I just wanted to quickly mention that Mermade Magickal Arts is, for a limited time, offering a newly updated Aromatic Vaporizer. I believe the initial count on these devices is 30 and dropping, so if it’s interest to you, you’ll want to act fast!
July 15, 2015 at 7:43 am (Mike)
July 13, 2015 at 8:32 am (Aloeswood, Ambergris, Bakhoor, Benzoin, Champa, Conch / Marine Snail / Operculum, Frankincense, Hougary/Premium, Mike, Musk, Myrrh, Rising Phoenix Perfumery, Rose, Sandalwood, United States)
I’ve been really looking forward to writing about Rising Phoenix since I started corresponding with JK DeLapp some months back. It may not be known to all readers but there’s really an amazing community of incense artisans in the United States now and often even when it looks like I’m posting about a new company with new incenses, I’m actually posting about veteran work in the field. We’re talking about high quality incenses on the level of Katlyn Breene and Ross Urrere but with a distinctly individual direction and focus that is expressly JK’s. Two of three of these incenses are intended to be in the middle-eastern Bakhoor style and yet while they carry forward the qualities of this style of incense, they avoid all of the trappings of the cheaper stuff and instead move closer to what might be considered mid to high end Japanese incense quality. The other incense, while not a bakhoor, has a similar level of quality. All three are fabulous incenses made with numerous high quality aromatic ingredients covering multiple levels of activity whether one heats or uses them in charcoal and those who have enjoyed the work of other artisans we have featured here should immediately line up at Rising Phoenix Perfumery’s Etsy store before the incenses are gone.
The first of these incenses is called Musk Rose Bakhoor. Like all three incenses, this one comes in a 3.5g sized glass jar wrapped in Japanese Washi paper. The incense is a fine earthy powder that is immediately redolent of the finer materials in incense. I remember a day when you couldn’t buy a good rose incense, but even fresh from the jar you know you’re onto a good thing here. The ingredient list is impressive with the wood base combining sandalwood and four different kinds and origins of aloeswood. On top of this blend we have a mix of Russian Centifolia Rose (an attar I assume), Champa and an all natural and extremely fine Hina Musk. You would think almost any one of these top ingredients could suffice for a great incense, but all three of them together make for an exceedingly complex and heavenly blend of scents that deliver an aromatic epiphany over and over again. These are the types of fine scents whose descriptions couldn’t possibly live up to the billing, the kind of subtlety lost in cheap floral incenses. There is one caveat here though, this is the kind of aloeswood heavy incense that the Golden Lotus incense most of us use from Mermade Magickal Arts isn’t quite hot enough for even at maximum and so in order to fully experience the whole scent, I had to experiment with the blend on charcoal as well (good news though, I believe there will be new methods of heating on the way in the near future from MMA that should allow the woods to come out more). It is truly hard to encapsulate how much goodness is going on with this blend. The rose hits you first as any good rose scent does, but the finer ones have personalities that transcend the usual experience of walking through a rose garden and this one is a scent you could just fall into. The champa will bring back memories from the years when champa-based incenses were at their best, I had multiple hits of deja-vu with every use of this incense, I’m not sure any other word could describe it better than awesome. One wonders just how much the champa and musk ingredients modify the overall scent as I also seem to pick up more of it a bit later in the heat when the sandalwood starts to come out. I’ve always found it interesting as well how Sandalwood can work so cleverly in an aloeswood heavy mix, although this may have been the way it works with a low heat. Needless to say there’s so much going on this incense that it will take many uses to really explore all the directions its going. It’s quite simply a masterpiece.
Rising Phoenix’s Resin Bakhoor is something of a high-end take on frankincense and myrrh resin mixes. I was charmed to learn that this incense actually started as an Abramelin incense because you can actually sense that this is the origin, particularly from the way aloeswood and frankincense are mixed. This has a similar type of base to the Musk Rose Bakhoor, although in this case even if the aloeswood mutes a bit at low heat it doesn’t affect the scent quite as much as the previous incense, simply because the resins here are really arresting. There’s a real melding of scents here to create something quite new and special, a real eye to how each ingredient modifies another. Frankincense and myrrh are kind of the peanut butter and chocolate of the incense world anyway, but I really like the way the limier aspects of the green frankincense meld with the good quality Ethiopian myrrh here, it’s as if they were one resin with multiple faces. Some of this is due to the benzoin and labdanum in the mix, both of which seem to intensify the overall fruitiness going on at the top. And what a fruitiness it is, not just the typical lemon or lime qualities you usually get with resin mixes, but a sense of age and subtlety as well, which is a nice trick that is enhanced when the method of burning or heating makes sure to bring out the deeper qualities of the aloeswood and sandalwood. It’s actually somewhat rare to see a resin blend formulated with such a wide array of fine materials and even rarer to find one where every ingredient counts in the mix.
