March 01, 2021

Listening to Kunjudo Karin Hien

With snow coming in waves every few days, a stubbornly persistent cold streak of sub-arctic weather has taken hold of winter. As much as the powdery snow gives the trees a beautiful frosted look, at times like this it is no wonder that a longing to see any early signs of spring develop. One such traditional sign of spring in Japan is the return of tsubame 燕 - the Japanese swallow. Thought to bring luck to the homes whose eves they roost under, swallows in flight are traditionally viewed to be the auspicious harbingers of spring. In Kunjudo's Karin Hien, who's namesake is swallows in flight, we are treated to a fragrance that hearkens to the auspicious sweet fragrance of spring the swallows announce.

Described as a combination of traditional and modern, Karin Hien blends a traditional recipe of select Aloeswood, Sandalwood, clove, and spices with the subtle modernity of alluring hints of French perfumery. Rich, indulgent, and seductively sweet, Kunjudo’s Karin Hien is a fragrance that soars gracefully like its namesake swallows in flight as they announce the return of spring.

Hien's perfume note is evident in the unlit stick, with its subtle hints of floral and powdery sweetness. But the stick is reserved, mysterious, and aloof. No clear dominant note presents itself, providing only hints at what might be hidden behind the veil of the unlit stick like the last snows of winter the first early flowers of spring poke through.

The burn starts with a mellow sandalwood note that is smooth and silky. A quiet and at times fruity sweet note then begins to present itself, followed by spicy tones driven by a semi-sweetness of clove, grows with the burn. These notes quickly rise to dominate any woody note remaining low in the base. There is a confectionery note to Hien, but more in line with the Japanese concept of confection - rich, warm, yet with a wholesome light honeyed sweetness that is enticing.

Over time, a tang develops to the sweetness, as the spices blend with the French perfume note, giving Hien a fruity feel reminiscent of grilled peaches moderated by a woody base  - a sort of fruity sweetness over a toasted wood. It is this fruity sweet note that is most noticeable rather than the wood base, although the latter is always there low in the background. Of the two woods in Hien's recipe, the Sandalwood note's silkiness seems to be more dominant than a faint Aloeswood sharpness in the mix, the former giving the fruity tones a soft creaminess and the latter lending sharpness to the spice tones.

Hien's after note is cheerful, friendly, and impressively long lasting. Immediately after the burn it returns to a powdery sweetness that has a slight toasted appeal like that of freshly roasted marshmallows. Over time a fruitiness returns, leaving a soft, sweet, and gentle after note. Then, given more time, a warm, sweet, Aloeswood note that is very appealing dominates and remains quietly even a day later.

Hien is a warm, sweet, sensual fragrance, with rich and often fruity tones that are a delight and an after note that is as impressively long lasting as its toasted sweet Aloeswood tones are enjoyable. Such a fragrance is indeed welcome during a winter cold snap as it reminds that just as the swallows will return to roost, so too will the warmth of spring.

Warm memories
Of sweet spring flowers
As winter winds bring snow.