Gen3: A Comprehensive Guide

In an earlier blog post, I wrote a bit on the various types of oud oils offered by Agar Aura as categorized under what I call “Generations”.

If you have spent enough time with Gen3 oils, one thing you will realize is that your appreciation and even perception of them differs greatly between when you first sniffed it versus 2-3 weeks (and for certain extremely sesquiterpene-rich oils, months) later. So much so, that it will almost seem as if it is a different oil altogether.
If I had a penny for every time a customer was not too impressed by an oil at first sniff and then ended up falling madly in love with it to the extent of begging me months later, to check and double-check to see if I still had any bottles remaining of oil X, Y, or Z… I’d be a rich guy.  : )

Why does this happen? And why so often with Agar Aura oils?

This blog post is dedicated to one thing, and one thing alone: helping you make sense of this seemingly bizarre category of oud.


Table of Contents

1. The Wood Connection (Not)
2. The Coffee Connection
3. Gen3 – Okay, but WHY?
4. The Elephant in the Room: Potency
5. Gen3 Appreciation Guide


The Wood Connection (Not)

“Flowers? Lime? Vanilla pods?!”

I haven’t had a single visit from a wholesale client, except that he came a skeptic and left a believer.
Typically, when one of these folks express their concern that the opening notes of Agar Aura oils seem un-oud-like, I in turn ask them, “so it should smell like a farmhouse, outhouse, or slaughterhouse, right? Because that’s what the wood smells like, right…?”

Of course that rhetorical question is usually followed by silence. Occasionally the response is “but that’s what the market is used to.”
That’s fair. I can respect that. Or at least, I can understand where they’re coming from.

But I always follow that up with Gen3 heating of raw agarwood. That’s right. There is a Gen3 method of heating wood (and anyone including YOU can try it out yourself).
By the end of the Gen3 wood heating session, coupled with the oil equivalents smeared on their forearms (for side-by-side comparison), their perception has been forever altered.

If I were to ask you what stage of an agarwood-heating session you enjoy the most, chances are that you’ll say its the vaporous wisps rising up in the early stages that are the most enjoyable.

Contrary to popular belief (and I realized just recently that it was a popular belief), Gen3 is NOT my attempt to capture the experience of a low temperature agarwood heating session. Nor is it just the “first pull”, i.e. oil from just the first half or one-third of the distillation cycle.

One of my voltage-adjustable electric censers.

Gen3 wood heating consists of “pumps” and “cruises”. And it requires very high grade agarwood. Ideally, you’ll use an electric censer with a voltage adjustor, but if you don’t have that then you can still have the Gen3 experience on charcoal.

The idea is to expose the wood chip to a few different levels of heat systematically. Coupled with a voltage adjustor, an electric censer (like this one) is of course the most convenient option. With plain ol’ charcoal, you will need to build two mini mounds of ash on top of the lit charcoal, one mound bigger than the other. You’ll then have to juggle the wood chip between the two mounds and even (briefly) place the chip directly on the charcoal.

Yes, the core concept of Gen3 heating IS low-temperature emission of the oleoresin vapors. But the idea is to enjoy the experience of “the first whiffs” over and over.. and over again.

To do this, the chip is allowed to exude however much fragrant vapor that it can, at the lowest possible heat (we want to release the fragrance, not burn it!), but it will need gentle nudges to keep this going. i.e. bursts of higher heat or “pumps“, followed by a drastically lower heat setting or “cruises“.

Typically, the resin in western (Indian and Indo-Chinese) species of agarwood is the softest and so the temperature fluctuations are less dramatic, whereas far-east (e.g. Papuan and Filipino) species have much harder resin, that will require significantly higher-temperature pumps.

A typical Gen3 style Cambodian agarwood session can look something like this:
1) Select a 2mm x 2mm x 5mm sliver of agarwood (too thin or too thick, it won’t be optimal)
2) Pump: set the voltage to MAX until the moment you start to smell the vapors just starting to rise
3) Cruise: instantly drop the voltage to a lower setting where the vapor still rises in earnest
4) Cruise 2: drop the voltage further down to ensure acrid notes don’t emerge (some of the oil, that was acting as a heat buffer, has already vaporized so some of the wood fibres can now start to combust = acrid smell)
5) Pump 2: briefly crank up the heat again to liquify oleoresin in deeper pockets inside the wood
6) Cruise 3: drop the voltage down even lower than steps #3 and #4
7) Pump 3: once you start to sense that some acrid notes might emerge, remove the chip and let it cool down for about 5 seconds. Flip the chip and place it back on the censer and very briefly crank up the heat one last time
8) Cruise 4: lowest temperature setting cruise.

