Blind Oud Test - Results And Discussion

Discussion in 'General' started by powdernose, Nov 5, 2018.

  1. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    credit is due where credit is due. this was no small undertaking and given the time frame and how quickly it came together to not lose momentum is highly admirable. i cant imagine anyone doing a better job for the first round. much respect to everyone at any capacity for the work did and contributions they made. major admiration and respect to powder nose for his approach, for his open mind, for him staying on point and pushing the ship forward.

    i have many things to say. the spirit in which I make this post is positive and constructive. I hope it comes across as such and the message captures the spirit in which i write it. i am not pointing fingers. only trying to build upon what i learned and looking back in hindsight.

    before i go on to specific points, i believe the main goal, secondary, tertiary goal of any exercise like this should be laid out before the test commences. i may have failed to see this, but wasn't able to find out beforehand what is the main purpsoe. there are many aspects and many goals for a test like this. this test has proven helpful in many aspects, yet not really helpful if you look at it from a different lens. "cool" and "interesting" for sure, but i dont think thats why we are here for.

    It was helpful to see if the so-called signature of some distillers come across or not. the answer for me turned out to be somewhat yes, somewhat no. i immediately realized ASO signature in an oil i had never tried but i knew it had to be theirs. yet i mistakenly took surirankah senkoh for imperial oud ceylon royale. in my defense, the two oils are truly quite similar :)

    it was also helpful to rid of one's influence from peer pressure, price point pressure, brand pressure... but there is a cost associated with that, as i believe every oil should be judged on its own set of merits. otherwise, we end up with apples and oranges and people's subjective likes come to play, instead of an objective approach. more on this below.

    here is my summary of things in no specific order:

    1) with all due respect to ASO, it is HIGHLY worrisome for cultivated oil to be a clear winner. it is disrespectful to mothernature, to the wild oud and also worrisome to see oud enthusiasts not being able to see the difference. for FHI, borneo diesel, Rakhawa... to not be recognized for what they are, is troubling. I wish I had a chance to try this oil and see for myself.

    2) i wish the same set of oils would be sent to everyone. i guess it would have mean a big ask from donors to give up that much volume oil from one oil. i would personally wish for next round to limit the number of judges to ensure all get the same oils. on the same note, i would suggest tagging the oils differently. e.g oil X marked as A for some, B for others, and D for some... as to ensure no behind the scene chat and peer pressure etc. doesnt happen between judges.

    3) when i was filling out the template, i didnt and still dont see a correlation of how one decides the best oil from the set of given criteria. stay with me. let me explain. if one takes the numerical number of the first four rows: intensity, longevity, complexity and oudiness it doesnt correlate with overall score. also the oil that scores higher or hits a higher mark for longevity, intensity, is not necessarily one that makes a wearer to wana spend more time with. i cant speak for others and wont, but i wonder which parameter is the most meaningful? i mean for me, certain days the oil that gets the vote as the only oil to spend more time with is the best oil of the bunch. yet another day a more intense oil is preferred, while majority of the time a given oil's poise or balance is the winner.

    4) i strongly think a single blind test is more valuable than full blind and ill explain why. i humbly suggest the following idea next go around: the origin and age of oud is given but nothing more. price, maker, cultivated vs wild is kept blind. this is important in my opinion b/c tyicity and textbook qualities are important. imagine i go to a restuarant and order a bolognese pasta, but instead, i get served the most amazing carbonara pasta i have had. this is a major fail, b/c i didnt get what i was suppsoed to. if an oil is getting high marks for a hindi but turns out to be malay, then that is again a fail in my eyes. respectfully the interesting and somewhat enjoyable sumbawalla from JK had dead on microcarpa and malinau notes in it. it didnt and still doesnt ring in gyrinops from sumba, or sumbawa or walla. ditto the awesome oil that turned out to be cambodi vintage, is really an excellent agalocha. i fail to see anything cambodi in it. but maybe thats just me. i need to go and read other's take on this oil.

    5) i humbly suggest having the overall score be an actual sum of the many criteria, rather than us willy nilly giving it a number.
    e.g in my case oils that had more intensity, longevity, etc. didn't necessarily get a highest overall score.

    6) perhaps price point shared or the bracket the price falls into if shared is very helpful b/c in reality price determines the expectation. we can then vote for Oil X meets the price point, falls below slightly or massively, or the opposite: ultra strong quality-price ratio. this can be done as two groups: one group given the price brackets and another not. would be more than just interesting to compare the results.

