This is an Oud Man’s oud. The kind of oud that’s got you whiffing and sniffing and thinking and reflecting, back and forth, wrist to wrist—what is this?
It almost doesn’t smell like oud, but a flower that’s never been smelled. Almost. At first whiff, it’s seems like a minimalist scent, a dazzling close-up of blossoming indigo bleu… until you take a second whiff, and a third. Then a second swipe…
That’s what I’ve been doing to dive deeper into this gargantuan gorge of an aroma: take a swipe and let the top note—that unidentified flower from another realm—tease you. Once the flower makes way for… not a resinous repose… or is it?… an exotic heart phase doused in a rare breed of sweet-resin oudiness; just then, take a fresh swipe on your other hand, and…
Few perfumes perform like this.
Chances are you don’t own any oud from Aceh. Few do. Safety and scarcity make the area a red zone (a colleague once got held at gun point), so even low-grade Aceh ouds are a delicacy.
But Aceh Candan isn’t just Achean oud. It’s Aceh candan. Regardless of terroir, candan trees are notorious for not getting juiced into oil—the trees (technically a. hirta in this case) are more narrow and their resin forms in a way that makes them a nightmare to distill (totally uneconomical). That's why virtually all candan agarwood gets sold for burning, even lower grades, because distillation makes no sense. So, unless you’re using solvents or ‘softeners’ (which we don't)… expect a dreadful yield.
What's a man to do?
We’ve run distillations from similar wood (fantastic quality and loads of it) from surrounding areas, and frankly, I’m embarrassed to report the yield. Suffice to say that only a handful of bottles were ever made (in a couple of cases, only one or two!) Aceh Candan was no different. Supply is limited.
Petals fresh in bloom, the distinct feeling of standing barefoot at a quiet lake, breathing in those smells that only waft around in vast open spaces that capture a whole landscape, the expanse of an ecosystem—a green-blue autumn yet spring flower that didn’t exist until your first swipe of Aceh Candan—which, like a lily, reveals its splendor for only a moment.
Like sunrise, the oud-heart washes over the indigo in a wave of soft resinous incense, lotus-sweet, with nothing noir about it. No tobacco, dark berries, toasted coffee or kakao—notes you’d expect from the area (Sumatra, and neighboring jungles). Even the lack of spices is eery for an oud.
Micro-batches like Aceh Candan are among those I’ll regret letting go of the most. In many ways, they capture the soul of the oud world the best. The struggle, the danger, pitfalls, the distillation acrobatics required to pull it off, the financial gambles—all for a few drops. But ARTisanal oud isn’t about yield reports and financial statements. That's not what you smell.
If I could do it all over again, I would. But we don’t get to read Aceh and candan in the same sentence very often, so until fortune favors us anew, I only have a few bottles to share.
Swipe Aceh Candan for the first time, and you’ll be so enthralled by the unnamed flower, there’s no oud. And when the oud comes, there’s no more flower. And there’s a moment in between when you wish for both to last. Here’s where the two-swipe method reveals it’s magic…
It’s only once you’ve taken that second swipe that you smell the oud in the flower and the flower in the oud, and Voila! you realize they were always there, one in the other. Seriously, magic in a bottle.