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.