A few words on the Kyara offer (closed)

I have closed discussion on this thread now that it as died down. The primary reason for this is because I’ve spent quite a bit of time listening to everyone involved, believe that everyone has had their say at this point, and do not want to get into it any further.

I had temporarily turned the previous offer from JK De Lapp private, but the intro paragraph has been edited, so please reread. One of my staff writers strongly believes that the wood pictured in the offer is not kyara. I’ve also received some documentation from JK on what’s being offered that I have not had a chance to digest yet, but at this moment I don’t think this is going to avoid controversy. Now while I do, I am going to allow comments on this thread if people want to discuss this issue. I am saying up front that civility is absolutely required here, discussion about the wood and the subject is fine, but no attacks on people please. I have respect for both JK and my staff, yet I am definitely not the person to judge the outcome of this. But I do want to make sure the post reflects any concerns.

22 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    October 15, 2015 at 8:23 am

    The original post has now been returned to public. I have edited the intro paragraph to reflect concerns and direct attention to the comments and documentation in this thread. PLEASE reread this paragraph. Discussion here may continue. Thanks everyone.

  2. October 15, 2015 at 4:46 am

    I have just tried some borneo and really love it.Unusual as I usually like deep,strong and bitter woods.I usually like Cambodian.,and Vietnamese and the lovely Japanese I find a little light and sweet for me.!
    I have now exhausted my entire knowledge on agarwood,however I was in the middle of having chemical anylisis from my biochemist to find what individual uses for brain function and psychology it might be used for.Unfortunately my biochemist I work with(I am a psychologist working in mental health)has had to return to Pakistan due to family problems there.Also,my last 2 articles were rejected due to lack of reference notes!Joseph cymrank

    • Gregg said,

      October 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

      If you haven’t tried it before, and I’m assuming you probably have, Yamadamatsu’s Shu-Ju Sumotara sticks are great for the bitter aroma of Sumontara, in fact, the only stick I’ve found that truly match the wood found in such a small area.

      • Mike said,

        October 15, 2015 at 1:23 pm

        Yeah that’s one of my all-time favorite incenses.

  3. October 15, 2015 at 4:28 am

    I was VERY tempted,but somehow something in me said no,don’t do it.
    I have always followed my innards as when they give me a yes or a no,as when I was young I was incredibly surprised that I was always right.So I continued to follow it on all my decisions,many which have been a yes to something that rationally almost impossible.And visa versa,I still don’t understand it,but choosing this feeling over rational facts has been central to any success in my life.Its a feeling in my stomachs area and apparently we have a second,more simple,brain there!!!Apparently a biological fact!!!
    Anyway,I hope no one is disappointed and all I’m sure will sort out.
    Thanks Mike and o.r.S.and Mr.de Lapp as if there is any problems I’m sure it is simply a natural mistake.
    I am very pleased that o.r.S.and Mike inform us of any possible opportunities,though it is,of course,our responsibility if we decide to buy or not.
    I bought some beautiful hand made incense that was communicated as just available by O.r.s.and I just got the last ones,so very lucky.
    Thank you Mike and o.r.S. for keeping us informed of possible rare incense advantages,but like all offers,we must all be responsible for our decision to purchase.

    • JKD said,

      October 15, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Hello Joseph – I added quite a bit of info in the comments below regarding the Kyara I am offering. If nothing else…good for a read🙂

  4. Chris said,

    October 14, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I don’t collect or really know anything about kyara. I just wanted to say how really wonderful it is that Mike opened up this discussion.

    I made a modesy purchase from JK not too long ago and was very happy with his knowledge, graciousness and product.

    The kind of civility and sharing happening in this thread is rare and heartening.

    • JKD said,

      October 15, 2015 at 8:24 am

      Thanks Chris🙂 Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed everything you’ve gotten through me so far.

      I work tirelessly to acquire top quality, genuine materials to work with and sell. I think anyone who has purchased through me would attest to the quality of the products – and I’m always happy to chat about the materials themselves – and work to educate people about the materials, their history, and various ways to use them. I work very hard to bring my clients up to speed🙂

      Thanks for the public vote of confidence!
      ~JKD

  5. Marian said,

    October 14, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Kyara and agarwood have different molecular structures.
    There are very few people I would trust to authenticate kyara, with or without documentation.

    Mike- thanks for your concern.

    • JKD said,

      October 15, 2015 at 8:28 am

      Hello Marian🙂

      Many thanks to your knowledge and effort you’ve put into your reviews. I’ve enjoyed all of them very much, and appreciate the work you do.

