Dive into polar opposites of the oud spectrum: Incense-grade Sri Lankan walla patta, marked by its mimosa sweet, aquamarine cool, and thick-jungle dark Marokean filaria.
This is the only co-distillation of its kind I know of.
The perfume-like quality of excellent walla makes it strikingly floral and ethereal, aquatic and calm (no erratic or 'punchy' twangy chords). Maroke’s resinous liqueur then elevates walla’s incense blue-green base, amplifies the piquant whiffs of anise and fennel, and the crispness of cedar. Savory spice twirling around melissa and champaka, ocean cool warms up to forest fresh in a fusion that’s alive with flowery zest that makes the ‘airy’ gyrinops profile smell thick.
How Maroke ended up in Ceylon is something for the oud archives. That they ended up in the same pot makes this elixir even more precious. The two sure make for eccentric bedfellows, so I’m happy to share this landmark one-of-a-kind Mareylon with you.
Two exotic breeds of agarwood world’s apart in a hybrid that oozes out wafts of fresh mahogany peeled from the bark. An unusual Papuan green leafiness that wraps around a herbal root mix—instead of wet jungle, you get white ginseng; instead of swampy vines, you get pine kernel. All of it lacquered in the syrup-resin-sweetness of raw resin.
This might not be a straight Papua, but wait until the drydown and you’ll smell it: the dark smokey jungle couldn’t stay away. Steadily the ginseng roots drill back into the soil and the dry sprouts get a sprinkle of rain. Pine bulbs crushed into a hand of freshly cut watercress, yet the white flowers never fully fade.
As a scent hue, you’re moving out of the jungle onto the beach, where the scent gets painted ocean blue…… until the Maroke starts a bonfire in the drydown as penetrating Papuan incense notes dart into the air. The scent isn’t nutty, nor fruity sweet.
Think kodo at a beach, picnic-spices flung through the air, wafts of smoke plucked to and fro, with a cup of steaming matcha to watch the sun go down. Watch out: Be it the first whiff, or ten minutes in, at some point you will want to drink this!
Why suddenly so quiet? Why don't you hear about Sri Lankan oud anymore?
Unbeknownst to most, many new distillers mushroomed out of nowhere across the country. The market is now dominated by Indian brokers and distillers on a mission to supply the Gulf demand for Sri Lankan oud—it's no longer the Chinese, who are on their way out, leaving the rest to scavenge for the little that's left.
But there’s a problem.
For all their oud fame, they can’t pull off Sri Lankan distillations. Their yields are the stuff of nightmares, and I’ve stopped answering pleas for help: “PLEASE, tell me how I can get more oil? Can you help set up our distillation? Nothing is going right, what should we do? We’re losing big money.” (Such requests started about three years ago. The latest message was only two nights ago.)
That, while the supply side is in shambles. Call it Ceylon's Paradox. Just the raw materials alone used to distill Maroke Ceylon have increased up to 200% in two years and distillation cost has tripled. (The latest batch of oud produced at this juncture, set us back $4,700 per tola.)
If you want to make incense-grade Sri Lankan oud, this is a double problem because the more expensive wood is also now much harder to come by, and it’s exponentially more difficult to gather enough to run a proper distillation.
After the catastrophic flooding in Sri Lanka in 2017 (and again last year), many good batches of agarwood which locals stashed away now lies buried, scattered underground across the country. Nobody knows when or if these will ever be dug up. It may well be a hundred or more years from now. There’s no way to tell, just like the regional origin will be next to impossible to identify.
Think about it: At the rate quality agarwood is disappearing and prices increasing, by that time, even if it’s only five years from now, you can imagine the prices those unearthed treasures will command. Chances are nobody, including yours truly, would be able to distill anything at that time. The wood will be collector’s batches, exclusively used for carving, showcasing, or burning. This tells you how valuable this distillation really is…
In Papua/Maroke, the scene isn’t much different. I’ve already told the story of how the “King of Papua” has stopped all his operations due to high cost and logistical difficulties. Our entire Sultan Series grinded to a halt because we didn’t have more New Guinea harvests to work with.
There’s a strong case for not touching your bottle of Maroke Ceylon except to sniff it directly from the dipstick. To put it away and uncap the day you’ll look back to these days when such fine artisanal Sri Lankan oud was available at all. Sri Lanka is a tiny place. And they’ve been digging up its oud like there’s no tomorrow for years. That’s why you shouldn’t expect a tomorrow.
On my latest trip to Sri Lanka, I called up the main China boss there to ask if he has anything worthwhile. His reply?
“Agarwood in Sri Lanka is finished. Go to the Philippines.”
He’s out of oud and runs a nightclub with his wife now.
This is not FOMO talk trying to get you to buy a product. I’m feeling it. Everybody who is quitting the agarwood game feels the pulse beating slower by the day.
I have sick sinking-grade Sri Lankan bangles that I don’t even think of selling anymore. Not even the big boss has the likes of them anymore—he said you must now go directly to the China Market to buy them, where “the price is a bit high”.
I kick myself for every day the pots weren’t boiling when they could have been. And I’m pretty sure I’m gonna kick myself for letting Maroke Ceylon go today, just as you’ll kick yourself for not putting at least a bottle away while you could have.
You’ve seen it. I’ve pulled Sri Lankan oils from the site in a frenzy overnight. That, while Far East distillers themselves beg me for any of them. And this must be the rarest of them all. Where to find Maroke Ceylon anywhere else? Who’s gonna fly from Papua to Sri Lanka again, then buy wood that now costs 200% more than when you distilled yours, age that prized oil for a couple years, and then sell it for only this much—when a fresh distillation today runs you $4,000 - $5,000 a tola? You literally get Maroke Ceylon for half what it's worth right now.
To be transparent: I have sold Maroke Ceylon to connoisseurs who appreciate what’s going on, and to those distillers asking for a special Silani they can offer to the Qatari sheikhs. In fact, the entire first batch has already sold out.
Everybody who asked for more had to wait until recently when I budged and offered them the second run. If they can own it, why can’t you? That’s why you’re reading this. Why I’m not selling it in secret and preventing oud lovers like you who’ll cherish this rarity every bit as much as the seasoned shuyukh will.
I’m zoning out on a swipe as I write, tempted to pour the bottle out all over myself. It’s sumptuous oud like this that reminds you why you got into oud in the first place. How miraculous oud is; to smell a scent so unique even if you’ve smelled a hundred ouds or more. To relish its blue-aqua-cool impregnated with dark resinous smoke explode into waves of white flowers that crash into probably the most primal oud drydown of all. Man, I tell you. Smell this.
Maroke Ceylon fits in like a sibling between these two (Suriranka 2.0 & People's Silani) - a middle child who stands out more by trying to find its own way, between the ethereal and the edible. It has incense qualities that reminded me of Oud Royale 2004, yet moderated and more seaside than deep in the forest. Its on the interstice of rainforest and the beach, more cooling and serene, as if minty herbs were stepped on and wafted up, mixing oceanic semi-sweetness with denser forest vegetation. – Lucas, USA
I just wanted to tell you that I tried the Maroke Ceylon, and oh my, was I blown away! What an amazing oil. The top note is pure bliss and it holds together for much longer than I anticipated, what quality. I recall Ensar mentioning how difficult creating SL oils can be, but what an amazing result. As always, I express my sincere gratitude that this oil is on earth. – Anthony, USA