Agar Aura's Borneo Noir

Any thoughts on Agar Aura's new Borneo Noir anyone? I haven't tried it myself but this oil sounds perfect for those who wish Borneos were deeper and darker than what is the norm for oils of this genre.
I am awaiting my order and I'll share my thoughts on it once I had a chance too get familiar with it but mean while I posed few questions to Taha about the oil and he was kind enough to answer, here is his reply " The oil was very gently steam distilled. As you know, most distillers increase the pressure so that the temperature goes WAY over boiling point – 1, 2, 3, maybe even 4 bars. If the pressure is 0 psig (atmospheric pressure) then it keeps the scent pristine, just like good hydro distillation.
The wood was a combination of wood from two forests. One in East Borneo, and the other in West Borneo. The East Borneo wood gives the oil a very noble touch of bitterness and depth. The West Borneo wood gives it a light-hearted sweetness. The oil is fit to be considered a ‘perfume’ in its own right.
It is hard to say how old the trees were (in the case of wild trees, they are always estimates) but sinking grade wood from wild trees *only* occurs in trees that were extremely old. My guess = 80+ years old."
another intersting point Taha points out is "The oil defies what is considered ‘typical’ in perfumery. A fragrance first displays the opening notes, and then transitions to the base notes. With this oil, its the reverse. You are first hit with a dark, deep woodiness. The sweet floral notes emerge in the heart note, and continue into the drydown." Interesting tidy bits. here is a photo of the chips.
View attachment 80


Well-Known Member
@abdullah, the wood for Borneo Symphony was exclusively from one place, close to Tanjung Selor, in East Borneo.
The wood for Borneo Noir was from 2 areas, one in East Borneo and one in West Borneo. It was the dust collected from cleaning super and double-super wood.

By the way, Borneo Noir's color isn't black, only the smell is. : )
The color is like any other Borneo oud, but on the darker side. Although I can't speak for every single case, but at least from my experience: for a Borneo oil to be black, it has to have been cooked under high pressure/temperature.
The only exception I've seen is a Borneo oil in my private collection which was distilled from Aquilaria Beccariana or Microcarpa wood from West Borneo. The wood as well as the oil were more northern Irian Jayan, both in smell as well as color (black). And this oil was also cooked very gently. So its certainly an exception due to the rare species of agarwood that was used.

My distillation unit employs digital thermocouples so the pressure/temperature never gets too high, which would damage the delicate Borneo profile, especially the top notes.
The 3 biggest giveaways of a bad Borneo oil (i.e. poor distillation techniques) are: (1) a burnt rubber note, (2) a burnt palm sugar smell, or (3) the absence of the top notes.
If, on the other hand, the distillation techniques were good but the raw materials used were low quality, then there will be a strong smell of stale peanuts. : P
Were the dust chips of the Borneo Noir soaked prior to distillation and for how long? and were they soaked in the usual blue color plastic barrels? Thanks for the tips about Bad Distillations and low quality materials but is it strictly for Borneo Oil or could they be applied to Indian and Cambodi oils?


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Were the dust chips of the Borneo Noir soaked prior to distillation and for how long? and were they soaked in the usual blue color plastic barrels? Thanks for the tips about Bad Distillations and low quality materials but is it strictly for Borneo Oil or could they be applied to Indian and Cambodi oils?
There was zero soaking involved. Soaking is a BIG no-no, when distilling Borneo or Sumatra oud. It imparts a horrible fermented horse urine smell. Actually, corn and beef boiled in fermented horse urine. No idea why it happens!

What I mentioned earlier does not apply to Indian and Indo-Chinese ouds. There are other giveaways for those.

Someone asked if Borneo Noir was a co-distillation or a blend of two different oils (can't find that post)... its a co-distillation. That's why all the notes are harmoniously all one unit. The notes don't vie or fight one another.

By the way, I have another distillation going on right now. For this, the wood is exclusively from East Borneo (you might have seen the photo of the high grade shavings on my blog). I'm a little stumped. The shavings have so much resin/gubal that hardly anything came out in the trial run. Interestingly, it was thick sticky oil (and heavenly smelling too). And strangely enough, it stuck to the walls as opposed to dripping into the beaker and floating on top of the water.
Ensar, I was reminded of your problem with the oil that sank in water. Did you experience the wall-sticking problem too?

