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Face to Face with ‘Arabian’ Oud: Part 2

Walking out from one perfume shop into the next, what I found in the Emirati malls and outdoor markets was that nothing had changed since my first visit there many years ago.

'Thaqeel' and 'Kalakassi' are household names in oud circles in both the East and the West. At $680 and $545 per quarter tola, respectively, these are two oils at the top of many an oud lover’s wishlist. A bit of an enigma, the Thaqeel in particular has become fabled as one of the must-have oud oils.

A few months ago, a guest came over with his bottle of Thaqeel (purchased from a Canadian vendor) eager to hear my thoughts on it. Coincidentally, the oil was a hot topic in online discussion forums at the time, and I didn’t hold back reporting how stunned I was to pick up an unmistakable note of synthetic musk in it. I was heavily reproached for my impressions, which some took to be borderline blasphemy.

This time, it at least smelled pure. Mediocre, but pure. When I asked the dealer where the oil was from, he said India. ‘Indian?’ I thought. The oil remained an enigma. Every time I smell it, it’s different. Way different. It was like the producers aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they sell different mixed batches under the fame of a single title.

The experience reminded me once more that there are two types of oud: the oud in the mind and the oud in the bottle.

How can you expect to find pure oud in a store which is just one in a chain of 200, 300, 400+ others?

How do you keep your display cases filled with dark and heavy agarwood chips, in each of these 200, 300, 400+ stores?

If you’re clueless about what’s happening on the agarwood scene, there’s nothing wrong with this picture. And that’s fine. We aren’t expected to know what goes on behind the scenes in everything we get involved in.

The Gulf perfume companies have never (as far as I know) been guilty of deliberate false marketing. In the Gulf, oud has to do with cultural identity and ritual. The companies are able to associate an entire market with a specific culture – oud is an Arab thing. Outwardly, they never make any explicit claims about what they’re offering. None of them advertise selling ‘pure essential oud oil’. They sell ‘oudh’, whatever that means.

The Gulf companies have been successful in creating their own market, and unsuccessful in educating that market. Just like French perfumery created the eau de toilette generation, with everyone versed in keywords like ‘musc’ and ‘amber’, with little knowledge about these ingredients. And that’s fine. Most people are fine with generic.

But you’ll always have puritans on the fringes who need to get to the roots of things. Apart from the price tag, Thaqeel makes no promises. Just like Clive Christian. You’re only paying for the price. Depending on which outlet you go to, you might walk out thinking Thaqeel is the most prized Cambodian distillation ever conducted. A few months ago, you’d have thought it was just another blend of oud and synthetic musk. While last week, it was a Hindi that smelled like a mediocre cultivated Thai oil. At the end of the day, you’re being asked to put down $680 for a quarter tola you really know nothing about.

Even if you’re not from the Middle East, your understanding of oud is likely to be as diluted as the stuff you buy here. This is how effectively ‘oud’ has been promoted through the years. Today in Western perfumery, instead of Jasmine you get methylheptine carbonate. In ‘oud’ shops, instead of oud oil, you get dioctyl phthalate. And that’s fine… as long as that’s what you’re being told.

 

Why I Buy Ensar Oud

Just thought I’d share a few photos with you that pretty much sum up why I will only deal with Oriscent.

This is a bottle of supposed “Top Shelf” Oud I had purchased some time ago from one of the so-called “Reputable” dealers here in the Gulf. Needless to say it has sat untouched since being blessed enough to start dealing with Oriscent.

The first photo shows the bottle as it has sat for some time, giving everything time to “settle”. The remaining photos show the gruesome picture of what lies inside once turning the bottle over. I don’t even want to think what some of that stuff might be. Though the pictures don’t show it very well, the bottom is actually a murky grey. You can’t even see through the clear glass due to the unknown sediment that has settled to the bottom of the bottle after sitting for so long, not to mention what those dark blotches might be.

Sure, it smelled pretty good when trying it in the shop but, as the pictures clearly show, that doesn’t mean it’s “pure”. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have the opportunity to deal with Oriscent for my Oud needs.

On another note, I tried the Oud Yusuf  toady and it was simply beautiful. Stayed with me all through the day continuing to tease me with hints of Cambodi fruitiness. It’s been a while, and I’ll have to go back just to check, but in some ways it reminded me a bit of the Purple Dervish. But while Purple Dervish leans more towards the blue/purple part of the fruit spectrum, Oud Yusuf seems to lean more towards the orange/yellow. At times like a caramel brown or golden honey scent. I can’t really explain it but the main thing is I simply loved it.

The Oud Yusuf had pretty much worn off by Maghrib time (I had put a single swipe on around 7:30 AM) with only a very subtle hint remaining from time to time, and so I decided to try Idrees…. WOW! It didn’t leave me for a moment throughout my salat nor for some time after that. This is an oud to use if you want to sit for a few hours and make dhikr, or just meditate. It completely engulfs you. Every, and I mean EVERY, breath is filled with a smooth, beautiful Hindi Assam scent for HOURS. Once you put it on, it simply will not let you go and there is no way to escape it … not that anyone who appreciates a good Assam oud would want to! This is one that will most likely be joining the Legends category soon and I’m glad I was able to add it to my collection.

I look forward to future discoveries as I’m sure I will continue to be impressed as well as blessed to be able to own and experience more pieces of the Artisinal Oud puzzle that is Oriscent. — Yousuf, UAE

 

Introducing Encens d’Angkor

Tupelo honey-laced strawberry jam, and purple bubble gum. Figs, plums and nectarines. Ensar recently launched his most fruitilicious Cambodi to date: Oud Yusha.

