Kinam, A Most Precious Material

My New Exciting Material

 

Important Terms

Agarwood, aloeswood, oud, aoud, eaglewood, or gharuwood is a fragrant dark resinous wood used in incense, perfume, and small carvings. It is formed in the heartwood of aquilaria trees when they become infected with a type of mould. (from Wikipedia) 

Wild Agarwood - Agarwood trees are found growing without human intervention in the jungles of Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, China and Papua New Guinea. Wild agarwood is very rare and highly sought after. In many places, it's illegal to harvest wild agarwood. Unfortunately, farmed agarwood is very often sold as "wild" agarwood for extremely high prices. Documentary about this topic here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv69pYSm2oo

Kinam is the highest grade of agarwood. Kina oils and wood chips possess unique molecules not found in lesser grades of agarwood. For this reason, Kinam has unique scent profiles not found in lesser grades of agarwood. See the unique chemistry of kinam here: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijac/2021/5593730/

Russian Adam talks about kinam here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhJq3ztYnuc Adam understands all varieties of oud well. He is the first person I ever purchased oud chips from. 

Kyara is what the Japanese call Northern Vietnamese kinam. Kyara has a unique green minty aroma, it's verdant and slightly antiseptic, with an evergreen sting of camphor. Kyara has no funk or barnyard smell common to Hindi Oud. It's very clean and never smoky. The Nippon Kodo Incense company sells incense with a tiny amount of real Kyara. I trust them. https://nipponkodostore.com/collections/kyara-taikan-premium-aloeswood/products/kyara-taikan-premium-aloeswood-140-sticks

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Marketers Know Everyone Wants Wild Agarwood 

People have been farming agarwood for ages. And 95% of the world's agarwood is grown on farms. Still, many enthusiasts want the rare, wild, straight from the jungle agarwood. There's this exotic, Indiana Jones appeal to wild agarwood. 

But for one reason or another, you no longer have to track through the jungles of Thailand or Cambodia to find it. 

No matter how scarce it is, "wild agarwood" just keeps popping up for sale on the internet. Amazing isn't it! The picture above is being sold on eBay as wild agarwood. But how can you tell?

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For thousands of years, kinam was off-limits. Can your regular Joe afford such prices? check the link below. 

https://www.jalaliagarwood.com/shop/oud-wood/longlas-crown/ The Jalali company is well-established and I trust them.

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Agarwood marketed as "wild" can sell for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram, making it far more expensive than farmed varieties. Are agarwood chips and oils marketed as "wild" genuinely from the jungle? It's tough to know. So here's what I do. 

I set a budget for myself and purchased chips and oils that appeal to my sense of aesthetics. I look for complexity, roundness, warmth, depth, diffusion and lastingness. I prefer a soft floral opening to my oud oils; they should open wide and warm, not sharp, phenolic, or like "gasoline." Oud oils that open phenolic smell immature to me. 

Any oud oil that has not been tampered with and is adequately filtered should be highly diffusive, and it should possess both a deep leather/honey warmth and transparent floral-patchouli-like facets. Good oud oils should, in my opinion, be round, complex, clean and never overly dry. 

Finally, I prefer to mature my oud oils for at least one year at a 5% dilution in perfumers alcohol. Some may disagree with this practice, but I've found that it develops complexity, especially in the top notes. 

When purchasing more significant volumes of oud, I send a sample to a GCMS machine for testing. Unfortunately, this is the only way for me to know that my oud oil is pure. Below you can see a GCMS machine. I send all of my more expensive materials like rose, jasmine and orris butter to the laboratory to have their purity tested. 

Wild Kinam keeps popping up on the internet! 

If wild agarwood is rare, wild kinam is a near-impossible find. 

For every thousand wild Aquilaria trees, only one will ever produce kinam. Wild kinam is the rarest wood on earth, and it keeps getting scarcer by the minute. Yet it keeps popping up for sale on eBay and random internet sites. 

Now you understand the agarwood business. The scarcity, marketing and the legendary status of wild agarwood & kinam . Is the "wild kinam" you find online really from jugle? I highly doubt it, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

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So then, who has real kinam? 

There were only four places to source larger volumes (kilograms) of real kinam.

  • The Thai Royal Family
  • The Shoyeido & Nippon Kodo Incense Companies
  • The Saudi Royal Family
  • The Chinese Government

 The Thai Royal Family has the most extensive collection of kinam in the world. They're the wealthiest royal family globally, and agarwood is native to Thailand. 

The Shoyeido Incense And Nippon Kodo Incense Companies are Japan's largest, most prestigious incense makers. These two companies have been buying kinam from the Thai Government and Thai Royal family for hundreds of years. https://www.shoyeido.com/aboutus and https://nipponkodostore.com. Nippon Kodo is 450 years old. 

You can purchase the lowest levels of kinam, or "Kyara"(as the Japanese call kinam from Northern Vietnam) from Shoyeido here: https://www.shoyeido.com/product/agarwood-aloeswood-kyara-chips/incense-wood-chips

You can purchase medium level Kinam Incense from Nippon Kodo here: https://nipponkodostore.com/products/kyara-momoyama-exceptional-aloeswood-103g?_pos=1&_sid=842424ba1&_ss=r

The second-largest collection belongs to the Saudi Royal Family; they adore agarwood and burn it at weddings. Lastly, the Chinese Government has beautiful kinam showpieces from Hainan Island in museums across China. 

