Blind Oud Test - Results And Discussion

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

  1. Rai Munir

    Rai Munir Musk Man

    Thanks, respected Ammar, for your post. I was anxiously waiting for your post. Your remarks really mean a lot. For a long time, I have been waiting to read your views about certain newly released oils. I learnt how to know Oud oils.

    Your critical appreciation of the Blind Test would bring more accuracy, authenticity and beauty to the test.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
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  2. Ashfaque

    Ashfaque Analogue Oud

    An excellent and noble project that only an addict would pursue that his/her peers will appreciate. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    This could potentially be turned into an academic paper. :handok::Thumbsup:
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  3. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    >>Do you realise how unfair it is to critique an oil you've never tried?
    >i acknowledged that

    Yet you persist? o_O
    Whether the view is micro or macro, to critique an oil that someone hasn't even tried, and in such a fashion, is actually unacceptable!
    I wonder how you would take to someone negatively reviewing one of your wines, without even trying it (!), simply by superimposing the general negative macro views he has regarding Canadian wine.

    > i stand by my analogy, b/c a big mac is "made" to taste good, yet we all know is not a real burger.
    > my point is a philosophical one

    No, it is not philosophical, because you keep correlating back to the specific oil.
    I find the analogy offensive, and I am just an average oud user. I can barely imagine what anyone who puts time, effort and money into furthering cultivated oud (so that it may one day provide a sustainable future) might feel when reading that analogy...
    I almost feel obliged to aplogise to any oud cultivator out there that has read this...

    >Most region votes for FHI were Vietnam. HK vietnam the genus is the same (sinesis)

    Vietnam oud oils are primarily crassna. So, no, not closer.

    >>no doubt. but when experienced wearers i hold their views and takes at high levels see a broneo as maroke, we have a problem.

    The same reviewer that guessed Maroke for Fajr, guessed Papua for Borneo Diesel.
    So yes, absolutely double standards.

    Further, Panel A only had about a 20% success rate in pinpointing the region/profile.
    Based on that, ouddicts are generally not adept at pinpointing region/profile simply by blind sniffing a sample.
    If you recall, the field was optional and was meant to be a bit of fun as well.
    Despite the objective numbers of the success rate, I still think the reviewers did quite well. Some better than others, some better with some regions, others better with other regions.
    I am still impressed that @rojas picked up sinensis in Xue Jie!

    Also, regarding typicity, as I recall, Al Shareef Oudh already provided a lengthy answer to you in the oud of the day thread:
    I'm sure Al Shareef Oudh are more gracious than me, but if anybody compared my oud oil to McDonald's I'd not exactly be in a sharing mood...

    Take your time,
    I look forward to your input.

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  4. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    ?? What does that mean? :)

    And yes I can :)
    I'm not obliged to use the retail prices in any one fashion; and I never posited that it was possible to accurately and consistently price oud oils simply by blindly sniffing them.
    I think we can agree to disagree on this point.

    I understood your point the first time. :)
    I understand you are normalising the perceived values with the retail values, and the objective numbers lead to your earlier conclusion:
    You are right!
    It is not possible to accurately and consistently blindly sniff an oud oil's retail price. I don't think anybody ever realistically believed that possible in any case. I certainly never did.
    Also, you are right, the more expensive ouds were typically undervalued, and the cheapest ones were overvalued.
  5. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    Yes, it was an important role, and I thank you for fulfilling the role with the required secrecy and patience.

    100%, blind testing definitely involves self discovery, and that was always one of the objectives, bringing attention to this.

    I also think that finding an oud oil that @PersonelHigh really likes was one of the wins :p :)

    Thank you!
    I think so! I had hoped that more people would look at the minutiae of the results.
    Perhaps it is as @Rai Munir says, and we need time to digest and review:
    In the meantime, did anyone else notice that there seems to be a negative bias against fruity-floral-sweet oud oils? Some of the oils with that profile got absolutely killed! Some, unjustly so I believe.

    I also noticed that some of the reviewers have a make or break reviewing style. Not much room for the middle ground in scoring.
    I found that interesting, and it certainly was not something I expected before going into this test. I still think about it.
    Perhaps, for future trials, it should be an aim to cover a greater percentage of the rating scale.

    Yes, good point. One should hardly expect the nose to be able to precisely sniff out any retail price, how could one adjust for each vendor's buying power, running costs, or markup strategies anyway?
    If I were looking to more strictly correlate true prices to perceived values, I would like to compare with a more 'raw' value. If we had that kind of transparency, it might be interesting to see how well ouddict noses could be able to blindly perceive the quality of the source wood that went into the pot.
    Still, as previously mentioned, I would probably be looking at thresholds; is there a value threshold that once surpassed, can be uniformly and blindly perceived by a panel as higher quality by sniffing the produced oil?

