It’s too bad they don’t do Oscars or Nobel Prizes for oud distillers. A life in oud and what you get is raised eyebrows. Although in my case, at different points in my career, I’ve been ‘bequeathed’ certain distillations which have meant more to me than any Grammy or Nobel ever could.
The first was Oud Royale. You know that story.
The second you found out about a bit more recently: Royale 1985. This one didn’t come from a sultan, but if the agarwood trade had a sultan it would sure be him. He owns more agarwood than anyone I know, and his ‘private stash’ includes a 5-kg log of Vietnamese kyara, among other rarities.
I was just floored when he pulled out an old whiskey bottle from his safe deposit box and said, ‘You can’t have all of it. But I admire what you do. So I’ll give you some.’ And he poured out for me what you now know as Oud Royale 1985.
This was the guy who first started harvesting agarwood in Sumatra in the early ’80s. Being a China Market tycoon, oud oil makes an amusing pastime for him nowadays. Something to sniff and chuckle over as you’re sipping tea. Since I can never be his customer ($200,000+ pieces of agarwood are not really my cup of tea) we have a quiet understanding that we discuss everything oil, so long as it’s not in the middle of a million-dollar wood deal.
The gift that he gave me really made my day. I haven’t felt this honored since I was entrusted with Oud Royale, and it sure beats any Oscar or Grammy in my book.
But there’s a third oil I’ve ‘inherited’ which means more to me than the other two. An oil that means more to me than green Kyara itself. An oil I haven’t told many people about simply because of the awesome humility it makes you feel to be selling an oud that’s older than you are.
The oil I’m talking about is older than I am.
Now what makes it absolute agony to let go of even a drop of it, or even to bring myself to believe I’m actually selling it, is the fact that I’ve tried to distill the likes of it. And I’ve failed miserably each and every time.
You’ve all smelled Kambodi Kadeem. Kambodi Kuwwa… Koh Kong K. They all smell very interesting and unique. They’re not cheery Thais pretending to be Cambodis. But they’re not Kambodi 1976.
Being a distiller of oud, you have a competitor to contend with. And no, it’s not the guy who always discovers the ‘latest techniques’.
Your competitor is the immortal scent of a forty-year-old Cambodian oud, which Mr. Nhek showed you that time you entered his shrine. And you were never the same again.
All of a sudden, all your Borneos and Hindis became… inconsequential. $10,000 a bottle for Kyara LTD didn’t matter too much anymore.
Your gaze had fallen upon something so incredibly beautiful and (this is the key word here) unattainable, you were smitten. And you’re never going to be the same again. Because you know, now you’ll have to distill something like this... or die trying.
I, the poet William Yeats, the Irish poet once said..... I, the distiller Ensar Oud… Need to distill a Cambodi like this one. I will not sleep or rest – I will go bankrupt until I’ve done it. And believe me, I’m trying!…
Mission: Cambodi Kinam was extracted from wood that appraised at $10,000 per kilogram by a China Market expert. Yet it smells nothing like Kambodi 1976.
It is 2019. And I the distiller William Yeats have distilled oils that come quite close to Oud Royale. I’m sure I can pull off a Royale 1985 if I tried. Kyara LTD – been there. Borneo 3000 – done that............ Kambodi 1976............ is going to haunt you until you distill yourself dead.
It is the epitome of the classic Cambodian oud profile. Red, deep and mysterious medicinal agarwoody hues of pristine Cambodian oudiness the like of which we can never hope to attain today.
Moreso than an oud oil, it is an education. To wear it and to smell it is to be trained in the scent of premium Cambodian oud oils from 40 years ago. Truly, she is a gem which I adore wearing as well as just smelling from the applicator.
Here is an olfactory miracle that is literally extinct. An oil that belongs in a museum of natural wonders that can never be reproduced, rather than on a website, accessible via PayPal or American Express.
In an act of frenzied trepidation, and without further ado… gentle ladies and men… I hereby give you the oud of your life.
The Kambodi 1976 is the type of Oud that the Gulf shops should have in their safes, reserved for only the most discerning clientele. Or, it should be a family heirloom. Or, it belongs in a Museum.
As with most oils, a swipe reveals more than a sniff off the stick. K1976 opens with an oudy resinous licorice. Ultra smooth and very deep with ethereal flowers at the edges. If I take a full sniff, it sends my head spinning. There’s some incense like a handful of heated chips. Very tenacious, any sillage is fleeting. The fig-plum-tobacco trademark profile starts to glow, but with a very mature dark-red vibe. The flowers are still clinging to the very edges. A prominent aged agarwood liqueur note joins the trademark trio. No barn. The swipe keeps exuding its intoxicating aroma as it gradually fades. Hours later, it’s reduced to a skin scent. – Curt, USA
Kambodi 1976 is a very special oil. I'd slather it on if I could. The medicinal red hue is intoxicating and reminds me of Nha Trang. It's the kind of oud that has secrets and layers waiting to be discovered. It feels deeply ancient and esoteric and sucks me into its heart and keeps me sniffing and entranced. It has an uplifting and soothing effect. – Aeona, USA
My oh my oh my oh Kambodi 1976!!!! You have to be kidding me with this thing. Amazing! – Brian, USA
When I receive the Kambodi X, I’ll make a note on comparison to K1976. I don’t have many Cambodi oils to compare, but… K1976 has a little deep sweetness, Kambodi Kuwwa is still super vibrant, K1976 is so mature that it’s ultra smooth, although Kuwwa has some redness. Think of K1976 as a Cambodi version of OR85, but chop-off the waves of the OR85, and what you’ll have left is the deep ocean, then bottle it in an antique corked Apothecary Bottle labeled Kambodi Elixir. It’s interesting to note that K1976 has the most pronounced licorice note I’ve smelled, and it has the best representation of the fig-plum-tobacco Cambodi trademark. It’s also very tenacious, so you’ll have to come in close to enjoy it, that’s if it doesn’t send your head spinning first. It’s mainly a collector oil, in my opinion. If you slather it on yourself, you’re too eccentric. – Curt, USA