Oud Yusha is definitive proof that organically cultivated agarwood can yield amazing quality Oud oil. When produced artisanally, that is.

Anyone can order Oud directly from a distiller. Just like anyone can order a Monet directly from the printers. You’re getting a picture on paper, sure. Just like you’re getting oil in a bottle. But you know the difference.

So, what do we mean by ‘produced artisanally’?

Put a swipe of Oud Yusha on the inside of your left wrist. Now swipe your right wrist with Encens d’Angkor. What you’re about to embark on is an olfactory journey through ages of perfecting the craft of Oud distillation.

If you think the scent of an oil depends only on the raw materials, think again. Oud Yusha and Encens d’Angkor were distilled from the same batch of wood. In the same distillery. Yet, the aromatic contrast couldn’t be more stark.

In preparation for distillation, the wood for the one was soaked in a certain way for a set time. The other was soaked less. The one was then distilled in copper vessels; the other in stainless steel. And so we could go on. Many, many unique tweaks and techniques were employed to create these two markedly different scents from the same raw materials.

Don’t think experimenting with distillation techniques is something just anyone can do in their spare time. Some of the oils take months to produce, costing you a pretty penny. And it can all easily go horribly wrong.

The finest wild agarwood in the hands of a novice will yield mediocre oil. The finest organic agarwood in the hands of a ‘mad scientist’ artisan will yield… Encens d’Angkor!

We rocked the boat so much with Encens d’Angkor that we could have easily gotten away with promoting it as something other than the pure bred Cambodi it is. But a trained nose will pick up its Cambodi pulse, and will delight in its unusual beat.

Dark top notes of cosy countryside cottage wooden floors, warmed by a flickering fireplace; a morning walk where fresh air reveals green flavors of guava, amberous patchouli, oakmossed-out sandalwood, pregnant with the ever present figs and blackberries, shrouded in a deep shade of incense and woods.

All proceeds from your purchase will go right back into the stills, helping to support sustainable agarwood cultivation, taking organic Oud to the next level.

3 grams. In a plain glass bottle.


‘The Bare Essentials’

‘I’m a struggling college student and my only pleasure in life are your wonderful oud oils. The only thing I spend money on is the bare essentials, to eat and buy oud. If I spend what you’re asking for the Mostafa I won’t have enough money to feed myself for the rest of the month and I don’t plan on fasting anytime soon.

Oud really helps me get through the tough hardships this life throws at me everyday. This is why I spend the type of money I do on your oud, because it helps me survive and it’s worth more than money to me. It’s not just a luxury item for me, it’s a necessity of life.

God and oud are the reason I’m still breathing today and decide to continue to endure the chastisement I face from this cruel world. Not only is oud a wonderful godly fragrance but it can become a powerful weapon when blessed by an anointed person of God to combat the forces of evil in this world. And nothing is like a blessed Assam oud.

This is just the beginning of what this sacred oil really means to me. It’s amazing how many people don’t know how powerful this oil really is except a very select few, and you’re one of them Ensar.

I can go on all day about my spiritual journey and how I came to know about these blessed oils from God but this is just something I only share with a very few people I know can understand. People of God!’

Introducing Oud Yusha

 

Thick spread of fig jam, plums and nectarines.
And raw tupelo honey.
A resinous amber undercurrent.
The precious woods dry down makes you tingle.
Copper distilled, almost two years ago.
No chemical fertilizers.
No pesticides.
Just some chicken droppings and rain water.
Cambodi addicts beware!

There are moments it smells so fruity it reminds me of the purple bubble gum we used to chew in junior high school. Or rosy lipstick. Or strawberry jam. Or cola.

When produced artisanally, organically cultivated Oud opens a whole new range of premium grade Oud oils. Get the quality of Ensar Oud, uncompromised, with Ensar himself at the distillation pots, at a price that gives wild Oud a chance to run for its life.

Order Oud Yusha! You not only help preserve wild agarwood trees, you help take organic Oud to the next level! All proceeds from your purchase will go right back into the stills. Not to mention, you get to be one of the first to own Ensar’s fruitiest Cambodi yet. 


Thai Encens: The ooze of organic Oud!

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Part 1: The flavors of Thailand

Part 2: Pouring the aromatic dust into the still

Part 3: Filtering the Oud oil

Part 4: Organic Oud gone Artisanal

Thai Encens: The most insane Oud ever distilled in Thailand

Take the most resinated organic agarwood money can buy, grind it up into dust, juice it up into oil, and what do you get? Japanese incense, in a bottle!

Part 1: At the grinder: Incense grade organic Thai agarwood, ground up into dust.

Part 2: As we come in to pour the incense grade dust into the still, we’re greeted by the most ‘fecalicious’ aroma imaginable, emitted by the 20 year-old organic tree we harvested the previous day.

Organic Oud, up close and personal

This time, we didn’t set out on our journey to the Far East to find wild agarwood. We came here to confirm reports that wild agarwood is on the brink of extinction, and from what we’ve seen we can no longer in good conscience get involved with extracting Oud oil from wild harvested agarwood trees.

We’re confident that with the proper input and supervision, Oud oil distilled from cultivated agarwood can be of a much higher quality than what’s currently available. We’ve been exploring alternative cultivation methods with a select group of plantation owners and distillers in order to focus on getting a solid foundation in place for others to build on.

Our resolve is to stay clear of any newly commissioned wild agarwood distillations, and work instead towards establishing organic cultivation that is ethical, sustainable, and that will yield extraordinary Oud oil.

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Every dollar you spend on our Organic Oud oils will go directly toward promoting agarwood conservation efforts.