This Kathmandu, Nepal incense company is really starting to become a favorite. Last night I got home and not long after I was really tired, so crashed out for a little while, which threw my schedule off pretty badly. Anyway, later when trying to sleep for the night, I was burning the Ganden (third down), one of the line that I wasn’t quite as impressed with and it absolutely fit the mood, almost perfectly. As the description states, there’s a sage-like quality to this, but it’s not as overwhelming as regular sage can be and was quite balanced. Found it totally relaxing, even burned a second stick, which means I’m going to need more than the little gift pack sample. I think the only one in the line I’m not fond of is the Lhasa. Anyway, for all the talk of wonderful Indian and Japanese incense, I find myself, lately, burning more and more of the Tibetan. Cheers to the Medicine Buddha.
Some bullet thoughts with no links. Most of these I’ve discussed in other posts, the others I’m just going to leave off because it’s Monday morning.
- I’m finding the Dhoop Factory line of Tibetan incenses to be great and my favorites in the line keep shifting. Right now the tops is probably Agar 31. I keep thinking of some old coot saying “Sourwood” when I burn this because it just has a sort of sour or bitter note to the wood and I love it. However, some of the lines do resemble each other, almost too closely, for instance Agar 31 is very much like Medicine Buddha, except not as thick a stick. Sauna Sticks and Alpine are so close, I couldn’t tell one from the other, even though the former supposedly has Eucalyptus while Sauna Sticks don’t. So I think of those two as the high-altitude campfire dhoops and the others as “sourwood.”
- I bought a gift pack of Green Tara Tibetan incense, while not realizing Essence of the Ages has it on sale on the home page at the bottom. I haven’t really sat with them enough to tell one from the other yet, but of the five blends, I liked the Green Tara and the Kalachakra the best and there are some “sourwood” qualities with some of these lines as well.
- The Scented Mountain Aloeswood Grade 1 seems to vary a little from stick to stick. I do notice almost all incense can vary a little depending on the “aural acoustics” of a room, depending on how much ventilation, space of room etc. It’s kind of like tasting wine or scotch in that the temperature of the liquid and shape of the glass all affect the aroma and taste. But with the Grade 1 incense, I’ve had sticks that resemble kyara and then one over the weekend with an off bitter note. I kind of like that, though, that it’s such quality wood that each new stick varies a little. Kind of curious about the Grade 2 now.
- Red Crystal Tibetan Incense strikes me as kind of nasty now. I remember burning a stick and thinking it smelled like fresh sandalwood, but now I’m noticing tobacco/sage notes and an almost formaldehyde-like tinge and given the size of the stick, it’s a long time to have to endure that. I’ve now created a box where I’m moving poor incense like this to it.
- I’m finding the Nippon Kodo Fragrance Memories line to be the type that is more impressive at first due to the unique aromas, but over about five or six sticks, the novelty wears off a little and very few of them are making me think “long term favorites.” For instance, the Paris Cafe blend blew me away first stick, now it mostly gets on my nerves.
- I think I missed one Ramakrishnanda incense that was really nice, the Vrinda Devi, which I believe was their Nag Champa Supreme and lived up to it with a much denser aroma with a lot of oil. Very nice.
- Unlike all other companies except for the possibility of Baieido, Shoyeido’s incense reveals itself more and more as you experience it, showing just how incredible and multi-faceted their blends are. I’d probably never have noticed this with the Premium or Horin collections where you get to sample one stick an aroma, it’s only after about 3 or 4 sticks per scent that one starts to really get the impression how well-balanced both these lines are. Usually after four sticks, I’ve come close to really getting a grip on a scent, but with some of the Shoyeido premium line, it’s like refracting light through a prism and you sit there and realize how complex the scent is, as if every spice has been carefully calculated.
The first note of interest is my recent restocking of Satya’s Ajaro blend. It’s moments like this that I wish I had a digital camera (well other than on the cell phone) to take a picture of the Ajaro stick in my current box compared to the ones in the new batches I received. The former is dark without any powder and a white stick, the latter very powdery with an orange stick. Even the scent is slightly different. The former came from the 10g package, the latter from a 15g package that looks a bit older. Right now I feel a tad disappointed as it seems the new one doesn’t have the deep resinous tone that made me restock it in the first place, but I need to burn more to be sure. But it goes to show you that Satya can be very inconsistent even under one brand. I’ve seen an even more egregious example of this with their Beauty line, where I’ve encountered two totally different incenses. Fortunately experience shows, something you loved and lost usually shows up again under a different name.
