World’s rarest perfume – Oudh

February 6, 2015

There is a saying common to the inner circle of Salahah Arabic Oudh traders, ‘la mahal ma lok-dhar ma al kamhaol’ – that which is precious is always kept veiled. To paraphrase the real stuff is rarely displayed on the shelf and so often it’s secreted away from prying eyes.

The Salahah tribe are well known to all who live in the Sahara right down to the tip of Zanzibar in Africa. There they are known over there as the jangling people as their camel caravans are laden with so many perfume bottles….one can hear them coming 10 miles away. By and large they are a peaceful tribe. One of the few who ever need to carry the ubiquitous Lee Enfield 303 rifle. As they also double as the medicin sans frontier of the desert – Oudh is believed to be able to cure everything under the sun ranging from third stage cancer to chasing away melancholia and bad dreams. But now in the internet age, they have all morphed into high street merchants. Since I am a man who is well known to all the Oudh traders in the city as a man who has knowledge about the mysteries of trees – it’s is virtually impossible to cheat me. I can tell the real from the fake by just holding it to the light. So from time to time, I will appraise perfume. This is a closed community – not anyone can just walk in. They will never talk to strangers. One must be able to speak the language of the desert and know of things of things that can only come with familiarity associated with perfumery – elephant musk, peacock bones ground to dust, civet droppings at dusk…..

The Arabic term for the fragrant ebony-colored resin secreted in reaction to an invasive fungus by the heartwood of Aquilaria malaccensis, an Asian evergreen tree. In a process analogous to creating cultured pearls, Aquilaria trees on plantations from Thailand to Indonesia are artificially infected to produce the resin, also called aloeswood and agarwood. Yes….these are good, but they are hardly the best.

The gold standard is wild or virgin oudh it is not only exceedingly rare, but since prospecting for it requires one to brave tigers and brigands. The real stuff can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars for just teaspoon – but to be with one with this quality of Oudh is to be part of paradise – it will stay with one for hours, releasing a sweet, earthy aroma that evokes something sublime: the mysteries of the eternal green forest.

And so the man crouches and opens a hidden cabinet to reveal the real thing.

Yes this is usually how it is when a man knows a thing for what it truly is and not what others say it is – he can only be part of the truth.

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