      I’ve gone back and browsed through a few of your reviews, but noticed you have not included any links to lab tests in the Kyara products you have reviewed. I am curious – could you provide us with some of the supporting lab documentation you have requested from the companies you have purchased from?

      Thanks again for all that you do!

      JKD

  6. JKD said,

    October 14, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    OK – so I’m going to post some info that I had sent to Mike on some of the behind the scenes cultural controversies existing around the complex issue of classifying Kyara. It’s a fun read, and lots of info here…so I apologize ahead of time on the short novel!

    For starters – the Japanese are not the only resources for raw materials. Very few incense materials actually originate in Japan, at all. Nearly all incense materials are imported from various places around the globe.

    Agarwoods, of course, come from somewhere else (in the case of Kyara, Vietnam). And in the case of various types of Kyara (and Soil Agarwood, since those are also worth mention) – they are still occasionally being dug up. Not usually on the surface – like in the olden days and discovered by farmers. Now, most pieces are being discovered by construction digging, as they will dig down up to 5 meters, where pieces are are often located from 1-5m in the ground.

    Wait…Kyara is dug up??

    We’ll get to more details on that soon.

    Not all Kyara is Soil – some is Water, and there are occasional non-Soil/non-Water pieces that are discovered – but they are predominantly buried in soil or water. (Bear with me…more details on what the heck I’m referring to).

    So JK…”What are you referring to about all this Soil and Water?”, you might ask. I’m glad you did.

    Soil Kyara

    Many don’t realize that most Kyara is discovered buried under ground.

    The pieces that I get are generally found between 3-5 meters – which means they are ooooold. They have usually been buried for between 1-3 Centuries, according to some of the soil analysis my supplier has done at the construction sites. This also means that the woods and dusts that I get are very, very rich – and a pinch goes a long way.

    Wait – construction sites? Yes – historically, Kyara was often discovered by farmers working their land. Most of those pieces closer to the surface have been exhausted. Now – the pieces found are usually found deeper, usually on construction sites as they dig down to lay the foundation of a new building.

    These kinds of pieces are referred to as Soil Agarwood – and the pieces with that special “Umami” quality are Soil Kyara. The specific soils that these pieces are discovered in impart a unique “Flavor” and olfactive properties to the woods. More on this soon…

    Grading

    The Japanese and the Taiwanese each grade their Kyara specimens slightly differently. The Taiwanese have Red, Yellow, and Black (Black being the rarest of the already rare three) – as well as “Blue” and “White”…which are believed to be entirely contrived and used as a marketing ploy. But the Taiwanese Red, Yellow, and Black are the real thing.

    The Japanese grade by Kyara (Green and Black – and often you’ll see Purple, as well as a few others) and Shin-Kyara. Many do not realize that both are often Soil Kyara, with Shin-Kyara having been buried for only a few decades, and Green Kyara sometimes being Soil, and sometimes Harvested (as most Japanese generally do not realize that Kyara is also a Soil Agarwood…). And occasional Kyara is found in a harvested tree – rather than having been buried in the soil.

    The Japanese have Shin, Green Oil, and Black Oil Kyara. Most of the other colorful names are usually Taiwanese marketing in origin (as mentioned two paragraphs up).

    The Black Oil Kyara of the Taiwanese and Japanese traditions are one and the same. The Red and Yellow (and Black) are preferred in the Taiwanese and Chinese Traditions – and the Green and Black are often used by the Japanese.

    All of the classifications are used in both traditions – but because they are normally classified by “Flavor” rather than Color – this is where some of the confusion originates. (By Flavor – I mean Sweet, Bitter, Salty, etc) You will find Chinese/Taiwanese refer to Red/Yellow/Black…but I have yet to find any Japanese that really understand what is being referred to when referring to them by color or Soil type.

    Japanese usually know “Kyara Green” and “Kyara Black” and “Shin-Kyara” – but because you are not usually speaking with the actual buyer/purveyer/importer of the wood – they usually do not know its exact origin story, even when speaking with one of the Japanese companies. Usually they will say their Koshi will know better…but guess how many companies hand you over to their Koshi to speak with…? Let alone find one that speaks English. I even have a Japanese girlfriend and even SHE has a difficult time translating some of this communication for me, as often there are not equivalent words to translate! haha

    I’ve actually spoken with a few Koshi – and as most of the wood is purchased through an Importer, even the Koshi often does not know the exact exact details – rather, they know how to identify by odor profile (as even Kyara can be difficult to identify visually) – and visual verification is NOT one of the qualifiers for genuine Kyara.

    I have a Koshi that I work with regularly – and “Soil”, “Buried”, or “Underground” are not the terms they use – so even if writing to one…your question will normally be lost in translation.

