Ensar Oud’s Kambodi Kadeem is a special old-school Cambodi that has become my first choice for Cambodian Oud oil. A testament to the art and nuances of distillation, Kambodi Kadeem was crafted to capture the truest vintage Cambodi aroma–the aroma that defines “Cambodi”. For the sake of comparison, Ensar sent me a sample vial of a Cambodian Oud oil from 1976. I have found that Kambodi Kadeem is a true testament to this beautifully aged old-school Cambodian oil. In this review, I will compare the two oils, as I unravel the true Cambodi scent.
Kambodi Kadeem opens with a sweet woody note with dark ripe berries swirling in the midst. The initial aroma is somewhat mossy and possesses an “allure” and “lift” that reminds me of animal fixatives. It is a piercing, sharp, and very clear fragrance–the signs of a mature well-harvested tree and a finely aged oil. Each note is discernible and yet fully integrated into the whole of the aroma. Minutes later, a more pungent base note begins to show its colors. The top note teases tart. As a whole, the aroma is juicy and delectable, you want to keep breathing it in, receiving wave after aromatic wave. On the wrist, it has nice sillage, much more than I expected. It also has excellent tenacity and will not even enter the dry down phase for quite a while.
What really strikes me about Kambodi Kadeem is that the fruity notes are well-balanced. This is perhaps the first time I have smelled such a balance of fruit notes in a Cambodian oil. KK has those dark unctuous jam-like tones, but it is incredibly sophisticated about it. The vibe of this oil is at once luxurious and sophisticated, gentlemanly and vintage. Many Cambodian oils have a fruity aroma that is a bit untamed–it jumps out with a kind of excitement and overpowers the more subtle aromas present in the oil. But KK has a smooth and soft appeal. It is a finished product and boasts its aromatic integration with a regal flair. This is an Oud oil that is friendly to the Western palate, and also suitable for the most formal occasions. Rarely have I encountered both qualities in a single Oud oil. Indian oils are too pungent for social occasions and best utilized alone (at least in the US), and most Cambodian oils are too fruity for my taste. I feel funny wearing such a fruity fragrance in formal settings. In other words, Kambodi Kadeem has some real style–it is waiting to make you feel suave.
The dry down is equally as intriguing as the opening notes. This oil has a beautiful finish on the skin that I cannot quite describe. All of the woody, pungent, fruity notes blend together to create something new that has the most subtle hints of fine leather. An intoxciating and beautiful fragrance, Kambodi Kadeem is at once strong and delicate, earthy and flowery, old-school and completely new.
The 1976 Cambodi is one of the most beautiful Oud oils I have had the pleasure to smell. For me, it ranks with Oud Sultani. One thing I cannot emphasize enough about the ’76 Cambodi is age. The age of this oil gives it a unique quality and power, a maturity and depth of aroma that I have only smelled in the original Oud Royale from ’82. All of you private collectors out there: if you have any doubts about how well your Oud oil will age or if it will even significantly improve in the coming years, let me tell you that it most certainly will! Alongside giving me a peek into the history of Cambodian Oud, the ’76 Cambodi also shows me the true potential of aging Oud oil–the true meaning of “vintage”. It is this vintage quality in the oil that is so intoxicating. In terms of aroma, the scent is similar to Kambodi Kadeem in its balance, its subtleties, its utter sophistication. This oil reminds me of deer musk a bit and a little of Chinese Exclusive as well. Altogether, this oil is in a class of its own–I will be most curious to see how Kambodi Kadeem develops over the next 40 years! In terms of aroma, vibe, and quality the two oils are strikingly similar. A good nose will be able to smell KK’s future. But, in the present moment, there is no way to fairly compare two oils with such a tremendous age difference!
I can very clearly smell the “mood” of old-school Cambodis in both of these oils. I find it remarkable that KK even resembles the ’76 Cambodi as much as it does. The distillation of KK deserves some attention and appreciation on the part of connoisseurs. On the page for KK, Ensar has links for a 10-part series that shows the making of Kambodi Kadeem. I highly encourage everyone to watch these and witness the amount of work that goes into producing oils of this stature. Commendable and inspiring–my hat is off to Ensar Oud on this one.