Sampler Notes: Shoyeido / LISN (Part 1: A Day, Four Seasons)

As of 3/31/09, this line is discontined in the US.

Almost three months ago, I made some comments on this Shoyeido “spinoff” line, which is pronounced “listen.” It’s a line of incenses that appears to be directed at the modern incense appreciator, particularly those who prefer floral and perfume aromas. In fact if there’s anything to connect all the incenses, it’s that every single one of them manages to have a fairly complex and involved floral aroma, most of them actually quite intricate. It’s not an incense series for the wood fan, although those who like the Horin, 12 Months, Gourmet etc lines will find these to be related – perhaps the closest of these is the Floral World series. Although the sticks are about the same length, they’re a little skinnier and come with the name of the incense actually printed on the stick (or at least they come this way in the sampler). I wouldn’t consider this a review in the same sense as most of what’s listed in the index, as I only had two sticks to sample here and it’s quite clear that it would take several more sticks to get used to some of the aromas. And like (most of) the incense ranges I just mentioned, LISN boxes contain approximately 20 sticks for about $15.

LISN break down their incenses into thematic groups: A Day, Four Seasons, Music, and Direction. All of these have four sticks each except for A Day, which contains three. There is also a LISN Visible line that contains five scents, but the sampler I had did not cover this part of the range so this may have to come down the line some. All come in various colors, most of which I’ve forgotten. This article covers the first two sublines and I hope to get to the third and fourth this week.

LISN’s first and only three-incense range, A Day, contains three very floral incenses that even bely their descriptions. Morning Breeze is described as pawlonia and green moss. While the slight muskiness of the stick works in that direction, for the most part I found this to be not too far off from the more floral styles in ranges like 12 Months, with a bit of amber in the mix. Like the entire LISN range there is a distinct and intricate oil in front and it makes this stick bright, complex, with a hint of fruit in the background. Overall there might have even been a bit too much going on and the washiness reminded more of some of Nippon Kodo’s modern products except more distinct. Passing By A Lady might be the best of the three, it has some similarities to Horin/Hori-kawa with its spiciness, but like Morning Breeze there’s also a bit of musk here. It’s described as a “bouquet of sweet flowers” and this time that’s a much closer description to what I’m experiencing. Like several other LISN sticks this one potrays an interesting floral oil in front that supply did not allow me to explore in full. Among Stars is described as sensual civet, but it certainly isn’t near any idea of civet that I had, without any sort of musky or animal tones. In fact this reminded me of the smell of valentine hearts candy, extremely perfumed and very floral and probably due to the color of the stick, I was thinking of some sort of pink cushy pillow. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t end up rating it highly, it struck me a little on the synthetic/perfume side.

As a subrange, Four Seasons is much more interesting, and in fact given its four stick, season-oriented themes, these four aren’t terribly far from the same ideas in the 12 Months range, particularly in that the incense gets hotter/cooler as they close on summer/winter. Showering Spring* uses rose and moss and does manage to smell like flowers in the rain. Its floral oil reminds me a little of both rose/floral and talcum powder, with a little bit of greenness. Sparkling Summer, unsurprisingly, is a pretty warm incense with spicy herb and citrus. Like most LISN sticks it’s still primarily a floral stick, but the spicy and herbaceous qualities (which remind me of vetivert) balance it rather nicely and make it one of the line’s highlights. Autumn Twilight isn’t quite so distinctive, although with its “image of chrysanthemum” I’m left more in imaginary territory. Perhaps due to the name of the incense, I get a spicey blend like patches of leaves, leavened by the underlying, perhaps chrysanthemum, perfume. Nice, but even now I’m having a hard time remembering it. Crystal Winter might be my favorite LISN in this front batch, a wintery, cool blend with a bit of mint and amber to it that seems less overtly floral than the rest of its line. It’s one I could eventually see myself getting stock of.

Soon to come: Music and Direction.

* (after break) Read the rest of this entry »

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Looks like the secret is out…

From what I’ve read around the net, Shoyeido, and possibly Baieido as well, have more or less established retail price in the US market and don’t generally allow incense suppliers to cut below these prices. However, the savvy shopper may have noticed that Incense Warehouse had deep cuts among several lines that really made it the place for some of the higher end premium lines with the discounts being in the tens of dollars. I wondered how long this would last given what I’d read and sure enough it looks like the secret is out as prices have been raised to retail for the aforementioned companies. While it still remains one of the best places for discounts, the playing field has been levelled.

Nippon Kodo Ka-Fuh/Bamboo and Morning Star Gold lines discontinued

Today’s Essence of the Ages (link on right) update announced these discontinued items today (and it’s not too late to grab them). I haven’t tried any of these personally and none were really high up my “wish list” but I’m really amazed at the company’s revolving door policies with their scents. Perhaps that’s the price for having such a large international profile? I’ve only tried the Aqua and Hinoki in the Ka-Fuh line, but nothing from Morning Star Gold.

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