I'm still amazed at how it happens. Oud is among nature's most soothing and meditative aromas, and perfumery's latest celebrity scent.
But many forget that oud is first and foremost medicine… made to cure the very tree that produces it. A self-generated cure that would not exist had the tree not fallen victim to an infection triggered by a hoopoe's innocent peck.
Freshly harvested agarwood usually teems with ants, which if you're looking for oud is a good sign. Where there are ants, there is resin.
You see, ants, along with all sorts of critters, are responsible for spreading the resination and the reach of the infection inside the tree… and at the same time its cure—the resin; the oud.
Unbeknownst to the ants who go about their day, chiseling away, layers of black gold begin to envelop their tunnels. The resin starts to line the hole, growing thicker, expanding, and will one day, decades later, turn into what you know as sinking-grade agarwood—or a bottle of Nha Trang LTD.
There are other ways oud grows, and other resination patterns. But this batch is predominantly 'anthole' agarwood, which denotes the resin that forms right around the 'infected' area, where ants started making their way inside the aquilaria, after a hoopoe left its chip mark.
The chips are a treat. Doubling as both a piece of history and the perfect daily burn, dig into the smell of agarwood's most acclaimed jungle.
Nha Trang is to oud lovers what Dayuling is to tea connoisseurs. It's the jungles that grew kinam, and the aloes behind the likes of Kinam Rouge and Royal Guallam.
As we live through the commercialialization of agarwood, where you can buy anything and everything agarwood right at the airport, from bangles to carved Buddhas, here's a little reminder of pre-drill agarwood – where the holes are drilled by ants rather than humans.
I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that artisanal oud distillers hang onto any batch of natural mountain agarwood from Nha Trang they find. Not to keep, but to instantly capture its medicinal, bittersweet profile in a bottle. That's partly why you haven't seen me offer many Vietnamese chips, and instead get to indulge in the Rouge. It's why you see very little wild Nha Trang anywhere, and instead a lot of the new-breed plantation stock that shows off the muscle of all these inoculants that are the bane of any oud puritan's existence.
Vietnamese oud chips are a must. And Nha Trang is required reading. So, here's your chance to stock up on excellent weekend burnables, as well as stash away some for posterity's sake. To watch the chips begin to bubble and feel that chill of amazement as the first strands of smoke remind you of the magic that brought this scent to life. From the hoopoe to the ant, and many slow years in between. What a journey. What an end.
When I first came to Ensar Oud, I was looking for the highest quality wood. I want to understand it, use it as a benchmark, and I wanna keep some of it. So I purchased Ceram 1997 and Port Morseby Privèe, and they have become so precious to me now. So, when Nha Trang Anthole went up on the website, my next purchase was already decided. Furthermore the price was more accessible, a definite bargain. By now, I’d used them many times, in many permutations of ways, exhausting my charcoal burning skills picking different shapes of chips, small chips, big chips, and this is what I found:
Compared to the two woods I acquired earlier, Nha Trang Anthole is rich and full of flavours. Every time I burn it, it gives out something new. One time sweet grass, another time some mint, another time warm honeyed milk, another time bitter medicine, another time black pepper, another time some chili? with that sweet grass, some spice, but all the time sweet, and deep.
It’s myriad scents blended together in a kaleidoscope of aromas. From time to time, I do get the image of those annoying big red ants, if they are responsible for all this magnificence, then I forgive them for all the bites and stings I suffered from them whenever I wanted to pluck my grandfather’s rambutan, or that mango in the backyard.
I have a few grams of other Vietnamese chips, but when I take turns burning them with Nha Trang, they shyly diminish. Now they smell like normal wood. They don’t have the depth and richness of Nha Trang Anthole, although they do have this somewhat sweet grassy profile similar to Nha Trang. So I cannot burn them after Nha Trang, I have to enjoy them before Nha Trang.
Alhamdulillah, the pieces have become end-of-the-week unwind and late night contemplation companions. — Ikhwan, Malaysia
Nha Trang Ant Hole smells really nice. I burned it before Isha and I could have sworn it increased my concentration. – Nazif, USA