Cross-section of high grade + high quality wood, displaying deep inner pockets of oil and resin.

So what’s actually going on here?
By liquifying/liberating trapped pockets of oleoresin via pumps and then releasing them via cruises, what you’re doing is constantly re-living the “first wisps” experience over and over again.
Best of all, you get to experience that with not only the lightest compounds, but also the deepest heaviest compounds from the innermost pockets inside the wood too. Booyah!

Your arch-nemesis (at least in the case of the Gen3 heating style) is the aroma of combusting wood fibres. The wood smell is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the case of oh-so-rare batches of ambiently-aromatic wood (did you miss out on our Filipino wood? *gasp* shame on you!), but the core principle behind Gen3 is simple: release the isolated aroma of the “good stuff” aka “the black stuff” aka the oleoresin, without the interference of other scents from the wood.
After all, we reach for dark, sickly resinated agarwood and not pale cream-colored slabs of bunk grade wood, right? Its the “good stuff” we’re after.

So its all about the oleoresin, NOT the wood.

And now a word or two on coffee…


The Coffee Connection

Enjoying a cup of double-shot ristretto cappuccino, during a break from watching the distillation pot. Yum!

As some of you may know, I am a serious coffee nut. I roast and grind my own coffee, and pull espresso shots right at home. Every roast is carefully designed according to coffee varietal, plantation altitude, processing method (wet, washed, semi-washed), and geographical salient notes.

There’s a commonly (and WRONGLY) accepted notion that coffee smells great but tastes bad. Nope, good coffee should taste as good as it smells… in fact a perfectly pulled espresso shot tastes exactly how the roasted beans smell.
Coffee nerds call that the ‘god shot’.
To achieve this, the roast has to be perfect. The beans have to be aged a little bit to reach their prime after this (IMHO between 3-7 days, but opinions vary). The grind setting, the tamping pressure, water temperature, machine P-Stat and the level to which the portafilter is filled with coffee… each and every one of these variables affects one’s ability to achieve the ever-venerated and rarely-achieved perfect shot. Get only one of these variables wrong and you’ll just get a ‘nice’ cup of coffee. Maybe even great. But not a perfect shot.

Gen3 oils are essentially the equivalent of the perfect espresso shot.
And a shot is only as good as the beans (or agarwood, in the case of oud oils) it was extracted from.



Gen3 – Okay, but WHY?

Recall I mentioned that for Gen3 wood heating, high quality agarwood is a prerequisite. If the wood is not sufficiently saturated with oil and resin (which buffers the heat pumps), then the absence of it will render the whole heat fluctuation thing utterly useless.
If anything, the heat pumps will combust even more wood fibres… and ultimately, you would have been better off just heating your wood chip at a constant (low) temperature.

Back to coffee for a sec-
Did you know that “espresso blends” and “espresso roasts” were invented for being able to supply to the mass market?
The idea is to be able to use the lowest quality beans (i.e. the bulk of global production) in huge quantities, dark-roast the heck out of them, and blend beans from different regions to mask the flaws that each individual batch has. Light and medium roasts will reveal the flaws. And single-origin batches will expose the lack of complexity and richness.

With the Gen3 distillation methodology, its the same idea. The raw material HAS to be high quality. Otherwise, the resulting oil will be severely flawed and lack complexity and richness.

Notice the light color of the oil. This is actually the oil during a higher-heat stage during distillation.

Interesting side note: pre-distillation fermentation of the raw materials and high-heat distillation of agarwood serve the same purpose as dark-roasting and blending different varieties of coffee: they allow for mass-production with more uniformity between batches, and also introduce “synthetic” richness + complexity in oud oils which is otherwise absent intrinsically in the raw material (typically bunk wood).

