There are folks who have spent themselves understanding oud, experiencing oud. Oud experts who can sniff out the dust note from a mile away, instantly identify white wood notes, and point out the oleoresin from the auxiliary notes just like a sushi connoisseur can tell you the yellowtail is off or the tuna too tough. These are the people who get oud, go mad for oud, are infatuated and enthralled by its otherworldly scent. Chogoku Senkoh is for them.
When I gave a fellow distiller a swipe of this, the verdict was ‘this is clearly a $2,500 bottle of oud.’ I met up with a fellow connoisseur, gave him a swipe, then told him the price. He almost fell off his chair, and bought a bottle on the spot. And here I am, entertaining thoughts of bankruptcy and a follow-up distillation, just so we can get more of this this smell.
This oud has had me addicted and obsessed to the point of looking weird in public as I walk down the street smelling my wrist every other second. I crave a new swipe before the drydown ever hits the first, even though the drydown matches the opening notes. This is Oud is at its best; where the temperature, the timing, the scent progression, the wood, the distillation, the days and months that went into it… where everything has come together to make the perfect masterwork.
The scent is all zen. It’s unitone and lasts for hours. The smell of sinensis half-grown on Indian soil – that sinensis essence, not its distillation apparel… i.e. super slowly heated chips (listen closely!). Even if we made a hash of the distillation, the quality of the wood would have saved us. But the attention to detail, the obsession, the success of the method is obvious to any trained nose. From pre- to post-distillation parameters, it’s all got to be exact. To crush open its resinous kernel, to extract the subtlest chords that would otherwise vapor into non-existence and never be smelled. To avoid off notes, still notes, to mute all distracting accessory notes. The combination of the grades & age – the freshness or oldness of the harvest, consistent or fluctuating heat, low or high. Curing, for not too long nor too short. Every parameter flows like music and Chugoku Senkoh is the crescendo, bottled and yours to keep.
The most direct way to capture the scent of the resin, and the scent of the resin only, without the added fruity or floral tones (that result from the disitllation process, not the inherent integrity of the resin), is to use the best batches of agarwood. But…… that’s not always enough. The highest caliber sinking incense-grade distillation could be beautifully floral, yet lack the pristine resinous core exuded at the center of the scent. So, how do you do it?
Here’s where tech meets quality raw materials. Usually super low temperature (think 110 ºC VS 70 ºC…… I’m probably revealing too much now!). Usually, a particular set of condensers and avoiding certain kinds of water. The grade of the grind. And so on. Usually. But like an alchemist, the artist knows which combination works best, and which ones don’t work at all.
The point where high grade agarwood gets distilled right, only then do you get Chogoku Senkoh. That’s when you get the actual scent of gently heated (high-grade) agarwood chips and nothing besides. Because remember – and this is essential information – even the ‘incense’ note can be an auxiliary note! Especially in lower grade oils (that end up fooling people about their actual quality). Keep in mind that there’s a big difference between the scent of real high-grade resin and a nice woody note, which even a batch of white wood can give you.
Chugoku Senkoh is so out of this world because Chinese ouds get passed off as medicinal more than many other kinds. Behind the spice, especially in the drydown you often hear of the wonderful woody notes. So long as you treat them as woody, not incensy then all’s good. But Chugoku Senkogh isn’t woody. It’s full-on resin, from top to base. The absence of accessory notes (flowers, honey, fruits…) is deliciously evident in its unitone note of resinous vapor. This isn’t an oud where you point out the top from the heart, then wait for the base notes. It’s a pristinely uniform exhibition of the heart of Chinese sinensis.
This is PhD studies in oud. This scent will illuminate every other oud in your collection, teach you the difference between sweetness and sweet resinous-ness, between top & heart notes and core notes. But most of all, this is an oud to get lost in, get addicted to as I have hopelessly been for weeks now.
CS is a true gem that opened a new doors in my oud Wonderland. – Milan, Slovakia
Chugoku Senkoh is unique, masterful, and a must have in my collection.
Its opening buzzes along with a highly refined, white pepper note interlaced with a hint of red berry-tanginess that pokes through interminably.
It is gaseous (in a welcoming way), and very carnal.
It eventually settles into an exquisite Russian leather note, this being its backbone.
It lasts over 8 hours on my skin. – Luis, Canada
Received the package earlier today, thanks so much for the quick customer service. This Chugoku Senkoh is unbelievable by the way, had it on about 2 hrs now and can't wait to see what the drydown reveals. – Darrell, USA
I have to mention what Kruger said the other day, regarding a certain anonymous oud that he was constantly reapplying before a dry down could take place. The very same thing happened to me, and it is the first time it has happened. If this was the same nameless oil, I can see why. Normally, I'll have a single swipe and let it unfold; studying it along the way. This one in particular, I needed to experience the beginning again and again. I had 3 swipes within the first 8 minutes, what an opening! I have a limited vocabulary for anything other than Hindis, but this one opens with a sharp and fresh Sinensis profile...and some glorious sour red fruit. Minutes later I believe I'm smelling faint whiffs of the kind of topsoil that is used for Mitti; the smell of freshly rained upon earth...perhaps I'm having olfactory hallucination for peanuts too. The drydown includes a very peaceful, soft, non-barn hindi, with a very tiny bit of that Kaunnauj dust and glowing Sinensis sunset. This really is a complex puzzle. – Stefan, Canada
Well today is none other than the fabled Chugoku Senkoh.