Got in a few aloeswood blends. The first and the best of these is my first Kyukyodo incense, a 50 stick sample of their Shuin (5th item down the page) stick. A very aromatic stick even without burning it, this aloeswood blend has hints of cherry and rhubarb in it and is quite delightful even if it doesn’t have the depth of some of the more high enders.
Two lower grade aloeswood incenses from Nippon Kodo also came. The cheaper of the two, Kangetsu (second item), seems like it’s a slightly more deluxe version of their Mainichi-Koh Kyara Deluxe stick, which is about as bottom line an aloeswood incense as you’d imagine, if kyara is in it, it’s probably a microscopic amount. These two sticks are kind of interesting in that on one hand they’re not bad at all, but on the other they strike me as being a bit cheap. The grade up, Zuiun (fourth item), is a bit better, drier and without a heck of a lot of presence. Both are very affordable, with full bundles around $5-6. Neither are very exciting, although the Zuiun strikes me that it might be a part-time standard if I end up liking it more.
The other aloeswood blend was Baieido’s Tokusen Kobunboku (second item) and to be honest it’s more a sandalwood stick with a little aloeswood. But it has a rather lovely depth and complexity to it with all sorts of subscents wafting off the smoke. A very nice and also rather affordable incense.
I’m finding Nippon Kodo’s Kayuragi line to be rather good overall, and just received a box in of their Osmanthus line (towards bottom of page), one recommended to me via a local store. This is a very nice and friendly floral/fruity incense, honeysuckle-like in ways and perfect for contrasting with denser sticks. It definitely seems to be one of the best in the line so far and I can’t think of too many other sticks with the same qualities.
And onto the Cafe Time cones (all at top of page). I was pretty impressed with the Cassia and Mocha cones, so some of these others were a bit disappointing. Cafe Time cones are rather expensive in the first place at $5-7 for 10 cones (2 different kinds, 5 each) and only a few are up to that price. The first I ordered as Cherry and Green Tea, although it came as Sakura and Green Tea. I’d have thought it was the translation, but the cone struck me as being too floral and a bit on the synthetic-seeming side, like running across some standard cone kit in an incense store. The Green Tea on the other hand, was very powerful with extremely intense and strong tea oil, in fact it reminded me so much of Salvia Divinorum it started tripping me out a bit. In fact I used the same burner for later cones and most of them ended still dissipating the green tea oil that had leaked onto the burner. It has some similarities with the Yume no Yume Bamboo Leaf, but with a much more authentically green tea aroma.
I was pretty intrigued by the Lotus and Wine cones and I was about to start griping about the Lotus when the cone started releasing some of its complexity. IIRC you can’t really extract Lotus essential oil (or it’s too expensive, I forget) so Lotus bouquet’s tend to vary from incense to incense. This one was quite nice, with that bit of sweltering floral hint the best ones have. The Wine cone on the other hand, well I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea, but at least one whiff made me think of long night drinking sessions and that’s not particularly good. It’s another one made from a bouquet of various incense-friendly scents, I thought I detected berry and cinnamon among others. Overall, I didn’t find it particularly interesting or pleasant.
Both the Lime and Mint Tea cones didn’t do much for me. Lime is actually quite similar to the Fragrance Memories blend Tequila Sunrise and I wouldn’t be surpised at all if there’s a little aloe and bergamot in this one too. The Mint Tea, well I may have kind of spaced my concentration on this one doing something else, but it barely struck me as minty and didn’t have the powerful tea oil of the Green Tea.
Now onto the worst incense in recent memory. As I’ve been lauding, Ramakrishnanda make fine durbar blends, some of the best, but the two charcoal based lines aren’t anywhere close. Matsya stinks like hell, in fact just to burn off one stick in full (yeah I should probably have tossed it and its partner, but I’d rather pass them on than do that) took me three to four tries. Incredibly smoky, it just goes to show that charcoal based florals tend to be very overwhelmed by their base and this was basically air pollution. Quite a shame as the rest of the Varaha sampler is brilliant.