    7) most of the work for round 2 in my opinion should be on setting up the criteria and refining it. as is in the first round, i personally see a major disadvantage to someone like taha, who's oils are not about intensity, longevity, complexity etc. they are about the medicinal aspects, the clean-ness, the pristine notes, the minimalism and less is more if you will. i am not saying all his oils are like that, but the generalization somewhat holds true. also intensity in an older oud is a different sign and apositive one vs in a young oil. at the same time, certain qualities if seen in an old oil are a bad sign vs if it was in a yougn oil, it can be forgiven.

    my 2 cents for now
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  2. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    bingo. the part in bold really resonated with me.
     
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  3. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    going back i forgot to mention that both borneo diesel and FHI as well as cambodi vitnage can be seen as winner if one puts more importance on the fact that these are oils that got most votes for spending time with. for me personally, ASO rakhwan was the oud of the flight followed closely by JK's laos oil.

    since i am strickler for typicity and if a maroke smells hindi we have a problem or vice versa.... is noteworthy to me that an oud like fajr, no one got its origin right, may need to be deducted a mark or two for its speaking more of a distiller's bags of tricks and prowess than the source of th wood itself. i know this may be highly controversial for some, but for me, it is disrespectful when an ingredient is cooked to taste and feel like another and on the same token i extend that way of thinking to oud.

    thats it from me for now :)
     
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  4. Rai Munir

    Rai Munir Musk Man

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    Let the result of this Blind Test cure and then get aged, its functionality, appropriateness, benefit and even need will become clear. For me, it was like the first experiment initiated by the Wright brothers. Later, that very experiment made it possible to manufacture B52 jet fighter. Yet room is there. The room for further improvement in this test system is there. Of course, the way respected members are posting their suggestions, the system will get refined.

    Though it was a blind test, but not deaf at all, and fragrance is to be listened. When listened well, without looking at the brand names, and paid price, the results are mostly baffling. Next time, it will definitely be exercised IF it is endorsed by the respected members and, of course, by the admins. One thing for sure, its being blind and confidentiality would remain so. For sure, this effort is not like 'art for art's sake', rather it is for reaching a definite station sake.

    So far as the absence of some brands goes, it will be addressed positively.

    Sometimes, it is necessary to let the people decide what they learn from experiments and their and others' experiences.

    Cheers and peace!
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  5. Grega

    Grega Oud Fan

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    Well regarding point nm 1 I fail to see why liking a cultivated oud oil more than the wild ones is in any way worrisome or why it would be disrespectful to "mother nature"?
     
  6. Rai Munir

    Rai Munir Musk Man

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    Dear Rasoul, the results would be rather drastically worrisome if all the sent-oils were from the same region but of different prices. Just imagine, if Surianka appears to be Royale when tag is not there, what else, both worrisome and disrespectful, cannot happen.
     
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  7. Habz786

    Habz786 Resident Artisan

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    Its great to see very expensive oils being beaten and challenged by more affordable options. I think this blind testing shows true objectivity as we all "claim" to be objective....but are we really? The mind plays strange tricks.... @powdernose next time can i be a participant? Would be interesting to do a Vendor blind test :Cooler:
     
  8. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

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    Greetings,

    Agreed.

    I didn't say I was surprised :Cooler:
    I understand your point, but I believe what you are suggesting would require a much larger data set, possibly multiple testing groups, and definitely some of the pre-screening you mentioned to normalise the groups. Is that endeavour financially viable? And to what gain?
    Perhaps one could argue these points, but I don't think such an approach would be appropriate as the first step in blind testing.
    In my opinion, we should crawl before we run.

    Also, I believe that we have taken a successful shortcut and already proven the point.
    Is there seriously any doubt that the lack of extrinsic information affected perception?
    In my opinion it is blatantly obvious that any extrinsic information would have altered perceptions; I wont spell out every instance but in the case of Fajr and Sweet Trat, I think it is clear to see.


    That depends on expectations. I don't think anybody realistically expects any nose to be able to accurately and repeatedly price oils...

    One might as well take the worst example then :), Hareer was perceived as only 29% of its value.
    Keep in mind that reviewers were not pricing strictly to existing market values, but could also be assigning value on what they would be willing to pay (I'd guess often it was a mix of the two). So these values are also a reflection on what Ouddicts would like prices to look like.
    As such, I don't think that expressing these percentages as evidence of failure is helpful.
    When I did the exercise, I picked the oil I thought had the greatest raw value (not market value) and intentionally adjusted down a bit to my own willingness to fork out the money; I put a 170$ tag on it, and then valued most other things in that relative context.

