Why D24 Has Various Subtypes Including Sultan And XO Durian
If you have just entered the world of durians, you should have realized that you don’t need to be an expert to conclude that mao shan wang, or musang king, is the undisputed brand name amongst the king of fruits.
So show-stopping are they that they can command premium prices even though it costs just about the same capital to cultivate them compared to other less famous cultivars.
Which was why there was a gold rush among farmers to overhaul their plantations and concentrate on mao shan wang some years ago.
This gold rush is still ongoing, mind you. Every new plantation these days is going to line up their fields with a lot of MSW saplings.
But before the introduction of musang king which took durian fever to a whole new level, another cultivar reigned supreme and enjoyed the same #1 status as the former is enjoying now.
And that durian is D24.
D24 is the official registration number assigned in 1937 to this specific fruit in the Malaysian list of crops.
For a veteran durian that has survived the test of time, you’d surely expect it to have some fancy aliases to accompany it’s stature… especially when we are seeing more and more fancy names of other durians these days like red prawn. and bamboo leg.
Some of them include jantung, butter king, margerin, etc. A couple of the more popular monikers of D24 that many might be more familiar with are Sultan and XO. These are all variants of D24.
The place of origin for D24 is traced back to Bukit Merah in Perak. And it’s official name (Bukit Merah) is a tribute to it’s birth place.
The legend behind the Sultan nickname is that it was the only durian worthy of serving to royalty in Malaysia. Thus, the pet name was more organically generated.
Another folklore which is more down-to-earth is that it was the king of durians before being usurped by the arrival of mao shan wang. And the term Sultan was used as a reference to royalty.
The premium variants of this durian that come from old trees is often referred to as sultan king. Nice play of words there. They can also come with a hint of floral flavour.
For the nick name of XO, this is a reference to the mild alcoholic and bitter flavour that comes with naturally fermented highland D24 reminding people of cognac. In the old days, this was an uncommon attribute of durians that the masses got to taste unlike today. The birth of XO from cultivating D24 at higher altitude was a fluke result. But nobody was complaining then, and nobody is whining today.
These days, D24 is mostly farmed in Pahang, Johor and parts of Penang. And XO is farmed on lowland as well. So much so that certain circles will only consider Johor XO as the true XO.
Because of the longevity of D24, farmers have had a lot of time to experiment with it.
This has led to various hybrids and subtypes of D24 which entered the market throughout the years.
Some of the D24 variants that one might come across during durian hunting are super D24 and highland D24 which tend to fetch a slightly higher price than the regular Sultan and XO.
It is claimed that these improved and premium D24s originate from old trees or trees grown in higher altitude.
However, when you have been duraining for long enough, you might start to think that all these premium talk is mostly fancy mambo jambo.
A “regular” D24 can exhibit these “premium” characteristics and “premium” D24s can very well taste average. A lot depends on the weather and climate in the season.
Moreover, sometimes you just don’t know which variant of D24 you are going to get.
If you walk up to a durian store and ask for sultan, he would say the D24 is sultan. If you had asked for XO, he would say that they are XO. They are all D24.
Feature of D24 durian
The D24 itself can come in various sizes.
I personally find that those weighing between 1.2kg to 1.4kg tend to be more consistent in terms of good quality.
The exterior husk is almost always circular and consistently more rounded than other types of durians. But not in the league of bola in this respect.
Bigger durians tend to be shaped like a kidney bean, or some would say heart-shape with the upper portion noticeably wider than the lower portion.
The colour of the husk is a fresh coat of homogeneous green that can remind you of a grass field.
The thorns of this durian can be described as irregularly clustered which seems to be pointing in all types of directions without any uniformity.
Individual slim spikes can be curvy, sharp and hard too. So be careful not to hurt yourself.
If you look closer at the spikes, you might be able to identify a slight yellow hue that becomes very distinctive when you garner more experience with durians.
XO can often be observed to have a more sparse thorn arrangement than typical D24. The husk colour can also be of a paler green.
However the most unique feature of D24 from it’s exterior is a somewhat indented round bottom at the area where the seams meet, almost like a bellybutton.
Durian sellers like to refer to this amusing attribute as that of a 5-cent coin or 10-cent coin depression.
This can look odd to some people as the spikes are all over the place but suddenly go bald at a small area at the bottom.
This unpredictable arrangement of spikes can be quite chaotic and can often fully hide the seams of the durian, making it impossible to determine where the different lobes are bordered.
The same special bald feature can be observed at the rim where the husk and thorns meet the relatively short stem as well.
Being bald around the rim with so many rising spike surrounding it, it can look like a drone shot of a road with tall trees along the roadside.
As you pry open the durian, you will find that the flesh is of a colour that can be described as off-white or pale-yellow for XO. Sultan can come in a darker shade of yellow, sometimes even getting close to orange-yellow.