    OK…next post to follow soon.

    • JKD said,

      October 14, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      A word on Nomenclature…

      土is Soil

      Chen is 沉

      Chen Xiang – which is what the Chinese call Agarwood.
      In Japanese – Jinko (one of many terms used)

      written as 迦喃
      Which is Kyara, in Chinese

      So this would be written like:

      土沉 迦喃

      Which in Chinese, is a direct way of writing Kyara in direct translation – or essentially “Soil Agarwood Kyara”

      “Soil” is not the term the Japanese use.

      They have a term for “underground” woods – but this term is usually not applied to Agarwood.

      The Japanese seem to have extensive verbiage for how these materials take form….not unlike the Eskimo/Inuit peoples having 100+ words that differentiate Snow. As you can imagine…translating some of this can be quite tedious, and near impossible to impart meaning through translation to a non-related culture.

      In a way, I think it is simply a miscommunication. I simply haven’t figured out the exact thing that I need to say for it to click and each culture to say, “Aha! I know what you are referring to!”

      Speaking Agarwood can sometimes be like speaking French…if you have the hint of the accent…no communication is possible! haha (Asians usually aren’t as difficult as the French, but I digress…)

      Since the Japanese don’t call Kyara “Soiled” or “Buried” or “Underground”…I just haven’t figured out the right word yet. They know Kyara, obviously – but the other nomenclature existing around these materials in other languages…I haven’t quite figured out that piece of the puzzle yet – as communication and translation is usually a big hurdle. Language sometimes will get in the way of the simple experience.

      The Japanese would say that Jinko (Chen Xiang) is not related with soil. Jinko is the wood that is harvested from living trees. And the term Jinko – which actually is shorthand for Jin Sui Kohboku (Jinsui means “sinking in water”, and Kohboku means “fragrant wood”).

      Color

      Kyara (Eaglewood) is often classified by “color”. The Taiwanese do this by the color of the soil the woods were buried in. The Japanese often categorize by the actual odor profile. And both cultures categorize by “Flavor”. Spicy, Bitter and Cool, Sweet…these being examples. The Rikkoku refer some to this – and maybe I need to write an entire blog post just on THAT information, which many from non-Asian countries find to be quite confusing…idea for later🙂

      The Japanese would say there is no Red Kyara (this is more of a Taiwanese classification). And Yellow Kyara is sometimes in disagreement. Again…these are PHILOSOPHICAL differences. Judgments of opinion…not an exact science.

      • JKD said,

        October 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Origins of Kyara

        I have posited these questions to my Japanese Koshi, and he wonders if I mistake 上 for 土 on Kanji.

        **Koshi, by the way, simply means ‘Incense Master’ – or can refer to one making incense, or even a teacher.

        My Koshi says Jinko is classified by process…but he hasn’t specified which “process” he is referring to yet. And when he mentioned “process”…he said this in a way that didn’t refer to Soil.

        I think “process” refers more to “insect”, “ant”, fungus”, and so on. The process through which the wood resinates within the live tree, itself, prior to natural death and burial of the tree within the Soil or Water. (some trees fall into lakes or rivers and are then buried by silt…thus “Water Kyara”).

        I’ve also asked if “Soil” can be translated as “Bury” or “Buried”.

        In Japanese, there is Buried Cedar and Buried Camphor tree and Keyaki – with which are put 神代(Jindai) before the wood name. But this term is not used with Jinko (Agarwood/Chen Xiang).

        This term is also used for 神代 for lumber. But I don’t know if it applies for fragrant wood. The general census is that no, it does not.

        The Japanese have the term Kyara – but Red, Yellow, Black Soils are not necessarily the same as Kyara from a Japanese perspective (but then again – can be the same as…see some of the confusion??). The Japanese usually refer to Green, Black, Purple, etc – which have to do more with the SCENT profile than any visual indicator or color of the soil in which they are found.

        • JKD said,

          October 14, 2015 at 7:32 pm

          Regarding Soil Agarwood:

          The Soil dusts can be used in small doses to give their characteristic scents – not used pure (unless it is a Kukawari slice for Kodo), but rather, in small doses. This is often how the dust is used – in formulations.

          That’s why a little can go a long way…they are like Vinegar or Salt in cooking. For those who cook…you know exactly what I mean.

          The Japanese will use Kukawari (slices) for Kodo – which are usually cut from larger logs, of which large logs these days are quite rare, and usually sold for in the $$millions$$ when discovered.

          Dust

          “Dusts” are acquired through a few practices…

          There is dust from cutting wood. That dust is collected and reserved for use.