Rising Phoenix also offer various types of aloeswood and sandalwood, and offer as an option with their Indian Sandalwood Powder, An Ambergris Souked Sandalwood Powder (scroll down). Those who have had the pleasure of trying Ross Urrere’s take on this theme will recognize the style, where the crystalline, high-end scent of fine, fresh sandalwood is modified by the salty and sublime scent of ambergris. However, Rising Phoenix’s version of this uses (Golden) Irish Ambergris, rather than the more common New Zealand sourced material, which makes me want to eventually compare the two. I find this style of incense to be simple in terms of getting a two-scent, highly clear aroma, which is a good thing as the materials being matched here contain enough complexity in their own right that they would be drowned out in a more complicated blend (ambergris in particular does not shout, it sings). And of course if you’re only familiar with sandalwood in stick incenses, then experiencing what fine powder is like is a must as its better qualities are always revealed in a heat. In fact I would even think this would work quite at well at lower temperatures as a little goes a long way.
It is good news to see these incenses on the market and better news to know that even more styles are planned! Those of us who await every new Mermade blend with that sense of pre-Christmas anticipation will likely start finding themselves doing the same thing with Rising Phoenix. But this company doesn’t just have us awaiting the next blend, it encourages people to learn about and create their own aromatic products. You can find informative videos at this link. To see more than the introductory video, all you have to do is sign up with your name and e-mail address. And with new methods of heating and burning on the way, there should be more informative videos to share with you all in the near future.
One of the things I’ve been noticing of late is that I can often have a Mermade incense in queue to review (the latest two are the fantastic Heart of the Sun and Honey (Amber Champa) incenses) and then they’re already gone by the time I make a move to writing about them. So it should be said that in general Mermade vintages are going out to higher demand, so it behooves oneself to move quick on these things, perhaps even quicker than waiting for our reviews as unfortunately we can’t get to everything in time as much as we’d like to. Olfactory Rescue Service is of course well pleased that more and more people are experiencing Mermade and Katlyn’s bountiful creations as I can’t imagine a time where we wouldn’t have good things to say about them. The latest creations could be gone by the time I get this posted and it would be a shame as both of these are comparatively unique to the roster and well worth checking out.
Another thing I’ve been noticing is how Mermade’s linking of myth and magick to the incenses give them a sort of power in their own right. Dionysos is one of these and the label immediately puts in mind the feral Greek wine God and his intoxicated entourage. When the first notes of the incense arise from the heater, the scent is grape, berry and wine all of some mysterious vintage. But woven through this central note is the wildness you’d associate with this God, an evergreen, balsamic and grassy mélange that speaks of remote pagan locations. Two of the incense’s notes are Greek Aleppo pine resin and Bay laurel leaves, both of which work with frankincense, myrrh and labdanum to give this scent a noticeably different feel to it. It’s a brave creation and has that touch of the weird to it that helps to get these images rolling.
Icaro moves across an ocean from frankincense and pine to copal blanco, elemi and Breu Claro, from European forests to the rainforests of Brazil. The comparison between these two incenses shows how different scents can be. It is something of a hot, dry incense especially in comparison to the liquid resin-like qualities of Dionysos but it’s also defined by an intense cactus-green scent that likely comes from the ground ayahuasca that is buried in the copal-heavy mix of ingredients. This combination speaks to the shamanic myths of the area and strangely enough I’m also reminded of how close to the word Icaro (defined at the Mermade link), the Greek figure Icaros sounds, and how both speak of long voyages and journeys. Once again, we’re seeing new directions being assayed by Mermade and this is a heady combination that has an impact similar to the Dream Snake of many years ago.
