Agarwood is no longer what it used to be.
There is a whole world full of agarwood-hungry fiends and preternatural creatures—and they just won’t take ‘cultivated’ for an answer. They want oud and they want it wild. They want it wild and it better be high-grade. So, of course, someone is going to supply such a product to fill that demand.
Wherever you turn in the oud producing world, ‘wild’ agarwood is harvested every day. But what sort of tree is it harvested from? Is it from hardy, colossal trees bursting with resin from root to tips? Is it from hidden, virgin forests where pristine grandmother trees are oozing with goodness, just waiting to get plucked?
The reality on the ground is very different. The jungles have all been discovered and rediscovered by hungry hunters who cut down everything there was to cut a long, long time ago. What you get now is wild agarwood ‘nurseries’ where trees that are known not to contain any black resin inside are purposely slashed and injured by hunters so they could show up a few years later and ‘harvest’ their wild agar to meet market demand. This is the case in Cambodia, and it most certainly is the case in Vietnam.
Once the ‘wild’ agarwood is harvested, it is then cleaned and chiseled so it can look nice and burnable. The shavings that are collected during the cleaning process are sent to brokers who sell them off to incense companies—unless they run into an artisanal distiller or two.
Though technically wild, such oils cannot be placed in the same category as the wild oils of yesteryear. If these oils are ‘wild’ – those oils were really wild. But the main issue here is not the semantics. It’s the price of the oils.
The ‘wild’ name tag comes with a price tag, and this price tag often exceeds that of oils distilled from far, far superior old growth agarwood harvested years and decades past. The resin of the trees of today is nowhere near as mature as what we used to harvest pre-China market.
Even so, with some innovation and ingenuity, it is possible to distill remarkable oils from such wood. And here I present you with one of the dandiest specimens from recent years.
Zazen was distilled from the shavings that are collected from the cleaning of agarwood chips harvested in Cambodia’s present-day jungles. Some people claim these chips are harvested without human intervention, though it is my personal conviction that some sort of human interference is what causes the resin formation.
The aroma of Zazen is strikingly bitter, astringent with an almost Vietnamese vibe to it, with notes of condensed milk that bring to mind a raw agarwood branch stripped bare of the skin. The wet, raw agarwood flesh is reminiscent of Sinensis hues that some might even mistake for Kyara. I would not go quite as far, though the aroma is deeply satisfying and dangerously addicting.
This oil is a revelation. It shows what artisanal craftsmanship can accomplish with even scant raw materials that are hard to come by, and resin not gotten save with grueling effort.
Oils of this caliber fetch some mighty handsome prices on the artisanal market. Not Zazen. This is our gift to Oud. A recalibration of that market, in honor of all the centennial trees that were felled in these legendary jungles over the last several decades. A hymn to the past, and a way forward for the future. It is our bottled adrenaline, spiked with the most fragrant cortisol of sleepless nights wasted on trying to teach the world what oud is. It is the scent of Truth. Smell it.
All natural and chemical-free. Extracted via traditional methods, without the use of synthetic chemicals. This oil does not have an expiry date! It will only improve as it ages. No “gassing” required.
I've heard that the famed Ruh Khas imparts a cooling and calming effect and is particularly popular in the summer months in the subcontinent. Unfortunately, I never found its scent palatable to my tastes so missed out on these benefits. Effects which to a person of a 'hot & dry (safrawi)' constitution are a much-needed tonic. Now, though, I need not worry about it. Cooling, calming, soothing and most importantly perfectly palatable. It's unusually hot at the moment in the UK and I'm tending towards this more than any other oil in my collection. I'm glad I bought it, I might even make it a tola. – Ayub, UK
Absolutely amazing. Smells anything but a Cambodi. No fruits, no leather, no tobacco. Instead, a marvelous bitter Sinensis and cooling aroma. Never could have imagined that Cambodian wood can smell like this. It immediately strikes as something entirely different. I really hope that this was not a one-of-a-kind gem and Ensar will be releasing more oils in the same genre at the same amazing price point… I will buy each and every one of them insha Allah. – Muaz, Saudi Arabia
Newfangled Cambodian oil – clean, clear, slightly bitter, delightful red Vietnamese-esque types notes… This oil is a fantastic deal – if it were 2-3x as much, I doubt anyone would find it overpriced… – JM, USA
Ahh, the Zazen. I am wearing it now and it’s making my mood positive and enlightened. It’s like something awakened. – DL, USA
The real surprise of the bunch was the Zazen. This was not on my radar, so I read the description, which did nothing to increase my interest. Thus my great surprise on application. The Zazen is deeply reminiscent of the original Archipelago and Sultan Murad (I still have both). It is as if a sparkling, ozonic sea breeze penetrated the heft of the two old classics, lifting them into a new and unexpected realm. The result is stunning, especially in light of Zazen’s origins. For lack of a better analogy, I can only say that this is like oud with aldehydes. Sounds horrible, but it is the opposite – zesty, refreshing, complex, happiness-inducing. Bizarre and beautiful! – Lee, USA
I went ahead and picked up Zazen because… well, because any oil described by Ensar as a “revelation” deserves to be experienced. – Kim, USA
I like the Vietnamese vibe as well as the muted pipe tobacco/fruit element and while I can recognize Cambodian, I like the twist that this oil provides. It’s VERY Western nose friendly as well, which is great for my hospital work environment. – Eric, USA