For the Love of Oud

 

For some, “Oud” is a tradition. Something that has existed in their culture, and therefore just a mundane part of life.
For others, it a fragrance genre – and a badly misinterpreted one, at that. We have petro-aroma-chemical companies to thank for that. *cough* Givaudan Black Agar *cough*
Few go beyond those two, to step into the world of high-end hand-crafted oud and enjoy the olfactory adventures they unlock.

But there’s an Oud Experience far, far, far beyond all of these.

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Cambodia 2017

 

Cambodia and I have history.
Many of you already know that although I reside in Malaysia, all my staff (up until recently) were Khmer thoroughbreds. From hunters to carvers (and let’s not forget Ahmad and Yusof, both Khmer Malaysians), I’ve always felt a certain affinity towards Cambodia, her people, and of course her agarwood. Its the oud country I’ve frequented the most, as my used up old passport and current passport will attest to.

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Vietnam 2017: Status Quo

Vietnamese oud agarwood

 

When it comes to agarwood, you just can’t beat Vietnam.
Kyara… ’nuff said!
By now, anyone who knows anything about anything about oud, knows that the jungles across the oud-producing world are in trouble because of agarwood poachers. And at the top of the list of culprits are.. none other than Vietnamese hunters.

So what’s the situation in Vietnam right now? Having spent some time there just recently (cooking some lovely oils), I got to meet some of the heavy hitters, and I got to learn some new things which I myself was oblivious to before.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the things I learned, not quite in my usual blog format, but rather as a list of interesting facts and figures.

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Sad state of affairs

wild agarwood

Like it or not, times have changed. Hunting costs have shot up, as its no more a matter of a one-day jungle hike to collect top grade agarwood (now its takes months of living and hunting in the jungle to get the same type of wood).
And so, for this reason even lower grades of agarwood are more expensive today, because every splinter of wood that is hauled back from the jungle has to play a role in recovering the hunting expenses.

Yes, compared to the massive Super King grade chunk pictured above, you can still find lower grade agarwood more easily. A week-long hunting trek will usually suffice.
But will agarwood from such trees produce oud oils of the calibre of yesteryears? I think you know Agar Aura’s answer to that.

PS: RM2,000 ≈ $450 today (March 7 2017).