I was sent other current samples of Mermade works, including two variations of a stick version of Pan’s Earth, one an aloeswood version thereof. I had enough to know these were beautiful and heady blends that speak of how strong Mermade’s stick incense has been getting with new variations (and this goes for the Honey/Amber champa sticks to which I’m looking forward to more of after I rocketed through my tube of the amazing things). Mermade is also selling Styrax Benzoin, which comes looking like a fragile geode of dark crystals sparkling in part due to the added tincture/essential oils. This nurturing of the natural brings out a very gentle amber-benzoin scent on a heater, mild and unassuming and avoiding some of the harsher qualities of cheaper benzoin.
I also received a sample of small disc-like lozenges of Deep Earth, but when I opened the little package, I lost one of them as it shot out of the package into that same dimension lost socks go. The other landed on my heater where its familiar but variant scent reminded me of how much I love the lineage of this incense, I believe I still have samples going back at least five vintages.
In summary, it’s just always a joy to go through Katlyn’s latest work and share it, but don’t forget these incenses are getting more and more fleeting as people learn about this venerable company, so it doesn’t hurt to grab a vial or two right away. Also, next review I should have some incenses from a new entry into the nicely growing US field of incense artists, a “newer” company I have really been looking forward to talking about…
These are produced by Kunlha Incense, which is a small family business. They are made without any animal materials and also seem to be made of very high quality herbs and woods. They are also pretty much “non sweat sock” or “funk note” in style. At the same time they are very approachable to a pretty broad range of people if you don’t demand the above two stylistic elements. Other than Loong Po there do not appear to be any oils used. At this point I have re-ordered three times so I am pretty sure I like them :)
Jetsun Dolma (Green Box): I think this is modeled after Green Tara as it is listed as “curative and healing incense”. The scent is a bit heavier then any of the other sticks, which might be valerian or mugwart. It is also very relaxing (to me at least) and is great later in the evening. This one seems to be herb heavy with some wood notes in the background. I find it fairly pleasant but not something I would use just for the scent.
Lotus Pema (Yellow Box): This is the wood scent one hopes to find when trying out anything that says “cedar” or “juniper”. It is beautiful, subtle, and very clean with no off notes at all. Really a great stick of incense in the pure wood style. This has become my “go to” woods scent. Highly recommended and I have yet to find anything comparable to it.
Shing Tsa (Blue Box): The cinnamon, rhododendron, and juniper in this blend seem to inter weave themselves yet at the same time you can sense each separately, which is a pretty good trick in incense or perfume. It can be very entertaining to sense them as they play out in the room. Great for mornings and afternoons. Really a well-rounded incense, almost Japanese in style. Uplifting and not overdone.
Pangpoe (Red Box): This is along the lines a of a fairly traditional “red stick” Tibetan incense. Lots of herbs and some woods totally blended into an overall combined scent profile. Classic but at the same time maybe not as much a standout like the three above. IMO, as always.
Loong Pö (White Box): This one seems to be designed as something to use for post work chill out. It has a mellower background scent then the Pangpoe with the addition of a perfume note added into it. Since my box is at least two years old and the note is still there (somewhat reduced) I am assuming there are some synthetic aspects to the scent. Essential oils or Absolutes, especially any floral’s do not tend to last that long unless tightly sealed, which these were not. However it is an interesting scent, like a light floral mixed with (maybe) aldehydes, pretty classic in style and not overwhelming at all. A nice mix and a pretty good stick that should appeal to many people.
This is the first of about three different reviews I have put together, the other two will come out later this coming week.
Cyprian – Agar-Labdanum-Rose: This is an altogether wonderful blend that uses three of my favorite materials. As a mood setting or meditation blend it is perfect as it works for both moments of reflection as well as warmth. Best on an electric heater, it can last quite a while and has a long “hang time”.
Xochi – MesoAmerican Visionary Incense: Fresh, bright and alive is how I think of this one. The Copal’s and other resins mixed with the assortment of herbs and flowers is a great and lively scent on the heater that works really well at the end of the day. It does help one to relax and let go, which is not a bad thing at all. This has become one of my favorite scents and is quite different from what I normally go for. Nice for Spring and Summer times.