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PART 2: A breakthrough in kinam 

For the first time in history, Agriculture Science has managed to encourage farmed Aquilaria trees to produce kinam

Fifty years ago, the Jalali family from Assam Provence, India, started scaring, cutting and encouraging agarwood trees to produce resin. Scaring agar trees to produce resin was a breakthrough, and the Jalali Family continues to grow some of the world's best-farmed agarwood oil.

A second step, coming out of China 

With new agriculture science, my friend Jeff from Yuhzi Oud has encouraged farmed agarwood trees to grow kinam levels of resin. Jeff (his English name) owns the largest agarwood farm and factory in China. He is a friend of mine, and I'm lucky to know him. 

For the first time in history, the ordinary person can smell kinam. Like farmed agarwood, Jeff's cultivated kinam doesn't have the same prestige as wild kinam because it's not as scarce.

But that's the best thing about it! Jeff is honest; unlike so many other people, he isn't trying to sell his farmed kinam as "wild" kinam. I assure you, his kinam is very, very beautiful! 

There's nothing fake about this kinam. Jeff works with farmers growing real agarwood trees to produce natural kinam oil. And his kinam oil has lovely nuances: very complex facets, very similar properties to wild kinam.  

So how do they do it? 

Over the course of decades, Jeff's farmers worked with some of China's best agricultural scientists to encourage Aquilaria Trees (the same trees as wild agarwood trees) to produce massive volumes of oil. Agriculture science advanced, and Jeff achieved the impossible. 

And...how did I come into possession of kinam? 

Well, I've known Jeff for a couple of years. More importantly, I have a reputation for being picky and very difficult with suppliers. Few independent perfumers go to the lengths I do. Russian Adam and Ensar use real oud, orris, civet and deer musks like me. Satori Parfums also uses real orris butter in her perfumes. Adam, Ensar, Satori and myself are in the minority by a lot. 

Jeff from Yuhzi Oud, China's most prominent agarwood farmer, reached out to me and some other picky perfumers to test his kinam against our noses. Jeff and his company Yuhzi Oud contacted dozens of people in the Oud Community, and we all agree that his kinam is good, and it is very, very good.

Three things to consider; conformity, insecurity and prejudice 

The Chinese workplace, actually most Asian workplaces, is very different from those in the west. I lived in Tokyo for a decade, so I know all about this cultural difference. It's common in Asia for employees to bite their tongues and agree with their boss to keep them happy. Jeff would ask his employees, "are we making good quality oils yet?" And more often than not, they would agree with him. But Jeff is a perfectionist; he doesn't like it when people agree with him. He wants to make the best-farmed agarwood in the world. After a warm reception by the agarwood community, Jeff is confident in the quality of his oils. Yet, he worries about public perception because there exists a prejudice against Chinese products. A completely unfounded bias.

China has been growing and using some of the best agarwood in the world for 4000 years. Longer than any country, except perhaps India. And even though Yuzhi Oud sells its oils, oud and kinam chips to some of the largest perfume manufacturers in the world, he still feels the need to combat ignorance. 

 

I am delighted to make perfumes that include Jeff's Yuhzi Oud kinam.

It's an excellent natural material I can stand by.

I'm super excited to share the "scent of heaven" with you! 

 

GENERAL QUESTION & ANSWER 

QUESTION: Is human encouraged kinam cheap?

ANSWER: Not a chance! Farmed kinam is still much more expensive than even the highest grade levels of agarwood. 

QUESTION: Does Jeff's farmed kinam smell unique, complex, nuanced and heavenly? 

ANSWER: I would never use Jeff's kinam if it didn't exceed my expectations. It's impressive—exceptional quality. 

QUESTION: Does Jeff's farmed kinam smell the same as wild kinam?

ANSWER: There's no "single scent profile" to kinam. Every piece of kinam has a unique chemistry, and this is true of wild kinam and also true of Jeff's kinam; both Jeff's kinam and wild kinam are far superior to regular agarwood.

I would instead purchase Jeff's kinam than pay $10 000 USD for a gram of "wild kinam" from the internet. There's a 99.99% likely hood that this "wild kinam" is just high-grade, farmed agarwood, and even the best-farmed oud is not worth $10 000. Call me crazy, but I am not particularly eager to gamble. 

QUESTION: Do farmed kinam chips also sink in water? 

ANSWER: You bet! Human encouraged kinam, farmed kinam - just like wild kinam possess so much oil that the chips sink in water. 

QUESTION: Does farmed kinam possess unique molecules only kinam grade oud has?  

ANSWER: Yes! These unique molecules, which produce a distinctive "kinam aroma," are what differentiates oud from kinam. Farmed kinam possess these unique, kinam-only-molecules.See the unique molecules kinam posses here: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijac/2021/5593730/

QUESTION: Is human encouraged kinam as expensive as jungle foraged kinam? 

ANSWER: No. The scent is heavenly; the oil content is the same, the molecules are kinam molecules, but the main difference is price. Farmed kinam is less expensive than wild kinam. 

And this is why I am so excited! Agriculture science is such a blessing; some brilliant people have made it possible for people like me to experience kinam!  

 

Kinam Perfume Coming summer 2022.

Email me to get on the list: perfumer@melegperfumes.com