Ensar Oud

Well-Known Member
Taha, if by ‘trial run’ you mean you attempted to distil a portion of your batch to get an idea of the outcome, your first consideration might be not having used enough wood in the run.

When you don’t fill the boiler with the appropriate amount of wood, you’ll naturally run the risk of the oil sticking to the sides and thus reducing your total yield. This is especially true the higher the grade of wood, and why selecting the right pot is crucial.

As for the Khao Yai oil sinking in water: it wasn’t actually a problem. To the contrary, we posted this remarkable event to show that it did in fact happen – that the resin density really does reflect the quality of the wood that went into the distillation. The filtration process becoming a bit complicated as a result was something we gladly put up with :)

Speaking of the Khao Yai Experiment, as anyone could have predicted the oil has since become mind-boggling intense, and those who have a bottle can already see how much the oil has come to life since its release only a short while ago. The waiting game just became so much more interesting!


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Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ensar. : )

I agree - in fact, I have always had to have a minimum quantity of wood for trial runs based on the pot capacity. And also the type the of distillation employed.
There is a fine balance, of course. With steam distillation, if too much feedstock is put in, there isn't enough room for the vapor to move up. With hydro, there are the risks of lumping and insufficient agitation.

I did end up getting quite an impressive yield (well, its being done in several batches, so its not quite finished yet). The condenser had to be changed though. Its amazing how one little change can have such a big impact. I think your Thailand videos did a good job of showing the world just how intricate oud distillation can be.

You mentioned Khao Yai's gotten more intense - are you talking about the diffusiveness, potency, or longevity?
I've noticed that with certain oils, after you let the oil settle for 1-2 months after distillation, it can become 'clearer' and thus more piercing.
To any of the distillers: If you make trial runs in basic organic chemistry glassware, is the scent profile of the oil any predictor of the final oil outcome? Is it the changes in the hardware such as condensors and pots that change the chemical structure during the distillation of the volatile oils? If so, considering the unpredicability, I can appreciate the risk and investments required to produce these fine oils. Alot of blood, sweat, tears and trees must go into each of those 2.5 - 3 ml vials!
Borneo Noir is an enigma of sorts as the name might suggest. Borneo, the sunshine and honey captured/ambered in oil; how could be noir ??? I was intrigued by the color of the oil, very dark reddish amber with a heavy consistency instead of the yellowish light oil that I am more familiar with. Maybe Taha can explain without revealing secretes how the color came about? The first notes that comes from sniffing the applicator is this ethereal Camphor / rubber notes. Very heady and strong like a galloping horse that can't wait to get on the skin. Applying on the skin amplifies that vapors effect. Lots of smoke and Incense notes here burning from the get go. This could be like taha's take on a "Mubakhar" oud style (Oud w/ Incense notes) :) very popular nowadays. The mid-morning walks by the irrigation canals in the Rice fields has been replaced w/ a scene of framers looking up to darkened sky by the a total solar eclipsed. Once in a Decade event. It's quiet, the air is still and dried rice husk is being burned in the background and the smoke is rising. Here is the notes I can smell (and as confirmed by the spices in my kitchen :) Nutmeg spiced with cayenne pepper and a touch of cloves. there is not much fruitiness here (maybe a bit of yellow peach)or that high Borneo piercing notes but rather everything is patiently have been turned to amber and cloaked in Incense and smoke notes. Steam distillation oils usually have a crispiness about them but here it's mellowed a lot, no sharp edges, notes brought closer together. It's young age shows a bit in the middle, in the body, in between the opening Camphor vapor at top and Incense at bottom remains an unexplored middle ground and that is what I think a revisit down the line is in order, maybe in 2 months, 6 months and so on. With the exception of Bornoeo Kinam, from the Borneo's that I have tried, I found most of them to be a bit slim in the body and linear or flat dimensional as in not much variation from beginning to end. This is not a detraction but rather an observation and it feels that way here too. It's mid range in terms of longevity silage so it's safe to put on and go out to social gatherings. My personal likability scale 8.5 out of 10.


