07 March 2012

Flavour of the Week - Aloeswood

Often found in Japanese incense and Chinese medicine. Aloeswood is resin produced from the aquilaria tree which is native to India, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The tree produces snow white flowers that have a heavenly sweet scent. However the most valued product of the tree is not it's flower or bark it is infact it resin. The resin is produced in response to fungal or mold attacks to counteract the attack and protect the tree. The resin produced is extremely aromatic and it is this resinous wood that is valued so highly around the world. The resin is commonly referred to as Jinko, Aloeswood, Agarwood and Oud.

In recent years the resin has tried to be artificially induced by deliberately wounding the tree leaving it open to infection. This, however, produces something known as agar#2 which is notably less aromatic.

There are six kinds of Aloeswoods found and often used in Japanese incense. - Kyara, Manaban, Rakoku, Manaka, Sumotara Sasora

Kyara - This is the most famous and well known of all Aloes wood. Kyara has a particular odor described as: "A gentle and dignified smell with a touch of bitterness. The fragrance is like an aristocrat in its elegance and gracefulness." Kiyoko Morita notes in her published work, "The Book of Incense,"

Rakoku - 
A sharp and pungent smell similar to sandalwood. Its smell is generally bitter, and reminds one of a warrior.

Manaka - 
Smells light and enticing, changing like the mood of a woman with bitter feelings. The fragrance is of good quality if it disappears quickly.

Manaban - 
The smell is coarse and unrefined.

Sumotara - 
Sour at the beginning and end. Sometimes mistaken for Kyara.

Sasora - 
Cool and sour. Good-quality sasora is mistaken for kyara, especially at the beginning.

Though the oil and resin of Aloes Wood is very hard to come by , the incense is quite easily available with a bit of searching. Anybody who has experimented with smoking will know it can be a dynamic addition to any drink.

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