How Hinoki, an Ancient Bathhouse Essential, Became Hip


Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time, you’ve probably caught a whiff of hinoki. A wood derived from cypress trees, Hinoki is known for its citrusy, slightly balsamic notes, and it’s long been a Japanese bathhouse fixture. More recently, though, the wood has made its way into everything from culty hand soaps to top-shelf eau de parfums, including Scent 01, an influential fragrance concocted by Comme des Garçons for Monocle magazine back in 2008.

Nearly two decades later, Scent 01 remains a widely-loved riff on the woody cologne genre, a formula Frederick Bouchardy, founder of fragrance design studio Joya, calls “the quiet major influence” behind his clients’s interest in hinoki. At Joya, where Bouchardy helps brands like D.S. & Durga develop new ideas and collaborates with everyone from A24 to The Grateful Dead, Scent 01 is a frequent reference point. Bouchardy has a nose for this sort of thing. “In a sense, we’re a trend forecaster because designers and artists come to us to ask us to trim their vision into a scent,” he says. And according to him, it makes sense that we’re seeing more and more new hinoki products hit shelves.

Genderless beauty brands like Koa and Non-Fiction emerged on the market around the pandemic, harnessing hinoki’s transportative, chill-inducing qualities and serving it up in body washes and creams. Japanese skin care brand Tatcha made its first foray into body products last year with a line of hinoki goods that lean into the forest-bathing vibe. In the fragrance space, hinoki has also wooed the Boy Smells crew and played muse to Douglas Little, the madcap perfumer behind Goop’s memed-to-oblivion vagina candle.

Bouchard sees the hinoki resurgence as a yearning for the comfort of natural greenery, also evoked by perennially popular fragrance notes like sandalwood, cedar, and palo santo. He describes hinoki as a slightly more mercurial wood—light and zesty at times, heavier-handed at others—that lends itself especially well to unisex fragrances. As a woodsy note with elements of fruit and herbs baked in, it’s a great transitional option to get you through the last stretch of winter, though it offers a trip to greener, calmer pastures year-round.

To help you find your bliss, we gathered eight of the vibiest hinoki-packed products immediately below.

All products featured on GQ are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


The OG Hinoki Fragrance: Comme des Garçons x Monocle Eau de Toilette

Comme des Garçons x Monocle

Scent 01 Hinoki Eau de Toilette

Monocle’s camphor-heavy, herbaceous take on hinoki has a dampness to it that many compare to a forest that’s been freshly drenched after a downpour. Wearing it is what we imagine re-discovering rain might feel like.

The Spicy, Seductive Scent: Boy Smells Hinoki Fantôme Parfum

Boy Smells

Hinoki Fantôme Fine Fragrance

Hinoki Fantôme, based on Boy Smells’s best-selling candle of the same name, tempers smoky, resinous woods with warm amber. It’s a sexier interpretation—hardened by black pepper, patchouli, tobacco, and leather—that might make you feel more like you’re hotboxing the scent than merely inhaling.

The Hardcore Woodsy Tribute: Heretic Dirty Hinoki Eau de Parfum

Heretic has made a name for itself putting provocative spins on familiar scents (Dirty Peach, Dirty Vanilla, Dirty Amber…you get the idea), with a dash of spice or musk here or there that lends a slight edge to the familiar. In its Dirty Hinoki scent, though, it takes things fairly literally, transporting you deep into the forest for some shinrin-yoku with a whole kindling stack of woods like cypress, balsam, pine, and cedar that are garnished with hints of thyme.

The Hinoki-Adjacent Flex: Aesop Hwyl Eau de Parfum

Not a pure hinoki expression, but similar, Hwyl is so popular among our staffers that it earned a spot amongst our GQ All-Stars last year, with cypress and vetiver notes that are equal parts smoky, woodsy, and spicy. Our deputy site editor calls it a greenhouse-y fragrance that’s “a great step up for any guy currently wearing a mass-market woody scent.”

The Nearly Ubiquitous Hand Soap: Le Labo Hinoki Soap

At the height of their popularity, you could hardly walk into a ritzy restaurant bathroom without encountering one of these hinoki hand soaps on the sink. So it’s only fitting that the brand behind Santal 33 had the chops to launch yet another wood into the stratosphere. Le Labo’s interpretation of hinoki (rendered alternately in hand cream, shower gel, and body cream form) smells a lot more bright and lemony than woody, with a satisfying freshness to it that you’ll want to linger on your hands long after you’ve ambled back to the table.

The Lemon-Curious Cream: Nonfiction For Rest Hand Cream

Nonfiction

For Rest Lip and Hand Care Duo

South-Korean brand Nonfiction makes dreamy genderless bodycare products and fragrances that allude to wellness rituals with names like “In the Shower,” “Gentle Night,” and “Simple Garden”. In its “For Rest” products, a little Japanese yuzu heightens the citrusy notes in it—like with this hinoki hand cream set that comes with a creamy lip butter for touch-ups.

The Winterized Body Oil: Wonder Valley Hinoki Oil

Wonder Valley’s hinoki body oil uses the brand’s signature herbaceous olive oil as a base and spikes it with Siberian fir for a winter-y twist. It also comes in body wash form, with a dense, syrupy texture that feels extra decadent for bathing.

The “Serenity Now” Bath and Body Duo: Koa Cleanser

Beauty brand Koa was started by a trio of gents from Hawaii—Hiro Shinn, Kapono Chung, and Ty McLaren—who wanted to share its culture with the world. Shinn and McLaren have Japanese roots, and fittingly, two of the brand’s bath and body products include hinoki as a nod to its bathhouse traditions. The body cleanser and cream also work in Hawaiian botanicals like hibiscus and ginger to upgrade your shower to a full-blown aromatherapy session.



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