Luna – Lunar Resin with Jasmine: So, using real Jasmine in incense is really kind of an art form. It can be very difficult to get it to smell right, the blend of materials with it is all important as are the quality of the materials. This one has it all working together and is sublime. It is not overwhelming as many of the Indian or Japanese style Jasmine incenses can be, it just sort of takes a place in the room and lets life go on in a much more pleasant fashion. Highly recommended as a true floral incense. Best gently heated.
Naga’s Nest – A Himalayan Fantasy Incense: I really like the Rhododendron in this mix, it adds an honest water note that is very unusual and quite fascinating and rides over and through the different woods, herbs and frankincense notes. Something very different from Mermade that will appeal to a lot of people. On a hot day this might be just the thing to cool things down a bit.
May 27, 2015 at 7:52 am (Uncategorized)
On the heels of John’s Haiku contest, another one of our readers has stepped up with a plan to share some more incense. I now turn this over to Terra!
I’m Terra and I’ve been mostly stalking this site for years, and only recently started posting. I have accumulated a lot of incense over the years, and some of it really isn’t to my liking. I’m giving away several sets of incense to those who might enjoy them more than I do. It isn’t a contest of poetry or skill test, just a drawing. To enter, simply post a few sentences about why you like incense, your favorite kind (Japanese, Indian, Tibetan, Resin, not specific brands), and how you got into incense. If you are new to incense, simply tell me why you’ve become interested in it and what type seems the most interesting to you. US citizens only, too, I’m afraid. These sets are FREE and I don’t want to charge anyone, but if it were international, I would have to charge. This is my example:
“I love incense because it helps cleanse the house, relaxes me, scents my clothing, and helps me sleep. I also really enjoy the feeling people get when they enter my house and smell the incense for the first time. My favorite type of incense is resin, followed closely by Japanese. I like these types because you just seem to get more scent out of them, making them well worth the prices. I first discovered incense the way many people do: my pot smoking friends were using cheap Satya Nag Champa to cover the smell. I was more interested in the smell of the Champa than the pot and I looked into incense and started my journey with cheap Indian incenses, slowly graduating to Japanese, Tibetan, and finally to resins.”
It doesn’t have to be that long at all. That’s just an example. There are four sets of various incense types. So there will be four chosen, the first chosen getting their pick of the sets, second, third, and then fourth. If you don’t like the scents included in any of the sets, simply don’t enter. I don’t want people to be in my boat and have a stack of incense they can’t/won’t use.
Here are the sets. Keep in mind these are NOT full boxes unless otherwise marked. They are mostly full, however:
Mother’s Nag Champa Om (one stick missing)
Mother’s Nag Champa Ganesh (one stick missing)
Mother’s Nag Champa Buddha (unopened, still sealed)
Mother’s Nag Champa Moksha (one stick missing)
Fred Soll’s Frankincense and Sandalwood
Fred Soll’s Vanilla Classic
Entire set of Japanese Morning Star 50 stick boxes (holders included in most boxes)
200 box Amber Morning Star Sticks (full 200, but has been opened, holder still included)
Angelic Shoyeido Gift Set (still in gift box)
Satya Natural Nag Champa x2 (both boxes sealed and unopened, relatively new)
Satya Red Box Nag Champa
Satya Blue Box Nag Champa
Choice of 120 stick HEM incense pack (Amber Sandalwood, Hindu Spices, The Moon, Chandan)
20 box HEM Serenity
Traditional Mandala in bamboo tube (one stick missing)
Yog-Sadhana (missing one stick)
BOSEN Pythoncidere Coils (one coil half-burned, other than that missing nothing)
BOSEN Old Sandalwood (missing one stick)
BOSEN Zambhala Joss Stick (20 sticks, VERY long, no box since these are a gift from my 250 stick box set, will be carefully wrapped and packed)
If you need a stick holder or burner (will fit all sticks, except Tibetan), say so. I have a bottle of pink sparkling sand, a huge unopened bag of white sand, aluminum stick burner (very heavy and well made), various wooden burners with unique designs (if you want one with two holes, say so when you win), and a Tibetan burner (also holds thin Japanese sticks and Indian style sticks). Also have a gorgeous castle shaped cone-only burner and a (used) wine bottle incense burner (clip the stick in, and put it in the bottle, bottle collects ash and releases more smoke than normal holders, very pretty). Whichever set the winners choose, please choose an appropriate burner if you need one. If you do not need a burner, great, it’ll save me shipping costs. If you do need one, I’m happy to provide. This is an excellent chance for people to experience new types of incense or to start their own incense collection if they don’t have much so far.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want pictures of any burner or the sets being offered. The drawing will end July 3rd, giving me the holiday to prepare the sets for shipment. Hope people are interested in the free incense being offered here!