Well-Known Member
Ensar, I didn't want to sabotage the Borneo 50K thread, so I thought it would be more appropriate to respond here.

I was going to start by responding to your comments about the photo, but I realized that we would be going off on an unnecessary tangent. I can address those concerns if/when the need arises. The short reply is that when I said 'the finest raw material', it did not necessarily mean that this was the most resinous wood he has come across. You know there are more factors than the concentration of resin in wood.

Back to Noir/Kemenyan. There is zero 'dustiness' in the oils' scent profiles actually. The two Borneo oils of mine that you've smelled (Jewel & Symphony) happen to be the only ones with earthy/dusty notes. And its NOT because of the quality of the raw material, or their wildness. Its because of the filtration and curing techniques used for them.
You also mentioned that 'noir'ness is an attribute of oil extracted from cultivated wood. Well, Noir actually smells surprisingly close to Sheikh's Borneo, which I consider a very dark Borneo oud - in both smell and color. From my experience, I would say that the darkness of a Borneo oil's smell has to do with what material the still is made of. I have a tiny amount of a 'pre-batch' which was distilled in all-glass apparatus (2 of our mutual customers have tried it, and you can ask them what they thought of it), and even though the raw material was virtually identical, the color is bright yellow and the smell makes me think of two words: ozone and flowers.

As for the availability of sinking grade wood... Ensar, you mentioned wholesale prices, but remember I am getting the wood directly from the source (there is literally one man between me and the gaharu hunter).

Also, you and I both know that the shavings of sinking grade wood are NOT the same price as sinking wood chips/chunks. So why would you suggest that for Noir/Kemenyan to be authentic, they would have to be $25,000 per 3 grams? Using your equation, Borneo 3000 should have had a cost price of $3,000 per bottle. But that wasn't the case, right - because we both know that the shavings are not priced the same as chips/chunks.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that there's a lot of lying and cheating. But I completely trust my distiller. Umar ibn Al-Khattab mentioned that the only way you can know a person's true character is by traveling with him. I traveled with my distiller around Indonesia, and found his honestly impeccable.

There is a point where you just have to rely on trust. With your customers and mine, they close their eyes and trust us. But I tie that trust directly to my distiller as well. Now, I want to remind you that you weren't present when (the original) Oud Royale was distilled, nor when the wood was harvested. But you took the distiller's word for it, when he said it was distilled from sinking grade wood. The same can be said about Oud Royale 2, Oud Nuh and many of your other oils, where you weren't present there at the harvest and/or distillation. You took their word for it. And your customers, including myself, take your word for it. And we appreciate these oils as being some of the finest, 100% pure, out-of-this-world ouds ever created.

By the way, the Borneo wood (for Noir/Kemenyan) and Sumatra wood are from two different sources. And they're both different from the source of wood that you commented on.

I wish you had responded directly to my email I sent you about a week ago, regarding Noir/sinking/Borneo 50K etc. I had assumed you had been quite busy because I didn't hear back from you. But to my surprised you had already shared your detailed thoughts on my products here instead. That is the only reason why I am forced to respond to them here publicly - something which I dreaded doing.
I won't be replying any more here, because I don't want the Basenotes fiasco to be repeated here. I love your products to bits, and by God I always have and will continue to refer people to your products no matter what, because they are truly some of the finest an oud-loving fanatic can get his/her hands on. And I do not want a discussion to turn into an argument, and spoil things between me (an admirer and customer) and you (a trailblazer and, frankly, a teacher to me as well as others).


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Just to chip in and clarify something...

"Borneo 3000 should have had a cost price of $3,000 per bottle. But that wasn't the case, right"
Borneo 3000 would indeed have a cost price of $3,000 per bottle today... at least. But it was distilled back in 2005, so no, that wasn't the case. That's Ensar's point -- distilling the same oil today would mean that nobody would be able to afford even a sample of it.

