My real job workload has increased exponentially this year to the point where I haven’t been able to attend to any outstanding ORS reviews or even keep on social media, or do anything but recuperate on my down time in the last month. This looks to be true probably through June or July at least. I had meant to share my impressions on Mermade’s Sacred Grove, Pan’s Earth, Deep Earth Kyphi and Earth Angel. All I can say at this point is they are excellent as usual and I recommend grabbing them if they are in stock. Anyway for the time being if you would like me to review something first please check with me first by writing me at the About page. I’m glad to see Ross is around doing some new reviews while I’m gone! All the best to everyone and hope to be back after the insanity eases up.
The Yamadamatsu Shu-yu series has been around for some time but has never gotten much attention here. This is more in the realm of a heads up rather then full on review, there are no “lesser lights” in this line up. You might think of this set as a sort of “Laboratory Standard” in stick form as to what good wood based incense is supposed to smell like. To a large degree this smells like incense used to. The scents are the deep agarwood scent of high resin content that one might have found in a Rikkoku set from years ago. Each as a slightly different scent to it that is reminiscent of its name.
I think the current batch is pretty close in scent to the ones I have from five years ago but given that my older sticks were not keep air tight it gets hard to tell. It is, to my knowledge, the only series of its kind (at least on a major commercial level, Kyarazen’s single area sets are also along these lines).
Japanincense/Kohshi sells these at a remarkable price, one, which is pretty much at Japanese retail and makes these a great deal. The Yamadamatsu line is one of the very few that is sold in this country at these prices and this includes their other incenses as well as their pure wood pieces.
The Kyara sticks tend to go out of stock the fastest which is somewhat humorous to me as the others smell just as wonderful but of course we all get stuck on the Kyara hype.
I highly recommend these, the 15 stick sets in the presentation case are a work of art and very affordable, plus you get the case they come in. -Ross
I have gotten to sample both of these incenses recently; the Holy Lotus is available now at Kyarazen’s Etsy sit.
The listed ingredients are “Himalayan juniper, Mysore sandalwood, borneol, etc” and I am sure after about 10 sticks of each that there are quite a few other ingredients in both of them They are done in such a way that it becomes very hard to discern any individual notes. On occasion one can say “oh yes Juniper or Sandalwood” but it really seems to depend on the state of ones nose at that moment. Neither of these two are “florals” except in an allegorical sense. These are based on original, very old Chinese formulas when floral additives were not too common. These incenses are part of the Hall of the Peaceful Heart series, made by Dr Li Fupeng of Kyarazen Enterprises.
The Holy Lotus is a bit “sweeter” or rounded, while the Blue Lotus a touch dryer or perhaps astringent (but still very softly so). Both of these would lend themselves very well to meditation, as they are great for concentration and centering.
The scent does tell you that as in everything I have had the chance to use from Kyarazen the materials used are truly remarkable as is the amount of effort that goes into the production. His ingredients remind me a lot of the materials on Mandy Aftels perfume organ. Everything on it is sourced through much effort and sometimes years of tracking down, and then used in such a manner as to present a flawless work of scented art. This seems to be true for both of them.
On another note, if given the chance to get a hold of the Cyro Mysore sticks, don’t think, just go for it. There is nothing better in a Sandalwood, really, they are astounding. When I figure out where I managed to store a video clip of the grinding process I will post it. Don’t know of anyone else willing to use liquid nitrogen in order to not loose any of the sandalwood oils! -Ross
March 21, 2016 at 8:59 pm (Ross)
KyaraZen has decided to start selling more products on his Etsy page. It would also seem that things tend to move very fast on it so it is something you might want to check frequently. Right now there is Natural Borneol crystals for sale. There was also Sandalwood powder (heartwood) as well as aged Mandarin Peels but these sold out very fast. Good sight to keep an eye on as the materials he is selling are also what he uses in his own incenses. -Ross
So after making a recovery from about a three week fight with sinus infections and allergies I am about to put up some reviews.
Yamadamatsu’s Shu-ju line has expanded and it seemed like a good time to once again take a look at it. Also KyaraZen sent me two new creations done in a somewhat different style then what has come out so far, plus a number of agarwood blends. Last, but not least, I got a box with the entire incense line up from Nu Essence and will probably break this up into three reviews. Hope to get at least one of these out by the coming weekend. -Ross
I am selling an Baieido Rikkoku Set purchased in 2008 on EBay if anyone is interested.
Pretty sure the woods in this set are much better then what is available today. Pictures and weights are in the listing.
You can also contact me by email, address is under my bio.
February 29, 2016 at 8:38 am (Uncategorized)
Just a quick note to say any forthcoming reviews are delayed because I’m recovering from a flu and have lost most of my sense of smell in the last week and still have not recovered it.
David Oller, consultant to Esoterics LLC and long time Baieido Wholesale Representative in the United States, passed away this weekend after a long and courageous battle with liver disease.
David had a profound reverence for Buddhism. It inspired and guided his studies and devotional practices, and was intimately connected with his long-standing and ardent love of incense.
A small glimpse of David’s knowledge can be found on Alice’s Incense Blog, in articles posted on Esoteric’s website, and at japanese-incense. com (http://www.japanese-incense.com/contents.htm). For a long time this site was one of the only sources to offer historical, literary, and practical information about incense, and kodo in particular, to Western incense lovers. Information on the site has been copied again and again, rarely citing David as its source. His studiously-researched knowledge was extensive and I hope that someday David’s writings, and the source materials he collected, will be made public.
I will miss David’s enthusiasm and reverence for the art of Japanese incense, and I feel very fortunate that he went out of his way to share his knowledge and passion with those of us with common interests. A friend to whom I mentioned David’s death lit an incense stick “in remembrance and honor of him”. I am sure that would make David very happy, and I hope that others who read this memoriam will do the same.
