Many thanks (and congratulations) to everyone who got a bottle of our now sold-out Borneo Noir. We have never sold out of 5 tolas of oud as quickly as Borneo Noir!
Borneo Noir having been a successful experiment at creating an oil using shavings collected from carving sinking-grade (highest grade) agarwood, I told the distiller right away that I wanted him to craft another oil like it, but with a few modifications.
Kemenyan was distilled from wood fairly similar to that which was used for creating Borneo Noir. But this time the raw material’s quality was even better and the distillation was further tweaked. Again, shavings from the highest grade of agarwood were used, but there was overall more oleoresin in the raw material this time.
Unlike most gaharu hunters who go into jungles for days or weeks to harvest agarwood, the hunter who collected the wood for Kemenyan often stays there for months. Unusual (and dangerous) it may be – but he is able to collect wood from areas never tapped before. Areas which have some of the oldest standing agarwood trees in the world. Trees with exceptional naturally formed oud resin. Some of these trees are comparable to what could be found in abundance a decade or two ago. Now they’re almost nonexistent.
Presently, I am aware of only 2 agarwood suppliers in all of Indonesia who are still able to procure sinking grade agarwood from the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra today. Soon however, it will be a thing of the past – and the exponential jumps in their prices is proof of that.
Now onto the distillation…
For producing Kemenyan, the lowest possible distillation temperature was used. The lower the temperature, the gentler the distillation will be – and the cleaner, more delicate and richer the oil. The agarwood was not soaked prior to distillation, as that distorts the smell of the final product. Drinking water was used for the distillation, to ensure the virgin clarity I sought in the oil. The distillation was conducted using stainless steel equipment, which gives the oil its deep amber color.
So what does Kemenyan smell like?
Imagine cupping your hands over your burner to smell a gently heated Borneo agarwood chip, bubbling lazily and exuding an out-of-this-world aroma. Its hypnotic smell and sheer complexity are hardly ever seen in agarwood harvested nowadays.
The first notes you encounter are bright and ethereal, incredibly ‘green’, and identical to the vapor that rises from heated chips just before they start to bubble and smoke. This is followed by a clean woody and incensey aroma, intoxicating enough to send the most fastidious ouddict to Happyland.
Since the distillation had been so gentle, all the fundamental notes that are found in Borneo chips were preserved intact in this oil. None of the notes were warped, and certainly no unwanted notes were added that usually creep in when harsh distillation techniques are employed.
Caramelized palm sugar, faint soft florals, a dash of cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg, riding atop a syrupy Malaccensis oudy base. Simply put: Borneo oud smoke in a bottle.
The scent notes are all tightly intertwined. There is no dramatically high-pitched top note counterbalancing the deeper woody notes. The aroma is very ‘dense’ and compact. Kemenyan has the most resinous smell of all the Borneo ouds we’ve offered to date. Make that any oud from any region. Take that resinous note in our East Kalimantan LTD or Borneo Noir, and crank it up. Way up. Furthermore, there is a greenness intermingled with the resinous character. Its not a grassy or citrusy greenness, but green is the only way I can describe it.
The drydown smells powdery-sweet, woody and floral. Think cananga and tuberose – classic notes found in the smoke of West Borneo agarwood. The florals aren’t as intense as they were in our Oud Kalbar. They’re gentle, softer, and nicely intermingled with the resinous woody notes.
Kemenyan has a very medicinal quality. And by ‘medicinal’, I am not referring to the rubbery band-aid smell found in low grade ouds. Rather, sniffing Kemenyan is very similar to inhaling the smoke of old-school Borneo agarwood chips harvested from ancient, highly-resinated trees (after all, that’s what went into the distillation pot, for creating Kemenyan). Its soothing, tranquilizing, almost sedating. Its medicine for the soul.
I should add that there is absolutely no smokiness or murkiness in this oil. The quality of the wood and the gentleness of the distillation ensured a very clean scent profile. So when I say Kemenyan smells identical to the smoke of Borneo agarwood, its like the smell that hits you when you start to gently heat a Borneo agarwood chip, when only the aromatic vapor gets released without any smoke. And the drydown smells like walking into a room a day after fumigating it with Borneo agarwood, after all the smoke has completely dissipated. Oudy, floral, incensey.
Note: Borneo Noir sold so fast that it wasn’t feasible to offer samples. With Kemenyan, I will wait and see how it sells in the first 2 weeks. Based on that, samples of Kemenyan may or may not be made available for sale.