In the 1930’s, the Moka / caffettiera pot was invented, the espresso was born, and people went nuts. These devices were the fore-runners of present-day modern espresso machines. The concept is the same, but the adaptation of the very same extraction concept is more fine-tuned, and thus allows for superior espresso shots. Today, you can enjoy a shot of coffee that tastes exactly how it smells… awesome!
(of course, you gotta make sure your barista has some serious shot-pulling skills)

Old school “closed-system” method, that was used way back in the day, in India.

The fore-runner of Gen3 oils was… believe it or not, vintage Indian oud! That’s right. Unlike today, with their industrialized modern steel apparatus equipped with automatic hydrosol-refeed “open” systems and cost-cutting techniques practically defining the fragrance of oud that’s been coming out of India since the 60’s, a hundred years ago the setup was exclusively a “closed” system, all pots were made of copper (allowing superior thermal conduction = low temp distillation), and in fact BECAUSE it was a closed system, they had to run extremely low-temperature distillations. This is what made the Indians the masters of the oud art. It was all about temperature control.

Try controlling and keeping the upper hand on heat today using a closed system, with fancy shmancy electric and gas burners. Its TOUGH (the “explosion oil” accident that nearly took out my left eye happened precisely because I was running a closed system to mimic the distillations of old).
Now try that with firewood. Its a million times harder. The pot gets a little too hot, the internal pressure increases too much.. and BOOM!
You better not be standing too close to the pot. : /

The Indian distillers at the turn of the century were masters of the art of heat control. Using the meat of their palms to assess the temperature at the belly of the pot, the cupola and the lyne arm, they would adjust the distillation temperature on the go, like live choreography. Distillations were done out in the open, so imagine the havoc wind could wreak when firewood serves as the fuel. Keeping the upper hand requires some serious skill.

What did YOU think ‘traditional’ oud means? I’ll tell you what it means to the old-timers: selecting awesome raw materials + mastery of heat control during distillation just as they saw their predecessors (seemingly effortlessly) control the heat during a run.

Open or closed system… copper or steel… high or low temp… (and I utilize them all)… the point is that Gen3 is the modern-day adaptation of the same principles that used to be implemented a century ago. Like modern day espresso machines, today distillers like myself have a lot of advancements that we can adopt. Things that simply didn’t exist back in the day.
And the aim is not dismiss the oils of old. Rather, the way I see it, its to celebrate a nearly-forgotten tradition. A tradition that, by its very nature, preserved and presented the finest features of the finest raw materials.

Morish style Alquitar still. Surprisingly close to what the Angkor Khmers used centuries before that!

Here’s an interesting fact bite: before the emergence of Indian distillation (the birth of oud oil as we know it), Cambodians were distilling oud centuries before that. It dates back to at least the Angkor era, when the deceased king’s body was drizzled with oud oil before cremation. Back then, they boiled the wood in clay vessels not unlike the Alquitar system, and just like distillation in India that came centuries later, it was a closed system process. So gentle cooking was even more important. High temp cooking in clay-ware would be even more dangerous than doing it in copper apparatus, since the clay apparatus could literally explode.

So, why Gen3?
I could make my own life easier by making more ‘conventional’ oud oils the way most of them are made these days, as they require waaay less obsessive attention and care. So why, you ask? Simple.
1) awesome raw materials: there’s something to actually showcase and flaunt, as opposed to run-of-the-mill raw materials used for common / mainstream oud oils you find today. In their case, “masking” techniques are actually a better idea because Gen3 methodology lays everything bare (we don’t want to be staring at a naked emperor now do we?)   ; )
2) technique: implement the methodology that will best flaunt that awesomeness. Back in the day, there was no choice but to do it (the setup would explode if you didn’t). Today, there are ways to do the same… and further improve upon it. Thus, Gen3 oils feature a razor sharp focus on the aroma of the isolated oleoresin like no other oud oils in the market. This razor sharp focus was not possible in the past. Now it is. Someone needs to showcase the aroma of old batches of the finest agarwood in its most pristine form, so that’s what I try to do.

Remember the higher temp light-hued oil above? Well, here is a DARK-hued oil’s low temp fraction. For Agar Aura oils, the color does not indicate anything.