Jaganatha struck me as a very nice floral champa style, reminiscent of something I can’t quite place now, a little on the fruity side.
Govinda, a blend of Sandalwood, Sage and Lavender, struck me as being not too far off from the Mayapur Nag Champa I mentioned earlier.
Wow, this is one mighty fine line. I may have mentioned before but there are definitely similarities between incenses in various companies and lines and so there have been times where I’ve completely lost track of an old favorite only for it to show up again in a new stick and package. And fortunately that just happened again.
And that would be the Gopala, a special floral blend. To back up a bit, one of the more well known Indian imports is a gold on red packaged incense called Sai Flora, which is probably about the thickest durbar out there. I mentioned it earlier, I think, Mystic Temple call their similar blend Golden Champa and it’s a very heady, earthy stick. Anyway there’s a smaller company called Shantimalai that, at least used to do their own Sai Flora and it was this incense I used to adore. Like Sai Flora but not as earthy and more fruity and sweet, just a flat out classic that would be on my top 10 had I had a stick in years. But in a way, now I do. The Gopala isn’t as big or thick as a stick as any of the previously mentioned but as a bouquet it is very close to what I remember as the Shanthi Sai Flora, and the fact that it’s a regular stick is probably not a bad thing. It may be that my packages are just super fresh or maybe the whole line is this perfectly scented, but this incense is basically superb and highly recommended.
Backing up a bit, I did finish off the Yamuna stick that I spoke about yesterday. As much as I liked the idea of a vanilla, amber and copal blend, the charcoal-like stick that holds the Yamuna manage to only portray the vanilla part and given how fresh everything else is, it’s hard to imagine that the amber had already gone. Unfortunatlely it just reminds me of a Primo floral like jasmine or yellow rose. Since the samplers come with two sticks each, I’ve got one more but I doubt I’ll like it anymore than I do now.
As an amber, sandalwood and cinnamon blend, the Hari wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Extraordinarily floral for such a combination and quite a floral at that, almost heady in its scent. In fact I’d forgotten this had a cinnamon part, because I don’t remember that so much. But given the whole impression of this is quite new, I like it.
Mayapur is presented as Nag Champa, but for such an appelation it was a bit of a let down, not really anything like Nag from my perspective, close to the Narasingha Dev blend with its sweet resiny overtones, and maybe a bit too undistinguished in comparison. For some reason I thought this was the Nag Champa Supreme when I burned it so my expectations might have been a bit too high for it.
Shyam is something of a Sandalwood Champa and is similar to the Rare Essence blends Supreme Sandalwood and Precious Sandalwood, not as dry and woody as the former or as deep and oil-rich as the latter, with a hint of floral at the front. I love these blends in general so I found this to be quite good.
I also gave about a centimeter burn to the Mukunda and Gopinatha blends, both of which are fairly similar despite the former being patchouli and spice, and the latter iris flower and jasmine. Both dark sticks with very heady oil, I get the impression I’m going to like both a great deal. In fact I’d say with these two and the above-mentioned Gopala, the best of the three sampler packs may be the Dhanvantari, although the presence of the Yamuna weakens the overall a bit. But I’ll leave talk on these two after some more experience with them.
Took a quick drive past the local new age store (East-West) yesterday to be greeted by an entirely new display of incense, none of which I’d encountered before. You could tell immediately how fresh it was coming of the display, and since many of them were obviously in the durbar/masala category, I figured I’d check a few out, three samplers and three other packages I thought I’d like right off the bat.
Now the name is going to be resonant of Indian incense and stylistically it definitely is, although the lack of a “made in India” insignia made me wonder if these were handrolled in the US. Nevertheless, they’re beautifully done and fresh enough (at least this batch was) to make the eyes sting, giving me nostalgic feelings several times of old forgotten sticks. Anyway I haven’t had a chance to check out all 15 scents yet, but have checked out a few…
Balaram is maybe what you’d call a clove & lemongrass champa, a blend I’ve never experienced anything close to before and quite impressive, the clove the top note, the lemongrass the bottom. I wish I’d brought a full package home, but I couldn’t imagine how well balanced this was going to be just reading the package. But it’s got a spice feel to it I really like and it reminds me of the since deleted Blue Pearl Spice Champa to enough of an extent to be reminiscent.
