Friday, March 05, 2010

Japanese Agarwood - Review + Giveaway

Japanese aesthetic is generally simple, elegant and clean (including some of the woods grown in Japan and used for incense as well – such as the watery hinoki and the dry hiba wood, not to mention the medicinal, clear borneol or camphor used in incense and body powders).

But when it comes to agarwood, the Japanese admire the dark and sometimes dirty and animalic agarwood. Agarwood incense is called jin-koh, and is the most prized over any other woods and is used in the koh-doh ceremony (translates to “the way of incense”). In particular – a variety of agarwood called kyara, which produces the darkest, most resinous, sweet and smoldering smoke, which seems to penetrate to the deepest parts of the soul and is so powerful it instantly brings the mind into a harmonious and meditative state.

Expect none of these effects from Japanese Agarwood oil roll-on. This interpretation of agarwood takes it all the way to the “clean wood” territory, leaving very little resemblence to agarwood of any kind. It is true that some agarwoods do have a clean smell, but they also always have something musty and complex about them, perhaps like a little mold attached to the continually moist bathing space.

Lisa Hoffman’s evening variation of the Japanese Agarwood scent is the most distinct of the four, but still, like I said, very transparent, pale and more watery than woody, with a somewhat tea-like, clean-musk dry down. According to the ad copy, “Japanese Agarwood was inspired by the lush, natural oils from the rainforest with subtle hints of Italian Bergamot, Spiced Ginger Accord, and Warm Amber. Within this complex, one also discovers mysterious earth nuances that are a delight to explore”.

It reminds me more of a greenhouse than a true rainforest; like the part of the nursery where they sell the tropical plants, and you can smell the water, fertilizers and moist compost and moss. There is nothing warm and ambery about it either. It’s a minimalist, clean, simple, aquatic woody, bordering on the sporty and definitely unisex if not a little on the masculine side when it dries down. The daytime version is even lighter, but perhaps also a little spicier, with the ginger note more pronounced.

Giveaway: Post a comment anywhere on SmellyBlog throughout the week (till next Friday) and enter to win Japanese Agarwood duo in the new packaging (designed by Lisa Hoffman's daughter) with the day time and the evening variations on Japanese Agarwood. I have tried both scents a couple of times, but both bottles are still full.

Coming next on SmellyBlog: A series about Agarwood and Sandalwood, including articles and reviews of other agarwood scents.

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At March 05, 2010 9:56 AM, Blogger Milwaukee Holistic said...

Great review! I love the smell of a greenhouse and many of my own creations take on the earthy plant aroma. I would love to try these out!

At March 05, 2010 9:57 AM, Blogger Milwaukee Holistic said...

Great review! I love the smell of a greenhouse and many of my own creations take on the earthy plant aroma. I would love to try these out!

At March 05, 2010 10:21 AM, Anonymous Monica Skye Miller said...

I have heard that in competitions it is best to be first or last. since I fully intend to win this delectable delight of twin scrumptiousness I shall begin.
First of all, before i even started reading I was *hoping* for a greenish tinge to this concoction. Agarwood, to me always had a lightness to it and i'm not surprised that the tasteful japanese people have such respect for it's quiet warmth and charm. I have never smelled a blend described like the above scent story but that could be because i have not much experience in this area of testing or owning more than a few perfumes at one time. I also think it is charming that Ayala tested the giveaway - that can only add an extra dab of energetic warmth to the whole thing. here's hoping! Monica.

At March 05, 2010 10:25 AM, Blogger . said...

hey smellyblog, here's my comment =) i'd love to win!

At March 05, 2010 10:49 AM, Anonymous flannelman said...

I am a little bit puzzled by the description of this fragrance. :) I guess the key word here is "interpretation". Clean, transparent and watery are not the terms I usually associate with agarwood – in my mind that's always a complex scent but of course I may well be wrong... So, I am left to wonder what these variations on Japanese agarwood do smell like. Oh and, in passing, that kiara agarwood incense sounds fascinating...