          There is also “breakaway dust” – ether from carving, or in the case of the materials I am offering at this time – from the cleaning of harvested pieces. The pieces will be cleaned, sometimes further carved a little to clean up the wood – and any loose pieces on the surface will be removed so as a solid piece remains (nobody wants flimsy chips at this price). And so the surfaces are cleaned up…hence the wonderful price on these breakaway dusts.

          Breakaway dusts are often just as high quality as the pieces from which they have broken away, and these dusts are often used as is, or for further compounding in incense. The larger pieces are often reserved for sale as a single piece – and are eventually ether cut rice grain sized pieces at a time, or if thick and solid enough – cut into Kukawari slices, rather than grinding them down for incense. They are reserved to be Listened to on their own – and it is the breakaway dust from the cleaning of fresh pieces or the collected dust from cutting that is used in incense.

          • JKD said,

            October 14, 2015 at 7:41 pm

            I have been very fortunate to experience many many top specimens of incense from many Japanese incense companies.

            The flavors of Soil are present in many of them. So they are indeed very well known in Japan, albeit not referred to as “Soil Agarwood” – this is a Taiwanese/Chinese nomenclature.

            I’ve even spoken with a few Vietnamese, and they don’t usually seem to know what I mean when I ask them about fossilized, soil, or underground Agarwood.

            And there is another term – Fossilized Agarwood. This is a term more often used with the Chinese.

            The problem here, now – is that we have 3 cultural classifications of Kyara – 3 Perspectives. The Japanese, The Taiwanese, and the Chinese (who usually follow the Taiwanese classification system).

            Part of what I’ve seen happen in the West (and the East) as all this philosophizing is happening over “what Kyara really is”, is that many here in this little niche incense community feel there is a need to have ownership over what Kyara is.

            What many of these people don’t realize is…THERE IS NO CONSENSUS. Oh my…!

            So What Makes Kyara, Kyara??

            The Chinese seem to classify Soil in two categories – lower quality Soil Agarwood, and high quality Soil Kyara – as the Taiwanese classify like this.

            Soil Kyara has Umami (Japanese terms creeping in there), as the Japanese would say – and there is a distinctive olfactory qualitative difference between the types – Soil, and Soil Kyara (again…using terms the Japanese would’t use). See how confusing this can get?

            In Taiwan, the local people classify Kynam as Black Kynam, Red Kynam, Yellow Kynam, Blue Kynam, White Kynam and so on. The Blue and White are generally accepted to be made up terms for marketing purposes, and do not actually reflect natural types…so we are left with Red, Yellow, and Black Kyara.

            “Sikuquanshu” (Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature, the largest collection of books in Chinese history) recorded that the agarwood that is produced in Champa (now southern Vietnam) is the best; the price is also the highest. Among the agarwood that is produced in other countries there is also Kynam, but the quality is not quite as fine as the one produced in Vietnam. (Most Kynam coming out of Borneo, btw) (Side note – I have several large Kynam pieces, as well – and they definitely have the Umami characteristics, as well as numbing properties in the mouth – another characteristic of Kyara/Kynam…this could be an entire article in and of itself, as well).

            The Japanese, however – recognize Vietnamese Kyara – but don’t seem to recognize Kynam as a type of “non-Vietnamese Kyara”. With that being said – what would be classified as Kynam is also used in the Japanese compendium, but is not referred to as Kyara – which is specifically of Vietnamese origin (usually from Southern or Central Vietnam). Incense folk seem to have no end in sight to the confusion through the centuries…

            • JKD said,

              October 14, 2015 at 7:50 pm

              Back to the theory behind how Kyara/Kynam are formed…

              In general, the more dense the agarwood, the more oil that is formed, and also the better the quality.

              Arabs tend to prefer resin. Japanese, on the other hand, tend to prefer oil. Case in point – the top Baieido sticks. Not very resinous – rather, very woody and subtle. Takes us back to what I said earlier about differing opinions about what makes “great” Agarwood. But I digress…

              The rarest and most elusive agarwood, namely Kyara, cannot be tested using the conventional methods of testing, in part because it is centuries in the making, and cannot be induced. The formation of Kyara is very rare and coincidental. The hollow space of Aquilaria Sinensis or Crassna tree becomes the nest of wild ants or bees. Formic acid (from ants) or honey (from bees) is absorbed by the fragrant glands of the living trees, and then combined with a special fungus, it gradually produces Kyara or Kynam (if Non-Vietnamese).

              And in the case of Vietnamese origin wood…often involves the process of burial in Soil. Borneo Kynam, on the other hand – is often harvested from trees rather than found buried.