– TerraRenee, incense lover
April 29, 2015 at 11:35 am (Uncategorized)
There is now a new batch of Floral Hearted Nights, along with a very strong batch of Ambergris & Sandalwood plus Ocean of Night up at Mermade Magickal Arts.
The Floral Hearted Nights has been tweaked a bit to reflect the Spring season so it is slightly more floral but still with all the original components plus some “extras”. I recommend an electric heater for all my blends as you can get so much more from the incense this way. The Sandalwood & Ambergris is very strong, with what amounts too an over abundance of Antique Ambergris in both the tincture the Sandalwood is soaked in as well as the raw powder that is added at the end. Plus it has been aging for about six months.
I make my incenses because I can’t get them anywhere else, or no one else is crazy enough to make them :)
Gregg King’s Ali’s Rare Incense Powder is also in stock. This is at the very top of this style and honestly is made with ingredients that are generally not available on the market. It takes him quite awhile to produce each batch and they are loaded up with some quite valuable and, by now, unobtainable ingredients. He also has done lots of study and research on this one to get it right. Really a masterpiece of the art. It is a real treat and is something to get some extra of to stockpile (or horde).
Have some things coming in from Katlyn for reviews in a week or so. However I have had a chance to sample the Cyprian Agar/Rose blend. It is very beautiful and with three of my favorite materials. You cannot go wrong here.
April 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm (Uncategorized)
In another thread, one of our readers, JohnPawn, told us that he had some incense he’d like to give away and suggested a contest for the box. This incense is an ORS favorite and I’m always up for some fun so I was happy to indulge. Note that this contest, its winners and such, are all determined by John and his son, the judges, not by ORS, but I’m happy to make a place for it to happen. So here is the contest and rules…
How about a little contest?
I have a box of last year’s coveted Dzogchen Monastery Lotus Ground incense (minus a few sticks) that I would like to give away. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t move me. I would rather this rare incense find a home where it will be treasured. You can read about this wonderful prize here:
As you may know, a haiku is a traditional, three line, Japanese poem with 5, 7 and 5 syllables per line, respectively. Contestants are kindly asked to reply to this post with their own original, incense related haiku. The best one wins the prize.
Now you might say, “Hey JohnPawn, why are you offering a Tibetan prize for a Japanese poem?” There are two reasons for this. First, I don’t know of any short form Tibetan poetry and, second, I don’t have any Japanese incense that I want to give away. Sometimes we just have to live with life’s little ironies.
The judges will announce the winner approximately one month from today on May 16th, which coincidentally happens to be the 365th anniversary of the founding of the Dzogchen Monastery. Or maybe it isn’t. Either way, that is the day that the judges will reveal the winner based on their own arbitrary and undisclosed criteria. And, of course, the judges’ decision will be final. The judges will be myself and my youngest son. Even though my son is only 12 years old, he has a wicked nose and a keen ear for poetry…although I will admit that he has a tendency to favor art of the scatological nature. We’re working on that.
The only other caveat for the winner is that they must have a U.S. address. Obviously, this is due to shipping costs. Mike made the suggestion that I could request a non-U.S. winner to pay for the additional shipping charge. However, I would prefer not to have money involved. I know that this will exclude many readers from the prize, but hopefully our international friends will understand and still want to participate.
All entries must be submitted as replies to this post and be time stamped as of May 14th, 2015. It would also be appreciated if you also stated if you were a U.S. or non-U.S. resident.
To get you in the mood, here are two haiku that I whipped up this morning…
Smoke soars thick and sweet
Was wonderful but now gone
So too was our love
New to Tibetan
With one wiff the woman asks,
Who sent the poo scent?
Here’s hoping people will participate!