Food for thought: another question I like to regularly ask customers: “do you ever get a ‘dark’ aroma from heating wood?”
The answer is… Nope.
Especially if you enjoy low-temperature heating. And even with higher-temperature heating, once the smoke dissipates, you’re left with a clean sweet aroma in the room. Certainly nothing like “dark” crudely-cooked oud oils.

So ask yourself: is it the smell of the rare and precious substance, OUD, that you enjoy more….. or the smell of microbial metabolism of the wood, the hot pot, and the inefficient condenser (conventional ‘dark’ smelling oils)?

…food for thought.

The Elephant in the Room: Potency

This is the single most controversial thing about Gen3 oils. There are two camps with regard to this, and the divide between the two is huge.

There are those that find Gen3 oils to be waaay too strong, potent and tenacious.
And there are those that find the aroma to be flat, lacking complexity, and disappearing within a matter of hours (or even minutes).

Guess what… I happen to be in both camps!  ; )
I’ll expand on this further down below.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that the way Gen3 oils are distilled, they are literally the richest in terms of sesquiterpenes (the stuff that makes oud OUD). As a matter of fact, even though I never got Ayu lab-tested, I am willing to bet that it is the single most sesquiterpene-rich oil ever distilled (a $1,000 reward goes to the first person who can find another distilled oud oil with a higher net concentration of sesquiterpenes, per GCMS lab test).

Why didn’t I get the lab test done myself?
Because its very hard work attending to a pot night and day… day after day. And so, after all this toil, sacrificing even 0.5ml for a lab test is an unbearable thought. Plus, lab tests are generally done for oils acquired from third parties, to ensure purity. As for Ayu, I distilled it myself.

Lab-tested or not, either way, if you see a Gen3 distillation project in person you will understand why it not only pulls out more sesquiterpenes than the average oud oil out there, but also why those compounds stay preserved in the final product, the oil you swipe on your wrist.

This explains why Gen3 oils smell so extremely different from everything else – other low and high quality oud oils.

With this in mind, its now time to address the elephant in the room: the issue of potency, and why there are often (VERY) dramatically divergent perceptions of the very same oil.

I’m going to use Ayu as the test subject.

Right off the bat, anyone who got this oil will notice how runny it is. This is among the 5 “leanest” oud oils I’ve ever made. There is virtually no ‘grease’ element in this oil, its distilled entirely from the oleoresin portion of the agarwood with extra care given to avoid other wood compounds (waxes, lipids, etc).

The nice thing about oils with the additional waxes and lipids is that they form a nice layer of grease on your skin, which allows the essential oil component to stay on the surface of your skin and not get absorbed quickly.
The downside is that, well… you’re partially paying (a lot) for grease!

Dab, dont rub!

Then you have Ayu. No grease at all. Rub it in a little too much, and you essentially just rubbed on a super expensive moisturizer. Yep, its all going to get absorbed, and so naturally the aroma will be very short-lived.
So you have to be extra sure to dab, not rub.
The upside: you’re not paying for costly grease.

Okay, so let’s assume you’re applying Ayu properly, as outlined above.

Scenario 1: the oil is way too strong

If you fall under this category, chances are (but not necessarily) that this is your first exposure to a Gen3 Malaysian oud. In general, I am of the opinion (and have seen enough lab reports to know) that Malaysian oud oils are THE most intense in terms of their fragrant components. Whereas many folks believe Indian oud to be the most challenging and at the end of the proverbial ladder, I believe it is Malaysian oud that is the most challenging.
So don’t be too perplexed. You’re not alone. Aside from being an ‘intensely oudy’ oud, Ayu is also a full-blown Gen3 oud. So everything is further amplified, all the good stuff is extra concentrated.

Give it some time.
I recommend applying tiny dots immediately above your outer wrist where a watch would sit (you made sure to dab and not rub, right?) and not sniffing it too often. It can take anywhere between 2 to 3 weeks for your brain to cozy up to the unusually intense dosage of sesquiterpenes.

One of the perks of in-person visits: sampling tons of oils (for free!)

I had a client over a couple months ago, and he wanted to have the entire meeting with me video-recorded, as a reference to go back to later. In-person meetings are always very long, often 14 hours or more. I go over a lot of topics, and of course both arms are stained with dabs of oils, from wrist to bicep. Its quite common for folks to bring along a voice recorder, or something or another for recording everything.