              This process happens through continuous accumulation, resulted in part of the tree fractured from the roots or from the branches or the death of the entire tree – then buried in the soil via time or “acts of god” (earth quakes, land slides, etc). Fungus that has become a parasite and the oil constantly absorbing and synthesizing, after centuries and even millennia, until it was extracted by farmers, initially – and now usually from construction.

              Shin-Kyara has usually been buried only a few decades or is from younger infections before burial in soil. Soil Kyara and Kyara have often been buried for 1-3 centuries or more…as is the case with many of the specimens I cross paths with.

              I could write for ages and ages about these subjects – but I’ll leave it here.

              All of this comes back to – the Red and Yellow Kyara dusts that I had put up the offer for are genuine Kyara…and now you know a little bit more about the complex world that exists Behind the Kyara.

              Thanks for bearing with me!
              ~JK

  7. BringYourOwnBIOS said,

    October 14, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    It’s challenging, because there doesn’t seem to be a clear line where high quality, old, resinous agarwood become “kyara.” Now, JK appears to be an agarwood connoisseur, so he assumedly knows from different grades of agarwood.. He is also an all-around awesome artisan and purveyor of high quality olfactory goods. But still, doubt exists about the product here..

    Ultimately the scent profile is the key – I have some green kyara chips, and when heated or unheated, it smells just like my sticks of Shoyeido’s Sho Kaku – identical. The Sho Kaku has something extra in there also, but basically it’s the same scent as these kyara chips I have.. The Baiedo Kyara Kokoh stick I have smells like a different type of kyara – more “foresty” perhaps.. I prefer the Sho Kaku

    That being said, I have some New Guinea, Malaysian, and Borneo varieties of non-kyara agarwood that, in my opinion, are more interesting than the green kyara I have – I prefer them overall to the kyara – none has the particular decadent sweetness of the kyara, but they are amazing agarwoods..

    • Ammar M. Ali said,

      October 14, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      Unrelated, but where did you find your “New Guinea, Malaysian, and Borneo varieties of non-kyara agarwood”?

      • JKD said,

        October 14, 2015 at 7:59 pm

        You already have some en route to you, amigo😉

        • Ammar M. Ali said,

          October 14, 2015 at 8:19 pm

          Hahaha I’m so lost. I have no idea what any of those words even mean, just tryna get my hands on whatever I can. Can’t wait to learn more and more!

    • Mike said,

      October 14, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks BYOB, great input.

    • JKD said,

      October 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Appreciate the support there BYOB!

      You’re absolutely correct – there are varying degrees of quality, olfactory profiles, variations from region and country. It can be quite a drastic playing field of variables, and a long learning curve learning about them.

      You also touch on the fact that not all “awesomeness” is the same awesomeness to everyone. Different individuals have differing tastes. Even different cultures have different preferences. Arabs, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese all have (sometimes drastically) different preferences. High quality Arab wood is considered low quality Japanese wood. Does that mean the wood is “low quality”? Absolutely not! Simply useful for different things (in this case, fumigation vs Kodo. High quality fumigation wood is generally not suitable for Kodo). Different standards of quality – but by no means a monopoly on quality.

      I’ve written to Mike with some pretty extensive details (which may or may not be going up…depending on what Mike thinks). When you get really deep into the categorization and qualification of the particulars…it gets even more complicated. In part – due to some differences of opinion in classification and other details differing between cultures (namely Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese). Not to mention the sometimes clouded origins of the materials (of which also varying opinions exist between the cultures).

      The Japanese are obviously not the originators of these materials (Vietnam is, in this case)…so it IS possible to acquire materials outside of Japanese channels. Duh ;P And there is Kyara still being discovered, although much smaller quantities of it than in the past.

      To add to further confusion – there are usually various names from different traditions to nomenclate many of these differences…and sometimes they don’t add up one to one.

      Buying genuine Kyara in Japan will often be a little different than the material acquired through a Taiwanese or Chinese source…as a result of these differences of philosophy, grading, or opinion. But…this doesn’t disqualify them from all being Kyara. The Taiwanese may say one specimen is Kyara, while the Japanese disagree. And visa versa.

      I see this happen ALL THE TIME with my clients. In the Oud world, there are some general cultural differences. Japanese usually won’t reach for Borneo wood. Arabs think it’s the best. Japanese prefer Vietnamese…Arabs want Borneo or Cambodi. Chinese love peninsular Malaysian. These are generalities, of course – but good rules of thumb to illustrate how different people can look at the same things quite differently.

      OK…enough for one post. hehe

      Just got the thumbs up from Mike to post some more background info here…so more posts to follow🙂


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