It’s safe to say history won’t see another distillation like this. It hardly saw one at all. It’s also safe to say there’s no oud more precious than what you’ve got here.
To put things into perspective: We have more of our Vietnamese and Chinese ouds containing true kinam – generally considered the rarest type of oud oil – than this. And as you know, I’ve stopped selling those…
There’s a reason Brunei Kynam is, without exaggeration or hyperbole, “the most decadent, flamboyant, somewhat boozy, beautiful oil around. I almost, not quite, but almost feel guilty wearing it.”
I've been dazzled by the finest ouds, even proud to have distilled some of them, but Brunei Kynam goes beyond anything any distiller today can accomplish. Despite our best attempts to capture the highest grade agarwood in the highest definition possible, Brunei Kynam could only have been made from a specific black swan breed of agarwood. This:
Once we enter the realm of kyara, we enter a maze of hypotheses and contradictions. The highest grades are always soft and supple, the texture almost like cutting through very dark chocolate when you apply the scalpel.
'Seah' is hard and brittle resinous agarwood, sometimes as rigid as crystallized black tar. Very different textures. There are hard resinous logs of kyara, but the resin is never as crude. Hard kyaras get an extra qualifier before the name, falling under a class called ‘shin kyara’. Brunei Kynam is of this type.
The greatest impediment to applying the grading nomenclature like ‘kyen’ and ‘seah’ is that once something gets classified as ‘kyara’, the nomenclature goes out the window. In theory, and for educational purposes, the term does work. In practice, no one uses it.
Think of kyara as some form of ‘otherworldly-grade’ kyen, where the maturation has taken a path of insane ‘oilification’ of the wood fibers rather than the standard hard resinification that occurs with common agarwood.
But here comes the twist: the kyara harvest Brunei Kynam was distilled from… sinks.
Albeit kyara itself is often not sinking, it’s the sinking batches of kyara that fetch much higher prices than the non-sinking. When the wood gets sold, it sells according to the way it looks (resin content) and its ‘carvability’; not according to the way that it smells (‘monkoh’ value).
So, the replacement cost for sinking grade oils is much higher than the replacement cost for non-sinking grade oils; i.e. they cost a lot more to produce.
Secondly, while generally true, that is not an absolute rule... Kynam No 1, as an example, was distilled from wood with very high value for monkoh purposes; very little value for carving / selling as ‘good loooking’ wood in the wood market, and it was much more costly than many sinking grade oils (eg. Oud Ahmad, Sultani, Kannan Koh).
The best of both worlds is when you have wood that has very high monkoh value and is super resinated / sinking-grade at the same time. And that’s exactly what you have here.
Different triggers lead to different types of resin. It’s one thing if the tree is just eaten through by ants, as was the case with many fine trees we got back in the day from the legendary region of Nha Trang in Vietnam.
But interestingly, the Nha Trang agarwood was not all kyara. I met with a scientist who speculated you need a different type of trigger – a chemical rather than a physical one – in order to induce Kinam: Such as the sulfur contained in the bullets that were shot into practically every single tree standing in Vietnam during the Vietnam War....
We might then ask, what about Kinam that was formed centuries ago? – Perhaps the trees were drinking some crude oil of sorts via the roots, directly from the soil? There is tons of crude oil under the ground in Brunei, and this is the last Kinam spot on the map. If you've been blessed to handle and smell agarwood bangles made from Brunei Kynam, you know how AMAZING they are. Well, Brunei Kynam takes that scent and puts it in a V-vial for you.
Any traditional Kodo practitioner reading this would be frowning at this point. That’s okay. I should actually include some sort of disclaimer right about here that I do not subscribe to the Japanese school of Kinam exclusively myself, given the exposure I’ve had to the Chinese sifus – not to mention one of them being our chief distiller with whom we’ve been working since the birth of Oriscent. And I say as a way of responding to allegations made elsewhere that ‘Kyara’ and ‘Kinam’ are mere marketing terms.