So this chap, as usual, wanted to record everything. We started with Gen3 wood heating. As usual, his eyes got groggy looking, like he was high. Next came the kinam heating, then eating. And then the oils.
And finally… Ayu.
That did it for him, his brain was fried. He politely requested to be allowed to go lie down on my couch for a half hour. I later showed him the video of the entire session. He found it rather embarrassing and made me promise not to share the video on the website.
M.D. if you’re reading this, let me know if you change your mind. I think everyone would find the video highly fascinating!
; )

Scenario 2: the oil smells muffled or doesn’t last too long

An email from a customer who decided to take my word for it, and approach the Gen3 oil Kekasihku as prescribed. A meek mouse became a beast.

This, for some reason, I have found to be more common (but not necessarily) with folks who have been exposed to oud for quite a while and have already tried a variety of different oud oils. Without exception, literally in every single case, I have found that if such a person patiently gives the oil frequent wears – again for 2 to 3 weeks, and not sniffing directly too much – the longevity and intensity magically seems to increase in a big way.
Not to mention, the infinite layers of richness and complexity.

J.S., R.S., and R.S. good job following my guidelines. The three of you were a bit skeptical at first, but I’m sure you’ll agree it was well worth the patience.

Some even end up finding it to become so supercharged that they cannot go to sleep if they apply the oil too close to bed time (cases in point: Ayu, Kekasihku and Vietnam Special K), because it activates the brain too much. A far cry from the initial impression of a soft and weak oil!

I’m no brain scientemologist, but my guess is that the reason this happens to folks with heavy prior exposure to oud is because the brain is already exposed to this powerful substance (folks, straight oud IS an intense fragrance.. just think about how much wood goes into 1 single drop of oil!). And so, the brain probably has put a defence mechanism in place when it gets overloaded with overly oudy oud oils.
The result: olfactory fatigue.

Here’s a quick check, to know if this is happening to you. After applying an oil, if it starts to wane in strength unusually fast, hold your nose about an inch above the point where you applied it and inhale VERY slowly. Are you getting a tingling sensation inside your nose despite a weak scent?
Congratulations, the problem has been diagnosed. You are suffering from olfactory fatigue from an overload.

The top note fractions of Ayu… no, I’m just kidding. This is just my post-workout BCAA drink. But seriously though, the top note fractions of Ayu looked very similar! ; )

Now I want to make this very clear: I am not arrogantly finger-wagging or passing holier-than-thou judgments. I myself, the distiller of my oils, the one exposed to each and every fraction straight from the pot (i.e. having the advantage of observing every single fraction individually), usually suffer from olfactory fatigue.

In the case of Ayu, it took me around 3 months until it finally ‘clicked’. It went from a weak, muffled oil, to becoming a beast of an oud.
I want you to think about that for a moment.
I repeat: I am the one who distilled Ayu, and was intimate with it from the very first fraction until the very last drop was collected. And it took me 3 months to fully grasp it.

Here’s a test you can do to measure your nose: you will know you have fully grasped Ayu once you are able to smell the a-agarofuran sesquiterpene within the first 5 minutes after application (white pepper and burning wood smell). If you smell it after about half an hour, you’ve made good progress but still have some way to go. If you don’t smell it at all, you have a long road ahead.

If one of the latter two cases apply to you, you have to understand that a swipe or two simply won’t do. This is Gen3 OUD we’re talking about folks. Its not exactly a simple single-compound fragrance. Its not even regular oud. There is no way you (and I) can fully grasp a Gen3 oil and judge it based on a sniff or two.

You may have noticed that in the case of two different Gen3 oils, cooked in the very same pot (by the same guy, me) and using the same techniques, one oil might seem to out-perform the other. If you find this to be the case, that’s again a clear indication that your brain is more comfortable with one specie (read: one cocktail of aromatic compounds) of oud more than another specie (read: another cocktail made with a different set of compounds).

You got run-of-the-mill oud oils extracted from bunk wood, then you got oils from wood like this (from 8 trees, estimated 300-500 years old. So old they were standing DEAD). I juiced this wood.

