16 October 2011
Everyone in the oud producing world is on the edge of their seat. We've all just been hit by a major earthquake. All the chiefs of the big Saudi oud houses are scratching their heads after recent events. They still don't understand what is happening.
Ensar is currently in the Far East doing rounds with all our major distillers. And was he in for a surprise!
During Ramadan (August), Saudi Arabia's biggest suppliers of raw oud wood from the Far East flew into Jeddah with only one objective. And this time it wasn't to sell agarwood. Rather, they came to buy back any and all oud wood they'd sold to the Saudis in recent years. And they were willing to pay whatever price, so long as they could get their wood back. After heated negotiations, they dropped over $8 million.
But this is something we've been expecting to happen since we launched Ensar Oud™. Deer musk used to arrive in caravans from Kashmir to Mecca in droves. Now the musk deer is an endangered species, and most people in the world have not, and never will smell real musk. Likewise, Solomon's centuries-old celebrated 'oud of the Bible' is no more.
Truth is, we knew this day would come. Just a few years ago one of the leading authorities in the field told us frankly that he was simply seeing the game through – that he didn't expect the wild agarwood trade to continue for more than a couple of years. That day has come.
The sad news for all those in the oud fancy is that the last of the remaining wild oud wood will not be used to burn as incense. Nor will it be used to extract oud oil. Nor for anything related to its aromatic properties. Instead, it's all going to China, where it's carved into beads, bracelets, and an assortment of traditional sculptures, statues and icons whose prices run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the past, the finest quality oud wood was referred to as 'super', 'double-super', or 'sinking-grade'. Now, it's simply referred to as 'China quality'.
While in the West, affluent people buy Ferraris, yachts and penthouses, Chinese manufacturers and industrial tycoons, who own most of the US dollars in existence, buy oud wood. There is a new-spun superstition associated with this particular wood, and merely having a piece is considered a source of good fortune.
This superstitious fad is not limited to China, but is quickly spreading across the Far East, where the 'lucky wood' is now used for carving anything from little religious tokens kept at an altar niche at home, to extravagant miniature centerpieces. The upshot is that all agarwood business owners are just sitting in their chairs. The Gulf market has effectively been flipped upside-down. Likewise in the East, the trade in wild agarwood is basically a thing of the past – the final scurrage for remaining resources only being directed to the ancient craft of wood-sculpting – not the distillation of oud oil.
None of the big players will ever again extract oud oil from their 'China quality' wood. In fact, our main distillers are all, each and every one of them, on the verge of retirement, frenziedly sending off to China anything they can lay their hands on.
The market for the remaining wild batches of oud wood has an asking price starting at $50,000 per kilogram, going up to $300,000 (for just one kg!) There is simply no market for oud oil to compete with. The days of distilling another Oud Sultani are gone.