Be careful when you buy walla patta.
Sri Lankan oud chips are notorious for how poorly they’re processed. From the chiseling to the cleaning to the drying, it’s a topsy-turvy scene that leads to a lot of sketchy deals — where you end up paying more and get to enjoy the fragrance less.
Sri Lankan agarwood comes in many shapes and sizes, and many different price points. You can buy ‘incense-grade’ walla for $10 a gram or even less, and ‘sinking-grade’ chips for about the same price.
This is a nightmare on the distillation front. Sorting out the gunk from the junk from the sinking from the half-sinking to the fake-sinking adds many extra steps you never have to think about when dealing with experts.
Truth is, these details are lost on most people. They aren’t aware of how scrupulous proper cleaning and drying practices ought to be. In Sri Lanka, wood is harvested today and then sold as sinking-grade chips by next week.
And the chips DO sink. Only, if the same chips went through professional hands, they’d be cleaned again and again and then dried for a good six months to check if they still sink. See the difference?
What makes matters more confusing is the many categories of walla. There’s suupin, logs, bullets, kachara, and so on. All with different subgrades. And then there’s provincial differences on top, high mountain variants, etc. — just like with all the subtleties you’d find between Trat and Koh Kong, Malinau and Sarawak, or New Guinea and Maroke.
Oud chips from Adam’s Peak typically have a yellow-ish texture and smell quite animalic. Slightly better grades are darker, but are generally ‘spotted’ indicating the lack of precision chiseling — which means, gram-for-gram, you’re paying a hefty dollar because you’re buying a spectrum of bunk, white, kyen, immature seah, with little actual hard resin when all is said and done. You’re not only paying extra, but your heating experience becomes tainted by wafts of firewood as those spots and strips of unresinated aloes get lit.
You can imagine what a nightmare dealing with these issues is when it comes to distilling oud oil. But you’ve probably seen the same story when buying Sri Lankan oud chips and are led to believe it’s a good deal.
So…… how to get around all these obstacles?
Pretty easy. Just follow standard practice. Make sure the chips are actually incense-grade, have them re-cleaned and expertly chiseled (obviously, you can't have this done in Sri Lanka — which adds logistics to the list of add-ons), and if you suspect they’re sinking-grade…… wait.
Six months later, you’ll either get floaters that still give off bags full of dirt that was stuck inside, or… you get chips that look like this:
Cheaper walla patta oud chips can smell quite animalic, while some smell pretty fruity. And you’d smell these profiles in Sri Lankan oud oil distilled from such wood.
While that’s all good and well, you can’t help but wonder: From chips like these, where on Adam’s Earth do the aquatics, aquamarine notes you smell in the likes of Suriranka Senkoh come from?!
Easy. They don't come from chips like these. Instead, you’d smell the signature oceanic mimosa softly piercing blue-green cool in chips of this order:
Royal Ceylon will not only be your go-to reference for all things raw walla, but will let you experience your Sri Lankan oud oils with newfound awe.
So, take a swipe, get that burner going, and sit back and listen to the white-floral waves crash against rocks of resin.
Royal Ceylon - These are the first high end chips I’ve burnt - and I am happy to admit that I will no longer buy $1000/kg chips from various sellers. The difference in quality is tremendous. These chips are essentially works of art, something I would like to hang on to for a while. My wife thinks I am nuts. I love the essences of old wooden structures, mostly churches in USA. Burning these chips reminds me of the best scents within the must of an old wooden structure by the sea or of a green rolling hillside and a breeze to waft the beautiful scent along - haha. These are literally the best chips I’ve burned - quality, oil content, cleanliness. – Jeff, USA