Ensar was the one who introduced the term 'sinking-grade' at a time when we hardly even knew what the term 'oud' meant. At that time, 'sinking-grade' wasn't linked to the same marketing noise as it is now. Back then, there were even less discriminating distillers than there are now and the concept of 'sinking-grade' was not in the vocabulary of most. Back then there was a lot more of the higher quality wood (as we've come to know it) available, and no one was doing any mail order oud sampling yet. Terms like 'the kind that sinks in water' were merely descriptive. It was generally known to be superior, but no one went out of their way to claim they had such wood when they didn't. Today it's different, since there's a lot more to gain from such a claim and the opportunity to exploit the claim much easier. In short, until now there was no real market for 'sinking-grade oil', and so little reason to make disingenuous claims.

Actually, it's become a bit of a running joke between Ensar and I, where we ask distillers for their sinking-grade. The replies invariably come accompanied with laughter from all sides. I told Ensar several times that we should make a video montage of the responses we get because it's just so telling.
I don't vouch for anyone since there is only One that really knows what's in the hearts and minds of people. Having said that I can however say that I found Taha to be Honest and forth right in my dealings with him to the point where he would tell me not to buy one of his oils because he thought that it's not on my taste or that it might not be best suited for the climate I live in. this is obviously not the tactics of someone who is trying to pull the cover over my eye to sell a bottle or two. The issue of due diligence that Ensar raises is a valid one and to be commended for it. I agree that the words "sinking grade", super and King super have almost lost their powerful meaning not only because of overuse but because it has been proven that Cultivated Oud oil could be as good as wild one. I think those expressions are only valid if we are talking about chips to burn since that is something that can be observed and proven (Chips sinking in water) and I have to say that even that does not guarantee the heavenly smell that we're all after.
Lastly, a little thought; may be vendors should not use other vendors products to proof a point even if it is for educational purposes. there are many other ways to illustrate the point without having to saw the seeds of doubts into others and without casting doubts on the intentions and drive behind such comments.

Ensar Oud

Well-Known Member
Masstika, please don't forget that I never referred to Taha's person or his integrity. What I said is that the wood shown is inoculation wood. Whether Taha truly believes it, or what he intends to say when he says this is the finest raw materials he's ever worked with, is between him and Allah. I am going on what I see as the evidence he provided. And what I see is ordinary inoculation wood, not wild sinking grade wood.


New Member
When I look at oud chips, almost independent of quality, whether they are sinking grade or average grade, I can see what looks like the marks of a small gouge or curved knife on the surface of the chip. Are most chips shaved or prepared in some way prior to sale ?


Well-Known Member
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ensar.
I can see that there's something positive that can come out of this discussion (namely education), so despite my previous withdrawal I do not mind responding, for the benefit of the readers.

I am fully aware of the practice of inoculating wild trees. As a matter of fact, I mentioned it a while ago on my website already (describing Malaysian agarwood - Malaysia, to my knowledge, being the first place where this practice started). The first oud dude I met in Indonesia was none other than an agarwood farmer who I met within hours of touchdown in Jakarta. Moreover, I am friends with the foremost scientist in the world of oud cultivation in Indonesia. I have visited his plantation, and had discussions with him before, during, and after my visit. I have smelled his oils, and I know exactly what inoculated Indonesian oud oils smell like... and don't smell like. And I know what burning inoculated wood smells like as well.
As for my distiller, his knowledge of Indonesian wood is vastly superior to mine. So I assure you, neither one of us is being duped.

Your attitude is the correct one, of course. Sadly, the general rule in the oud world is, he's a liar unless it can be proven otherwise. You can't simply take a person's word for it anymore.
That's the attitude I have, and the reason why I've only advertised 2 oils as having been extracted from the shavings of sinking grade wood. If it was 'marketing noise', and one that worked, I would have been noisier.

I will reiterate: when I said the wood in the photo was the "finest material" my distiller had ever worked with, its not because it is sinking grade. Or because it surpasses sinking grade wood in resin-concentration. Since that wood is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, I will insist on not commenting on it. It has nothing to do with Noir/Kemenyan. I feel a bit upset being put up on the stand, so to speak. That wood has nothing to do with Noir/Kemenyan. And my refusal to talk about it is not because I don't have an answer but because it is irrelevant. For now.
I will say this much: the answer to your questions lies in none other than one of your very own posts. : )

I should add that one look at that photo is enough to see that the wood is NOT sinking grade. You really thought I was trying to pass it off as sinking-grade wood? I am fully aware of the ±14 grades of Indonesian wood. The one in the photo is AB kulit tebu. I am not that ignorant, that I would mistake it for super, double-super, or king-super agarwood (these being the three grades of wood that sink in water).

