I have to start off this blog post by apologising for not replying to emails promptly in the past 2 weeks. I am on the plane (finally!) back home after a lot of exciting but exhausting oudventures, and will probably be finishing off the post after getting home — so might be a few days before I get to reply to the backlog of emails. Thank you for understanding!
I’ll have to keep it short due to time constraints, so I’ll summarise some of what’s been happening at Agar Aura. I would have loved to share videos from some of the remote areas I have been to — including a rather entertaining purchase negotiation with veteran Cambodian agarwood hunters (hard to believe I was able to capture that).
But unfortunately, I still don’t have a reliable and fast internet connection, so that will have to wait.
First order of business: Malaysian oud. Although the general trend has been increasing difficulty in finding high grade wood, we managed to get 3 fantastic hauls of wood during my trip to Pahang. Talk about perfect timing. The wood was wild-harvested from the wild jungles of the Pahang-Selangor border.
Although it is still too early to know the exact grade of the wood right now due to the moisture content inside the wood fibres, these seasoned hunters have enough experience to be able to estimate the quality pretty well. And it is not disappointing at all!
So that’s the update for the (Malaysian) wood side of the business.
As for the oil side, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. I want to keep it a surprise, but suffice it to say that Yusof and I have been discussing distillation techniques quite extensively and there will be some really exciting Malaysian oils coming soon!
The next Malaysian release (Kemewahan) will actually be an oil that was distilled alongside Oud M1 when I first moved to Malaysia. It is in the same category of Malaysian ouds as Agar Supreme and Kemegahan. The distillations with the tweaks will follow.
In the case of Agar Supreme, Sempurna, Kemegahan, and Cantik Candan, we designed the distillations specifically with one goal in mind: to accurately capture different aspects of Malaysian agarwood — either the smell of the wood itself, or the wood heated on top of charcoal, or a combination of the two. Then there’s Oud M1, which captures a different aromatic dimension of Malaysian agarwood, specifically a Monkoh style unfolding of scent notes (and an accurate capturing of those notes too).
What I can tell you right now about the upcoming distillations is that, although I’d rather keep the nature a secret until we start running the distillations, this will be a series of oils quite different from both of the above categories — although closer to the distillation philosophy behind Oud M1 in some aspects.
Oud distillation is an art, and I don’t leave the aroma of our productions to chance, nor to the poor distillation techniques common in Malaysia. And nor do I leave it up to the distiller to figure out what to do with the raw materials. No, I design the distillation myself, with care and with specific goals in mind for each batch. This is the reason why our Malaysian ouds have been some of the finest Agar Aura offerings, and this upcoming new series is something that I think none of you will want to miss out on!
Just arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport now, so let us also hop over to Thailand and updates from there.
Pattani, a remote area in southern Thailand, and home to a wild-agarwood hunter who also happens to be a police officer with a lot of influence (trust me, it helps when it comes to harvesting wild agarwood). And now the latest addition to Agar Aura’s trustworthy distillers.
Pictured on the right is the first 7 tolas of 100% WILD harvested oud oil. Not a single drop of it is available any more for sale on the website, but I have already initiated talks for 2 more batches, both of which I plan to make available for sale exclusively on the website for you, my website customers. The scent profile? Somewhat similar to our popular Thai oud oil, Kritsana Pa. But Kritsana Pa was distilled from much younger trees.
This oil encompassed the aroma of Kritsana Pa, and had countless additional layers of complex oudy richness on top of it. I already know what tweaks to implement for the next 2 batches, so even though you missed out on this batch, I plan to bring you even more impressive batches.
The political situation in Thailand is pretty bad right now and getting worse by the day, so Yusof (who already headed back to Thailand, after returning to Malaysia from there just days ago!) is trying to figure out the best way for me to arrive at Pattani from now on, via an alternative route.
I’m now in the KLIA Ekspres train to Kuala Lumpur, so let us switch directions and talk about what was probably the most successful oudventure during my trips. Ahmad, his mother, her adopted son who is also our expert wood carver and cleaner, and I met with a group of veteran Cambodian hunters who live off the grid and every now and then will be spotted in one or another of the oud producing countries of Indo-China.
Our meeting was at a ‘drop point’, a hut of sorts, commonly used by hunters for storing their hauls before heading back into the jungle to collect more wood. You might be wondering what Ahmad’s mother was doing coming along with us. Well, since this harvest was not conducted by Agar Aura gaharu hunters, our acquiring (or deciding not to) of the wood was subject to how good a deal we got from the hunters. Ahmad’s mother’s presence sure helped! In case you’ve forgotten, my hunters Ahmad and Yusof are Khmers (Cambodian), so naturally their mother is as well. The old lady, a sweet looking granny but quite shrewd (it took more than just her 2 feet to flee from Pol Pot’s reign of terror), made sure to address the Khmer hunters with ‘son…’ prefixing every sentence, and by the end of the long and painful meeting that seemed to take forever, they were calling her ‘grandma’.
She had them wrapped around her finger, and we managed to get the upper hand, scoring 4 spectacular batches of agarwood from them.
There were bouts of heated arguments of course, and I found it more amusing than worrying. The Khmer language itself sounds like ringing bells. And as voices rose, it started to sound more and more like a room full of tinkling bells. Quite an unusual orchestra! Fingers also started to tap the floor impatiently (can’t even remember how long we were sitting on that floor), lighters were flicked, everyone was suddenly puffing furiously on agarwood-spiked cigarettes (which I later found was believed to cancel out the cancering-causing elements of cigarettes…. eeeeyeaaaah, keep dreaming!), and tense eyes were darting left and right. No one was certain how the meeting would end.
I was just enjoying the scene and the delightful sounds.
So yeah, the meeting ended well, and the wood ended up in our hands. Hurrah!
Coming soon, and depending on where I get called to first, are trips to Brunei, Sri Lanka, West Borneo, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma). I sure hope I get a reliable internet connection real soon. Its a pity I’m unable to upload some of these videos I’ve been shooting on my trips. They include interviews, distillations in progress, and extremely rare meetings with camera-shy hunters who do NOT like to have transactions captured on video. In the case of Dayaks, even photos are forbidden in their culture — if you want Borneo wood, you have to find out as much as possible before you journey to them. You will only get to see the wood after you go there in person.
Just arrived at KL Sentral station, so that’ll be all for now! Stay tuned for more updates.
And in the meantime, enjoy this closeup of the double-super grade chunk pictured above.
Until next time……