Mermade Magickal Arts / Kyphi 2014

In the late 90s, I bought my first Kyphi incense from Mermade Magickal Arts, after seeing the recipe for it in Scott Cunninghams’s book The Complete Book of Incenses, Oils and Brews. Kyphi recipes are probably the most elaborate incense recipes available. They usually include raisins, wine, honey and multiple resins and spices and the incense takes multiple steps to complete including some aging and maturing. The recipes come from old Egyptian payprus records and vary in ingredients and steps depending on the recipe.

When I bought my first Mermade kyphi, it was loose and stored in a wonderfully designed glass tube like all of the incenses of the time. It was rich, indulgent and quite arresting, but in a way it was a mere shadow of what Mermade are now doing 15-20 years later. In recent years, Mermade has been creating yearly vintages of this fantastic, legendary incense and the years of experimentation and collaboration (I believe Katlyn Breene and Nathaniel Musselman have both been involved with the evolution of this style over the years) are paying off more and more as each new vintage reaches the market. Kyphi 2014 is absolutely not to be missed if you’re even remotely interested in incense, it is one of the finest scents that has ever reached this nose. And it’s not a loose powder in a glass tube anymore, but small cakes that are sold in both .5 and 1 oz sizes.

This kyphi could almost be a polyincense in that over the period of heating it actually shifts and morphs as the more volatile elements release. The base scent is a fine wine-like, berry-prune-raisin mix that grounds a kaleidoscopic range of subscents and spice notes. While most previous kyphi mixes have evinced the qualities of fine woods, I’m not sure any of them have been as perfect as the woods note in this one which mixes in nicely with some leather and turpentine hints. As the incense heats, it changes and shift, alternatively fruity, creamy, rich, delicate, intense, teasing, fruity and spicy. The complexity of it would be bewildering in different hands but here there is no obfuscation at all in the delivery; at all times you can sense both the separation and mingling of the fine ingredients involved.

This is truly the work of people who are deeply passionate about fine incense, a work that shows a level of professionalism and commitment that could be unmatched in this country. And better yet, there should be a Deep Earth 2014 to be released soon that is something of an offshoot of the kyphi, an incense no less impressive and complex. To this day, I’d be hard pressed to even think of a Mermade incense that isn’t at the apex of its craft, so to see the company continue to raise the bar on fine incense is something to be celebrated.

Yamadamatsu Shoyo & Shigei

Yamadamatsu’s Shoyo is quite enlightening, hence the name as it is written here means “Shining Light”. This coil has a strong initial top note of both vanilla and a resinous labdanum scent, combined with at first a woody, salty aloes wood that eventually fades to a mid/base note of cedar. There’s not much else to say other than this is a wonderful scent well worth the price.

Shigei on the other hand is all about the wood. Unlike its predecessors, this coil forgoes any blend and instead contains a straight blend of Vietnamese aloes wood, with a top note of buttery, salty aloes wood to its scent. With a price of 10$ per coil, it is definitely a incense you will want to sit down with and study.

Yamadamatsu Gyoka

Yamadamatsu’s Gyoka blend is the lowest of the line of aloeswood coils currently available. It has a top note of strong, slightly sweet, spicy, peppery aloeswood, alongside a buttery mid note of medicinal herbs and a touch of lysimachiae herba. Overall it reminds me a lot of a Baiedo blend, but slightly sweeter. The fragrance of this blend has a bit of a learning curve to it, and after a bit of time spent with it, it begins to remind me of an old log cabin, with the rich turpentine and wood scents that one associates with such.

Yamadamatsu Fujitsubo

This will be the first of my reviews of several Yamadamatsu scents I recently picked up from the wonderful people over at Japan Incense. Fujitsubo means (in the way it is written here) jar of wisteria, and comes in two forms, stick and coil. I am basing this review off of my impressions of the coil variant as I write, and I am immediately confronted with a sticky sweet floral reminiscent of a strong perfume. I get top notes of vanilla and lavender, with mid notes of rose and a base note of talcum powder and a slight, slight hint of spice. There is not a strong learning curve to this mix, as all the scents are quite up front and easy to pull out. At the very lowest end of the Yamadamatsu coils, this incense should be a pleasing treat to anyone who loves strong, sweet in-your-face florals without breaking the bank.

