We wanted you to get a glimpse of our Oud Royale 2017, so here is a bag of the grandaddy wood harvested from the same (now extinct) aquilaria cumingiana trees.
This batch is already 20 years-old, harvested in 1996 on Ambon Island, a mere speck on a map of the Maluku archipelago. There’s no way to find this wood today.
It’s a common misconception that black = quality. The darker, the blacker the wood, the better. That’s why people paint, varnish, wax, and do whatever it takes to get bunk wood to look darker than it really is. But it’s actually not that simple. Dark color is a strong indicator of quality, but not as a rule. The best proof of this is Kyara. Much of kyara is actually a specific strain of light-yellow-hued kyen, just like you’ve got here…
Roll a piece of Maluku ’96 about in your palm and you immediately realize that you’re holding a different breed of agarwood. Appearance wise, the wood kinda resembles sandalwood. Only, the scent is many dials up on the spice-scale, and the burn much, much longer. The pieces aren’t black, they’re not even dark brown. Yet, compared to just about every kind of agarwood you’ll ever burn, Maluku aloes is so striking in scent it’s sure to be among the most memorable you’ll smell in your life. Try it: put on a sliver of any batch of wood you own – Cambodi, Borneo, Thai, even Papuan – then bring on the Maluku. I bet you’ll think you’re smelling a newly discovered species of agarwood!
Aficionados of the Japanese incense tradition will appreciate this. It’s not about the look or even the texture of the wood that makes it good or bad. It’s all about the smell. Full stop. That a chip is darker, or has a sticky-pasty texture are signs of quality, sure, but in the end these are only clues that tell you what the smell might be like. Does it have that slight bitterness that classifies it as Rakoku or is it sweet enough to be Manaban? That’s what Kodo disciples seek, not ‘how black is it?’ A Japanese Kodo master will often much prefer a completely ordinary looking strip to a pitch black one. That’s because he knows there’s a lot more to exceptional agarwood than just the hue.
The Maluku ‘96 aroma is so far out, so different to what you’ve come to know as the typical ‘oud chip’ scent, I almost want to put a disclaimer here: “Only for experienced monkoh adepts!” I say that because it’s so unlike the staple oud scent you’d expect from even the finest Borneo chips that a newcomer might well get confused. Then again, better to jump into the deep end and see just how awesome oud wood gets!
Maluku ‘96 hits different mood buttons, tunes a new kind of ambiance, and simply stirs up the olfactory joy you experienced when you first got into heating raw agarwood. It’s that fresh of a take on oud chips! An acacia sweetness that echoes notes of hibiscus and magnolia. Dew drops of fallen laves about to dry, that day-after-the-rain aroma, a tinge of bitterness that you’d associate with rare Sinensis. And, believe it or not, there’s a hint of Mysore in there, cedar and dried citrus.
Different types of wood are suited to different styles of heating. These ones work well for any occasion because each piece is entirely burnable – resin permeates the entire chip, right through to its center. So, there’s no need to cut out any white streaks that line the resin (like you see with inferior chips) that gives it that firewood smell right at first whiff. This means you’ll be alright putting a chip on a hot charcoal, if you have to. The wood itself is sturdy and tenacious so even if you scorch it on a hot coal you’d still get the heart of the scent in good measure. Of course, heat the chips at a lower temperature and you’re in for a bouquet of wild flowers and a spiciness that trumps even straight cedar, with a mystical aroma that reminds you that this is oud from a different era. That’s vintage Maluku for you…
I’ve found that many people think most oud wood kind of smells the same. Or, at least, the different regions’ woods don’t have the same contrast you find in oud oils. Well, heat up a piece of this and it’s like you’re someone who’s used to Thai ouds and then suddenly somebody gives you a swipe of Xiang Liao Ling – how’s that for a mind shift?!
The uniqueness of the scent is great in itself. But what’s even better is how it will broaden your appreciation for every other kind of oud wood. Remember: In the world of oud, contrast is the way to go. Experience as many scent profiles as possible in order to delve deeper into each, that’s the rule of thumb. In that vein, you should get at least a few Maluku burns behind your back because your olfactory palette will be so much more enriched thereby. Not to mention the otherworldly aroma that lingers when you get back home from work… when your mood is instantly effected by the primal calm inspired by raw oud wood.
I wish I had more Maluku wood. I wish I could find more Maluku wood. But what I have is all I’ve got and will ever get. And there’s not much to go around. The pieces are so rare and so unlike anything else, I encourage you to not just get some to burn today. Get a little bit extra for tomorrow as well…
Note: If you ask me, just about all these chips qualify as miniature display pieces. Someone artistically inclined will quickly find a way to showcase them, only burning a tiny sliver at a time.
If we offered our normal 10 gr packets, we’d have to start breaking up these beautiful olfactory portraits. We’d hate to do that and ruin their natural shape, so to preserve each chip’s integrity (this is the way nature carved them, after all) we’re only offering a handful of 10 gr packets, while the remainder of the batch comes in 20+ gr sizes. And honestly, with oud wood this rare and this exceptional, you shouldn’t get less than that anyway!