Ganga is one I did pick up a package on, its deep red stick and hints of cinnamon did the trick. Balanced with lavender and jasmine, neither strong enough to overwhelm the spice, it was about as good as I hoped and expected. I find it hard to find a perfect incense with a strong cinnamon sense, so it’s kind of nice to be on my third so quickly. Gorgeous stuff for sure.
Gokula is like a deluxe Satya Natural in style and it brought out in my memory the distinct myrrh note to this fragrance, one I’d never considered before. Whatever you call it, Honey Dust, Natural, etc., this is a pretty standard blend, but the Ramak. version may be the best one, or at least it’s fresh enough to seem like it.
Narasingha Dev was subtitled Frankincense Champa which I interpret as “buy me” every time out. But like every incense with this description it differs and I’ve actually never had an incense quite like this. It doesn’t actually have the citrusy, resinous nature of frankincense so much, more like it deepens the essential base of the incense, so that it comes off more like a deluxe Nag Champa. Overall it had a depth to it that was very promising.
The rest are here, and the best part is I have eleven more to check out and I can see that at least five of them are likely to be excellent or better. The one I checked out but didn’t go into above, and which I need a little more time with, was the Yamuna, which seems to be a charcoal/dipped stick and reminds me by similarity of some Primo styles, not a recommendation in my book. But this seemed like it was a little more intricate, even if I’m still not likely to rate it highly.
I also picked up some tibetan incense on a lark, including the alluringly named Red Crystal, which turned out to be very thick sticks created from 23 different ingredients that only ended up smelling like really good white sandalwood. Not bad at all, but not what I need at the moment. Also checked out a gift pack by Green Tara, which includes that incense and several others. The two I checked out, the Green Tara and the Kalachakra (I probably have this spelled wrong), both seemed to have that kind of sour agar-ish quality I tend to like, so they seemed promising if not particularly exciting.
I’m going to start hopefully what will be a continual feature here, my top 10 favorite incenses. This will be my top 10 incenses that I’m familiar with, rather than those I’ve managed to like out of one stick in a sampler. This will mean a couple high end Shoyeidos, Myo-Ho and Go-Un, will not make the list yet even though I’d guess they will once I’m familiar with them. It also doesn’t count some of my favorites from the Incense from India/Incense Sampler line (incenseguru.com) as I haven’t had any in personal stock for several years.
- Shoyeido / Premium / Sho-Kaku – This is not only one of the most expensive incenses out there but it’s easily one of the best, a stick so expensive that I save it for special occasions. It’s made almost entirely from kyara and spices and is one of the most multi-faceted, rich blends you can ever imagine. It’s a stick I don’t even like leaving in a holder as it burns, feeling every released bit of smoke is a waste if I’m not around to experience it. It’s ancient, regal, aristocratic and almost seems like several incenses in one. If it were $5 a box I’d probably burn it until I was sick of it (if that’s even possible). The only incense, at the moment, that I’d be willing to give a 15 (Gnosis-style) to.
- Mystic Temple / White Frankincense – Until I started experimenting with Japanese incense this was my ultimate favorite, a rich, resinous “durbar” with Omani frankincense. The Rare Essence collection has a Frankincense Deluxe that is something of the model for the “frankincense champa” type of blend, White Frankincense is even better. This has the citrusy resin hints but also that bit of pepper and spice that the best frankincense usually has.
- Mystic Temple / Transcendence – Another old favorite, this is a durbar or champa blend that I occasionally run into as a perfume, although it’s evolved over the years and now seems muskier than ever. This is the type of champa that would impress just about anyone, rich, sweet, complex and incredible.
- Nippon Kodo / Kyara Taikan – Possibly the most affordable incense to have a noticeable note of kyara in it, this is a stick that gets better every time I burn it, an aloeswood blend with lovely complexity, sweet with the kyara more back in the mix so to speak. An incense whose traits change depending on your airspace. Strangely it felt like I didn’t appreciate it until I compared it to Kyara Kongo, also an excellent incense, but definitely not quite this deluxe.
- Shoyeido / Horin / Hori-kawa – While I’ll probably eventually highly rate the premium blend, Ten-Pyo, in this series (kyara again), the second in the five incense line is incredible in its own right, a spicy floral blend that has the perfect balance of cinnamon in it. Absolutely gorgeous stuff, amazingly a stand out in a stand out line.