At March 05, 2010 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to try these too. I was thinking about hitting a botanical garden this weekend, and now I'm definitely going to go! (It's an orchid show though... don't know if I can find any agarwood.)
I agree that these scents sound like a bundle of contradictions: clean wood but mossy! Only one way to find out! Thanks for the contest.
Laura M

At March 05, 2010 6:24 PM, Blogger Gator Grad said...

I'm very interested in Lisa Hoffman's fragrances, but have to admit that I've only smelled the fig (I tried to smell anything fig related when I got started with niche perfumes). I'd love to try this. I find the idea of the 'variations' on the same fragrance very intriguing... please enter me!

At March 07, 2010 7:55 AM, Blogger Robbie said...

Hey! Enjoyed the review!
I've just ordered a few oud oils and agarwood pieces to burn - it's the latest direction of my obsession. :)
Please enter me in the contest - I've love to win!

At March 07, 2010 8:32 AM, Blogger Two Nice Cats said...

Dark, dirty and animalic? sign me up! would love to try this!

-Marcy J

At March 07, 2010 9:06 AM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Thank you everyone for leaving your comments!

Milwaukee Holistic: JA is not so much earthy as it reminds me of a hydroponic nursery.

Monica Skye: The lucky draw is going to be completely random, via (I enter the number of commenters and it will pick a number for me - so the order in which you comment only randomly matters!). Some agarwoods smell quite similar to spikenard in my opinion - a root that has a woody, earthy green and musty, musky aroma. This agarwood interpretation is more watery than green.

dot (aka "."): thanks for commenting here again. I'm curious to know your name - "." would be difficult to announce if you do get to win ;-)

Flannelman: Thanks for your comment and I was just as puzzled as you were when I smelled it. It barely resembles agarwood at all. Even the cleaner agarwoods have more depth than JA.

Laura M: I love botanical gardens! In fact, I always try to visit one when I go traveling in different cities.

Gator Grad: Thank you for entering the draw. I haven't tried the fig variation, but would like to - as I love fig in fragrance, especially green ones.

Robbie: You have a fine obsession :-) You will enjoy the upcoming agarwood feature (as part of the "decoding obscure notes" series). It will have information about the wood, culture, processing methods, different variety of oils and of course - following that I will review a few other agarwood-dominated perfumes as well as share with you some of my experiments in my lab with agarwood-centred perfumes.

Two Nice Cats/Marcy J: Agarwood oil could be dark and animalic, but this JA perfume isn't...

At March 07, 2010 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow this sounds like a very japanese take indeed....very clean, clear, transparent, fleeting...

always love to smolder agarwood incense, especially at this time of the year!

...the described perfumes seem to be perfect for those hot humid days to a few weeks we'll have monsoon time here.

very glad to hear you'll continue to educate us with more articles about agarwood! thanks so much for your great sharing!

happy week,

At March 08, 2010 12:04 AM, Blogger Diana said...

What an interest scent description...and nice review. The woods and animalic scents are still pretty new for me, so this might be an interesting drawing to win. I do love earthy, though, so I'm crossing my fingers!

At March 08, 2010 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woody incense is my favourite -- haven't ever smelled agar, though...

At March 09, 2010 10:13 AM, Blogger Lux Vivens said...

I would love a chance to try this scent. I have been trying to get my hands on every scent out there to expand my knowledge. I am looking forward to studying with you this summer. I still love your scents the most....Ayalita, white potion and sabatoge....they conjure up amazing visions for me...are deeply mysterious and beautiful...

At April 21, 2010 12:02 AM, Blogger Rahul said...

I really like this article.
Thanks for the information.
We are also dealing in Agarwood & Aloeswood products.

You may contact us at -

At March 19, 2014 6:27 AM, Blogger suhail alhashemy said...

hi Ayala ..nice information dear ..i have one question pleas Where i can buy Japanese Agarwood seedling ?
Do you have an address for Japaneses nursery ?
and finally thanks so much for that lovely topic ^_*

At August 05, 2019 12:14 AM, Blogger shwethapriya said...

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