Bottom line: this is OUD. Its complex by its very nature. I’m a distiller, have more of an advantage with regard to the oils I make (exposure to, and assessment of, every single fraction layer by layer). And yet, everyone who regularly keeps in touch with me via WhatsApp or other means, knows that even as I’m distilling an oil, I am unable to comment too much on it in terms of the scent while the distillation is running. The volatile compounds are as supercharged as can be fresh out of the pot, and so naturally I perpetually fry my brain assessing every fraction, every pull, and folks who follow my distillations live will attest to the fact that I find even beastly oils (e.g. Ayu and Au Luong) to have smelled very muffled and weak in the beginning.

Bottom line: don’t be perplexed. I myself initially suffer from olfactory fatigue in most cases. But what I, and those who suffer the same but strictly follow my advice, consistently find is that 2-3 weeks of proper and frequent mini-applications (almost like vaccines) resolve the issue wonderfully.

Incidentally, I have also observed that customers with the best noses (in my humble opinion) “crack the code” of Gen3 oils consistently over a period of 2-3 months.

Food for thought: there are more demands (in private, and in forums) for sold-out Agar Aura oud oils than any others. “I wish I had grabbed this when it was available” is all too common. Why? Because it took a while for the oil from the sample vial to ‘click’ in the brain, but by that time it was already sold out on the website.

Even more interestingly: once they have clicked, these oils often conjure interesting imageries in customers’ minds which happen to coincide with one another’s and my own!

Gen3 Appreciation Guide

Kiyosumi’s first fractions coming to life

I’ll start this section with one very fascinating imagery, and that is the image of a highly intricate prismatic / lattice structure. This is the image that was conjured in the minds of multiple people (me included), from smelling and studying an Agar Aura Gen3 oud oil, Kiyosumi.

As usual, it took me a while to grasp this oil fully. Sure, it was pleasant and smelled beautiful straight off the bat. But to fully grasp the oil (and to reach the “lattice imagery” stage), it took quite some time.

Is that what Gen3 is about? Picturing prisms in your mind?
Nope. But every Gen3 oud that I have cooked, by definition, was distilled from exceptional raw materials. Why? Because I do all the work myself and so time is of the essence; I can’t afford to waste my time cooking any thing less than exceptional. Its a lot of work, especially the way I do it (thanks to my OCD), and even more so because Gen3 demands that. So average and mundane batches of wood simply don’t make the cut.

But what does that have to do with imagery?

In the case of Kiyosumi, it induces an extreme sense of calm whereby the mind suddenly becomes very clear. Everything ‘falls into place’. The crazy universe finally seems ‘structured’. The mental imagery is just a by-product of the mental state the oil induces, and not a necessary one. The power of this oud lies in fortifying the mind, and giving it the strength to make sense of, and dominate, the craziness of life.

To properly appreciate any Gen3 oud oil, first and foremost respect must be given to the raw material. I merely play the role of a messenger who is trying to faithfully convey what is found in the raw material, what makes it stand out. But it is the raw material ITSELF which, as a prerequisite, had to be awesome for me to have considered and selected for distilling. So veneration of the precious wood is paramount and a prerequisite.
Be mindful and respectful of what it is you are about to experience.
It is a rare and precious natural substance. Allow it to become your teacher.

And now, I will finally divulge my own ‘airy fairy’ opinion/experience of high grade oud which I didn’t want to share before, lest it seem imposing. So you are welcome to take this with a pinch of salt, or a punch. Or accept it as is:

Oud, to me, is something that should transcend over and above a mere perfume experience.
There is a reason the Oriental masters of old went ‘Gahhh…‘ over exquisite batches of agarwood, wrote detailed treatises on them (and even named them), and carved a place for it in their religious and spiritual traditions.

I mean… C’MON.. just look at this wood! You can’t expect an oil distilled from wood of this caliber to be an ‘easy read’ (just got done distilling this wood by the way).

I find that superior batches of agarwood possess a certain ‘energy’. Its not simply a grade thing – I’m sure many of you have smelled less than thrilling batches of what visually appeared to be high grade agarwood (i.e. merely dark in color).
The tree needs to have suffered tremendous stresses (stress = oleoresin formation trigger), needs to have been old, and the oleoresin formations themselves need to be old (more aging inside the tree = more ‘energy’).

