water for over two months.

In Cambodia and Thailand, soaking is seen as a natural step in the distillation process, without which the true scent of 'Cambodi' oud cannot be gotten. Distillers who don't soak are looked down upon as mere merchants looking for fast money, without giving the art of distillation its proper due.

In India, not to soak is tantamount to being foolish and wasteful, as soaking is perceived to lead to higher yield – everything else being equal, such as cooking time, labor, amount of gas / firewood expended, etc. In Cambodia soaking is not done to facilitate yield, as the distiller will simply keep cooking each batch until every last drop of resin is extracted. All soaking does is help accomplish this in a shorter amount of time, hence more economically.

Is it considered superior not to soak the wood? Depends on who you ask. Each batch of raw materials is different. Some might benefit from soaking while others might suffer from it. Careful supervision and expertise is key. One batch might acquire a complexity it would have otherwise altogether lacked if cooked unsoaked; while another might lose all vibrancy and color, top and heart notes muted to give way to a boring barny base.
Ensar for each new distillation do you try out a small sample soaking vs non soaking or less time soaked, then cook the wood to see the result before commencing with the distillation or do you just risk the whole lot and try one of the above and hope for a quality oil?

Ensar Oud

Well-Known Member
I wish it was possible to 'sample' the oil obtainable from different soaking periods, as well as in combination with different stills & condensers prior to making the final call for each batch. Unfortunately, hydrodistillation pots usually require a minimum of 15-20 kg raw materials in order to do any distilling at all, so the final decision goes back to the distiller's experience with the different types of wood, soaking periods, types of still, condenser, cooking temperature, etc.....

Here's some footage from my current soaking / still selection dilemma....

Thanks for the great video. I and I am sure others appreciate the details of distillations you've shown here. It was not clearly stated in the video why the output was different even within the type of still (i.e. copper or stainless steel) but I am assuming it has to do with the length of soaking and the temperature and pressure of the still. Since you have asked for feed back or suggestion, IMHO to honor those Cambodian chips that I have seen in previous video I would like to stick to the long searched for but rarely met, classical Cambodian Profile with dark resin-y thick notes that dries down to smell of smoke of Japanese Incense containing cinnamon and cloves. Avoid if possible fecal/Barnyard notes and elevate to the higher spiritual level. I would also stay away from bright green, Borneo-ish, Kinam-ish notes. Keep this one dark and old. let's put something to go really head to head with Thaqeel and surpass (ISA).
I really appreciate this level of inside-look at the distillation process. Truly amazing. Thank you for the educational videos, and intricate looks into everything that goes into producing the oil in the bottles we receive!

My first intuition about the Cambodi is along the lines of what Masstika is describing. Dark and bold, classically Cambodian. My only other feeling is that it would be interesting to have a more honeyed and floral Cambodian. I would stay away from the fruity notes, which seem to be all too common now. I would be interested in something that isn't fruity, but is either very deep and dark, or that is the extreme opposite in terms of being really floral.
I'm with masstika and oudhiferous, a nice old smelling cambodi would be nice to. Nothing too sweet, but woody and old smelling to bring about the olfactory feeling and something to make one feel as though he/she are living 1400 years ago. That feeling of the primordial oud cambodi!


Well-Known Member
Given the recent questions that have come up pertaining to the material the pots are made of that are used in the soaking process prior to distillation, we went to investigate several types of clay and ceramic pots of various sizes and styles (see attached pictures).

We wouldn’t mind conducting an experiment where a clay or ceramic pot was used for soaking. But, like Ensar mentioned in a recent video, we fear obtaining a potentially very earthy scent as a result of using such a pot.

However, since this idea was mentioned on the forum, we’d like embark on this experiment along with all the members here. So, we’d like to know who’s interested in acquiring such an oil prior to undertaking the experiment. If we get enough of people on board, we can commence with the soaking as early as next week.

We can do a batch as small as two tolas, or as large as four. Given the higher expenses that would have to be distributed over two tolas, this one would be slightly more expensive. The cost would include that of the pot and the standard distillation expenses such as raw materials, labour, and utilities.

The price per quarter tola would be $230 if the batch is four tolas, and $250 if it’s two tolas. However, the entire batch would need to be pre-ordered, with a 50% deposit put down up front in order for us to get the ball rolling.

Whoever's interested, please reply to this thread directly, as we would need to reach some kind of consensus amongst all the buyers about the type of scent that they’d like to produce. So, we'll need to discuss the soaking period, the kind of still you’d like to use, and other aspects related to getting the desired oil.


Well-Known Member
Good to have you on board, Masstika. Here are the photos again (I can see them posted as thumbnails, so please let me know if you can't view them.)

Earthen Pot_01.jpg Earthen Pot_02.jpg Earthen Pot_03.jpg Earthen Pot_04.jpg
Beautiful Pots. If I may make a suggestion, and actually it's not mine but I fully agree with it, which is to split the Run into two patches and keep all the variables the same with whatever the Group decide except for the fermentation clay Pots in order to be able to tell if they really had any impact on the scent.


Well-Known Member
Splitting the run into two batches - soaked in different pots, then distilled with the same specifications - would be ideal, but would require doubling the amount of wood, from 20-kg to 40-kg

The proposed cooking unit holds a capacity of about 20-kg, and splitting that in half into two separate 10-kg batches will affect the yield. In short, the fuller the still the more oil you'll get. With an expected yield of only two to four tolas, splitting the run will be a big risk.

In order to start the soaking before we leave Thailand, we need more people involved. If we don't get more people on board, either the members that have already shown interest will have to contribute a larger investment, or we'll have to postpone the distillation until we return. Postponing might be for the best - more people will have the opportunity to get involved, and everyone will have more leeway to discuss what they envision for the oil.
Thanks for the explanation Thomas. Probably postponing it as you've mentioned is better so others can have time to formulate their ideas and opinions. Personally I would recommend that each participant agree to commit to (2) 1/4 tolas, one in the clay pots and other in regular pots, that way it is clear the effect of the pots and whether that is something to be pursuit in the future. However maybe the prize could be reduced per tola to lessen the financial burden and to enlist more participant whom might hesitate from making a large commitment. Myself I am wondering if you don't do that would we be able to determine for sure the effect of the clay pots?
Sounds like a great experiment, Thomas (and great to see you here!). I would happily participate in this experiment if I had the available funds, but I don't at the moment, so I would have to opt out. It seems better to wait until the next trip so that you can gather more participants. I would like to see it happen!