    They were definitely perceived as the most expensive oils in the test, based on the data.
    And if we re-frame our expectations to the more realistic limitations of any nose, and apply the relative context, I think it reasonable to say there was a modicum of success.
    Of course, further qualifications need to be made regarding the issue. Perhaps there is a quality/value threshold that has to be surpassed for a group of noses to converge on such valuations. Perhaps it is easier to assess the value scale in some regions, and harder in others. I like to look for the positive indications.
    Also, it has been suggested in the past, that most oud noses are completely unable to assess true oud quality (and we are not even talking about blind assessment); I think that suggestion is harsh, untrue, and manipulative.
    What can I say, I remain impressed in certain aspects of the evaluations.

    I do completely understand your points. And I get that you'd prefer to tackle things in a manner that results in purely objective numbers.
    I just think you ask too much of a modest test.
    I also doubt there will ever be a test with the wealth of data you'd require for such absolute objectivity (not unless someone filthy rich takes a healthy interest).
    I think it is useful, at least at the moment, to observe the micro trends and move on from there.


    Yes, you are right, Fajr's success is double!
    And we agree completely on the point regarding the stigma cultivated oils carry.

    Or it may hint at the collective conditioning we receive regarding how oud pricing scales.
    It may also indicate that most Ouddicts have actually not explored the bottom price range of oud.
    Hopefully, it might feasibly mean that there are even more possibilities within the quality vs price relationship.

    Respect to benefactors and reviewers! And many thanks :). Agreed.

    Well yeah :)

    I kinda agree, but I don't think I saw it in practice in this trial.

    Thank you!
    And thank you for participating. I know the role was small, but it was an important part of the test,
    and I am happy that you and Woodland Note helped me out.

    I think that is an excellent idea. Perhaps you'd like to take the next initiative :)

    Btw, from past discussions, I find we often agree on the basic points, or at least on most points.
    In this case we probably only disagree on 1.5 points :)
    I think we often get caught up in way we approach the issues, even though in essence, we agree.
    Just wanna point that out, in case we get tempted to go off on some tangent.

    Also, I am totally open to suggestions, and ideas for future formats, and even critique.
    When I express my opinions on these matters, it doesn't mean I am pushing back at such suggestions.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  9. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

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    I absolutely love that idea! :D
     
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  10. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

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    Thank you!
    And thank you for participating.

    :thumbsup:


    Why?
    Think of it another way, is it not disrespectful to mother nature to indiscriminately chop down wild trees with disregard to plant and human life alike? [edit]
    Do you know the provenance of your wild ouds?

    FHI and Borneo Diesel had very good results.
    Rakhawah unfortunately was seriously handicapped by 3 leakages. Maybe the result would have been different if all samples were intact.
    On the other hand, I think we should recognise that Rakhawah may not have one of the profiles that has easier universal appeal.

    Well yes! It is a big ask.
    If we consider this trial a success though, it could be easier next time to ask for more ;)

    Uhmmm that already happened :)

    I think you answered your own question there :Geek:
    Intensity, Longevity and Complexity were meant to be the most objective measures, to see if reviewers could agree on such values.
    There should be some correlation between Complexity, Oudiness and the Rating though...

    I understand your point, but in fairness, I don't think typicity is as big a factor for other ouddicts as it is for you.
    At least, I've not seen other ouddicts express this concern.

    I think it's just you :D

    I'm certain nobody assigned ratings, willy nilly. :nose:

    With two groups doing the same oils, it's a good idea!
    Otherwise, less so.

    Actually, since you mention it. Most reviewers missed the point of the 'time factor' field.
    The question was: If you had more time, which oil would you like to spend more time with evaluating?
    Not which oil you'd like to spend more time with, but if you had more time to evaluate, which oil would you choose to further evaluate. Not that it couldn't be your favourite. But it was more about which oil do you think you may not have fully unlocked, and given more time, would be more likely to re-evaluate or further discover complexities.
    Only a couple of reviewers got it right.

    I did :p

    Thanks for all the feedback
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
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  11. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

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    Btw, one of the questions I had after the test:
    If one of the three winners from Panel A were in Panel B, would that oil had been able to break the deadlock and clashing,
    would Panel B converge for that oil? And of the three winners in Panel A, which one would be more likely to win Panel B?
     
