Encens Imperial


Encens Imperial is the most unusual Indian Oud I have smelled so far. The fragrance catches me off guard when it opens with a very potent top note. As the opening aroma meets my nose, I am greeted with an incredibly strong and crystalline aroma that smells almost medicinal and that is initially off-putting. By describing it as “medicinal”, I am intending to convey something of its potency, depth, and healing potential, as well as its “concentrated” aroma. After all, Oud has been used as medicine in the ancient healing traditions of the East–and when I smell a note like this, I remember why. It is one of the strongest notes I have encountered in an Oud oil so far.

This mysterious crystalline note is shrouded by a more traditional Indian aroma of sweet hay and woods, and a gentle barnyard tease. But as I smell my wrist over and over again, it is that top note that I am constantly reaching for. And it is quite playful–sometimes elusive, and at other times floating at the top, or sinking underneath the base notes, only to be found in the last seconds of the inhalation. As the fragrance unfolds, I realize that this mysterious “top note” actually pervades the aroma, top to bottom.

Within minutes, I am addicted to the singing clarity of Encens Imperial. It is an Indian Oud that possesses the clarity, beauty, and sensuality of the finest Borneo Ouds without sacrificing its Indian roots. Usually with Indian Oud, the woods, the hay, the resin, all of it mixes together into a “thick” fragrance. Yet Encens Imperial maintains a smooth, water-like clarity, without compromising any tenacity or potency.

In the official description for Encens Imperial, Ensar writes:

There might be no Kyara in Assam. But only in Assam do you find Muana, a heart note of serenity not even Kyara can capture, and just as rare. You might have smelled it when burning crazy-grade Assam wood chips, but pick it up in an oud oil… this is a first.

So what is Muana? It is hard for me to say exactly what Ensar means by using this term. In my own feeling, Muana is the defining aroma of Encens Imperial. It is that mysterious crystalline note at the heart of Encens Imperial that will puzzle your olfactory sensibilities. In its opening, it is the clearest top note I have ever smelled in an Indian Oud. As it wears, it dances and blends into the woodier undertones, and I’m smelling highly-resinated Oud chips on my wrist. This is my best guess as to what Muana refers to.

In the drydown, Encens Imperial emerges as more of a unified composition. Everything has integrated, revealing a deep and resinous profile, with accents of spice and a defined woodiness. The end result? The intoxicating aroma of incense-grade Indian Oud chips on your wrist.

Oud as incense has been the theme and goal of Ensar’s most recent releases. He has been emphasizing the true goal of Oud distillation as Oud oil that smells like incense. By incense, I feel he means a purity of scent. And Encens Imperial certainly fits into that category with its clear piercing aroma.

Ensar’s Indian Oud oils are undeniably his most diverse offerings–each one is a world of its own. So far, I have yet to smell any two that are similar. I think back to Legends such as Oud Mostafa and Oud Nuh. Encens Imperial is not the bottle I personally would reach for when I want to wear an Indian Oud. It is not as smooth and balanced as some of Ensar’s other Indian oils. Rather, Encens Imperial is an Oud I would save more for medicinal or meditative use. Assam lovers will find something very atypical in Encens Imperial, as it smells nothing like my other Assam oils. I almost forgot it was from Assam.

Clear, beautiful, and potent enough to be healing–Encens Imperial is an oil for the adventurous to explore.

But Muana doesn’t end with Encens Imperial, as I recently received a sample of an unreleased oil called “Muana LTD”…

Royal Assam

Royal AssamAgarAura’s Royal Assam is an unusual Assam Oud. It does not possess the density and tenacity of your usual Indian Oud, nor the creamy profile of Meghalayan Oud. Rather, Royal Assam exhibits clear, almost airy notes,  and a pleasant, pronounced woodiness. On top of the woody heart note are fruity notes that are subtler than say your typical Cambodian or Thai oil, while certainly adding sweetness to the profile. As the clarity and woody-fruity tones melt together, a unique Oud fragrance begins to emerge.

Mixed with the fruity top notes, the woodiness attains a sweetness reminiscent of cedarwood. But underneath the cedarwood lies a slight barnyard twinge–the only aspect of the oil that confesses its Assamese origins.

If someone told me this was a distillation of Crassna wood–I would believe them. In fact, I have smelled Crassna oils that have more of a barnyard element than Royal Assam. If someone told me that this was a co-distillation of Crassna and Malaccensis wood, then I would also believe them–because there is a lightness to Royal Assam that is uncharacteristic of both Indian and Cambodian/Thai oils.

However, in Royal Assam, Indian Oud lovers have found yet another interesting distillation from Aquilaria Agallocha to add to their collection. This oil is perfect for those days when you really want to wear an Indian Oud, but do not want everyone to pick up on those fecal and barnyard notes that you secretly love. This is a very balanced oil that one can find simple and easy enjoyment in wearing. It is not as overpowering as your typical Assam Oud, not as light as Borneo Oud, and not as sweet and fruity as a Cambodian/Thai oil. Royal Assam strikes a beautiful median, making it one of the more wearable Indian Ouds I have smelled.