- Shoyeido / Daily / Haku-un – The top incense in Shoyeido’s Daily line, Haku-un is a woody, musky blend whose value far outweights its affordable price. It’s got sandalwood, benzoin and possibly aloeswood (a hint) in it and it’s a total classic. Great value for the money.
- Scented Mountain / Agarwood Grade 1 (Highest Quality) – I’m kind of cheating here since I probably should stick to blends, but this extremely spicy aloeswood is my running favorite of all the affordable, pure-ish agars I’ve tried. I went through half of my first box in the first week, due to its addictiveness. There’s a high spice vibe to this one and to think it’s just the wood that brings this out is highly impressive.
- Shoyeido / Premium / Kyo-jiman – My favorite, so far, of the affordable half of Shoyeido’s premium line, this has an appealing sweetness and depth to it. I still don’t feel with most of Shoyeido’s premium lines that I’ve got the full experience as the more I spend time with them, the better it gets. The level of craft in this line is extremely high, and for under $10 you can find an 8 stick sampler pack to encourage you to greater numbers.
- Shoyeido / Horin / Gen-roku – The third of the Horin line and the first with aloeswood in it, this is a very mysterious, involuted stick, quite heavy on the wood. I find this one particularly impressive when I leave the room and come back to the coil, it has a density to it that is quite impressive.
- Mystic Temple / Golden Champa – This one is likely to fall off the list, but the Mystic Temple version of the classic Sai Flora is usually not to everyone’s tastes as it has an earthy, almost garden-like hint to it that is a bit animal for some, but I find it only part of the overall scent of it which can be quite sweet and rich. Possibly the thickest durbar on the planet, this will scent a room up in a hurry.
Went back to Zanzibal Tribal Arts to pick up a few more incense packages. I should probably mention at this point that the Yume-No-Yume and Fragrance Memories lines possibly border that area between the natural and the organic or synthetic. I looked around on line a little to see what I could find out and came up empty handed. But suffice it to say, the YNY line is heavily fragranced, perhaps too much so for a purely natural line and seems quite perfumy at times. If you’d have asked me before checking the line out, I probably wouldn’t have been too enthused, but in a way I’m glad I did check them out as they’re pretty neat incenses, perfect for the occasional change.
Anyway I walked out with four packages of the line, without realizing one of them was actually the Bamboo Leaf blend I talked about earlier, but given it’s such a nice incense, having a second package wasn’t totally unwelcome. Anyway, all these lines can be found here at the website. Apparently they’re giving away a box of the Fragrance Memories line if you purchase $30 or more, at least if you’re one of the first so many customers, so if you bump that up to $50 for the free shipping, it ought to make a nice deal.
Anyway, the first of the new packages I brought home was the Japanese Morning Glory, scented by green banana, vetivert and bergamot. These all blend quite well together, without any too obvious notes in any direction, the vetivert obviously being high quality and almost musky in the background. I started realizing at this point that a lot of this line have similar bases, as it reminded me a lot of the Bamboo Leaf, except more exotic. As for the unburned stick, it might have been the most fragrant, almost making my eyes water.
Goldfish (I can’t believe there’s actually an incense called Goldfish, but there you have it) consists of mint, watermelon and jasmine and like the Morning Glory, the three are blended well, with the mint on the edges and the watermelon like part of a base. It’s actually not all that far from some of the others in the line in terms of the base, so it didn’t strike me as being particularly distinctive its own right.
The one that was, Maple Leaf, was basically an amber of sorts, maybe a spicy amber. The notes are persimmon, tonka bean and ambergris, although I noticed the latter of the two much more given the overall amber-like blend. This, obviously, was less “green” than some of the other blends and was quite nice overall, the vanilla-ish tonka bean giving it all some depth.
Based on one of the employee’s suggestions, I picked up the Ka-Fuh Aqua which is one of the smokeless incenses. I’d tried their Hinoki which didn’t do much for me (I don’t think I really get much out of Japanese cypress incense I guess), but this one is better and very subtle with water, cyclamen and primrose. It is indeed pretty “wet” but very subtle, like a back note, floral but not overwhelming.
