Les Encens du Monde / Karin, Swallows in Flight, Royal Nave, Golden Waves, Blissful Mountain, Guiding Light

One month ago, I planned to write an article on a few of these incenses with the fact hanging heavy that at that point one could not buy Encens du Monde incenses in the United States. I’m pleased to say that this has changed and that the first batch of these incenses are now available at Essence of the Ages. We must all thank Beth for her persistence in trying to provide these incenses, several of which are world class, particularly in an era where the dollar isn’t doing so well. You’ll be able to read more reviews of these incenses in the future, but there are a number I want to cover right away as an early introduction to the line.

Les Encens du Monde is a French company who contracts with several Japanese companies to distribute various incense lines. The lion’s share of incenses distributed by this company appear to be made by Kunjudo, at the very least the Karin line is certainly a Kunjudo line, but there are others in their catalog created originally by Shoyeido or Baieido. A few of these duplicate incenses you can already find in the US, which makes any sort of discussion about this company’s incenses a little difficult to be specific about. Several of the line’s incenses also exist in Temple and Ceremony lengths and while I’d normally just consider them long stick versions, I’ve seen some of these incenses referred to as “Temple quality” while also having a significant price attached to them.

It also seems like EdM have switched around their lines a bit. I ended up buying both Golden Waves and Royal Nave overseas as part of the Karin line, only to realize that EdM have not only changed the Karin line, but the presentation and stick number as well. Both Golden Waves and Royal Nave  seem to exist as Temple or Ceremony sticks, but they do not appear to be part of the Karin line anymore. These two aromas are not currently available in the US, but I suspect we will see them eventually. I’d assume Simply Incense may still have Karin versions in limited stock. Nevertheless, all of these details make it a bit difficult to talk about these incenses in terms of lines. This article does cover the four temple/ceremony incenses in question, although all my versions come from the Karin boxes or samples. Both Blissful Mountain and Guiding Light can be found in the Meditation category.

The first incense in question is a bit complicated. Kunjudo’s Karin is already imported into the United States. As already mentioned, Karin also appears to be a line via Encens du Monde. While the boxes of the Karin incenses have changed, the old box of Forest of Flowers appears to have the same presentation, ingredient list and stick color as Kunjudo Karin, so I’d assume this is the same incense. I find Karin to be one of the gems of inexpensive incense, an affordable and fantastic blend of sandalwood, Daphne wood, and cinnamon that hits a number of different buttons. It has hints of amber even without the ingredient listed as well as wood, spice and floral and it manages to spin out different combinations of these elements like an echo of expensive aloeswoods. It’s fresh, vibrant, wonderfully spicy and addictive enough to have been a personal top 10 incense in May and I can imagine wanting deep stock in it.

Swallows in Flight is one of Kunjudo’s masterstrokes. It’s a rich, decadent and almost confectionary-sweet blend that starts with an aloeswood base and adds indulgent aromatics. The minute this one hits the nose I think of things like caramel and nougat, as this has a combination of sweet and musk that reminds me of walking into a candy shop. It definitely has a slight perfume on top with hints of white mocha that cyclically hide the base, only for the agar to remind you it’s still there in the background. It might be an incense that’s too rich at times, but when it’s right it’s a tough one to beat.

As, I mentioned before two Karin incenses are not part of the line anymore. The first of these is the stupendously good Golden Waves. Of all the EdM incenses I’ve tried, this is the one with the most obvious agarwood note. Sometimes I don’t notice this for some reason, but my most recent stick reminded me that this is very much based on the aloeswood, with a rich sweet musk and a note of hazelnut or something similar added to the top. All these elements go to making this one of those aloeswood sticks with mutable qualities, making it a fascinating stick to explore over time. At the Karin price this is a very affordable incense for its quality, which may be part of the reason it’s not in that line anymore. Hopefully we’ll see the long stick versions in the future, as this is no incense to be resigned to obscurity.

The other ex-Karin incense is Royal Nave. This isn’t quite so woody, its bouquet working more as a combination of various spices and woods. Like Guiding Light, it seems that Kunjudo do indeed like working on incenses with a massive number of ingredients and so this one is often like a faceted jewel, looking different from every perspective. The description tips us off to the aniseed, but it’s not that dominant of a characteristic to my nose. I’d say it’s more strongly spicy than strongly woody, but there’s also a perfume oil in the middle that adds to the overall complexity and comes out strongly with little fatigue. It struck me as what a Nippon Kodo Kohden stick might be like with better ingredients and also had hints of gingerbread cookie. Like many incenses in this line there appears to be a tilt to the sweet.

EdM’s Meditation line appears to have many of their high end incenses. The first of these in question is the stupendously good Guiding Light (scroll to bottom). It blends agarwood with 7 essentials and 8 wood powders for a very dense and woody incense. The aroma is all about spicy wood and I get hints of old wooden chests, brown sugar, clove, high quality sandalwood, and leather. There is definitely a high oil content, but its aroma adds a bit of mystery and insularity to the blend. Given the claim of a large quantity of agarwood, I was surprised that it didn’t have that much of a dominant note, so my guess is it’s more mid quality wood, and the blend evens some of the more specific characteristics out. I’d actually like to see this in a shorter stick, a length more appropriate for its strength outside a temple.

Finally, a really interesting, high end sandalwood and oil blend, Blissful Mountain (fourth item down). Like many EdM incenses I can imagine one of the other lines has smaller packages of the same or similar incense under a different name, based on the description of combining sandalwood with lily essential oil. Blissful Mountain is a very thick, green stick that starts with the base aroma of a common every day green sandalwood, and adds a very potent and powerful floral lily oil to it. The combination is quite intense and due to the stick’s thickness, only a fragment of a stick would totally fragrance a room. The oil is very rich, a slight tad to the soapy/floral side, but overall rather excellent, and given very few incenses already sold in the US have this sort of aroma, it’s well worth checking out. My guess the lily essential oil here adds significant to low sandalwood costs.

