If you wondered about Oud of the Year, let me make it easy for you. Oud Royale won’t just top the list for 2019, but is the bargain of the decade — even if you travel back 15 years and buy the oil fresh off the still, you wouldn’t find it for cheaper (read on).
If you wish you could have been around in the days of Purple Papua, this oud lets bygones be bygones because it transports your nose to that time and lets you smell oud even better. If Oud Royale is your cup’a aloes, then this ’04 Legend will satisfy your oud crave in spades.
Hailing from the Papuan jungles in the early days, when pioneers were previously pre-occupied with the troubles in Maroke, here you’ve got massive aquilarias from the same generation, from the same untapped jungles, of the same centennial age as those juiced during the golden era — and even ones distilled earlier, in the 80s and early 90s.
Back then, in Papua, it was all about the wood — agarwood was affordable and plentiful, and there was hardly anybody to compete for the oldest harvests. This was pre-China Market, and years before distilling Papuan oud became a thing. Distilling oil then made no sense, so nobody cared to do it. It cost way more than buying heavy arm-sized logs, so all anybody thought about was how to export the wood. That’s why it should come as no surprise when you fail to find vintage Papuan oud oil, while collectors still stash away the precious agarwood from those days — the very wood Oud Royale 2004 was distilled from.
That’s the reason you’re getting oud that’s off the chart and aged for 15 years at a price cultivated oud, distilled this year, sells for.
Not just that. Smell this Royale. It’s got the pristine top notes of an incense-grade mammoth still dripping into the beaker, with such a blast of old oud ooze, that deep narcotic gaharu liqueur that only long years of natural aging gives you. A violin reverberating against the backdrop bang of a massive gong. Piercing medicinal green waves darting from the depths of centennial resin kept in the dark since the days of Eternal Sunshine.
The medicinal gusto of Kambodi 1976 with the soul-stirring incense-heavy heart of Oud Ahmad, wrapped in layers of earthy petrichor taken straight from a page in the original Oud Royale. Crisp top notes are the first to go in poorly aged ouds (or well-aged but low-grade ouds). The penetrating, softly nose-numbing top notes bear testament to the caliber oud we’re talking about.
More than that, it’s how these notes retain their tenacity right through the drydown that makes the oil such a delight to wear and savor. The drydown itself can easily be confused for OR 1985, only with a dash of spiciness that makes it more lively, and this is where the Papuan syrupiness really shines.
It won’t be lost on anybody with half a business sense to spot the deal of the decade: 15 years of inflation is yours, for free. Buy and put a bottle away today to double your investment in a short few years, and even then still offer the finest artisanal oud on Earth at a bargain.
If you only took inflation into account, you’d know a bottle should cost at least double what I’m offering it for here. If you know anything about the price of raw agarwood today, you must be wondering why I’m even doing this — the cost of the wood alone means a replacement cost per bottle that’s more than the current retail price. And let’s not forget the factors that increase any asset on top of inflation: the annual ‘interest’, the rapid decline of raw materials, higher and higher costs to acquire those materials, constantly rising gas, transport, electricity, etc. prices, and when it comes to collectibles… rarity. In this case, the impossibility to make the same oud today — because you can’t buy time, my friend.
But more telling than any of it, the scent of this Royale has sold for thousands. Should sell for thousands. One whiff is all it takes to realize that you’re in the presence of oud of a different order. Oud that could only have come from that time, from those centennials, and kept and aged for this long. If you sold your bottle tomorrow for $1,000, sleep assured that you’ve offered oud worth more than that.
So, why aren’t I doing it? Why not sell it for what it’s worth? Why listen to know-nots about how this is just hyperbole?
I’ve eyed my bottle of Oud Royale 2004 many times, and always thought the same thing: ‘Not yet.’
There’s a time and a place to bring out the truly Greats, and all you’ve got to go by is your gut. The oud scene has reached a strange crossroads where you see an appreciation and veneration for oud unlike you would have imagined a few years ago. At the same time, we’re facing a new breed of mediocrity that reminds me of the “Montale isn’t oud, people!” days.
That’s why I’m whipping out this irreplaceable jewel. To give those who weren’t around during the golden days a ticket back there — and at the same time give today’s wannabe ‘artists’ a reality check and let them smell what they’re up against. But more than anything, this one goes out to all of you who have wandered around the oud world for a while and tasted the magic. Here you’ve got oud that’s premium from first whiff to last, and I’m sure you’ll revel in its old-oud goodness like there's no tomorrow.
Our Royale 2004 kicks off Oudvember, celebrates Earth Day, and I hope will recalibrate many a nose; will show you how OUD drowns ‘oud’ and crushes the frail attempts to mimic the mighty scent of old-time aloes that stood quietly, resin getting harder and thicker and blacker by the decade, while the world watched two World Wars, the Fall of the Wall, and this — the internet — that makes it possible for you to own a drop from that spot of soil in the jungle where no man has lived then, or since. From that tree.
The best oil I've ever had, smells of pine with ginger and light sweet tobacco. – Chris, USA
My deck of cards needs to be reshuffled: Oud Royale 2004 has jumped into my favourite trio with a giant step, so now I have 4 aces (Hainan 2005, Papuamantan, OR 2004 and Port Jaya). The fifth ace I have discovered in the ultimate sampler I've got last year, it is a "typical" "sudden" oil to me, and no more available: Aroké Roshi. – Erhard, Austria
If value is part of the equation, late entry Oud Royale 2004 has to have grabbed the top spot of 2019 for me. You could easily have this oil in the $1,200-1,500/bottle tier and nobody would bat an eyelash. It’s fantastic. I believe it stands alone as the best Papuan I’ve ever smelled. – Mike, USA
Those of you who've read my column know that I am not usually a fan of old ouds. I didn't expect, because of this, to like this 15-year-old oud anywhere near as much as I do. It might have been called a "Senkoh" oil because its aroma doesn't vary from one sniff to another; in other words its quite consistent in its scent. But that's not to say that this exceptionally well aged oud is in any way boring or monotonous, quite the contrary. It is implicitly elaborate in its resinous fragrance, and both soothing and quite inviting. – Hank, USA
A no brained love affair! – Jane, USA
I love Green Papua (the first full bottle I got from you) and so I love Oud Royale 2004 too as they both share a lot in common. Oud Royale 2004 does feel more aged though and has a more ancient vibe than Green Papua. In the color spectrum, I would say it's maybe a tad darker than Green Papua, but still feels like hilly jungle mountain top where the sun and fresh breeze pass through, but here, the trees from the forest are maybe a bit more ancient. On the other hand, I find Green Papua to have more longevity and maybe a bit more projection. My green papua bottle is almost finished so I'm really happy to have Oud Royale 2004 to ease my Papuan cravings :D. – Hares, Spain
I love the earthy profile! Looking forward to getting to know this one better in time, the opening is a blast from the past! A solid edition to the shelf where Green Papua, Papuamantan, Encens Royal ’85, OR5, and XLL live. – Stefan, Canada