And two more Fragrance Memories. The first of which, Silk Road Dream, I liked a lot, but with jinkoh (aloeswood) in it, I was bound to. The olibanum and fennel spice it up quite a bit for a really nice blend, although to be honest the jinkoh is just a touch, kind of the woody fade out. But of the line, it’s one of the more closely traditional, which I prefer. Green Oasis, on the other hand, is unusual with a mangrove, star fruit and palm tree blend. I’ve been in South Florida enough to know you can barely get more than 20 feet from a mangrove tree, yet the incense didn’t bring back memories of that at all, and I got the impression of a more blended type of “green.”
If discovering the Yume-no Yume line from Nippon Kodo was the only thing I got from Zanzibar Tribal Arts, I’d be a very happy man.
But first of all, a little more Kayuragi. I picked up the Bitter Orange, which was the one I wanted next after the Pomegranate, but the owner of the store assured me the best in the line was Osmanthus, which he was out of stock on, although he gave me a stick of it. A very honeysuckle like scent, sweet, mellow, a little citrus and floral, extremely nice and one of those that really mixes up your options. Suffice it to say next order will find a box in it. The Bitter Orange was not quite what I’d expected, although nice in its own right, a very woody blend overall with the sandalwood almost as up front as the floral nature. Very little true orange or citrus in this one.
Discovered my first five scents in the Fragrance Memories (apparently it used to be NK Style) line, which is a Nippon Kodo brand whose scents are based on travels and so represent a very wide variety of ideas from all over the world. The first was Santa Fe Breeze, a cranberry, cactus and, yes, green chili blend. Sounds more like food almost. This line, overall, uses a similar process to the Xiang-Do line from Shoyeido, which that company calls pressed incense, it leaves a different type of ash behind it when burned, quite firm overall. But there tends to be a similar sort of base for all of them, a lighter one than in regular sticks, probably to allow some of these unusual scents to come off in a less “woody” sort of base. Anyway Santa Fre Breeze, like the entire line, mixes the three main ingredients almost equally so that the snap of the chili is a note and the cactus and cranberry kind of meld together.
Happy Valley was the one I liked the least of the five, although in this case the cactus comes through quite a bit more and is somewhat interesting. Here the other two ingredients, stone pine and lime seem more one of a kind. It didn’t strike me as a particularly powerful blend and I almost made the mistake of thinking the whole line would be like this.
So when I started up a Siesta Siesta, I wasn’t prepared for what a powerful scent it was and an unusual one, made up of blood orange, tomato and sangria. I’m not sure of the sangria note in the scent but the blood orange and the tomato are quite strong, the tomato, of course, being more like the vine or plant than something you would think of cooking wise. It made for a very exotic blend and one I thought might be too much, although since this line is about a 20 minute burn time, it’s probably about right. Quite impressive overall and one with that constant refrain, “I’ve never smelled anything like that before.”
My favorite of the five, as a coffee drinker, was the Paris Cafe blend, with chocolate, cinnamon and coffee. This blend is just dead on perfect like smelling the best cup of mocha you’ve ever had, in fact there was one time I nearly reached for a cup it was so real. Not a single note that breaks the illusion on this one. Of the three chocolate based incenses (all NK) I’ve tried lately, this is definitely the best one.
Tequila Sunrise is more like the first two I mentioned in potency, a combo of aloe (assumedly the plant rather than the wood), bergamot and lime. Surprisingly not quite as citrus-y as you might expect, this one really brought out the travel thoughts, for me this reminded me of fish cookouts in Florida and the like, even if it was based on a different locale. Another good one for a mix up. Possibly one for margarita fans.
And finally the Yume-No Yume line, which is extremely awesome, certainly nothing like I would have expected. They’re also of this pressed sort of variety although they’re heavily fragranced, so much so that just leaving the sticks out would give the room the hints. I picked up the Butterfly, which is a combo of geranium, cinnamon and vanilla. This one reminded me a lot of Shoyeido’s Horin Nijo coils which I really like, but even better and strangely almost amber-like in some hints. Comes with some sparkly dust, which I think might be the conch shell they use to lock the fragrance in. Anyway this was the best in the recent bunch, a truly incredible scent.