Posting guidelines for incense companies and sellers

I’ve been noticing something of an uptick in posts by incense companies of late although you probably wouldn’t notice as I don’t tend to let most of these through. Olfactory Rescue Service is a site aimed to be a resource for the incense consumer and so I don’t think it’s a good idea to allow companies to spam the site with links. Most of the time this is really obvious, like when a company will post in a thread that’s over 3 or 4 years old and has had no comments on it in just as long. To me there’s no effort to be a part of the community here, which is one good way for me to be able to tell if there’s a balanced approach to being here.

So what’s the balanced approach? Well, I’m definitely far more inclined to let posts like this through when they’re being informative and specifically addressing a person’s question. But in allowing a post like this through, then I don’t expect the frequency of this to go up to where these comments are dominating the feed. It’s not OK, just because you carry a particular brand of incense, to spam your company link on that page. I don’t buy spam-generated stuff like “I love your website” and then a link to an incense company. You won’t see most of this stuff here because we won’t let it through.

On the other hand, I’d like to think I’m approachable and I do want to get the word out there about reputable and honest incense suppliers and companies. So if you are one of these companies and would like to touch base, my contact information is on the About page. This is a much more effective route to getting the word spread. On the other hand if your company is one of those that makes synthetic perfume on charcoal stick kind of stuff, then this site probably isn’t right for you either.

Also, to many of these companies, this is not an incense retail site except for an occasional boutique kind of thing from one of our staff. So inquiries into sales, will not be addressed or replied to, particularly because this should be very obvious from a cursory look at things here, it tells me you’re not really paying attention.

Anyway questions on this page are welcome here, with the caveat that some things just aren’t up for discussion and browbeating and bullying me or my staff over the rules isn’t something I’ll tolerate or even humor. Yes there are some incense companies that will occasionally post here and the reason they do is because they understand the balance here and what is trying to be achieved. We’d of course like that to be true for everybody.

A few incense notes

It has been a really long time since I posted anything, so I figured I’d drop in and say hello. Life has kinda moved me away from blogging and writing in the past year or two and although I’ve had some sample review inquiries, not much has shown up and with a few exceptions I haven’t had a chance to try a lot of new things, but I figured I’d do a ramble and see what I remember.

First of all, it’s difficult to write about good incenses at all without mentioning Mermade Magickal Arts. Among Katlyn Breene’s many talents, one in particular always stands out to me and that’s the way she can bring evergreens and forest scents out in her incenses, absolutely nobody does it better. As someone whose very first incense experiences as a teenager were pine incense sticks from Cost Plus incense, the scent of woods and fresh evergreen resins are always a huge draw for me, so to sample Mermade’s incense pastilles, especially right around the holidays, was a real treat.

These pastilles look like the little candies they were named after and it seems to me that all three have a wonderfully foresty and frankincense-heavy base that is slightly modified by the title scent. With the Labdanum Incense Pastilles, there are three frankincenses in the mix and a touch of benzoin to go along with the labdanum scent. Just like if you were to open a little tin of citrus pastille candies, the smell from these pastilles is full of the gorgeous lemon and orange hints you get from great frankincense, at time’s the scent is as strong as fruit juice. The Spruce Incense Pastilles are a similar scent but the effects here are less like candy or fruit juice, with the spruce moving the whole thing to a less sweeter place. I would have guessed that this would have been strongly evergreen but in the end it’s really a note, it drifts to being a bit more earthy as it melts on a heater. The Sweet Myrrh Incense Pastilles seem to have a stronger presence with the “title” note and is the most complex of the three. The myrrh, as it always does, balances and modifies the frankincense scents that also moves it away from the citrus notes. Myrrh has always struck me as being a bit “thicker” than frankincense and thus it works to excellent contrast here. As always with Mermade’s work there is a real clarity to the scents and subscents that portray years of experience in creating fine incense and it just always seems that new offerings from Mermade get better and better. I also tried a sample of Mermade’s Majoun Encens which just makes my ability to keep describing these new fantastic blends more and more difficult – I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like it on the market, a bewildering mix of a base kyphi incense with all sorts of new and mysterious ingredients that just pop with energy, like a mix of spices, cola, various food hints and something just a bit more subversive. It’s an absolute essential purchase in my opinion. And of course if you haven’t checked out Mermade’s heaters yet, you simply must.

