Borneo Again

Borneo, November 2014. Less than a month after my previous trip to Borneo. Why return so soon? For a couple reasons.
Firstly, I received the oil from the Borneo trial distillation using Agar Aura’s all-new techniques, and I was SO impressed that I realized I simply cannot afford to waste any time. I’ve got to start working on the first full batch without any delay. 

We met various gaharu hunters who came with fresh agarwood from the jungle.

And secondly, I had Ahmad and Yusof join me on this trip. Thanks to my Dayak connections now, we are able to get some really incredible Borneo wood as well. But Ahmad and Yusof look after my wood business for me (whereas I focus primarily on the oil wing of the business, which I’m personally more passionate about). For this reason I wanted them to come and see the wood for themselves and assess if the Borneo wood we can get here would be suitable for our primary wood clients: Arab and Chinese.

On the plane, in the car... Ahmad and Yusof are using every opportunity they can to catch up on lost sleep.
On the plane, in the car… Ahmad and Yusof are using every opportunity they can to catch up on lost sleep.

We’re all pretty exhausted. Aside from the fact that I’ve been sick (the first time in over 2 years), we’re also drained due to how busy we’ve been lately. In the 5 days preceding our flight, Yusof’s been to Kelantan 3 times, and Ahmad and I have been running back and forth as well. Lots of meetings with Chinese and Vietnamese clients for our recent haul of Super King grade wood from Kelantan. Tuesday morning, Ahmad was in Kuala Lumpur. The same night he was back in his village (over 5 hours away), and at 5:20 AM the brothers were back at my home ready to head to the airport for Borneo.

I was tempted to bring my wife and son to Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) with me, but at the last moment I changed my mind.. and I’m glad I did. The weather is extra nasty, and also the bugs seem to be extra naughty. So I had them stay in Kuching (in Malaysian Borneo), while the brothers and I trekked on to one of the toughest terrains in Indonesia: Sanggau Regency of Kalimantan.

Quite a lot of food. What you see on the table is what was left over. Yeeeeeah, it was a lot of food.
Quite a lot of food. What you see on the table is what was left over. Yep, it was a lot of food.

After crossing the border, we stopped first for a quick bite. I didn’t really have an appetite; can’t really eat much right now due to my illness. But looking at the spread, you’d think this was put together for an army!

Yusof's usual "lunch" and "dinner"...
Yusof’s usual ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner’.

Yusuf hadn’t eaten in a day as he was in Kelantan with our hunters, so he gobbled down more food than I’ve ever seen him eat. I often jokingly say to him that if there was ever an autopsy done on him, first there’d be a burst of smoke that comes out and then they’d find a pool of iced coffee inside him. The guy runs on cigarettes and iced coffee. It was good to see him finally have a good decent sized meal. Soon he’ll have to head back to the jungles of Kelantan. We’ve already gotten word from our hunters there that there’s some more really great agarwood that was discovered.

But let’s get back to Borneo…

We got a kilo of double-super sinking grade agarwood to see how our wood clients like it.

So we first made a quick stop at our distiller’s home. On the way, I saw a minivan packed with children… with an additional dozen or so children sitting on the roof. As with what I observed in Colombo, I couldn’t help but wonder what the reaction of Canadian soccer moms would be if they saw this scene.
Our distiller ran into his house and brought out a bag of some real nice wood. We’ll see how our Arab market likes this, and if they do like it then A-Okay! We’re able to get this type of wood straight from Dayak hunters now.

After the pit stop, we then headed to the distillation facility. As soon as we stepped out of the car, I was greeted by a beautiful aroma perfuming the air. Our distiller had already started the distillation a few days before my arrival. Everything is going as planned, and he followed all of my directions to the letter. As you’ve probably realized if you’ve been following my recent Facebook and blog posts, you’ll know I designed some totally new distillation techniques and setups, and now I’ve started receiving samples from the test batches.

The first drops of our upcoming Borneo oud. The aroma is as bright and invigorating as the color.
At the distillation plant: the first drops of our upcoming Borneo oud. The aroma is as bright and invigorating as the color.. if not more.

The results have been outstanding. Not only are the colors of these new oils remarkable hues of yellow, green, and gold, but (more importantly) the aroma of these oils is just something else. Its like unlocking inner dimensions of the aroma of agarwood. For each country and each region, the setup was fine-tuned for the agarwood species. And each of these test batch oils is an explosion of the richest and most beautiful scent spectrums.
Looks like the past few months of non-stop traveling, investing in apparatus upgrades, and training distillers were worth it!

Sneak peak: some batches of our upcoming Burmese ouds.
Sneak peak: the bottle in the middle is one of our upcoming Burmese productions.

The Burmese and Sri Lankan test batches are ready and on their way to my place in KL. And I’ll be seeing the Bruneian distiller later this month, for the first full batch distillation.

So I still don’t quite have the time to take it easy and relax yet. But I feel like a kid at a candy store. Ever seen a kid tired at a candy store? Eeeexactly. ; )


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