A browse through Essence’s EdM list will show there are dozens of aromas in the company’s lines, many of which I’m looking forward to trying and writing about down the line. There may be a small bit of risk in exploration, given that there do appear to be some crossovers between currently imported incenses and the EdM versions, but for the most part most of these have not seen our shores until now. Indeed, EdM has now expanded our choices for Japanese incense significantly.


  1. Jeff said,

    March 19, 2016 at 12:33 am

    To further complicate the Kunjudo Karin line, I have a box of Karin Kifune. This is a delightful stick with a predominant sandal fragrance with some spice. A real winner. The description is sandalwood, agarwood, and others. Can anyone elaborate on what is the difference between this, the regular Karin, and the Tokusen?

  2. September 18, 2010 at 10:24 am

    […] Guiding Light – speaking of deja vu (deja vu about deja vu?), this incense from Les Encens du Monde also […]

  3. August 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    […] Encens du Monde / Meditation / Guiding Light – Probably because it’s fairly essential oil heavy, this incense does a fantastic job scenting a larger area over time. I really adore the smell of this one, especially after about half a long stick has burned. Even with all the oils this is at essence a very complex, very woody incense. Just one or two sticks a month tends to push it into my monthly best. […]

  4. August 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

    […] Encens du Monde / Kunjudo / Karin / Swallows in Flight – This has a such a strong musk scent to it that I’ve been pulling it out more and more, as I don’t have too many incenses that go in this sort of direction. I’d suspect there’s a lot of oil in this as it packs a punch, but it also has that interesting Kunjudo side note that I liken to hazelnut or something. Golden Waves also has this same note, in fact the two incenses aren’t all that far apart. […]

  5. August 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    […] summed Regular up best in his earlier (Essence du Monde categorized) review: “…an affordable and fantastic blend of sandalwood, Daphne wood, and cinnamon that hits […]

  6. Kristin said,

    February 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Hm, I wonder if there have been changes made to the EdM/Karin lineup since this post.

    If I go to Essence Of the Ages, Forest of Flowers and Karin look like distinctly different blends: FoF is indeed the daphne, cinnamon, and sandalwood blend but it’s roughly twice the price of Karin, which is listed as sandalwood, aloeswood and cinnamon.

    I was going to snap up a roll of Karin given the low price and the hearty recommendations here but not sure I should if it’s going to turn out to be a totally different incense.

    Confused …

    • Mike said,

      February 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm

      I’m actually a bit confused about Karin as well. Nancy sent me some that smells like a somewhat different incense than the one I bought and did this review with. The one I had originally is quite sweet and amberlike, the one I was sent was a bit muskier without the obvious sweetness. Similar in all other ways though. More and more I’d say that the blends formulated for Encense du Monde (Forest of Flowers) and those that come directly through Incense Works (Karin) are at least slightly different in almost every case I’ve managed to compare.

      I should mention however, the Karin I reviewed this from is the box format while the one I was sent is in a roll. I’ve not tried the Forest of Flower blend but given the differences I get more and more curious about it, wondering if it’s a third variation. But if you want the one I reviewed it’s the Karin in the box.

  7. January 23, 2009 at 10:34 am

    […] January 23, 2009 at 10:34 am (Encens du Monde, Incense, Japan, Kunjudo) Previous Encens du Monde / Meditation reviews […]

  8. October 15, 2008 at 10:34 am

    […] October 15, 2008 at 10:34 am (Encens du Monde, Incense, Japan, Kunjudo) Reviews of the previous Encense du Monde/Kunjudo Karin incenses can be found here. […]

  9. Steve said,

    June 11, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    My Guiding Light arrived today. WOW! and less than $.10/inch…

  10. Ross said,

    May 31, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Last night I got to the Fig from the AROMAMBIANCE line) and IKEBANA, which is a long roll.
    I got the Fig because I remembered a soap and also an oil blend from years ago made by a company in Italy and brought in by a US group in, I believe Seattle. Don’t remember the name, however the smell was really warm and very fresh and became a favorite. This is a bit “cooler” then I remember the other being but still with an awesome freshness that is not in the say, citrus group. It somehow totally evocates the sense of “Figness”. Its a low smoke incense and would make a great room freshener(not in the tacky supermarket sense!).I would reorder this because it is quite different then most of my other experiences with the low smoke type incenses. plus…yes, it smells really good:)
    The IKEBANA is very complex, a lot more so then the price tag would lead one to suspect.. I noticed many different scents going on, almost as if the different ingredients had been formed within the stick in a sequence( which I don’t think is really possible given what I’ve gotten to see about the manufacturing process) This is not just a flip from one end of the stick to the other, rather it seemed to keep changing through out the burn. Its floral, with, many spices, like star anise and such. It also is very potent. You could go with half a stick in a 10 by 10, or so, room.
    Both of these sticks are very different from what I usually burn ( Aloeswood Rules!), however I found myself quite charmed by them both and happy that I had gotten them..
    Enough writing, Come Watson, back to the laboratory! for more testing , perhaps the 10% solution is called for 🙂

  11. Ross said,

    May 30, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    So I got some of these in last night. A quick run at the “Swallows in Flight” and “GUIDING LIGHT”. Really nice, elegant, very complex and very different from say the Baieido’s and such. There is quite a lot going on in these two, going to take awhile to figure, would be quite interesting for meditation as a foucus. The oils play a big part, but, are also somehow really wrapped around the woods. Good stuff here with a lot of headroom to grow into. More later as the weekend progresses 🙂


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