But lovers of Assam Oud should also be aware that Royal Assam will not satisfy their deepest cravings for a funky Indian Oud. If you want a fragrance that epitomizes the classic Assam fragrance, then I would recommend Assam Organic. If you are not yet a fan of Assam Oud, then Royal Assam will give you a light introduction by which to gauge your tastes. But if you are a connoisseur and love to collect all the different types of precious Oud distillations, then Royal Assam is worth adding to your collection.

As Taha describes, there was no soaking involved in the distillation. The lack of fermentation prior to distillation explains the lack of fecal and barnyard notes. He also describes the use of pure drinking water rather than ground water. And this tweak is actually what I notice the most in terms of the oil’s scent profile. It is why Royal Assam smells so clean and even watery.

Royal Assam is a modern-day Indian Oud, whose wild and rough edges have been tamed and smoothed, producing one of the more wearable Indian Ouds I have come across so far. As with all Oud oils, age will only improve Royal Assam, and I look forward to seeing how this oil develops.

Currently available for $375, 2.5g.

New Order Form

Dear readers, I am pleased to announce the addition of an Order Form to the Oud Impressions Shop. Whenever you want to place an order from the Shop, simply click on the “Order From” from the drop down menu and choose the item you would like to order. There are four listed fields: Oud oils, Sandalwood, Perfumes, and Deer Musk. Select your choice and choose “None” for any fields you do not intend to order from. For ease of navigation, a link to the Order Form will be provided with every listing in the Shop as well. The option to order samples has also been integrated into this order form.

Recent additions to the Shop include two beautiful Sandalwood oils: A 10yrs Aged Mysore Sandalwood and a unique Hawaiian Sandalwood. Soon to be added is santalum album from Sri Lanka.

The Oud Impressions Shop will also soon be carrying pure Tibetan Musk grains soaking in Aged Mysore Sandalwood oil. Please note I will only be able to ship Sandalwood oil with grains within the USA. International customers can inquire about musk-infused Mysore Sandalwood without grains.

Coming soon are more reviews of recently released and yet-to-be released oils from Ensar Oud, as well as reviews of Oud oils from Agar Aura, and Oudimentary.

Oud Sultani: The Heart and Soul of Agarwood

Oud SultaniOud Sultani opens with the profound smell of resinous bubbling Oud chips. It is the unmistakable agarwood aroma–deep, resinous, woody, sweet, and everything in between I cannot describe. Catch a whiff and everything is suspended in fragrant exaltation. And I caught just such a whiff when I went to apply Oud Sultani. The fragrance immediately blossoms into an aromatic flurry reminiscent of the finest perfumes, with notes of ambergris and myrrh, and a pronounced floral sweetness that is so high you might think it is a Borneo oil.

As I walked outside, I could hardly tell if I was smelling Sultani or the floral breeze of Kauai. I checked my wrist repeatedly before realizing Sultani’s astonishingly floral element. My eyes close as I catch the aroma of Sultani again, sweet and melodious. I am left with feelings of gratitude for copper pot distillation.

Yes, it’s true–Oud Sultani does smell almost exactly the same as Oud Royale No. 1. And this alone is a remarkable fact. Both oils exude a classic royal agarwood fragrance–smooth, rich, luxurious, soft, deep, resinous, and balanced. When smelling these oils, I mindlessly know it does not get more Oudy than this!

So is Oud Sultani better than Oud Royale No. 1? Is Oud Sultani the greatest Oud oil Ensar has distilled?

These are difficult questions for me to answer. I have a small amount of Oud Royale No. 1, and I have been comparing the two Ouds. They are, for the most part, identical in terms of scent profile. Both oils come from jungles not too far from one another, and both oils were distilled from sinking-grade wood. One notable difference is that Oud Royale No. 1 has a remarkable depth and serenity. Royale has a darker woodier character, compared to Sultani’s lighter, livelier, sweeter, and more floral vibrancy. Ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin–yin and yang, the sun and the moon, like male and female twins. I can see myself reaching for Royale on some days, and on other days, Sultani would be my first pick. It is hard to place the oils against each other. However, I feel that Royale has the advantage of age–being over 30yrs old now. Sultani is only 12yrs old in comparison, which still makes it one of the oldest oils in my collection. I’m sure it will be a marvel to see where Oud Sultani is 10yrs from now!

Bubbling Oud chip

Bubbling Oud chip

As for being the best Oud oil ever offered by Ensar Oud, Sultani surely ranks at the top of the list, in terms of sheer quality and purity of agarwood scent. It is Oud as incense, the smooth, delicious, and resinous fragrance of sinking grade chips–but on your wrist instead of your burner! When ordinary people come across chips of this quality, they save it for their burners. But when the artisan puts it in the stills, what we receive in the form of an oil is miraculous. In my opinion, Sultani is Oud oil of the highest possible calibre. It represents and epitomizes the heart of the Oud fragrance like no other oil I have smelled thus far. And I find Its purity is irresistible.