In the past, before XO became mainstream, sellers often candidly describe the color of D24 as that of a cooked egg yolk like ang jin. But because of how heavily XO with pale flesh colour has flooded the market, this expression can no longer be used in a general sense.
The colour of the flesh can vary these days because farmers have had a long time to experiment with the saplings. The sheer number of clone trees also add to this unpredictable characteristic.
The flesh of the fruitlet itself is super soft and it is almost certain that even a slight pressing of the flesh can create a nasty looking impression.
Like leaving footprints on the concrete floor before it dried and solidified.
Each pod section usually contains 1 or 2 fruitlets with seed. And by some stroke of fancy nature, each fruitlet is separated from another by it’s own skin unlike other durians where many seeds can clump together forming a lobe of super fruitlet.
The natural taste of freshly ripe D24s is generally agreed to be strong bitter-sweet. When this is so, it is often called Sultan.
However, when highland D24 is left to continue riping after the period of “just fresh” it can intensify it’s magical alcoholic aftertaste coupled with a stronger pungent aroma. This is when it is called XO.
Some durian sellers call this process as fermentation. Which I don’t totally agree with the wording here.
Saying that, this cultivar has been around for a very long time. Which also means that it has embraced a lot of different marketing angles throughout the years. The XO, or DXO, these days are generally marketed for those with a much stickier flesh with a paler colour. This is more bitter.
For many XO lovers, this is one durian that manages to hit that sweet spot between sweet and bitter. Among the the flavours that many describe it as, comparable taste are vanilla, butter, custard, cucumber, onion, wine, etc.
And when the harvest is good, which is heavily dependent on the weather, the taste can be so stupendous that it sends people into a frenzy.
XO farmed in Johor tend to have a wetter texture and with less bountiful flesh.
Not recommended for first timers entering the durian world unless they are those who likes to jump into the deep end of the pool before learning how to swim.
It is also classified under the group of gas durians where it supposedly produces gas. Leading the eater to burp when or after consuming it.
Despite it’s regular-sized seed, the flesh can be quite thickly dense, sticky, and delightfully creamy.
But the regular sized seed can be a turn-off for some as it can be seen as a low yield of meat when we do the maths. It’s just not in trend to modern consumers.
Despite slowly falling out of favour, D24 is a proven specimen and with a track record to boot.
High quality D24 from very old trees tend to to be irregularly shaped instead of the roundish form it is generally known for. Their thorns also tend to be a little broader.
D24 harvest season
Because of it’s commendable past glories, D24 enjoys quite a huge supply as many farms cultivated them during the gold rush so many years ago.
This is why we can find it available throughout the year in staggered supply. It is about as widespread in supply as musang king.
And it’s also why it’s a common choice for food companies to use for creating food products. Mcdonald’s and KFC are just a couple of examples with their D24 McFlurry and D24 Durian Mochi. Even IKEA crafted a D24 cheese tart.
Yet it’s worth noting that the original bukit merah is a somewhat unstable cultivar. Which is probably why suppliers these days might find it better value to make puree with the harvest and create downstream food products.
This instability is one big reason why it has been thoroughly experimented with different breeds of durians. It is said that even a farm with only D24 will have a harvest that taste different from a farm that has a mix of D24 and other cultivars.
Even farmers are puzzled as it just don’t seem to make sense.
Because of this, authentic original D24 in top quality can actually be hard to come by. And it would be nothing short of a miracle for them to end up in Singapore.
The best I’ve had was in a secluded farm in Perak far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The journey there took us pass more cemeteries than I was comfortable with. At the shed, I was told that the fruit held in my hands was a 100% original clone of D24 sultan with no trace of hybrids. I don’t even know how the words original and clone can be used together. But that’s what the oracle says. Anyway, everyone should know that it is technically impossible to achieve a 100% clone of the original because you cannot clone a stump. But I get the essence of what is being said. Just that in that moment, it’s time to shut up and not argue. It’s a moment to kneel as the D24 busk in it’s glory. After tasting it, I cannot help but believe it. I felt like Indiana Jones locating an ancient artifact. I asked why I’ve never come across them even in KL. And the response was a shake of the head and smirk. That says everything that needs to be said.
The peak harvest of D24 is usually in the middle of the main season, somewhere within June to around August.
Sultan and XO is still very popular today in Singapore and Malaysia.
It has it’s own base of loyal fans who would not eat any other durians. When the harvest is in top form, you can bet that it would sell out quickly.
The price for top grade harvest is considerably lower than musang king and can range around $12 to $16 per kilogram for the whole fruit.
At these types of prices, D24 offers great value for money for those who cannot bring themselves to pay more than $20/kg for durians.
After all, this is one durian that used to be king.