I haven't smelled a single Malaysian oil that made any kind of impression on me in who-knows-how-many years now. As I'm writing this, I'm busy comparing five different ones, each distilled about a year ago, and all I'm thinking is, 'What is this stuff?'
I've come to the conclusion that either this kind of mediocrity is all we can expect to get from aquilaria malaccensis from now on, or something has to change in the way oud oils are produced in the region.
After a distiller in West Borneo offered to let us use his facilities for an upcoming experiment, he warned us that there might be something wrong with his setup. He consistently gets a low yield and doesn't know why. When we inspected the wood that goes into his pots, things started to make more sense. The streaks of color he identified as resin turned out to be nothing more than decay. The reason he's not getting a proper yield is because he's not distilling proper agarwood.
This isn't an isolated case. On another occasion we walked into a warehouse where a large supply of wood was spread out across the floor being dried and prepared for distillation. The only problem was that the wood was… well… not agarwood. Good firewood perhaps, but not oud.
I can go on about the distiller who was trying to convince us about the purity of his oil while the wall facing us showed a collage of pictures of same man in his lab-coat at work in a government sponsored effort to offer oud oil at a more affordable price to more people (i.e. mixed and diluted.) It wasn't the photos that gave him away, though. Rather, the inescapable whiff of dioctyl phthalate (DOP) that has become the default top-note in today's 'ouds'.
I can go on about neatly arranged oils on another distiller's office table. The only problem was that the storage vials had been left open…for 'about a year', and had by now been oxidised to death. He did this after someone told him that leaving the bottles uncapped will get rid of the excess water. If you don't know what's wrong with this picture, here's a hint: leaving the bottles out for no more than a couple of hours would have sufficed.
I can go on about the strange blue liquid inside the bottle commended for being a nice 'pure Cambodi'. I can go on about all the painted and perfumed wood. I can go on and on. It all just backs one fact: Malay Oud Royale is a one-in-a-million oil.
You know that part of the dry-down of your typical East Borneo where the strong, almost rancid woodsiness overtakes the fragrance, leaving you to wonder where all the fruity-floral honey notes went? In Malay Oud Royale, don't expect this moment to come. Instead, you'll go from one leafy-sweet accord to the next, as the woodsy oudy notes permeate the entire orchestration without imparting any disharmony or bringing the progression of the fragrance to a jarring halt. It's like a filtration of your typical West Malaysian oil to a clear Borneo heart note, purified of the muddiness common to all five oils irritating my nose as I write.
I just got my Malay Oud Royale the other day. I must say it is some of the best Oudh I have ever smelled!... Its fragrance is so close to the Borneo 3000. – Abdul Wahab, CA
I received the Malay yesterday and I couldn't be happier. I'm not even going to send you a sample of the oil I mentioned as it so pales in comparison that even if it truly is an oud oil it's so fecal, dirty and muddled that it doesn't do the name oud proud. The clarity of your oil is simply amazing. It transports me. Thanks again! – Jamie, MA
The Malay is the scent of my childhood. – Nick, Australia