Nan-Kun, Shun-Yo and Ohjya Koh are the three earthy/yellow-ish sticks in Shoyeido’s premium series. As above, I covered four of the ten Shoyeido premium incenses a few weeks ago and most of the general information and discussion on this series can be found there. The three in question, in terms of the order of the series, go where the commas do in the link above. Nan-Kun is actually quite orange, while the other two are a somewhat earthy yellow tone. But like the four green colored incenses, there are some similarities among these scents.
As mentioned in the previous Premium article, there’s been changes to the Shoyeido ingredients lists for these incenses. While the main changes have been to drop the reference to aloeswood in the lower end premiums, it appears spikenard has also been removed as an ingredient from Nan-Kun, leaving aloeswood, benzoin, and clove. Borneol has also been added to the new ingredients list. The spikenard omission seems fairly startling as this incense seems fairly redolent with the sweet, caramel-like scent that also weaves its way into three of the four green Premium sticks. It’s a top note for the series’ first really dense aloeswood presence. In fact of all the transitions from the low end Matsu-no-tomo through the high-end kyara premiums, the one from Misho to Nan-Kun may be the most profound, in that one goes from an excellent incense to the sort of deep, fathomless wood scents that characterize the very best aloeswood incenses and all of the top five Shoyeido premiums. Nan-Kun is almost animalistic, certainly the most feral incense in the series, the spikenard top oil also seems to have some very strong musky hints to it and like its Horin analog Muro-Machi, the play between the dense wood and sweltery, sweet top note is delightful. Overall, provided one has had the chance to sample the series, Nan-Kun might be the best box to start with as it has most of the high end characteristics while being the most inexpensive of those that does. It has wood you can lose yourself in.
In comparison, the drop to Shun-Yo is quite vast. Gone is the overt and penetrating top oil and one is left with what is virtually a very woody incense, and if it wasn’t for Ohjya Koh itself, one of the most muted and gentle in the range, Shun-Yo might be considered the mellowest of the premiums. Shun-Yo has the requisite (and nearly Misho-like) aloeswood content along with sandalwood, clove, patchouli and other spices. In fact for the new ingredients list, this is the first (or priciest) Shoyeido premium without aloeswood (now) being listed, even if it’s as noticeable a presence as it is in Sei-Fu or even Misho itself. Shun-Yo was actually the first premium box I tried and as such it hasn’t compared quite as favorable to its neighbor Misho, whose green, spicy nature has made it a regular. While Shun-Yo may have similar masala-like qualities in the scent (several of these Shoyeidos almost have a curry-like spice as part of the palate), the patchouli content here tends to keep it more on the mild side.
However, a comparison to Ohjya-Koh, a scent milder bit still very similar to Shun-Yo, does show a considerable difference in aloeswood content and as such Shun-Yo has quite a bit more depth to it. The new ingredients list for Ohjya-Koh switches out the aloeswood for benzoin, but like all the low end premiums, there’s still a pretty noticeable aloeswood presence however its derived. Here, the blend is pretty thorough, with few of the elements really making an independent presence. In fact, it strikes me that this incense and Matsu-No-Tomo might be better categorized under the Premium Daily label along with En-Mei and Sei-Fu, all of which are very affordable, have no aloeswood in the ingredients list, yet still show it as part of the bouquet. However, like neighbors Matsu-no-tomo and Kyo-jiman there’s a noticeable and rather high level sandalwood that compliments the rest of the ingredients nicely and it may be more useful, particularly with the ingredient list differences, to consider these as deluxe sandalwoods rather than low end aloeswoods. It goes to show that the tenor of the entire line changes depending on which vantage point one looks from.
As stated in the previous article, the Shoyeido Premium series is quite simply one of the finest in incense, a ladder with ten rungs where each rung is a significant step up in both price and quality. And in a few weeks or so, I hope to discuss the best and last three, Sho-kaku, Myo-Ho and Go-Un, incenses legendary in both cost and scent.