You know how over the years artisan distillers have talked about capturing the scent of ‘gently heated oud chips’… You know where that comes from?
There’s agarwood in the world wrapped in cloth, stored in cabin-size suitcases. Many of them have been kept unzipped for decades.
From Jeddah to Muscat, if you’re recognized enough in these circles, veteran wood collectors will bring out their suitcases and you’ll get to feast your eyes on agarwood you can’t buy by piece, or by the kilo. It’s the whole suitcase or nothing.
Cambodis and Hindis, fantastic, mind-blowing chunks of agarwood. The kind that brought Kambodi 1976 to life.
When the treasury of Sultan Qaboos was cleft open after his passing (may he rest in peace) the fragrance world got to witness olfactory fossils being unearthed. Not just musk pods likely centuries old, but oud oils distilled from the same pieces wrapped up in those suitcases.
In the early 80s, there was literally one oud man going into Papua. Known as the man who opened Papua and brought out the first Maroke wood to be distilled, he tells me about how he used to spend weeks in the jungles, his legs black with leeches. Alone, just him and the aborigines dressed in loincloths who guided him down the river. I’ve seen the photos.
At a time when agarwood in Pursat was on the verge of extinction, Maroke oud was just about to be discovered. Sadly, as you know—the story ends as soon as it begins.
By Y2K most of the Maroke wood coming out was soil gyrinops. The few Filarian giants in the untouched jungles were strictly controlled by local tribes and quickly became dangerously inaccessible. There was far less to go around than in the once lush oud jungles of Assam and Pursat.
So, your reaction to those vintage Maroke pieces in the shaykh’s suitcase will depend on how many true Marokes you’ve smelled or how many of those pieces you’ve held or lit up. Have you only been exposed to the stores full of cheap (and nowadays painted) feather-light gyrinops, or have you seen first-hand what once came out of the heart of darkness?
This smell hasn’t been bottled in decades.
The scent of ‘the finest agarwood heated at low-temp'—this is what those ouds get compared to. It’s the bar they all wanted to live up to. The scent of not just pure oud incense, but the era that incense takes you to.
The closest you could get to that smell today is from vintage Tigerwood distillations, but still—these came years later and are only approximations.
Oud Sultani? Now we’re talking. Oud Sultani brought the same resinous quality, but still—the [West Malaysian] profile is different.
You can stack up every landmark distillation next to each other. Swipe ’em back to back and count down the years. By the time you smell Maroke SQ, you’d have gone back to 1982. To Oud Royale. The OG Maroke.
As hard as I’ve tried in my career, I could never re-distill Oud Royale. And that’s what I’ve tried to tell everyone all along. No amount of tweaking or gently heating could conjure the breed of agarwood required to make oud like this.
You need several of those suitcases to even think about doing it. It never made sense unless you were around in the early days…… like the Sultan was—who spared no expense to acquire those centennial Marokes and turn them into Oud Royale.
What makes Maroke SQ such a momentous opportunity for any oudhead is that it’s like we literally got thrown back to 1980 and can smell history play out.
Not just did you not have to sell your house in exchange for a single suitcase, but you get decades of natural maturation instantly.
Maroke SQ is the original ‘scent of gently heated oud chips’. It’s exactly that.
Well, that—and more. There’s a sweet/herbaceous note akin to Oud Ahmad which you’ll never smell in heated oud chips no matter how gently they’re heated. It’s a dimension of oud oil, and is here captured in HD. Oud Royale’s famed resinous heart, with a discreet bitter kinamic undertone that makes you wonder if a few kilos of sinensis ended up in the pots, this note is even a touch red as you’re zoomed in on it. But zoom out and the lush vintage sinking Maroke resin puts the fragrance into perspective.
With the interest in Oriscent oils lately, especially the oldies, and because I keep hearing how those new to the oud world will never have the opportunity to experience those oils, I’ve decided to pull out the Sultan’s flask of vintage Maroke just to set the record straight once again.
Here is your chance to step back in time and forego the lament of ‘I wish I knew about oud during the Oriscent days!’
No need to worry about spending $1,000+ on long oxidized samples just to get a whiff of those legends, or to hear veteran oudheads reminisce without the chance to ever taste the scent yourself.
Nobody can distill this oud today.
Nobody’s been able to for a long time. Only thanks to Sultan Qaboos’ passionate pursuit to preserve olfactory artworks for future generations do you and I now have the chance to smell swipes of gently heated centennial super-king Maroke oud.
The museum is open—and you can actually take the Mona Lisa home.