Leslie from Leslie’s Incense Review has created a new incense forum. It looks like the old Incense Trader’s forum isn’t up anymore but there should be opportunities to chat and trade at the new forum. Do go over and sign up!
Ganesha Incense is a new company creating traditional Indian incense and based on my review package, ships from Thailand all over the world. Their incenses come in 100g containers, large tubes with easily removable lids that are really nice, you can actually set them on their base and they stay upright and are very easily accessible. There is no inner packaging (they’re essentially cardboard), so I’m not quite sure if the incense is protected over time, but based on what I sampled, I’m not sure it’s necessary as the lids fit snug and everything smelled nice and fresh.
It’s never stated on the packaging but I wouldn’t be surprised, based on some of the offered incenses and the base of the incenses if these were sourced in the Madhavdas family, the same venerable incense creators behind the Primo, Pure Incense and other lines. If not, there still seems to be a similar base at work, a mix of vanilla, sandalwood and charcoal. But like most of the incenses sourced through Madhavdas, Ganesha incenses do differ in overall scent and aren’t just the same incenses being sold under different names. As we have found out, this base can be solid for connoisseur and high quality incenses.
Based on the three incenses in the package, Ganesha seem like they’re off to a very good start. But first of all, a bit of a preamble as I haven’t reviewed a Nag Champa in a while and there is some history behind the style. Nag Champa incenses today are generally better than they were ten years ago, but if you go ten years earlier you go back to a time where they were much more impressive. One of the things I remember about the older Nag Champa is that the sticks were very gooey, it wasn’t uncommon to find smashed sticks where the consistency of the material was still quite wet. This has been attributed, sometimes from myself, to the use of halmaddi in the stick, a material that keeps an incense in a sort of state between wet and dry. However, I haven’t seen a single new Nag Champa incense since Olfactory Rescue Service has been active whose consistency matches the “historical” Nag Champa (not even Dhuni’s) and so I’ve come to the impression over the last few years that something in the mix has been lost since Satya Sai Baba changed hands and that it could be something more than just halmaddi. Halmaddi was (or may still be) on the CITES endangered species list and for a while it was very rare, and the Nag Champas during this period were very dry and mostly downright unpleasant. Fortunately incenses have been popping up since this dry period that clearly contain it and thus we’ve had a bit of a renaissance with the blend such as with the Mother’s wide range of champas. Halmaddi tends to give champas a uniquely balsamic middle which tends to balance nicely with the oils being used.
There is one important difference in the newer blends, however, and that is most of these are quite a bit skinnier than the “historical” champas and so the actual materials being used often don’t overpower the scent of the bamboo stick in the middle and this tends to cut through sometimes. I wanted to mention this as it’s not specific to Ganesha’s Nag Champa, all the new ones have it. But I also wanted to mention it because Ganesha’s version is very very good and I know the owner has made a strong effort to release a really authentic scent and even with the history given above, I’d easily think about this as the market’s go-to Nag Champa. It has a nice halmaddi base, a good balance between the sweet and dry and a touch of depth that all the good incenses in this style have. And unlike some other types of Nag Champa, I actually found myself enjoying this MORE with every stick, rather than less, which is not often the case. Overall I do wonder what a thicker stick with similar materials would be like, other than obviously more expensive. And I have been informed that as the company goes forward there will be more attempts at connoisseur level scents, which of course we look forward to with great anticipation.
Ganesha’s Jagannath is a Nag Champa variant and it’s a sweeter mix of spices and ingredients that is vaguely reminiscent of styles like Vanilla and Honey Dust as well as Maharaja, but unlike either lineage Jagannath is not a clone. This one has been exciting to try as where Nag Champa is an old familiar, Jagannath has just that right amount of newness to keep me pulling for it and learning more about the scent. Like the Nag Champa, there’s something stately and restrained about Jagannath, and my experience with it was that after a few sticks I started to notice a bit of depth to it, something that a lot of sweeter incenses can easily overwhelm. Ganesha’s incenses are true Indian style but don’t seem primed to overwhelm you with perfume like a lot of Indian incenses, their claim to natural scents really seems to bear out. Even last night I pulled out another stick and was even more impressed, like all good incenses you notice more with increased use and this one really does have a lot of subtlety to it.
Nag Champa and Jagannath are two of Ganesha’s Silver incenses so it’s perhaps impressive at this point to note that they also have a Gold line as well (4 different incenses so far). The Gold incense I was sent was the Agarwood. As noted before when reviewing Indian agarwoods, they are very different from the Japanese scents. And there aren’t really that many of them, only Pure Incense’s blends come to mind at the moment. But I am really impressed with this one, it has a really astounding depth to it and seems quite superb especially for its price range. Given how expensive Agarwood is, to keep it at the 100g/$19.99 price there has to be some clever trickery involved in the makeup, and I was quite impressed by not only some of the spicy oud-like characteristics here but the authentically woody scent that pops up, some of which I would expect to be from the sandalwood in the mix as well. The combination of the base and all of these elements adds up to a very complex incense with some of those dark fruity notes you find in some ouds. It’s also very different from any of the Pure Incense Agarwoods. Like the Nag Champa and Jagannath, the more I sample the Agarwood, the more I like it.
Overall I’d say Ganesha Incense is off to a very good start and I’m certainly looking forward to trying any of their other incenses in the future (these were only 3 types out of approximately 15-20). The scents, presentation and solid price range have obviously had a lot of thought put into them. I’m not sure if the company plans on releasing smaller packets in the future or samplers, which I would think would be key to success and longevity, but I can also imagine that most Indian incense fans sampling these would wish they had 100g if they didn’t. We have a new winner on the market here.