What is Aloeswood?
Aloeswood is formed after Aquilaria tree heartwood has been infected by a mould. This turns what was before a pale and odourless wood into a dark, dense and aromatic resin. This has been highly valued for thousands of years and in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance; used in many aromatic products including Incense and perfumery products.
Aloeswood is more valuable by weight than gold and the most expensive aromatic ingredient available. Aloeswood quality and price, is determined by a number of factors including: geographical source, botanical species, age of tree and the precise section of the tree the resin is taken from.
A variety of names for Aloeswood
It's popularity, high value, unique aromatic qualities and relatively wide geographical spread of sources have all led to a good number of names being in use for this aromatic raw material.
- Agarwood - the most common alternative name to Aloeswood
- Eaglewood - used in Tibet and Papua New Guinea
- Oud - Arabic and Oudh by European Perfumers (who's source has traditionally been the Middle East)
- Agar and Agor - across the Indian subcontinent, derived from Sanskrit Aguru
- Mai Ketsana - in Laos
- Aloes - as mentioned in the Christian Bible
Aloeswood is used in Incense in Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic traditional ceremonies. Also as a significant component of traditional Ayurvedic (Indian), Tibetan and Far Eastern medicine and Middle Eastern perfumes.
Sources of Aloeswood
'Rikkoku' is the Japanese term for 'Six Countires and 5 Tastes' - referring to the six countries where they have traditionally sourced Aloeswood. Each has its own name and indication of the type of aroma associated with Aloeswood harvested from that country:
- Vietnam - Kyara - Bitter
- Thailand - Rakoku - Sweet
- Malaysia - Manaku - Soft/None
- Cambodia - Manaban - Salty
- India - Sasora - Hot
- Indonesia - Sumotara - Sour
What is the best Quality Aloeswood?
Noting that all natural and genuine Aloeswood is an excellent aromatic ingredient, the 'best of the best' is considered to be Kyara from Vietnam and the border region with Cambodia. This has a gentle and dignified/aristocratic aroma with top notes of Bitterness. The answer to 'what is the best?' is further complicated by the various grades Kyara comes in - known as Green, Iron, Purple and Black. In Sankrit, Kyara means Black, and is thus considered the most superior grade.
You'll also see the term 'Jinkoh' associated with Aloeswood based Japanese Incense. Jinkoh translates as 'sinking wood' - referring to a characteristic of superior grade Aloeswood - unlike 'normal' wood that floats. It does not relate to any particular country source or aromatic type.
Lastly, given the high price, Aloeswood has attracted some fraudulant activity and criminal attention - whereby 'fake Aloeswood' is made. This has nothing like the high quality aromatic nature of genuine Aloeswood - but fortunately, its use is extremely rare in Incense products. You can be assured that brands such as Nippon Kodo, Baieido, Les Encens du Monde and Sacred Elephant only use genuine and responsibly sourced Aloeswood.
Vectis Karma stocks approx. 250 different Incense products - mostly Japanese, but also a selection from Tibet, Nepal, China and India. One of the finest incense is actually Pure Luxury Agarwood Incense from leading brand Sacred Elephant. Aloeswood/Agarwood features in over 12% of our stock - especially within the higher quality and priced items.
Not all of these are the most expensive - there are some entry level options, but our most expensive (Prince of Awaji) is based on Aloeswood. Below are a number of Aloeswood Incense recommendations, which we stock from companies such as Nippon Kodo, Baieido and Les Encens du Monde.
Recommended Aloeswood items follow:
Aloeswood Incense from Nippon Kodo (1) - items starting from £4.95
Aloeswood Incense from Nippon Kodo (2) - items starting from £21.99
4 items from Nippon Kodo - Highest quality Aloeswood :
Koh-Do Japanese Incense - boxes of 20 Sticks for £3.50, each related to a larger box of the same incense.
This allows customers to try a new fragrance before making a commitment to purchasing a larger box. These larger boxes are higher in price, but offer a lower per stick cost. 3 in particular feature Aloeswood and are listed below alongside their matching larger boxes:
4 Aloeswood Incense Stick items from Les Encens du Monde:
Aloeswood Incense from Baieido - masters of woody/spicy Japanese Incense since 1657:
The best of the rest of Aloeswood Incense stocked by Vectis Karma: