Taha of Agar Aura kindly sent me many samples for me to review, and I first and foremost want to thank him for that. It has been a true pleasure to get to know his oils more, and I want to say that his current offerings are no less than spectacular. I have not yet had the chance to get to know all the oils yet, as I am focusing on each one, one by one, and getting to know each Oud is a unique process, unique to each oil. Some of my favorite oils have taken me weeks to write a review for, whereas others I’ve even written reviews for within the same day of first applying. Oud Kampuchea is certainly of the latter!
Oud Kampuchea has fascinated me for some time now. Kampuchea is a wild-harvested Cambodian Oud oil, from the Roneuam Doun Sam forest in Western Cambodia. The resin formation in the heartwood was estimated at being 7-9 years old, which is remarkably mature. As everyone has learned, more significant than the age of the tree is the age of the infection, which indicates how long the precious aromatic resin has been forming for. The longer the resin forms, the more potent, complex, rich, and deep its aroma becomes. Therefore, the estimated age of the resin formed in the heartwood that was later distilled into Oud Kampuchea is astonishing to me.
We have two miracles here. A wild Cambodian Oud oil distilled from the heartwood of a tree with a significantly mature infection. Upon learning these facts, I had to go through a process of skepticism, before I finally opened up to the possibility that Kampuchea is the remarkable oil that the facts alone indicate it should be. Nonetheless, I have to admit that the price tag of $205 left me wondering how that could really be so. I feel that part of my skepticism also came from the very expensive and intriguing experiments that Ensar was involved in at the time, most notably the Khao Yai Experiment. However, it is important to remember that the Khao Yai Experiment was conducted using incense–grade Oud wood, from which it is very difficult to distill Oud oil, for the reason that the resin formation hardens and is difficult to coax into a significant yield of oil via distillation. Low yield = pricey bottle of Oud. Incense grade distillation = ecstasy in a bottle. Since the price of the wild Oud wood used in the Khao Yai Experiment was so high, I could not understand how Agar Aura procured wild Cambodian wood and was able to offer an oil at such a low price.
I finally got past my skepticism, especially after I got to know the intricacies of incense-grade distillations, and their rarity. Nonetheless, the Kampuchea wood could not have been anything less than amazing, given its 7-9 years of infection. So how did the oil turn out?
Oud Kampuchea opens very fruity. Essence of plum and nectarines circulate in the midrange of this oil. Kampuchea sings the classic Cambodian sweetness right from the beginning. This oil is luscious with sweetness. It is a fruity blast at first, but it also has a sweetness that does not hold a comparison to anything tangible. It is just incredible delicious sweetness. You know it when you smell it! But the fruity-sweetness of the oil would not have been enough to leave me satisfied, given the nature of the raw materials. I wondered where this oil was going to go, if it would develop more, or if it would end-up only displaying typical average Cambodian characteristics of a mid-range linearity.
But Kampuchea has been nothing but full of pleasant surprises to me. As the oil develops, its fruity-sweet notes are shaded by a deeply resinous undercurrent that is so beautifully intoxicating. It took me some time to put words to exactly what I was smelling underneath the sweet notes of fruit, but then it finally struck me. It is the deep resinous notes that I have come to recognize in some of the most mature oils that I have, and by “mature” I mean oils that show evidence of being distilled from wood with a significantly developed infection. The evidence of Kampuchea’s estimated 7-9 years of infection is absolutely present in the oil. It is deeply resinous and exhibits its maturity unabashedly.
I initially felt that Kampuchea’s fruitiness was almost exactly the same as the fruity notes in Cambodi Caramel. I was so sure of this that I even pulled out my bottle of Cambodi Caramel to compare. There is some resemblance in the notes of plum and in the way that Kampuchea’s fruity notes are deep and somewhat dark, much like Caramel’s dark and bold tones. However, as the oil wore on, I was suddenly struck by a more apt comparison. Oud Mostafa.
Remove all Indian notes from Oud Mostafa, savoring only its sweet fruity notes and resinous core. Put it in a bottle, and you have Oud Kampuchea. I was very surprised to note this, and questioned myself thoroughly before facing the realities before my senses. The fruity notes of Oud Kampuchea are very similar to the fruity notes in the high range of Oud Mostafa. Kampuchea also has the same resinous undercurrent that is at the core of Oud Mostafa, and is one of my favorite notes in the oil. Oud Mostafa was distilled from incense-grade wood, and although I do not know its estimated age of infection, it certainly exhibits a very mature character and scent profile, and its deeply resinous core is a sign to me of an infection that was rather mature.
Oud Kampuchea is an absolutely beautiful oil. I am stunned in the wake of its magical splendor and diversity of character. Very deep, and one of the most complex Cambodis I have come across so far. There is plenty going on with Kampuchea to play with my senses and leave me intoxicated in its aroma. Kampuchea is surprisingly bold too. It is not a quiet or totally linear Cambodi. It asserts itself, unafraid of showing its true colors with real confidence. Kampuchea’s maturity also lends to a feeling of seriousness that I often do not find in Cambodian oils. It is deep. It is still. It draws one into contemplation of its radiant resinous core, sweetly penetrated by notes of fruit. It is a true Oud oil that invokes a sense of the sacred.
Taha had commented on how similar Kampuchea is to Oud Yusha. I encourage my readers to buy both oils, not only because they are incredible oils, but because they each represent something significant. Oud Yusha represents a sustainable approach to Oud distillation–the world of organic Oud. And what does Oud Kampuchea represent?
To me, Oud Kampuchea proves that it is not necessary to harvest wild Oud wood in order to produce the highest quality Oud oils. Kampuchea does not exhibit anything that is not achievable via organic cultivation efforts and proper distillation methods. If a tree is allowed to mature sufficiently, and if the resin formation is significantly mature, and the distillation process is approached with care and artistic integrity–then it is totally possible to distill oils of this quality, or even better, depending on the nature of the raw materials and what they have to offer. However, it is also interesting to note that the wild Oud wood used for Oud Kampuchea could have produced a mediocre or even low quality oil, had the materials not been distilled properly. Wild Oud is not a guarantee of quality. Cultivated Oud is not necessarily lower in quality. Both have the potential to be superior quality oils. Kampuchea does not exhibit anything that I would not expect from a high quality organic cultivated Oud oil. Kampuchea simply shows the signs of a mature Oud oil from high quality raw materials that were distilled properly. And it is a real gem. The fact that Kampuchea compares to an oil like Oud Mostafa is also significant to me. By “compare”, I do not mean that it mimics the scent profile of Mostafa, or that they are similar oils. They are very different, make no mistake. But Kampuchea shares something with Mostafa. It shares depth, sophistication, maturity, and power.
Do not let the low price-tag initiate your skepticism! This is an incredible oil that I highly recommend. An incredible value if you really examine the offering: wild Cambodian Oud oil (wild Cambodian wood is statistically extinct), from a tree in which the resin formation in the heartwood is estimated to be 7-9 years old. $205. The proof is in the pudding!