  12. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    But did they? I mean Borneo diesel and fhi both fell just slightly below fajr in overall scoring. But in my eyes they are the winner as they should have been because of two reasons:
    1) fajr got no marks for an oil people like to spend more time studying where was both fhi and BD did
    2) no one even remotely guessed its origin right.

    It is for these reasons the results are worrisome.

    Again this is not directed at ASO. It coulda been any one else’s oil. It could have been ensars Assam organic and my reaction woulda been the same. Once again the top scoring oil for me in my flight of 8 samples was an ASO oil: rakhwa
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  13. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    It comes to philosophy somewhat I guess. To me, it would be if a farmed salmon is considered superior to wild. Luckily this has not happened to date. Is like hydroponic tomato tasting better than heirloom field grown.

    Is worrisome because if someone thinks McDonald Big Mac is a superior burger to a proper actual burger. Dear respected ASO in my humblest but strongest of opinions has failed with this oil that I haven’t even smelled. Why? Because the origin of the wood and the descriptors don’t point to Borneo. This means a full bag of tricks was unleashed on the oils. You may say so what? That shows the skill of the distiller. I would agree with you if the competition was who is the craftiest distiller but that is not the case. Is also worrisome because if a cultivated wood can beat the likes of fhi and ..... then what the hell are we doing here? We are wasting time and money.

    Pls note that I am not here to force or sell my ideology to you or anyone. I am merely sharing something I am passionate about and have strict beleifs formed around. Live and let live :)
     
  14. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    Respect to both you gents for both arguments are sound fair and valid. Let’s draw up some call to actions and prepare for test 2.0. I enter the busiest period of my work which will only slow down in summer, otherwise I would help spierhead it. Perhaps a joint two person or more of a committee approach for 2.0? Is too much of an ask on one person and I for one can’t bring myself to ask powdernose to chair the next one solo
     
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  15. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    Allow me to reply from my computer tmr since from my phone I can’t individually hightlight and touch on each separate topic.
     
  16. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    Hence the platinum competition category in spirits and wine challenges. Only gold winners of each category get to re-compete for platinum. 3 wild cards are also thrown in: hknourable mentions or silver medalists given a second chance.

    What is quickly starting to become evident is creating an ouddict our guild or appreciation society with all members donating to at different capacities: money or oil donations and we get to do all sorts of tests etc on ongoing basis. Regular sub category blind tests etc. we can even give out scholarship like awards. Great keen noses and students of oud who don’t have the discretionary income of others but in my eyes deserve a chance to try some of the legendary oils
     
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  17. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    Ty for this Taha. In my own experience and talks with yourself but also soooooo many others in the trade what I have come to gather is that wild oud is not necessarily rare. Those insanely centennial plus plus trees are the rarity and in some cases for sale of discussion extinct. And what we mean by extinct is not again true extinction but more likely a case that if one with a team goes to the jungle for a week and comes back empty handed, then economically and viability speaking that species is as good as extinct.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  18. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    So very well put brother pearl. Quantifying a qualitative experience is just plain wrong. It can be helpful to a certain extent but it should not be taken to the bank like it truly powerful evidence.

    As for most expensive ouds being seen as such if you open up the Dropbox link provided you will see actual price line vs average perceived price. While on this point it is important to be even more clear on perceive as in what we wish for it to be or what we think it is. I provided both price points to powdernose knowing that what I perceive as value should be vs what is are different. Naturally...
     
  19. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

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    I need to sleep on this and see if I can budge. I don’t want to dismiss it b/c you have a point. It would be awesome to hear from jawed @Al Shareef Oudh on the wood, the method and him and his teams own take on the oil.

    Also a question for all vendors and those familiar with gcms tests of wild vs cultivated wood. Is there a compound or two or three that exist in one and absent in another? Or is it not a matter of zero and 1, and more about how much of it exists. It would also be great if those more familiar can touch on. Inner of aromatic compounds found in cultivated vs wild. Hope the answer is not it depends and I know there is no such thing as just wild. Was it any hole, lightning strike, fungal and such jnfecfion etc... all make a difference and yes purposely inflicting wound Gia. Free but left for 30 years would be I guess kinda wild,... but let’s be practical. @Taha hoping you can chime in pls
     
  20. Rai Munir

    Rai Munir Musk Man

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    :praying:That's it.
     
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