Oud Thaqeel

The first distillation of Abdul Samad Al Qurashi’s “Thaqeel” is a legendary Oud amongst Oud lovers worldwide. Thaqeel is a Cambodian Oud, purportedly from a 100-year old Agarwood tree. Although ASAQ has since released second and third distillations of Thaqeel, only the first distillation maintains its legendary status. The first distillation sold for $700 for 3ml, with the current distillation selling for an astronomically high price of $3, 733 a tola.

Needless to say, all of the hype surrounding Thaqeel soon piqued my curiosity. And I was fortunate enough to acquire a sample from a friend of mine a few months ago. Thaqeel was the first Cambodian Oud I smelled (to be followed by the now legendary Cambodi Caramel), and I enjoyed its fruity-sweet notes, something I had not smelled in Oud yet. The fragrance of Thaqeel also felt mysteriously Middle Eastern to me, although I cannot explain why.

I enjoyed Thaqeel, but noticed that it stayed too close to my skin for my liking. At first, I was perplexed as to what I was beginning to perceive as a weakness in the oil’s fragrance, and would put on more and more. For a while, I assumed that the sample-size applicator stick was perhaps not able to provide me with a sufficient amount to enjoy the aroma after initial application.

I also noticed that while Thaqeel was a pleasant enough fragrance, it lacked the dimensionality of the Ouds I loved most. That is not to say that Thaqeel is not a nuanced and interesting fragrance, which it certainly is. But it lacks a certain indescribable and subtle dimensionality. Thaqeel did not feel alive on my skin.

In order to gain some clarity about Thaqeel, I asked Ensar of Ensar Oud if he had ever smelled this oil, and what his opinion of it was. I was mostly curious to see if he felt that it was actually one of the rare oils from ASAQ that is actually pure, especially given its price tag. I was somewhat hopeful that it might be a pure Oud oil, a serious distillation from a significantly aged tree. Ensar’s reply echoed my own intuitions about Thaqeel’s one-dimensionality and lack of consciousness. His reply is posted below verbatim, for the sake of positive education, intelligent consideration, and rightly stimulating discussion.

ENSAR: The only time I smelled Oud Thaqeel was when a Russian customer flew in to Amman from Dubai to meet me in person. He’d just picked up a bottle at the ASAQ shop in Dubai, and he was a happy camper! The gooey, pasty, sticky mess of an oil inside that bottle just looked wrong. It is an artificially oxidized oil, by being exposed to air without a cap on the container. The oil only gets thicker and more one-dimensional as it oxidizes, until it becomes sticky like honey.

What people rave about is not the oil as much as the marketing. This is supposed to be the most expensive Oud in the world, and so necessarily that generates a lot of buzz. I think my Chinese Exclusive, which is 100% wild Hainan oil, distilled in 2004, and has
been carefully preserved from oxidation in air-tight German Pyrex, stored in the dark, is a far more interesting oil than Thaqeel.

Thaqeel means “heavy” in Arabic. And it is just that, a thick oil that impresses people when they encounter the stickiness of it. Nothing worth writing home about.

Not to mention that ASAQ does not produce their own oils, but they buy wholesale from other Gulf conglomerates like al Haramain, Ajmal, etc. This is common knowledge among the Oud producing folks.

The Sacred Domain of Oud

I wasn’t really feeling like wearing Oud today–something that happens every few weeks. On the rare days that I don’t swipe Oud, I will gravitate to a Mukhallat. Lately, that has been either Al-Arabiya or Mukhallat Salman. However, both of those Mukhallats do have some Oud in them–Al-Arabiya is made with Oud Bengal, and Mukhallat Salman with a Cambodi. Otherwise, I’m a daily swiper of one of Ensar’s Ouds.

The wearing of Oud is a ritual I look forward to everyday. In the mornings after meditation, I begin to feel into which Oud I want to wear for the day. It is often very obvious, as I already feel drawn to wearing something in particular that fits my mood. On other days, the consideration can be more lengthy, when my mood is more ambiguous. Nonetheless, there is always the conclusive swipe on my wrist, a beautiful beginning of the day with a fresh breath and the wordless knowledge of artisanal Oud oil.

Upon waking, the first act I do is meditation on my Beloved Guru, Adi Da Samraj. For me, beginning the day with meditation and puja is how I am able to enter into the stream of ordinary life without losing my heart-connection to the Divine. In the same way, the wearing of Oud oil has become a sacramental act of worship, a remembrance of the sacred in the midst of daily life, a sensory integration with What Is Beyond this mortal world. To wear a fragrance such as Oud is the same as wearing sacred jewelry. My Guru calls His disciples to wear a rudraksha mala as a way of remaining in and functioning within the sacred domain, a tangible form of Divine remembrance.

I remember Ensar telling me that in Islam, the wearing of fragrances is considered an act of worship. I was very struck by those words, and although I could intuit something of what he was saying, I did not altogether feel the fullness of its meaning in the way that I do now. With every swipe, I feel the reality of these words sinking in so much deeper. To fill one’s life with profundity–even at the grossest of levels–is a mysterious and wonderful gift.

My Guru also wore Oud oil, and so every swipe of artisanal Oud oil is also a form of remembering Him, and the love and devotion I feel for Him in my heart. Really, wearing Oud is a pre-verbal symphony of so many things. Who knew that so much could be held and expressed in that simple swipe of the Oud-laden glass stick across my wrist.

Sylvan Nectar

Still cradled in Cambodi Caramel’s sweetness, I simply could not resist wearing another Cambodi today. I have a sample vial of Agar Aura’s now-sold-out Sylvan Nectar that I had been wanting to get to know better. First I had to tip the vial upside down so that I could get some on the applicator stick. This Oud gets the award for stickiest and most syrupy Oud. It has the consistency of honey. When I apply it to wrist, its stickiness is remarkable, like sap, or maple syrup. I attempt to lightly rub my wrists together, only to find that they nearly stick together! Somehow, I find the syrupiness to be pleasurable.

Sylvan Nectar opens very sweet, but its sweetness is more horizontal than Caramel’s. This Oud is truly nectarous. I feel that I am smelling the nectarous core of a blossoming flower, ripe for pollination. My vision turns to flowers in a wild garden being pollinated by a round honey bee. In the next moment, this Cambodi takes me to the hive. I smell the alchemy of nectar as it transmutates into the deep floral sweetness of fresh and wild honey.

This Oud has three very pronounced phases. The first is its sweet syrupy opening. An hour later, I began to notice a smokiness surrounding Sylvan’s floral core. A delightful surprise. It is a light smokiness, not dense or heavy. A little bit later, and my wrist truly smells of maple syrup. Sylvan perks up again with new notes of sweet suede, subtle enough to make an appearance before melting back into its syrupy heart.

A very light Oud that is full of surprises, Sylvan Nectar is amusing and incredibly sweet. This Oud stands nicely in contrast to Cambodi Caramel. Where Caramel is dark and bold, Sylvan is light and quiet. Sylvan is an early morning Oud, giving me visions of dawn, the sunrise, and the beginnings of life. Caramel is more brooding, a full moon, a journey into the deeper mysteries of life as they climax in a fullness of energy that rises high above the body and mind.