The people we’ve studied and worked with live and breathe Kinam. They eat and drink it the way we do tea and coffee. They carve it. They heat it (all day long on the low heat electric heaters which never get unplugged, and anytime you want a fresh whiff you don’t need to put new kinam on the plate, you just draw the heater to your nose and inhale). They’ve even distilled it. I’m not kidding. So for someone who has never seen or smelled or handled kinam in their lives to say ‘That’s just marketing’ is just a tad uncouth.
If, for some, the scent of Vietnamese kyara is superior in the wood vs. the oil, the scent of Brunei kynam oil I would have to say is hands-down more beautiful than the scent of heated chips.
The only difference of course being that there are no oils in existence that were distilled from 100% Vietnamese kinam, whereas the Brunei variety being a more recent discovery it was possible to distill some oil from very high-quality batches that were available for a fairly ‘reasonable’ price several years ago....
Not just that, you’ve got the chance to smell oud distilled from the black granules from a 100% sinking-grade batch. The same granules that would otherwise have been used to craft the finest incense.
The wood (pictured above) currently sells for $300 a gram. The sinking-grade granules would sell for slightly less. Yet, even if they sell for a TENTH of the price, there’s no way to make Brunei Kynam again today. No way.
Another development of the Kinam culture is identifying the note of Kinam in oud oils, as you may be familiar with. This is where the game gets tricky.
To the Chinese, it is only natural that they seek to identify a note that is as prized as this in oils that they are going to put on their skin, and more often than not end up ingesting in the form of teas and medicinal remedies.
To us in the West, picking up the ‘kinam note’ in an oil was seen as just a very clever form of marketing, until recent times when there has been a more wider acceptance of it—acceptance which came after more people actually smelled the claims, rather than speculate about how it can or cannot be.
Scent descriptions of kinam are famously terse. ‘Bitter’ or ‘sweet’ or ‘sour’ are the best many Japanese and Chinese masters have come up with. And that’s not a diss—because to this day, kinam is not a scent that’s discussed but experienced. It’s not a song you need to explain, but simply be moved by; to feel.
In classical terms, compared to the red, medicinal hit of Vietnamese Kinam, on the kyara spectrum Brunei Kynam is not bitter, but sweet and floral. Powdery. Soft-spicy. More beautiful than grand.
The scent is the olfactory equivalent of, not a majestic symphony in full swing, but a maestoso solo in a theater with impeccable acoustics. The single-toned pollen powdery piercing quality that makes kinam kinam is what you smell upon first whiff… and it’s this same note you’ll smell three hours later. A scent to savor, not just wear, every minute it keeps exuding its kinamic vapor enhanced in oil form.
Of course, the litmus test for this claim is simple: heat a pellet of the very wood it was distilled from (available here).
I don’t have better oud to give you. I certainly won’t have anything better next year, or the year after that. Kinam + sinking-grade + our Taiwanese kyara king behind the brew = the very pinnacle of the oud experience. You can get different or varied, but not better.
If the wealthiest person who ever lived made it their life’s mission to capture the cleanest, pristine-est kinam scents on Earth, Brunei Kynam would stand next to the likes of Nha Trang LTD and Kyara LTD, pellets of each next to the bottle to let you smell that the mission was a mind-numbing success.
This is the sort of oil I will only wear if I'm able to really meditate on the scent – quite lavish and just sublimely beautiful – there are aspects that remind me of Purple Kinam, though Brunei Kynam is another level more extravagant, in my opinion. – Josh, USA
It is divinely gorgeous. Nirvana works. I'd probably add Nha Trang LTD and a couple others to that classification as well. But wow. Such a delightful and decadent elixir.
The thing with Brunei Kynam, to me, it feels like I'm a medieval king, draped in the most exquisite and plush silk, brought from the far east. Nothing else quite captures that.
The most decadent, flamboyant, somewhat boozy, beautiful oil around. I almost, not quite, but almost feel guilty wearing it. – Brian, USA
Brunei Kynam. This is one hard to describe. Nirvana is the closest word I can come up. I just can't describe this scent at all. Divinely gorgeous.
This oil is so divine, it is sacrilegious to not wear it from time to time. Definitely my most treasured oil. – Phil, USA