-JohnPawn, Co-Protector of the DSS
April 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm (Uncategorized)
I’ve been hoping that I wouldn’t have to address this issue, but I have had multiple personal e-mails and posts about long and extreme delays (4-6 weeks) ordering from Essence of the Ages in the last couple of months, perhaps longer. First let me address this. While Beth’s page re: Olfactory Rescue Service on the Essence of the Ages site has been invaluable to giving this incense site greater visibility, and I would assume that the reviews here have also directed traffic her way, Olfactory Rescue Service is not a wing of the company, it is completely independent from Essence of the Ages and will remain so, otherwise it could not function with any semblance of objectivity. On the other hand, because of the symbiosis between the two sites, I consider Beth a friend and for a very long time I have been able to recommend her business wholeheartedly.
And so I am caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, my empathy goes out to her for what has been a very difficult time. On the other, the reports of late packages continue to proliferate. Some of these reports are polite and well measured and most of these you don’t see because they are going straight to me. Those that are angry have come here and yes I do allow these posts to come through, we would not be objective if we hid those, as incense lovers you have the right to know if there are problems and I would think that the fact you can read these reports here shows that we are doing our best to be transparent.
However, if there is any middle ground at all here, it’s that in several of these cases, writing her directly about the problem seems to have cleared some concerns up. This is recommended BEFORE posting on this site. One thing we do understand is that there are often two sides of a story. Now when I say this, I’m not talking about the long delays. I understand why they are aggravating people, quite frankly I’ve heard enough reports of delays to be hesitant ordering myself until things clear up. I’m talking about the details. Beth has the ability to answer these reports, it’s something I would allow any vendor who would like to tell their side of the story; however, I won’t let these exchanges turn angry.
Second, from here on out, I will not be answering e-mails about Essence of the Ages anymore, I am not on the payroll. If I wrote back. I would just be saying what I said above. Write her or call her. I can’t tell you why there are delays other than for the reasons we know already. I do know some details but also understand that these aren’t likely to mollify anyone who has shelled out cash with nothing to show for it (yet) even if privacy didn’t prevent me from sharing them. And yes, if Beth chooses to add to this further here, I’m OK with it.
Sea of Clouds
The unlit sticks of Sea of Clouds smell dry, bitter and woody with a hint of borneol that adds its customary energetic uplift. I think I smell a sprinkle of dry white pepper and a hefty amount of sandalwood. The burning stick initially smells vanillic sweet. Then creamy sandalwood waltzes in, smooth and wavy and very light on its feet, smelling of mellow woods and coconut. It’s so strange that I can’t smell the camphor at all. I imagine it’s the invisible charioteer, content to drive the gently drifting and weightless wood skyward without contributing a scent of its own.
When I smell sweet agarwood incense I’m always charmed and feel as though I’ve rediscovered something very wonderful, however the bitter sticks are the ones I come back to again and again and again. Sea of Cloud’s bitterness is tempered by age-earned ease and gossamer grace, a welcome, unburdened bitterness that makes me feel determined and secure as I enjoy it’s meditative flight.
Sea of Clouds is an agarwood kiss, a breath of wood spirit, a floating puff of sylvan stillness. It takes me away, not on a wild adventure or a child’s fanciful daydream, but on an intent, silent pilgrimage made in earnest joy.
Song of Rain
As soon as I removed Song of Rain from its plastic sleeve I was really surprised! I wasn’t expecting to smell such strong, thick, sweet spiciness! The unlit sticks smell very ambery- lots of caramel (is that benzoin?) – accompanied by cumin, turmeric and cassia. A bittersweet chocolate makes me wonder if patchouli is the source of the herbal element. Before it’s lit, Song of Rain reminds me of a gourmand-smelling zukoh, but while it’s burning the sweet and spicy notes recede and woody and subtly animalic notes become much more prominent.
This is not the song of a suburban Spring shower. I smell the rainforest after a stampeding downpour, the sweet loaminess of sodden earth, the sour bitterness of fungus-laden bark and the damp thickness of heavy air. It’s easy to imagine green crested lizards scurrying beneath sinking rocks, birds of paradise seeking shelter under the spreading canopy and the drenched gray coats of squirrel monkeys glistening silver with sun-warmed droplets. While many amber incenses are way too sweet for my personal taste, Song of Rain balances sweet spiciness with herbal, earthy and plum skin agarwood notes. It’s a rain I’d happily sing in and a song I’d happily sing!