Oudheads are so thirsty for Laotian oud chips, our batch of Laos ’06 sold out in about a day.
This was two and a half years ago, and there’s been no wild Laos wood changing hands since then.
The oud scene in Laos is treacherous for many reasons. This would normally be our problem to deal with on the ground, but some folks have been burnt after trying to ‘go to the source’ directly. So, keep the following in mind:
In Thailand they're upfront about it, but in Vietnam there’s an entire industry of cultivated ‘wild’ agarwood. (We’ve reported on this at length. Check our YouTube channel for more info). You’d think dealers in Laos do the same thing (and they do), but they go a step further and also bring in cheaper Malaysian wood and sell it as ’Laos’. It’s big business because locals know only too well how precious true wild Laos agarwood is.
It’s not that high-grade wild Laos agarwood is impossible to find. But it takes a lot of connections, expertise, and you need to kayak through tricky rapids to come out clean. That, and most quality wild wood of recent years has gone straight to China. This is no secret.
That’s why you don’t see Laos agarwood on offer.
It’s why it’s been more than two years since I’ve offered any. And why I’ve kept this batch in a tightly sealed widemouth Schott Duran in my kitchen cabinet.
I know I can’t get this back — and I know what it takes to get oud even half this caliber today.
I’m sure this isn’t news to you. So many people have screamed and cursed and warned others about how they got played by Facebook middlemen and Ali Baba dealers pushing their Malaysian wares for big profit. Many of them didn’t even get AGARwood at all!
No tricks here:
The fake Malaysia/Laos issue aside, let’s suppose you do find wild Laos agarwood for sale. Chances are it’s the same kind of ‘wild’ wood they sell in Vietnam (as they do with the chop-and-go method in Cambodia).
Here’s what they do in Laos: they shave off the extremities of the trunk to injure it; leave the branch stand naked so resin forms over to 'heal' it. You see whole trees skinned this way, from tip to toe. They then shave the resinated extremities that formed along the exterior and… repeat.
Of course, this is practically industrial cultivation, and the results look the same wherever it’s done. Does it smell nice? Sure. But does it smell like genuine old-growth wild agarwood? Does it have the same effect?
Compared to mass-produced agarwood of this kind, Royal Laos is core agarwood from the heart of the trunk — a totally different story. Resin that has hardened and matured naturally over many decades, without repeated forced exposure, and the integrity of the resin shows in the texture (and hardness), the smell, and the look of the wood.
Laos ’06 (sold out in 2016) was fantastic wood, and I’d be more than happy to get my hands on anything like it again. As great as it was, Royal Laos is vastly superior.
It’s not just that this is sinking-grade — it’s aromatically superior.
You’ll smell a delicious berry-vanilla sweetness with a soft spicy creaminess (which you don’t pick up in malaccensis). A touch of bitterness that echoes the flavor of Vietnamese crassna, with a moist ambient aroma like molasses.
Obviously, this is proper low-temp aloes you’ve got here with heavy, solid resin that’ll exude its flavor for hours. I recommend you keep at least one piece, not just for posterity’s sake, but to own a reference — I’ve got a feeling things will get pretty interesting in the oud world in coming years. Having quality wood (and oil) on hand to navigate the changes will prove highly valuable.
The thing Laos ’06 and these sinking strips have most in common: limited supply. I remember the frustration of everyone who thought Laos ’06 would be around for a while. And of those who did buy in time, I have yet to see anyone sell even a shred of it.
Even if you somehow scored a wild chip or two from Laos, I bet it’s not sinking strips like these cut up from an arm-sized dagger chissled out from the core of wild Laotian heartwood. Isn't that true?