Is it Chinese or is it Hindi? Yes and Yes!! The wood is A. Sinensis which grew in India. What struck me first is how gorgeous the oil is physically. Incredibly beautiful clear golden color. Scent wise, there are no real accessory notes here. It is oud, top to bottom. Medicinal, animalic, bittersweet. I can see how this one can be addictive. I just cannot stop sniffing my wrist. So I would characterize this oil as a super clean minimal 'barn' Hindi with some Chinese sweet bitterness.
… Chugoku Senkoh today. Non barn Hindi/Chinese combo is a just a beauty. I am slowly starting to realize that the oils which truly emphasize the scent of the resin as ones that I am really drawn to.
… Chugoku Senkoh this evening. The opening scent of this oil is a full orchestra symphony, despite the intended absence of accessory notes. The Chinese oud scent is so rich yet delicate. So addictive.
… The CS is just one oil that calls to me pretty much every day. – Phil, USA
Chugoku Senkoh was also a big surprise. It hits that Hindi raw wood note, but without any barn or leather. It truly smells like a fragrant piece of wood at room temperature. This is an indispensable oil for anyone's library. Swipe Assam Organic and/or Oud Zachariyya and let those develop for some time. Then swipe Chugoku Senkoh and I guarantee that anyone will have an 'a-ha' moment with respect to Hindi and what the core of that scent is. – Steve, USA
Holy smokes, this stuff is amazing. Sooooo beautiful.
The note that I imagine as "tiny, high-mountain bitter-sweet berries, grown of foliage barren branches", has become even more pronounced. It also has a slight taste of bitter violet on the tongue. I love violet confectionary, so maybe it's just a hopeful ghost note. The "Kannauj mitti/ soil" note I imagined has become slightly less nutty and a tad more bitter and fermented; and beautifully so, in my opinion.
What a fool I was not to acquire more. – Stefan, Canada
Very very quiet meditative and inward oil. In a good way. I love how even when I wear it on my mustache I have to still bring my lips closer to my nose to really get a good whiff. I would get teeny tiny clean barn notes in the Senkoh (surprised as I thought it would have zero) but so little that I can actually find this note as an added complexity and a nuance rather than something that takes over. 1 in 20 whiffs shows something Burma and something China/Hainan in it. But ever so gentle. 95% Hindi DNA to my nose and based on this first proper impression. – Rasoul, Canada
Regarding Chugoku Senkoh being quiet, I’ve had the opposite experience, in fact in a prior post I said it may be too strong (if ever an oil can be that). I’ve titrated the dosage down and it’s still very diffusive and projects like crazy. I’ve worn it the past few days with an equal sized swipe of Oud Yunus beside it and not only does it compete and hold its own, for the first ~3 hours it dominates. With what you see as clean barn notes, I see no fermentation smell but there is a quality that gives the oil a density and challenging yet totally agreeable element that you find similar in barny Hindi oils. – Lance, USA
For me, one of the most startlingly underrated ouds around; its strength and longevity are perfect for my tastes, but more than that is the sheer satisfaction of the aroma. That bittersweet intrinsic sinensis animalic – good Lord!
Rasoul, I would say it is primarily Sinensis only based on the fact that right at the bottom of that animalic note (so to speak) is a hint of baby corn, which for me is a hallmark of sinensis (and sometimes Vietnamese crassna), with the hay overtones providing the Assamese component. My first impression, however, was that it was primarily Assamese because of the golden hay and hint of rose (which I also got with the Assamugo). It also smells about three times its selling price. – Raaid, UK
Don’t know what to say. Is super subtle and sits very close to skin unlike Suriranka Senkoh that while ethereal and lithe is definitely loud and not coy. – Rasoul, Canada
Strength and sillage are both definitely above average for me, however, this is something I really appreciate – it’s not often you have a meditative oil which is also loud. It wraps me in a cloud of primordial zen, and as is the norm with the Senkohs one has the urge to wear it all the time and wear a lot of it.
The personality for me is firstly primordial (the intrinsic sinensis ‘twang’ which some people may call a non-barn barn – also corresponding to the depth of the scent), secondly it is stable (the overtones of hay, the golden colour of the scent) and thirdly serene, which is the raw baby corn note that has an element of petrichor also attached to it. – Raaid, UK