To release the latent energy of the agarwood, heat needs to be applied. But it has to be controlled heat.
Too low, and all you get is a nice pleasant aroma.
Too high, and you just killed the energy.

For me, the Gen3 heating method provides the best release of the energy sitting dormant inside the agarwood. For Gen3 oil distillation as well, this is precisely why I implement batch-by-batch-based temperature and pressure curves: the aim is to preserve and present the potential energy that sat dormant inside the wood, as immaculately as possible.

Have you noticed that Gen3 oils are the squeaky-cleanest smelling? Almost surgically clean? Its not a “low temperature” thing. In fact, a return to low temperature distillation has become quite common nowadays. Rather, its about the right temperatures at the right stages in the right environment. And of course, all this is pointless if the quality of the raw material was not itself worthy of showcasing.

And so, it ultimately boils down to the three-point tantra I always mention:
1) superior raw material, first and foremost, that possesses a lot of latent energy.
2) distilled using the most suitable apparatus (I use different apparatus for different batches of wood, and even for different stages of the very same distillation).
3) distilled using techniques that best preserve and present the energy of the oil, and its more than just a temperature thing.

‘Pleasant’, ‘nice’ and ‘pretty’ can be said about pretty much any Gen3 oil – unless you are averse to a particular specie (e.g. Filaria, usually a mad-love or utter-hate thing).
But as I said in the previous blog post, go past just the aroma. Take your time with Gen3 oils. Even I cannot fully grasp and appreciate everything they have to offer, merely with a swipe here and a sniff there.

ALL this wood = two drops of oil. One cannot grasp everything that oil has to offer, from a few cursory sniffs.

I often use the example of a Charles Dickens classic. You cannot finish David Copperfield in a day. Or if you do rush through it, sure, you may remember a character name here and there. But you cannot enjoy it the way its meant to be enjoyed unless you invest the time it requires.
As for an abridged version of David Copperfield, sure. You’ll get to know all the character names, the plot, and the moral of the story. All within an hour or two.

The same goes for Gen3 oils. Ask anyone who did put in the time, and they will tell you the Dickens analogy is apt. You will not, can not, appreciate them without putting in the time. You want a simple, easy oud? Plenty of those out there.

I will be the first to say that Gen3 oud is NOT the only way to appreciate high quality oud. There are plenty of amazing oud oils, both vintage and modern, of a variety of flavors and styles that pay mighty homages to the raw materials they were extracted from.
Of course, high quality raw material is always a must in my opinion.  : )

Gen3 oud just happens to be one category among many, a category which I think is not represented enough. With high quality agarwood running out at an alarming rate, and Gen3 serving the sole purpose of paying a mighty homage to the purest expression of the oleoresin / the ‘energy’ of the tree, I see no option but to do my part in preserving and presenting the supremacy of the oldies with the most modern and sophisticated methods available today, which were not available back when the oldies ruled the jungles.

Its a small window of opportunity.
I cannot miss it while I still have the chance to work with old, exceptional batches of raw materials.
And I hope you will not miss out on the chance to lend an attentive nose to this genre of oud, while you still can.

Your nose, and (as I always emphasize) your mind will thank you for it.

/ end of airy fairy discourse  ; )

6 Comments Add yours
  1. Very fruitful read.

    Humbling to think and especially with the picture to give a visual(hand full of wood = two drops oil) reference of just how much wood a oil needs for production!

    1. Yessss… HUMBLING. That’s the right way to approach these rare precious gifts of nature.
      Again, not trying to put on my holier than thou hat haha.. this applies to all high grade, well made oud Oils. Not just mine.

  2. great, comprehensive, fair, honest and balanced post Taha.

    Open letter to all oud aficionados:

    R.S as mentioned in Taha’s article is me.

    While I consider myself an open minded, curious, adventurist and never judge a book by its cover and always try to give the benefit of the doubt kind of guy, I have to say i was pissed off at myself and also at Taha for having taken a plunge of buying multiple Gen 3 oils in full size from him without having asked for samples first. stupid me. punishment i received was well deserving, until…(more on this below)

    allow me to explain by taking you thru my experiences.

