When examining historic sources it appears that India, Indonesia and Indochina have been the original sources of many plant aromatics. In 671 CE the monk I-Tsing, traveling from Canton to the famous Nalanda monastery in India and back reports about the trade in Agarwood, Sandalwood, Camphor, Cloves, Pepper, Gold and Silver.
While fumigating and using incense is most popular in Taoist temples, the literature also agrees that the spread of many precious aromatics to China and Japan followed the monks that brought Buddhism from India.
Even today fragrance ceremonies are performed for interested seekers and students by sages or Buddhist monks. The image shows a table ready for an Agarwood Incense ceremony in a modern day hermitage next to the great Lama temple of Beijing (see Notes: Explorations).
Agarwood: A Fragrance Universe All to Itself.
Agarwood is harvested in the jungles of Champa and Srivijaya, revered in the deserts of Arabia, the fertile valleys of China and the temples of Kyoto. How is it that especially Agarwood, through its trade routes, connects the philosophical realms of the Far East with the monotheism of the desert. Smelling Agarwood, the infinite symphony of sesquiterpenes, may not provide answers, but it quietly broadens the scope of the questions.
One could argue that Agarwood is the outstanding example for a typical Asian fragrance. A deep desire for this fragrance reaches, unmitigated, from the Arabic Peninsula and the Middle East all the way to what Okakura calls the Celestial soil itself (China) and further to Japan. (see Okakura in Notes: Experiences).
And while intensely popular in the East the sometimes animalic notes of Agarwood are not so popular in the Western world. The geographical distribution of the cultures that fully embrace the Agarwood fragrance appears congruous with those subscribing to the Asian contention that the political models and ideologies of Europe lack the values and concepts found in Asian societies (Lee Kuan Yew). The increasing popularity of Agarwood in the West parallels the rekindled interest in the East as its economic fortunes advance dramatically.
Today the largest producer of Agarwood, in the form of actual wood and also its essential oil is Indonesia. From a producer who is at the forefront of cultivating trees sustainably we can offer six perfect examples of Agarwood essential oil from the regions of Indonesia.
UNESCO designated wayang kulit, a shadow puppet theatre and the best known of the Indonesian wayang, as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003. The Oud fragrances in the Wayang Collection represent the vastness of the Indonesian archipelago.
Very refined, from a most fascinating origin in the Lesser Sundas. No animalic notes with fascinating, almost sweet woodiness. This Oud, in its clean unobtrusive but highly complex woodiness reflects the constant clean and fresh breeze so typical for the islands ‘Under the Wind.”
2 ml Agarwood Oil from the island of Sumbawa.
Sabah stands for the mythical beauty of Eastern Borneo. This oil also has no or very little animalic note, yet it combines the attractive fragrance aspects of a cabinet makers workshop with colorful tropical intensity and refined complexity of a immaculately crafted perfume.
2 ml Agarwood Oil, East Kalimantan (East Borneo)
A slight hint of fresh citrus is followed by an almost insanely intense symphony of deeply rich and vigorous notes of wood, growth, resin and decay. This is classic Agarwood from the depth of Sumatra, an oil that will only become more layered and precious with time.
2 ml Agarwood Oil, Sumatera
THE WAYANG COLLECTION:
Smelling the above three oils next to each other launches a breathtaking flight across the equatorial island universe of Indonesia. This journey probes deep into the fragrance aspect of the cultural and religious diversity of Indonesia. It is a condensed representation those Asian cultures which are attracted by the incredible versatility and depth of the Agarwood fragrance.
2 ml of each specimen $295.00
Wayang Wong: Penasar Delem
Penasar is roughly translated to mean “clown” or “servant.” In the Hindu Epic the Ramayana, Delem is the servant to the demon Rawana. Like the other clown characters Delem also serves as a translator, but is prideful, has a harsh voice and is master of deception and conceit.
An almost berry like top note is followed by temperate and well calibrated sesquiterpenes, flying in impeccable formation. This Agarwood does not so much convince through its weight, instead it surprises with a joyful depth, which makes it perfect to wear all by itself. Classic Agarwood.
2 ml Agarwood Oil, Central Kalimantan
As this scent stops everything that is going on around it, it permeates the air with a weightless perfection. It has notes of the most favorite smoked foods combined with tobacco and leather. paradoxically it appears very grounded and transcendent at the same time. Some notes of this oil are similar to those of Agarwoods from Vietnam.
2 ml Agarwood Oil, Papua Steam
This is the most refined accord of sesquiterpenes produced by the intense processes of life in the tropical deep jungle vegetation. One almost gets the hunch that this fragrance reaches back to a an overarching synergy of tropical climate and transcendental energy as it must have existed in the the spiritual center of Srivijaya.
2 ml Agarwood Oil, Papua Cohobation
THE DELEM COLLECTION:
These three oils from the Indonesian East all originate in the depth of the tropical jungle biosphere. They bring a symphonic perfection of secondary metabolites to our senses that is probably unsurpassed. Not surprisingly they evoke mental or spiritual reflection and a rekindled sense of awe for the phenomena of nature.