The creation of fermented incense is a work of art. The fragrance of Eriyo’s signature incense is exquisite and everlasting.
Neri-koh, originally known as takimono in Japan, is a kneaded incense compound that contains fragrant incense woods, herbs, spices, and honey. Neri-koh is not supposed to be lit by a flame. Ideally it is better to be heated indirectly.
From the late eighth century, aristocrats gradually began enjoying the fragrance of neri-koh for scenting their rooms, garments, and even letters in Japan. The incense game, takimono-awase, also became popular among the aristocracy, and over time evolved into the practice of Japanese incense ceremony, Koh-do, officially established during the Muromachi period.
As stated in the Kunjuuruishou, one of the oldest books on incense in Japan, seasonal flowers and leaves were important themes in the creation of neri-koh, namely, plum blossom in spring, lotus flower in summer, chrysanthemum flower in fall, and fallen leaves in winter.
I started making neri-koh in 2004, using multiple species of flowers in the creative process. I now primarily focus on fragrant flowers such as plum blossom and lotus flower.
In my research to learn about the origins of neri-koh, I traveled to Grasse, France to visit the International Perfume Museum. I was able to see a permanent exhibition on the history of perfume and aromatics. There, it outlined the chronological path from Ancient Egypt to modern times. Although there was not any precise documentation on the connection of Japan to the Silk Road, specifically in the world of incense, I felt that clearly that there was a link. That is to say, the ancient Egyptian incense, kyphi is the original form of neri-koh.
I find myself continually intrigued by this olfactory gift from the Silk Road. After countless experiments, and incorporating the knowledge from my research, I have developed a formula using the highest quality agarwood, sandalwood, amber, benzoin, frankincense, and fresh flowers as ingredients into a unique blend of my original fermented neri-koh as a signature incense.
Frankincense is an important ingredient for making kyphi, a compound incense from ancient Egypt that was used for religious and medical purposes. The custom of making kyphi was then inherited by ancient Greeks and Romans.
I have been experimenting with making kyphi for almost 20 years. At some point, I began incorporating fresh flowers instead of only using dry materials. I also started adding vodka rather than red wine in order to preserve it from decay. Through countless experiments, I noticed that a particular fermentation and maturation occurred. As a result, the scent of the fermented kyphi became remarkably fresh and felt like it will live forever.
My approach to creating fermented kyphi utilizes my imagination and spontaneous inspiration. I imagine that in every civilization it was important to keep the formulae of holy incense used for sacred rituals top secret among kings and emperors. And I assume that it might be possible for them to use fresh flowers for fermentation in incense making.
Concerning the flowers for fermented kyphi, different kinds of them can be used: such as lotus, damask rose, plum blossom, Jasmin, plumeria, and so on. Among them, I believe that the fragrant lotus from Japan is definitely the most precious and holy flower on the planet.