    We should also not forget the failure of Hareer.
    It was both grossly undervalued compared to its retail price, and also relatively undervalued within its blind group.
    I had wondered if it is easier to discern quality within certain regions, and more difficult in others.

    Thank you!
    Let's not go overboard :)
    @PEARL is right that it would take more defined hypotheses to have universal objective value.
    And I mentioned that it would take far more, time, resources, and money!

    I did try my best though, and I thank you for recognising the addict in me :)
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  6. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

    I am not getting anywhere further on this with you. I say two things:

    1) I truly wish that fajr was an ensar or taha oil for all of you to see my comments would remain the same. Exactly. My point has zero to do with the distiller and only with the fact that it is a) cultivated wood being perceived as a great wild oil 2) coming across as something other than Borneo by most if not all who I read. Yet it is something that has been obviously received very well. I strongly doubt it was the woods inherent quality and rather the skill of the distiller. Hats off to the distiller. I for one go for a village sushi cook over a three Michelin star molecular super star. I want authenticity. I want nature translated and I want full typicity and regional and varietal correctness. Then and only then I welcome X factor wow factor and that unique distiller signature, so long as the origin is not unrecognizable. I said many times this is my sole opinion. My aesthetic choice. No one needs to agree with it.

    2) the Vietnam that smells of kinam and has that piercing green medicinal note is in fact Sinensis NOT Crassna. You can verify this information by those on the ground who I choose to trust and take their word for as well as the great book by dr rozi moahmed


    Ps my oil of the night was none other than ASO Malik al malayzi. A terrific oil that has that old Malay tiger wood quality in spades while fully and clearly displaying the distillers signature. Nutmeg, clove, salty ambergris quality intermixed with light tan leather and dried roses. An oil that recalls kannan koh, ahmad, twr yet uniquely ASO. This is what I see as a great oil.
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  7. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    And if you had similarly not tried Ensar's or Taha's (hypothetical) oil first, your comments would remain the exact same amount of unfair.

    And once you've actually tried the oil, I'm sure everyone will accept your opinions and aesthetic choices.

    Vietnam oils are predominantly crassna. If not otherwise stated by anybody making reference, anything else is certainly not inferred.

    I know you can appreciate ASO oils,
    let's see if you can appreciate Fajr or not (once it has actually touched your skin).

  8. Rai Munir

    Rai Munir Musk Man

    Well, dear Rasoul, difference of opinion is not necessarily a clash. Rather such difference of opinion is beauty that gives meaning to aesthetic choice. So, not-getting-anywhere-further is hurting.

    I sense from this sentence, may I be wrong, that you took certain posts having tinge of irony that you are inclined towards EO or some other. But it is not so, I am sure. It is all sharing, evaluating and re-evaluating certain views and reviews.
    I think no harm in it. To be honest, I couldn't get your point even at that time when you mentioned that it's disrespect to wild Oud. Even I am not able to understand what you actually want to say. This ambiguity has led me to the inference that an organic oil is destined to be cheap. lowly, hum drum and trivial, and a wild oud is destined to be super duper. Or at least the reviewers have to re-try and turn an organic oil dust into dust. If so, it doesn't make sense.

    I assure you, even next time, if again a blind test is conducted, there's possibility that a wild becomes synthetic, and a synthetic oil becomes legend. May we stay alive, we will see it happening here. We don't smell Oud. We smell the vendors' words. Sorry!
    I have been saying for so long we don't smell Oud, we smell tweaks and techniques. Just imagine, if it had been mentioned by the reviewers that x oil is not distilled from single origin wood, but from different origins. I strongly believe this possible hypothesis a fact, by the way. Again I assure you, you will find not more than three or four oils that are having the wood inherent quality, but we have reviewed them and declared them the best among the best. 2018 is 80 per cent technique centered Oud era. When we ourselves have given room to tweaks and techniques, then talking about inherent quality of wood is a bit perplexing and unfair. With a heavy heart I have said so.

    Peace, peace, peace!
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  9. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

    The disrespect is not toward a person but turning a beautiful rare magical gift of nature to something that makes the base ingredient unrecognizable or heavily twisted. It is for this very same reason I 100% understand and support Taha with regards to overtly dirty oils that the barn character strips the oil of its inherent qualities. McDonald’s is delicious. I eat it once In a while. It is delicious because it was made to be that. Perhaps I can compare osso buco or pot of chili to sashimi that way no one sees one less than other but me.