I’ve revisited some Shroff incenses of late and I’ve found that the initial semi-dry masala series that came in the yellow boxes has slightly changed. I’ve heard reports of big changes with Jungle Prince. Pearl is definitely a lot coarser and less subtle than it used to be while essentially pitching the same aroma, and Little Woods has changed but fortunately is still excellent. However, the group that came with Sugandha Mantri seems to be holding strong, in fact this group is still one of my favorites. With Dhuni gone, many Shroff incenses are about the best on the market right now.

I tried several of the Nandita scents. These incenses are all essentially perfume based, but they’re all blends that don’t go instantly reminding you of other incenses. Mantra Meditation, Wood Spice, Dehn Al Oudh, and Royal Attar all show up as decent variations on a given thing, but many of these aren’t easy to describe due to the fairly complex oils at work. They’re all extremely affordable but I’d be hesitant to pick one or two of these as a favorite as they’re all pretty close.

Anyway that’s about it. Feel free to use the comments section and let us know what your current favorites are!

Okuno Seimeido Kunsui Ginsen [Reprint]

Howdy!
This will be my first review of the new year!
Today I will be reviewing Okuno Seimeido’s  Kunsui Ginsen, or  green incense – singing* selection. The stick is your standard brown and is listed as containing “aloeswood and Chinese medicinal herbs”. On first lighting, I smell a hit of salty aloeswood with a touch of pine, with a mid note of plum, and a touch of cassia, nutmeg and sweet spice in the background. Overall I would describe this stick as a mild, sweet, woody floral scent. It is definitely a pleasing aroma, If you are a fan of floral and spice I would definitely give this one a try.

*I think I translated this correct :/

Seikado Gokujo Kyara and Minorien Kyara Chogo No. 5 ( Five Notes)

Seikado Gokujo Kyara: There is a style of incense that, in the US, Sho-kaku has come to be the example that we all refer to. Probably because it got here first and is also one of the greats. There are, in reality, a number of other Japanese incense makers who produce similar scents that Kohshi has brought into the US by this point and Seikado’s Gokujo Kyara is certainly one of the best. It has all the wonderful musky notes dancing around the central deep wood/kyara somewhat vanilla scents that I have seen literally stop people in their tracks when first smelling it. There are none of the charcoal notes that some of these mixes have, which I find a little hard to deal with. I think this is a wonderful incense and worthy of anyone’s collection, plus it comes at a great price for what you are getting.

Minorien Kyara Chogo No. 5 ( Five Notes): Kyarazen sent me a stick of this to try some months ago; it was love at first scent! There are the “wet” notes Minorien is known for but they are much more restrained then in the Kyara Ryugen, there is also a much stronger or noticeable overall wood presence then the Ryugen. But what really sets it apart, at least for me, is a sort of honeyed scent that flows in and out of the overall mix. This is not dominating but rather adds to the refined nature of this incense. I think this is one of the best sticks on the market at any price point.

I am working on a Top 10-20 for sometime in December, stay tuned!

Melt Into “COMFORT”

Ross’ Comfort incense, a blend of North American and Asian pulverized barks, leaves, resins and seeds, serves up cozy memories of “Home Sweet Home”.  Maple syrup, root beer floats, caramel chewies, orange-laced chocolate and sweet anise’s confectionary notes precede distinctive whiffs of celery leaves and toasted walnuts, liberal pinches of ambergris and musk and generous helpings of gourmet agarwood and sandalwood powder for dessert!

When winter’s chill creeps beneath the sills I love to douse cushions of French toast with freshly-tapped maple syrup, stick my finger into mountains of vanilla frosting and chomp on wads of toffee gooey enough to glue my teeth together. Comfort indulges me in these olfactory pleasures without my having to worry about my dentist bill or the needle on the bathroom scale :)

If you would like Comfort to festoon your holiday season, please visit the “New and Featured Products list” on the  Mermade Magickal Arts website.

Happy Holidays!!!

Essence of the Ages (edited: site was down, now back up)

Beth asked me to pass on the note that there has been server problems with the Essence of the Ages website for a few days. She is still in business and hopes to have the site up as soon as possible. It’s a worldwide problem with a certain server so it’s out of her hands.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 375 other followers