I know how hard oudheads have been searching for Maluku oils and wood chips without any luck. If you’re about to set off on a similar quest, just be aware of the pitfalls – the main one being that ‘Maluku’ makes for good marketing.
Some believe that Maluku is short for ‘The Island of Kings’ (from Arabic). Combine the ‘Island of Kings’ idea with fancy boxes, bottles and stories of royalty, and you’ve got a recipe for success. I’m surprised more companies haven’t cashed in on it, especially in the Gulf. Those who have seized the marketing opportunity obviously offer ouds that are only ‘Maluku’ by name…
Stories about kings and princes aside, real oud connoisseurs are painfully aware of how sought-after quality Maluku agarwood of any sort is. And that old-school, sinking-grade nuggets like these are prized even more.
But let’s be honest here: When talking oud chips, sinking-grade doesn’t always = premium aroma. Sinking agarwood automatically comes with a higher price tag, but not because sinking chips necessarily smell better than non-sinking ones. But man, there are few olfactory treats like when sinking-grade and a premium smell come together.
Mature resin is packed with a theater of scents on display once you start to heat a piece. The scent that gently wafts in smoke is more layered, has more going on, than in younger resin. I don’t believe it’s the density itself that does this. It’s not about hard vs. soft resin. It’s years of biological magic that takes place and ends up as fragrant vapor dancing through the air. Or as oil, bottled up. Research is sorely lacking about why and how this slow process makes for a richer aroma; why old, densely resinated agarwood smells SO good. And frankly, who cares? All you need to know is that it does.
Just as you sometimes smell subtle, sometimes stark, differences between grades of resin, so regional varieties each come with unique flavors. And that’s what makes Royal Maluku extra special.
Not only do you enjoy premium agarwood straight up, but you score a backstage pass to oud of the nineties and the chance to specifically zoom further into the majestic agarworld of Maluku. Compared to red-resin Almahera aloes, this is a rare batch of semi-red, super sinking-grade Maluku agarwood harvested back in 1996.
Visually, it’s deep dark brown tinted with that red hue that marks the best Almahera batches. Scentually, it echoes a spicy, almost santalum-like aroma colored by a creamy raw-vanilla sweetness.
‘Sinking’ agarwood isn’t just about the complexity of the aroma. Solid, sinking chunks that clink like coins against each other means you get a longer burning session. And in the case of Royal Maluku… copious amounts of red-sweet spice oozing for hours on end. And, boy — if you've also smelled the striking spiciness of Almahera chips, you can't help but wonder how in the world oud can smell so spicy. So, here's a little factoid that might explain it…
What’s more interesting than that questionable claim about the original meaning of its name, is that Maluku was the world’s sole source of mace, nutmeg, and clove for a couple hundred years. More accurately than the 'Island of Kings', Maluku was known as the Spice Islands.
Now, you know how Thai ouds have that zesty twang that imbues Thai culture and cuisine, or how Indian oud is warm with turmeric and pepper? Knowing that its soil breeds such a montage of spices gives you a hint as to why Maluku agarwood smells so incredibly savory.
Although sinking-grade wild wood from Thailand and India are both rare and fetch hefty prices, neither are rarer than vintage, sinking Maluku aloes. So, when you see inferior sinking-grade Indian wood sell for more than THREE TIMES the price, that tells you something about the bargain you're getting here.
Oud of this caliber, from this era, is a must in any oud lover’s arsenal. It’s wood like this that shows what good oud smells like, and exposes wannabe oldies. It’s a benchmark… and such a delight you can easily get carried away. And why not? Bliss out all you want – such resin-dense nuggets will keep pumping out their red-sweet sandal-spicy aroma in spades!
Million and one thanks for sourcing and sharing rare wood like this one with us. What a gorgeous wood. The scent profile to my nose is based on the almahera just more oomph, cumin and bitter spices but also so creamy milky orris note too. It is absolutely terrific. – Rasoul, Canada