In Japanese mythology, “karasu tengu” are powerful and vengeful spirits who live in the midst of deep forests, often taking the appearance of crows or of wandering priests. Those brave enough may call upon them through prayer and incense-burning if they are lost, confused, or helpless. Apoteker Tepe’s Karasu combines some of the most traditional raw materials in kōdō, the Japanese incense ritual, to create a fragrance that expresses the spare, transcendent asceticism of a prayer rendered in smoke, dissipating in midair.
As dry as sun bleached driftwood, Karasu is a stunningly minimalist fragrance. The faint scent of birch tar awakens, evoking visions of a thin pillar smoke, emanating from where the dunes meet the forest. Bittersweet and concentrated, yet carefully dispersed, birch tar is never tackily overpowering. The soft embrace of costus root surrounds us, it’s cool, earthy sweetness eliciting subterranean fantasies. Gaharu buaya is as multifaceted as its endlessly striated surface implies. Simultaneously smoky and ever so slightly funky (in a nod to the progenitor of indecipherable woodiness, oud), this zebra substance switches back and forth between solid and vapor, creating an amorphous magic in the core of Karasu. Siam wood, is definitively solid, one third of the dark, intricately patterned parquet that is the bedrock of this scent. Hinoki is a lighter, slightly refreshing wood that’s as solid as Siam, but flexible. Atlas cedar is sweetest, it’s smoldering, dulcet fragrance bridging the gap between Siam’s richness and Hinoki’s refreshment. Karasu is a miraculously simple scent, but one of infinite depth. Like peering through a smoky, earth toned kaleidoscope it resets our internal perspective and demonstrates that infinity is effortlessly witnessed.