Friday, March 20, 2020


A reader contacted me a few weeks ago regarding two subjects that would bore the snot out of almost everyone else.

Quote: "One of your posts mentions the expense of aloeswood, you suggest something you alternatively call "snow pear and "winter pear". I have googled these terms because I want to add this wood type to my personal catalogue of traditional incense sources. As of yet, I still have no idea what species this is or how the material was used and this vexes me. I need the skinny. If you would be able to furnish me with more information regarding the identity and perhaps some lore surrounding winter/snow pear I would certainly be grateful."
"I have 2 balkan blends that I have been aging in huge 5 pound jars for almost 5 years. In several months I will be jarring all 10 pounds in smaller jars for long term storage.
Both blends follow the same formula:"

[Percentages edited out, because they're his personal blends, but the tobaccos are Latakia, Oriental ("Turkish"), Virginia flake, red Virginia ribbon, Maryland, and stoved Virginia]

"I'll send you 2 of the jars if you promise me that you will smoke them and give me an honest critique and the low down on this Chinese incense I know nothing about."

[sai ou taan heung & suet lei taan heung]
Western Australian Sandal Wood and Sydney Sandal Wood

The incense is probably made from Australian Sandalwood; the written Chinese characters for "snow pear" and "Sydney" are the same (雪梨).
The actual "snow pear" is Pyrus nivalis, which also cultivated in Japan and Taiwan. It's common name in English is 'yellow pear'. The plant is hardy, and can withstand colder temperatures, hence the name in Chinese 雪梨 ('suet lei'; "snow pear"). It is soothing to the throat.

Please note that in common usage on products, Chinese does not differentiate well between sandal wood (檀木 'taan muk'; sandal wood, several purple-red hardwoods) and aloes wood (沉香木 'cham heung muk'; "submerged fragrance wood", aquilaria wood). And further, there are very many trees that are commonly referred to as 'sandal wood', including 檀香('cham heung'; Santalum album), 青檀 ( 'ching taan'; "blue green sandal wood", Pteroceltis tatarinowii), 紫檀 ('ji taan'; "purple-red sandal wood", various Pterocarps). Most of them are simply called 檀 or 香檀.

From Wikipedia:
"Santalum spicatum, the Australian sandalwood, is a tree native to semiarid areas at the edge of Southwest Australia. It is traded as sandalwood, and its valuable oil has been used as an aromatic, a medicine, and a food source. S. spicatum is one of four high-value Santalum species occurring in Australia."
"the primary use when imported to China was the manufacture of incense."
End cite.

If you shop in Chinatown, the "snow pear incense" (雪梨香) you will likely find is 國天香廠雪梨香 ('kwok tin heung chong suet lei heung'; "heavenly kingdom incense manufacturers snow pear incense"). The stores attached to buddhist temples, such as the one around the corner from my house, often carry more elite wood incenses, but I haven't been there in several years because I prefer to avoid snooty white converts speaking Mandarin.
And I'm rather a frightful cynic.

Thank you for offering your tobacco, which sounds delightful, but at present I'm sitting on a stockpile that will last me for a very long time. Several hundred tins. Plus huge jars of my own blends. Perhaps if we ever meet in person, but under present circumstances any travel is out of the question.



PS. there is a stick of snow pear incense smouldering as we speak. The fragrance should hide the smell of the pipe I'm smoking while sheltering in place nicely. I'll ask my friends to burn some at my grave if I croak.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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