I also greatly enjoy the tenacious and resinous funkiness of Indian Oud, the fruity-sweetness of Cambodian oils, the light-woody-sweetness of Borneo oils. To me, those oils are diverse and have lots of character. And, to be honest, Oud Royale and Oud Sultani are in a different class altogether. In my opinion, they are not as accessible or “entertaining” as other Oud oils. There is no fruit here, no typical barnyard scent, nothing that you would superficially associate with Oud oils. Sultani and Royale are a pure agarwood scent, perfumes in and of themselves, offering only the truest agarwood scent possible. With these oils, you smell the heart of Oud directly, without anything in between. These are truly rare and worthy oils for the agarwood connoisseur to savor and appreciate.

Oils such as Sultani and Royale are suited for royalty, no doubt. They are completely uncommon distillations from wood that you can (typically) only dream of smelling in the form of an oil. They epitomize the luxuriousness, elegance, and sophistication that has kept Oud oil in the palaces for generations.

What is always amazing to me is how Oud oil–one essential oil–is just as rich, complex, and multi-faceted as the finest perfume. Perfumes generally consist of many different oils, artfully layered upon one another, from base to middle to top. And yet, one drop of Oud oil gives you that and much more. Oud Sultani exemplifies the reality of Oud as perfume. When I smell Oud Sultani, I feel as if I am smelling a finely crafted perfume that is at once sensitive and bold, luxurious and soft, exalted and rich, complex and unified.

Sinking Grade chips

Sinking-grade Oud wood

While Sultani begins with its lighter and more floral notes, in its dry down it reveals a warmer, more balsamic and woody character, without losing any of its floral tonality. The oil is perfect. All of the notes and tones bind together seamlessly into a single note, and nothing even remotely clouds the purest agarwood aroma. If you smell Oud Sultani, you will know why Ensar thinks more seriously about oil than his burner when he sees incense grade chips. Truly, nothing can compare. I believe it is the peak of agarwood distillation. Artisans and connoisseurs alike know that this is as good as it gets–and its better than I imagined.

Feel Oud Reviews

Dear readers, FeelOud is a new vendor that has recently appeared on the online Oud scene. While I personally prefer to purchase oils from more experienced distillers, I feel it is commendable that FeelOud’s intentions are to make lower priced oils available so that more people can become familiar with the fragrance of Oud oil.

Truly, the nature of agarwood distillation is complex and difficult, with raw materials verging on extinct to nearly impossible to afford that hardly anyone can perform such an undertaking in the present-time–at least with the hopes of making it into a business. Nonetheless, FeelOud has ventured into this challenging territory with great enthusiasm.

FeelOud has kindly sent me samples of his first oils for my review, which I much appreciate. In opening the sample vials, I really had no idea what to expect. For one, I must admit that I was surprised to find that someone was attempting to become a vendor of Oud oils, as it is such a difficult, nuanced, and rarified affair. Nonetheless, I remained open, without any expectations as to what I might smell in the samples.

There are three classes of Oud oils on FeelOud, “Economy”, “Business”, and “First”. The Oud oils I received are from the “First Class” category, and are described as, “only pure Oud Oils of the highest quality. Exclusive, wild, aged oils or oils made by custom distillation.”  And now to my impressions:

Saudia:  This is advertised as a mukhallat. The notes of frankincense are quite obvious, as are spices, and some rose. It is a decent blend, and those who enjoy the typical smell of Arabian perfumes will enjoy this mukhallat. However, the Oud is not all that detectable.

Manuka Moataqq: This oil clearly smells Indian. Notes of sweet hay and a slight funkiness. The description states it is 20yrs old from Manipur, but the oil does not smell like it was distilled from wood that was sufficiently resinated. It does not have depth or a resinous profile.

Yangu Kingu: A Thai distillation of trees that are supposedly 20yrs old. The description states that the wood used in distillation is “black, brown, and white” agarwood . However, it lacks the resinous profile that is the signature of Oud oil distilled from essential oil rich wood. However, the oil is fruity and sweet and exhibits a typical Thai profile. But it lacks a base to support its top notes.

Thai Prince Kinamo: Top notes of fruit that make you think you are about to smell an oil like Oud Yusha or Yusuf, but then you are left hanging, because there’s nothing at the bottom. I do not believe this oil was distilled from sufficiently resinated agarwood. However, the oil does exhibit a pleasant fruity aroma.

Assam Blood: Top notes that are true to Assam Oud, but that eventually only lead into a flatter smell.

I truly applaud FeelOud’s efforts and ambitions in agarwood distillation. FeelOud is clearly not merely reselling oils, but is venturing into distilling his own oils–and I will be interested to see how his oils develop after he has really grown in the art of distillation. In the future, I sincerely hope that he decides to use higher quality raw materials, even if it means having to sell oils at a higher prices.