Blind Oud Test - Results And Discussion

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

  1. 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.
    Arsalan and Rai Munir like this.
  2. 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).

  3. 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!
    rojas, jensz, Ammar and 3 others like this.
  4. 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.
    Grega and Oudamberlove like this.
  5. 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.
    jensz, Rai Munir and Sproaty like this.
  6. 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.
    Grega and Woodland Note like this.
  7. 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.
  8. 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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  9. 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.
  10. 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:
    Sproaty and PEARL like this.
  11. 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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  12. 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...
    Grega, powdernose and Rai Munir like this.
  13. 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?
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Rasoul Salehi

    Rasoul Salehi Oud Fanatic

    Terrific question posed here: “if the oil is representative of what's inherent to the wood it was distilled from, is it just a one-off, isolated event or is it simply that the region does not dictate a profile?”

    I will formulate an answer for tomorrow. I do however genuinely like to invite others to chime in pls and thnx.
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  17. Edward Muller

    Edward Muller Oud Fan

    haha yes - I probably should have phrased it better... I am not saying we should do a blind test purely on that or make it mandatory but just from a personal standpoint (ie purely for myself, to see how I do, so that I know where I am at, as an individual, when it comes to identifying the two fields).

    Just spitballing here - maybe because Fruity oils don't offer a sense of comfort? They are generally really pretty and inoffensive - though might not connect at a deeper level? Kind of like a really beautiful girlfriend (that never really became a spouse) lol...
    powdernose likes this.
  18. Edward Muller

    Edward Muller Oud Fan

    Wouldn't the way an oil was distilled (zero experience here) play a huge role - from what I have read here and there, vendors do mention whether it is steam distilled, copper/steel pot, soaked for xx days/non-soaked etc etc. But surely a lot more techniques and experience goes in the process... and there's a lot of variables as well no?
    How old is the agarwood, the type of infection, the microbes in the environment when the infection occurred, the climate and surroundings of the tree - and what if someone planted the type of tree in which Hindi oils are distilled from, in a forest in Malaysia - is the final product going to smell more like Hindi, or Malay, or something new altogether?

    Some of these might have been answered by more experienced members already, but I haven't come across those posts yet... my apologies if it sounded foolish.
    rojas, powdernose and Joe King like this.
  19. Joe King

    Joe King AttitOud

    I have similar thoughts about the amount of natural variables that could influence the end result, particularly the tree which may be in a different soil type or rainfall area to one 30 km away or closer to the coast etc, I don't believe that trees know which country they are in...
    I have also read that determining the variety of agarwood tree can be difficult even to those on the ground, so to me typicity is very general guide in nature and not always to be relied upon for a scent profile.:nose:
    rojas, Nadeem, PEARL and 4 others like this.
  20. Nicolas

    Nicolas Oud Mystic

    Dear @powdernose

    I haven't had time to fully dive into the posts and results and discussions yet (for the same reasons that made me with great regret renounce your kind invitation to participate: things too hectic on my end in this period): I have only read the excel files so far and a few comments

    For now, I just wanted to thank you for the amazing volume of work you have put in.

    I heartfully second the idea that an intiative like yours, and the generous debates that follow, contribute greatly in making this forum a very special place.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
    powdernose, Nadeem, jensz and 2 others like this.

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