Nippon Kodo’s New Morningstar line includes four different incenses, all of which roughly align to one of the four elements. Each box contains 40 sticks and will run you about $5 a box, although package deals can be found that reduce this a little, and there are gift sets with ceramic burners.
For my money, a line like this seems targeted more at the casual incense lover. While I have a fondness for one of the blends in this series, the others strike me as possibly synthetic or synthetic seeming, in a way that will remind you of perfumed soap. Fortunately it’s only a mild note in the line and probably won’t bother most, but it was enough to make it hard for me to get fully behind these.
Aqua is a jasmine, tangerine and cyclamen blend that was already familiar to me due to a smokeless version Nippon Kodo has in their Ka-Fuh line (also called Aqua). While both versions are very close, I thought the watery nature of this incense was a little more prominent with the New Morningstar version. This blend strikes me as wet, with citrus accents, and the jasmine seems mostly sublimated to the blend rather than being obvious. I know the local store really prizes the Ka-Fuh version of this incense (and it appears to be the best selling of that line for NK), but for me it just doesn’t have a real cutting power to it and there’s just a bit of a synthetic feel that doesn’t work for me. But it does have a uniqueness to it that might appeal to those who want something light and floral.
Bloom looks like the fire incense with the red stick and packaging. It’s also the most floral of the four incenses with its white plum, muquet and tulip blend. This is the incense of the four I liked the least, and without looking at the ingredients I wouldn’t have even considered it next to other white plum incenses (it also makes me wonder if this corresponds to the Ka Fuh White Plum as well). It has a burn that reminds me more of a scented candle than an incense and is perhaps a tad on the sweet side for my tastes.
In comparison to the rest of the line, the Earth blend stands out like a sore thumb. Where the rest of the line usually has a strong floral note on top, this blend of black currant, cinnamon and chocolate features the cinnamon element as the oil note. I really liked this incense when I first bought it, it struck me as being the best of the chocolate-themed incenses I’d tried from Nippon Kodo (the other two would be the Café Time Mocha cones and the Fragrance Memories Paris Cafe blend) with all three elements playing off each other so that at times each of the three notes is dominant. While over time, it has struck me (and mostly in comparison to other incenses) as a slight touch soapy, it’s still quite enjoyable.
The last of the four has a strong air element to it with the lavender note blending with bergamot and artemesia. It’s less Grass than a wind blowing through a field and it has a rather dominant citrus/lavender oil to it as well as a slight floral touch. I can imagine lavender lovers might take to this one as it’s a pretty crisp blend, but like the whole line it’s difficult to see the blend as particularly distinctive.
In summary, I’m probably not the target audience for this line so much, particularly considering it’s more a floral line than a wood or resin one, but like a lot of Nippon Kodo incense, you have to admire the ambition at work. If your tastes are similar to mine, you might want to give the Earth a try, but if they’re more to the floral than these are inexpensive enough to be worth a try.