High-end Japanese incenses were, for me, love at first sniff. Nippon Koh and Idaina Dento were two AgarAura blends that were inspired by this tradition, and their immense popularity showed me that I wasn’t alone in my admiration for the Japanese incense heritage.
But although both Nippon Koh and Idaina Dento were clearly inspired by Japanese incense, they were both modified to smell distinct. As an example, Idaina Dento employed plenty of pink lotus for the sweet, earthy note. But lotus flowers are actually not an ingredient in Japanese incense mixes.
Jinkoh To Byakudan is, to me, the closest you can get to the smell of high end Japanese incense mixes that focus on the prized ingredients agarwood and sandalwood. It took me over a year of trial and error, and tweaking, (and much oud and sandalwood oils wasted!), to finally achieve the scent I was aiming for.
Here are the key components I aimed to feature in the oil:
– the ethereal character of Vietnamese Kyara (the highest grade of agarwood)
– the bitter-sweet heart note of Kyara
– the ‘purple’ sweetness exuded from gently heated Indo-Chinese agarwood
– the vanillic sweetness found in all Indo-Chinese ouds when heated Kodo style / on an electric burner
– and finally, to have these notes seamlessly marry the creamy-sweet smell of Mysore sandalwood.
The trickiest part was to create a Kyara-like character. In my experience the finest Kyara does not have any geographic associations. In our Kemenyan oil the unmistakable ‘Kyara note’ (although, to me its not a single note) that customers have raved about is felicitously intertwined with the signature Borneo note. To compose an oil devoid of ALL regional associations- an oil whose scent was vividly compelling and complete in its own aura- was a challenge which made me appreciate even more the complexity of Kyara.
If you have tried Baieido’s Green Kyara then you have smelled what is in my estimation the finest Kyara you can get. I find other companies’ Kyaras to be somewhere between Kyara and Rakoku. They have some of the elements of Kyara, but aren’t as “true” as the Baiedo examples I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
Here I would like to add a note. I have noticed that many people are incorrectly under the impression that the ‘Kyara note’ in an oud oil is simply a vapory quality in the opening, or a general top-note intensiveness. This is not true since other non-Kyara high grades of agarwood, when gently heated, also have a vapory quality. Moreover, the “vaporousness” is an attribute, not a scent. Although Kyara has an airy elegance, and it’s ethereal component is the one that defines it, there is much more to “Kyara” than its vapor-y lightness.
Putting the smell of Kyara in words is very difficult. I cannot do better than Baieido’s famous description, “A gentle and dignified smell with a touch of bitterness. The fragrance is like an aristocrat in its elegance and gracefulness”. To expand on this, I would add that its like isolating the bitter-sweet oud note found in all ouds, and making it ultra clean such that it exudes a cool breath of other-worldliness.
Needless to say, even this description does not do Kyara justice, so I hope that you will all have the opportunity to try it for yourselves. And I hope Jinkoh To Byakudan will allow you to experience some of the awe and wonder that makes me breathless whenever I burn the precious wood.
But I also wanted the oil to feature the ‘purple’ness of Indo-Chinese agarwood (like Baieido’s Ogurayama, or Minorien’s Fuuin Agarwood). And It defines the character of the oil.
The purple sweetness also keeps the oil from becoming too “serious” or “scholarly” so it is appropriate for everyday wear.
Despite how harmoniously sandalwood and oud sing their notes in incense mixes, sandalwood oils do not mix easily with oud oils. You always have to use other buffering and bridging agents. In Nippon Koh and Idaina Dento, I used lots of camphor and spice extracts but in Jinkoh To Byakudan this would have detracted from the oud and sandalwood. By using a select few essential oils, I was able to marry the sandalwood to the oud without stealing the spotlight from them.
I hope you enjoy and are as excited wearing AgarAura’s ode to Kyara, as I was creating it!
Note: all the ingredients are 100% plant-based, and the oil has not been diluted in any way.