Sunday, November 16, 2008

Agarwood: Not only in perfumes anymore

Well, I suppose that agarwood was found in incense long before it was found in alcoholic perfumes, but nonetheless I believe that alot of people first hearing about oud or agarwood will be hearing about its use in perfumes such as Tom Ford Oud Wood or the Montale series, or even pure oud oil from Oriscent or one of the many sellers on Ebay. However, in Japan, Jinko (agarwood) has been and currently is mostly used for the creation of incense. Japanese incense is often a mixture of aromatic substances (woods, resins, spices) bound together by a resin known as "makko" which comes from a coniferous tree and does not have a pronounced odour of its own. The incense is mixed wet into a paste, extruded so that it is stick-less, and dried until hardening. In the production of the best incense, there is a long curing process as well. In Japan there is a grading system of agarwood which fits each type of agarwood into one of six categories (countries):

Kyara: This is the most expensive and rare of all types of agarwood, generally it is believed that is most found in Cambodia. Kyara has an odor which is gentle, refined and semi-sweet or slightly bitter. This stuff usually goes for 500$ish a gram! holler!
Sasora: This often has a very light and sour/slightly bitter scent, there for the highest quality can sometimes be mistaken for kyara.
Sumotara: Decidedly sour, similar in lightness to Kyara and Sasora but with a definite unrefined tinge to it; "rough around the edges". This is likened to a peasant disguised as a noble. (lets sell it to the nouveau-riches as Kyara, they'll never know the difference!!)
Manaka: This is a very light scent and it encompasses all of the five japanese scent associations (sweet, hot, sour, salty, bitter) in such a way that neither overpowers the other .
Rakoku: sharp and strong smell similar to sandalwood mixed with vetiver. This scent is often likened to a warrior.
Manaban: Mostly sweet it is said the smell is unrefined, and likened to a peasant (sorry peasants!)

The two photos above are incense that I burn sometimes when I feel like it, the first brown tube is not classified in any way by the seller, but I would estimate it to fall somewhere around the Sumotara classification, the second copper tube is suppose to be a mix of Kyara and other agarwoods, it is very light and beautiful. I have once had the opporunity to smell Baieido's offering Ko Shi Boku which is made from Kyara. Yum! its fantastic although I can't afford it.

Heres a plug for my friend (ok ok well we exchanged a few emails, but I hope he's my friend; he's cool!) Dr Blanchette, The team at TRP and - who have all contributed to bringing you cultivated agarwood products. Buying these products is the responsible thing to do to save these amazing trees in the wild, so give them a try, their stuff is great :)

No comments: