Shoyeido’s Heart Series may be on its way out, as all incenses are labelled limited editions and the first of the three incenses here, Ai-Shin, can only be found in the US in a gift box that considerably increases the price per incense box. However, it’s fortunate, at least to my olfactories, that the best incense of the three seems the most easily obtainable. All three incenses are sandalwood blends that vary in terms of a top oil note. Oddly enough these are strange and a little short stick sizes at 4.9 inches, particularly for Shoyeido. For the most part these incenses are affordable, other than the aforementioned Ai-Shin which is part of a package deal.
It’s a shame because Ai-Shin is actually pretty good. It’s the aroma of the three with the strongest oil top note, which brings out a distinct floral and spice. There’s a slight bit of citrus to the oil as well and it gives the whole incense something of a tart note. It’s not totally succesful because in this case I think the perfume really blanks out the wood quite a bit and the whole scent ends with a little astringency. But it does have a power that’s fairly alluring and quite fresh. And if my memory serves me right, my box of this had some imperfections on the stick (white flecking to 2-3 sticks) that made me think it was pretty old.
Ai-Shin acts as quite a contrast to its in-gift-box partner Do-Shin. Do-Shin (Loving Heart) is almost at the opposite end of the spectrum, with a much more woody presence. There’s quite a bit of spice and even some cedar and patchouli scent to this stick, but the whole aroma ends up seeming a bit muted for some reason. Like with Ai-Shin it’s hard to say this is a total success and it’s as if the aroma doesn’t quite know what it wants to do. Overall it’s the lesser of the three.
En-Shin nearly redeems the whole line by itself and in many ways it’s not a surprise this can be bought both in the small 30 stick box and a larger 100 stick box. I actually really like this blend, it’s an unusual and somewhat modern variant on the green sandalwood stick with a top oil note, somewhere in intensity between the other two, that has an almost mild cologne-like aroma to it. There’s a bit of spice to it as well, but the whole aroma gives off an almost dry scent to it, with just that level of spice and oil to give it some zing. This is an incense I’d consider a borderline hall of famer, definitely an excellent stick for the money (and don’t let the cologne reference imply a synthetic smell).
Overall I think you’re basically safe giving En-Shin a try, the other two while both having positive attributes don’t seem to work perfectly. I’m not sure that’s why they’re limited, but given how many other brilliant incenses Shoyeido do, these wouldn’t be a terrible loss. But I definitely stocked up on En-Shin early just in case it disappears from the catalogs soon.