    Prior to these gen 3 oils (kiyosumi, kanzen, kekasihku, ayu, au luong, lavanya,…) i had exposure to some 70-80 oils from many different distillers/merchants up and down the price point and from each and every corner of agarwood growing region. literally. none and i mean none including Ensar Senkoh series oils (closest to gen 3 oils) behaved the way Taha’s oils did.

    I would read Taha’s descriptors of his oils and then i would try them and shake my head in disbelief of where does this guy get the nerve to describe all these notes that are not only not shy or coy in the given oils, but completely absent. In the meantime he was telling me my nose and brain is fatigued and how I need to wait till I am ready for them, blah blah. what a scam artist. desperate moves of a fool that will get exposed. How the hell does he think he will get away with this in the world of online forums and close knit community that oud lovers have formed. he was guilty before trial in my eyes. i had given up hope (not entirely but 90%) after i re-tried the above gen 3 oils again and again and again and to my surprise saw little to no development in them. they remained one dimensional, monolithic, subdued, uninspiring and meh. i left them and stopped checking in on them every other day. i came back in two weeks or later and out of no where fireworks! holly molly!!! what the hell is going on??? did my wife started mixing oils to mess with me? is like literally an alarm went off and these oils woke up from hibernation.

    not all and not at the same time but kekasihku and kiyosumi in particular went from being totally dumb to magical display of most amazing performance. others like ayu or au luong and kanzen that were very one dimensional to me, started to show all sorts of other notes. what beautiful layers too!

    i shouldn’t have been too surprised b/c this phenomenon exists in world of single malts and wine (my profession). To a total newbie, all red wines smell the same and taste more or less the same. it is thru repeated and systematic exposure and patiently trying to go behind the first notes one perceives that these elixir’s open themselves up to the beholder. But i didnt expect this in oud, b/c as mentioned none of the other 70-80 samples from many different merchant/distillers and from $200-$2500 price points behaved this way.

    but hey, these oils have a mind of their own. they do what they do and for the few patient, curious and true dedicated students amongst us, they promise the most satisfying experience once we crack them. words don’t fit. i cant explain the joys i receive now from most (still not all) of these gen 3 oils. I openly told Taha and i tell you that I still favor some of the gen 4 over gen 3, but not all. At their best the gen 3 oils do something to me that is indescribable. They are the equivalent of the most perfect piece of sushi nigiri.

    Fast forward now and I have my largest transaction and order of oud oil to date awaiting delivery. Blind purchases. I trust this man and these oils and I am confident I will have a rocky relationship with many of them at first, feel frustrated again and have ups and downs with them but eventually we will live happily ever after together…

    1. I’m so glad Rasoul!
      Hope you enjoy the new goodies you’re receiving.
      AS USUAL, please don’t be scared to share your candid thoughts with me. Wishing you an eventful journey with them. ; )

  3. Fabulous read brother Taha. Your ceylon no.1 truly humbled me after having given up to understand its magic. And I totally blame myself for that. However I must say my sense of Oud has evolved massively and I am able to pick up/absorb so much better now. I tried buying Ayu but India delivery wasn’t available to my address 🙁
    Hopefully I will get a chance in the near future. Your passion and craftmamship can be felt in your beeutiful and utterly complex oils. Thank you and blessings for your wonderful hard work dear bro. Keep it up. So much to learn from you.

    1. Hi Nikhil,
      I have to rush off, need to leave for Thailand in about an hour.
      But I wanted to say, I’m so glad Ceylon No.1 opened up for you! I hope its not too oxidized, because one of the things I really try to preserve are the volatile compounds. That’s the stuff that gives the brain goosebumps… but it can get oxidized very quickly in sample vials, considering how much air is in those.
      Good news re India, looks like I now have no issues sending packages. I had two extremely smooth shipments, and it looks like I am able to bypass the nightmare I used to face before (and the 1+ month waiting period you had to wait for last time!)

      I know you love low heat method for heating agarwood (welcome to the club of wood lovers), let me know how fluctuating heat works for you. Its not an exact science… every chip is different. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll figure out when to increase/decrease the heat exposure.

      Once you’ve mastered that, its time to say hello to the rajkumari of Nagaland… Lavanya.
      (and I know how much you love Nagaland wood!)

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