So I looked forward to other one I brought home, the Bamboo Leaf, which is actually a Green Tea incense with yuzu citrus and lemon flower. It reminded me quite a bit of some of the sweet green patchouli sticks, but even better with the sweet green tea hints, very nice, evoking memories of the very first time I ran across some premium Indian incense. I’m pleased to note that these scents come in very affordable coils (just over a buck a piece), so I can imagine wanting to grab some soon.
Lamenting over the lack of stores in Sacramento that sell fine incense, I was browsing Nippon Kodo’s website and decided to use their store locator. The only store that came up, called Zanzibar Tribal Arts, happened to be less than three blocks from where I work. So I got to walk down and check it out immediately and boy was I impressed. They carry the regular Morning Star line, the Fragrance Memories, the Ka-Fuhs, the Yume No Yume line and one of the employees showed me that they even had big coils in a drawer (something I may have to go back for). Suffice it to say, it was very nice and the owner (I think) gave me a stick of the Kayuragi Osmanthus as a sample, saying of a great line it was the best one, and based on the fresh stick I have to say I’m quite impressed. I chose the Bitter Orange, a couple YNYs and five of the Fragrance Memories, all of which I’ll probably yack about here as early as tomorrow. Apparently the Fragrance Memories do very well and the owner originally wanted to open a store based on tea, incense, and candles, but naturally the market here isn’t big enough and so it has all sorts of neat imports, statuettes and the like. Like a mini version of one of the stores you might find in SF on the Haight. It’s been a good week to say the least, something rare to say the week after vacation…
Many people seem to feel incense is a hippy thing, patchouli oil for the deadheads, maybe something to pick up up from a gas station or convenience store to cover up dope. But like the Dead themselves, casual exposure tends to only reveal the worst aspects of either, bad charcoal punks with most of the essential (or worse, synthetic) oils dissipated, offputting sandalwood dhoops, incense dressed up the resemble synthetic perfumes and the like.
I’m finding, in my family at least, that exposure to the really good incense tends to make believers out of just about everyone. Had a very neat time yesterday with my folks and my nephews exploring various scents and watched it grow from something like curiosity to real interest on everyone’s parts, especially when you emphasize the subjectivity of what scents each person might actually like. Suffice it to say, my oldest nephew (around 5 yrs old) took a few sticks home with him. I wonder if he can covert mom?
A few new things showed up, most of which impressed across the board. I got a box of the New Morning Star blend called Earth (mid page), made up of black currant, chocolate and cinnamon. Very interesting overall, it felt like at times I’d get one of the three scents more than the others, but overall it seemed more of a chocolate kind of base, similar to the Cafe Time mocha cones I mentioned in my last incense post.
My first entry into Nippon Kodo’s Kayuragi line (bottom page) was their Pomegranate incense which impressed everyone in the room within five seconds of the light. Gloriously fruity with a hint of that sour pomegranate note, it was a great contrast to the woods and resins and definitely made me want to check out the rest of their line, especially since the packaging, with the little wooden box is so nice.
Speaking of packaging, the little book gift sets that come in various scents, also through Nippon Kodo, are something I mentioned when talking about Kyara Taikan last post, this time I got in Kyara Kongo (bottom of page) and Mori No Koh/Scents of Forest (also bottom). The Kyara Kongo particularly impressed me, it’s a less premium blend than the Taikan, but I liked it almost as much. At the price I found it hard to believe there would be kyara in it, but like Taikan there seems to be a note of it. So anyone wondering what it might be like at half the usual price is encouraged to check these blends out.
The Mori No Koh set is actually three different scents, and thanks to this page, I figured out which scent is which as my kanji is rather poor. Basically fir, Japanese cypress and conifer. The cypress like many hinoki blends is perhaps a bit too subtle and featureless for my tastes, but the other two were absolutely outstanding scents, and as the whole family loves piney, evergreen christmas like smells, these two went over really well.
And last but not least, I got a box of Shoyeido’s premium Shun-Yo (also bottom – picture is not of the box I got), the cheapest in the line that comes with a neat silk box, really beautifully presented. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to tackle the brilliance of any of their premium line right off the bat, as the complexity and depth of these incenses really makes them the apex of scent. Many of them are somewhat masala-like (in terms of a blend of spices used often for cooking) on the top note, only for the aloeswood to come through a split second later and show you just how brilliant the creators of these blends are.