    Sample of fajr and hopefully other Borneo/Indonesian from ASO are on order already. Stay tuned in.
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  10. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

    Dear rai
    I go back to the very opening message in my original post that said: the spirit mood and intention behind what I am about to post is positive constructive and meant to be kind not hurtful mean and with poor intentions.

    Words/language is failing me. I am not sure what I can say at the moment to help you or others to get my point and see it the way I do. Is ok. I’ll try again down the road perhaps and maybe I can think of better examples by then.

    In meantime I sincerely apologize if anyone has felt targeted or hurt by what I may have said. My intent is never to pick on anyone or be hurtful. I am simply trying to balance out my thoughts my feeling and what I see in the oils and the philology behind them.
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  11. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    I think it is very clear where the disrespect lies.

    1.having or intended to have a useful or beneficial purpose.

    It is never constructive to critique something untried.
    It is never constructive to make assumptions.

    Also, Oud is not chicken, nor burgers, nor veal.

    Good news. :handok:
    Now all you have to ask yourself, before it arrives, is to what extent you have already conditioned your reactions and opinions.
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  12. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    Dear Rai,
    I believe I can second everything you have said.

    It is a logical hypothesis. One would think it happens at least some of the times.
    Rai Munir likes this.
  13. Ammar

    Ammar Oud Fan

    IMO, this presumed inherent wood quality in oils is the most missleading idea fed to our small oud community by some celebrity venders. Yet, I'm still waiting to smell oil that it's true to the wood and smell like heated oudwood and I'm still waiting to hear that talkng resin. Additionally, this highly appraised vender-created pseudoquality in some oils are also the result of tweaks and technique as mentioned resepected @Rai Munir and according to the subjecive vender's aesthetics, and if its present in unicorn oils it's a plus but not to the level to be on top of every other oils...well, maybe the price tag is.

    Anyways, some oils from wild wood are bad, some oils from cultivated wood are super....
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
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  14. Rai Munir

    Rai Munir Musk Man

    I just came back after a long long drive. Just read a lot of posts.
    Dear Rasoul, months ago, I said that your ability to absorb shocks is exceptional. I really learnt how to stay smiling from you.

    Yes, language is a big hurdle when the writer/ speaker is absent. Possibility to err is always there, either in coding a message or in decoding a message. Greatness is to revise one's words, and even views and reviews.

    Now another problem has emerged for me. Fajr is to be tried. But there is another big big problem. Hareer is to be tried as well.:Roflmao: Then I will be in a position to say something about Fajr.

    Stay happy and calm.
  15. kooolaid79

    kooolaid79 Junior Member

    IMO, there are some people when describing oud oils think they are in some kitchen on a reality show describing their amateurish ingredients to a celebrity chef.
    Just sayin :cool:
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  16. jensz

    jensz Administrator Staff Member

    It was a privilege to participate in this blind test, and @powdernose the design of the test was incredibly thoughtful and the execution remarkable. The brain work and the physical making-it-happen efforts were substantial. I'm really amazed anyone was able to put any such test together, let alone one with so many participants and so many oils. I'm also grateful for the generosity of all the benefactors -- the vendors and especially the fellow member who contributed from their own precious stashes. This is a very generous community, may they be blessed likewise. :praying::praying::praying:

    My 2-cents:

    As far as the purpose of the test, I pictured it to be mainly to see how a panel of oudlovers would evaluate oils stripped of context (i.e. without influence of marketing information). (I plead guilty to having been quite susceptible to marketing commentary, have gotten better but am sure I will never be able to completely filter out marketing input from my experience of an oil.) Secondarily some patterns could emerge, like an oil being appreciated more or less relative to its known marketing and other context.

    As far as guessing a price, this was tricky. For me, I tried to price the oils relative to each other, intending the price to reflect something about the quality of the oil and the rarity of the type, with some vague adjustment based on whether I liked it and whether the "market" would like it. I decided to not attempt to place a retail price on any of them or guess the vendor's price since that would have been fraught with difficulty, and not consistent with the purpose of the test (from my POV). So to me, the fact that testers did not price Borneo Diesel and FHI at their retail price does not mean very much; they were priced relatively high, which is the key to me.

    Another problem with comparing the guessed priced with the retail price . . . the price/quality ratio seems to be changing throughout the oud market lately, making it even more difficult to guess the retail price (esp for older oils) and also more difficult for a buyer to say what she would pay. Still the metric is useful insofar as it reflects how a tester values the oils relatively.