Now, when you said "I am going on what I see as the evidence he put forth" that IS the correct attitude, and your request is not just understandable but required as well.

So far, cultivation efforts have failed to produce sinking grade wood. So the 'sinking-ness' of the wood, coupled with the relatively low price I am able to get it / sell it for, should be enough to show how and why Noir and Kemenyan were possible.
There's more to it, but I cannot reveal my oud supplier's identity for obvious reasons. But there's one more reason (the MAIN reason) why I am able to get sinking wood for such a good price, and that is my supplier. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal his identity, or how and why he's the reason I am able to get such great prices.

Speaking of good prices for sinking wood...
Thomas, $3,000 would have been the best-case-scenario cost price back in the day, for the original Borneo 3000, according to Ensar's equation. $6,000/kg and a 0.05% yield would give a cost-price of $3,000. And as for producing it today, Ensar mentioned it would cost $25,000 based on a 0.05% yield.
But I say, like I said before: this equation doesn't apply to Borneo 3000, just like it doesn't apply to Noir/Kemenyan. They were distilled from the shavings collected from carving sinking grade wood. And the price of the shavings is a fraction of the cost of the chips and chunks.

In short: Noir/Kemenyan's authenticity at $470 per bottle is as possible as the original Borneo 3000's authenticity, when it was first released at around $370 per bottle. If Noir/Kemenyan defy facts and figures, then by the same token so does Borneo 3000. If Noir/Kemenyan are fake because of the < $25,000 price, then Borneo 3000 was a fake for being < $3,000.
And if my being absent from the scene of the harvest and distillation of the wood for Noir/Kemenyan render the oils questionable, then ouds like Oud Nuh, Oud Khidr, Oud Royale II and most/all of your Vintage LTD oils will face the same ruling.

I want to apologize in advance if I don't respond in a timely manner. Aside from having a full-time job and running AgarAura on my, I had a son not long ago. So its hard to find time for discussions sometimes. : )
If the discussion takes an unjustified unpleasant twist, I hope it will be understandable why I won't be partaking in it then.


Staff member
Hi everyone,

Just a quick note, we don't accept advertising of any sort on the forum. I removed the wood offers from Taha's post because they came off as direct advertising. "For anyone interested, I can get you such and such" has no place here, as it is a discussion forum, not a marketplace. We are working on setting up the market place, and request everyone hold off on making sales offers until it's ready.

I've deleted other users who've posted pictures of oud wood along with their phone numbers, and will not hesitate to do the same again. Running the forum is a costly venture, and I want to thank you in advance for your understanding and kind cooperation.



Well-Known Member
I apologize for having violated the rules.
I have seen not just posts but entire threads dedicated to the promotion of specific products. I think that was the reason why I was under the incorrect impression that it would be okay for me to have said what I said. You know there was no other way for me to respond to the concerns raised.

In any case, I do see your point of view as well. Any Jones, Chan and Khan could use this forum as a marketing platform for their own products. If I'm allowed to post something, then it would be unfair to stop others from doing the same.

Here's the problem... I'm sure you realized that what I posted was necessary for conveying my response to Ensar's comments. My post above is useless now, since what you deleted from it and from my earlier post had been the crux of my response to Ensar's question.

Do you see any way I could say what I said, without it sounding like an advertisement? If not, I guess people will have to figure out how to get in touch with me directly, to know what my response had been.


Staff member
All informational posts are welcome. Anything that is dedicated to disseminating knowledge and information rather than selling a product. However for you to start selling wood on the forum is unacceptable. You are welcome to post your wood on your website and refer to the items here, if what you are offering is genuine information. But to initiate group buys, list prices, and make offers is a clear violation. Please keep that in mind next time when drafting your entries, so as to avoid any unnecessary edits.