    As a postlogue, for me, I wore all the oils only once (except Borneo Diesel). I intend to revisit them and I wonder if that would cause me to adjust initial impressions.

    Regarding @Rasoul Salehi typicity point, I think it's very sound. Of the oils I've tried that I would guess are high in typicity, they are among the most satisfying and awe-inspiring I know. But at the same time, there is a place for non-typical oils, because novelty can be very satisfying albeit in a different way. So maybe it makes sense to have a rating to measure both typicity and uniqueness. Wouldn't it be something if an oil scored maximum in typicity, and maximum in uniqueness? :Thumbsup::Whistling::Cooler:
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  17. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

    Very well put dear jensz. To me too it’s the relative higher price pick of fhi and BD that I saw and is of relative importance to me not the actual price. For example the Laos oil from jk and Aso oil were also picked as most expensive for me and the best two oils in our flight. Anyways I am eagerly waiting on fajr. I am sure that it will be a wonderful smelling oil. I look forward to studying it and see if I can pick up a cultivated profile in it or if it’s raining Borneo in my mind or not...
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  18. Edward Muller

    Edward Muller Oud Fan

    I never expected this discussion can get so heated! Haha
    Took me a while to quickly go through the entire thread...

    Personally, I saw this as a “test” to see how well I am at identifying region (obviously not very well), followed by the vendor field (which is worse haha).

    And the observation regarding fruity oil scored relatively lower rings very true for me personally... I do get prejudice against those types of oils - though I m not sure why that is...
    I tend to skip oils that is marked Thai as an origin, and these days - SL.

    I wonder if the blind oud test was based on one region - for example, Borneo Oils, will the perceived value (retail and overall score) of each be more distinct?
  19. Shabby

    Shabby Junior Member

    Interesting, respected @Ammar. For me the opposite is the most misleading.

    1. Oud or oudh is by definition the resinated wood. How can it be misleading to think that the aroma of the resinated wood is present in the oil? If it is not you could just as well distill a different species of tree and call it oud...

    2. It truly surprises me that you do not see that some oils can smell closer to the wood and others don't. Case in point: have you ever smelled an Assam Organic type barn in any oud wood?

    3. Since you are mentioning tweaks in the distillation technique, I hope you don't mind me asking if you have done distillations yourself? If so, are there any particular tweaks that you are thinking of?

    4. If the vendor's aesthetics are subjective, are you saying that your aesthetics are objective? If so, by what criteria.

    I don't mean to interrogate but I think these points may get to the crux of the matter.
  20. powdernose

    powdernose Oud Sprite

    Thank you!
    And thank you for your participation and your feedback.
    You are also right to highlight the generosity that made this test possible.

    Yes, I'm glad you got that.

    Thank you for explaining how you priced the oils. I think it is helpful to get the inside view of a reviewer's process.
    As a first step, I didn't impose any limitations on how the estimation of perceived value could happen. I think it was useful to explore the edges of this issue. It would probably make more sense in the future to adjust the rating to some scale, perhaps even removing the $ sign from the result, by simply rating from 'low' to 'very high' value.

    Well no :)
    Both those fields were optional. It would not be fair to force the less experienced reviewers to guess at those fields.
    Also, in some small part it was interesting to me to see if reviewers could resist the temptation to answer :)
    In a way, it was an extra challenge that I thought experienced Ouddicts would appreciate, and of course I thought the results would be revealing.

    In my opinion, the major problem with introducing typicity as a factor is that we have just seen that ouddicts are not adept at blindly and consistently pinpointing region/profile by smell alone. If we are hardly able to blindly detect the region/profile then how fair is it to rate according to some notion we have regarding typicity?
    I had considered the point @Edward Muller makes. If future blind tests went with a narrower focus, doing regional showdowns, then it could make sense to have a typicity rating.
    As for uniqueness, @rojas also mentioned he would have liked a factor to rate the artisanal/unique/exotic factor.
    If there is enough interest in including such factors, I'm sure they would be incorporated in the future.

    Thank you for your honesty. Maybe if we dig a bit deeper we might get to a better understanding of the general bias.
    As for specific examples, I thought that Peche's complexity was underestimated. If you read through the total list of notes, you'll see that the complexity is there, and as a bonus it is also an oil of good intensity.
    I also thought that Mandalay Signature's floral subtleties were completely missed by the panel. In my opinion, it was the most unappreciated oil of the test.

Promote Oud!