Encens du Monde / Meditation; Short Rolls / Celestial Nave (Ranshuko Temple Blend), Seeds of Transformation; Virgin Snow

Previous Encens du Monde / Meditation reviews

The French distribution company Les Encens du Monde is responsible for bringing over a number of great incenses to the Western world; however, several of them overlap with currently available incenses and there are also subtle differences between overlapping incenses, all of which make them somewhat problematic and difficult to review. As a distribution company, Encens du Monde brings over a number of different incenses which are dominantly from Kunjudo, but also feature scents from Shoyeido, Baieido, Kokando and others.

We can generally guess an overlapping incense by the graphics on the roll, which, while not identical, tend to feature a similar artistic motif, for example the green roll with Koh game symbolism on Kokando Rangetsu and Jade Orchid. The same goes for two of the three incenses here, there’s a definite overlap between the Celestial Nave and Ranshuko Temple Blend (which now appears to be deleted or unavailable from many suppliers) boxes, almost identical in this case. And the motifs of Virgin Snow and Byakudan Shirayuki (also translated as White Snow) are also similar enough to be considered fairly identical. However, there appear to be slight differences among the recipes that could be attributed to either a different batch or an adjustment for a particular market. I’m not sure what these all are, but will account for them given a particular incense.

Celestial Nave was fairly easy to identify, as I mentioned above, as the same incense as Ranshuko Temple Blend, the orange box and graphics making this fairly obvious. However, I’ll be reviewing from the latter box. The ingredients on both appear to be the same: agarwood, sandalwood, kansho (spikenard), cloves, patchouli and camphor. And in this incense’s case you can quite easily pick up just about every single ingredient even though they also blend together nicely. It’s a long, thick, square stick with plenty of burning time, reflecting its value for temples nicely. The sandalwood seems to be of very high quality, the agarwood and camphor notes, the clove particularly strong and spicy, and the kansho and patchouli faint but still noticeable overall. It’s fairly similar in some ways to the Reiryo-Koh blend in that it’s tangy and strong natured, with something of a hoary, earthy vibe to it; in fact other than that incense it’s tough to compare Ranshuko to anything. In most aloeswood/sandalwood blends, the aloeswood tends to dominate but it could be that the reverse is true here. I’d actually had this for a while, so when I pulled it out for this review I was surprised at how much better it was than I remembered, it’s a very memorable scent. But I’d hunt down the Ranshuko version before it disappears, as it’s half the price the Encens du Monde version is and a steal at that price. Even if you can’t, Celestial Nave would be well worth it.

Seeds of Transformation is one of two incenses in the Meditation line that features a sandalwood stick drenched in the essential oil of the lily. I reviewed the other sandalwood/lily incense, Blissful Mountain, at the top link, which is a thicker stick, however even though the descriptions are virtually the same, the incenses differ in a way that’s quite difficult to capture in writing. Both are terribly gorgeous incenses, two of the best florals available, with no off tones in the perfume, just a rich scent of flowers that really lingers. If I were to guess, I’d say that the oil might be a bit purer with the Blissful Mountain, where there might be a bit of spice bolstering the Seeds of Transformation, but these differences could be between the thick and thin stick versions as well. Like the high end florals in the Shoyeido Floral World series, both incenses have great definition and thus belong with the aloeswoods in the more expensive incense ranges. Really beautiful work here, I can even see why there are two similar incenses in the same line.

Virgin Snow tends to be a bit more complicated. The version I have comes from the shorter rolls, but there are 3 versions of it, including a long stick meditation version. The odd thing to me is, despite the long box being identical to the Byakudan Shirayuki, the version I have isn’t low smoke by any means, fairly normal actually, which makes me wonder if there’s a recipe change for the version distributed via Incense Works. Regardless, the short roll sticks are really nice incenses, green sandalwoods also imbued with quite a bit of oil or perfume. The freshness and slight evergreen nature of the stick does reflect the incense’s name quite well, and it’s also quite sweet and friendly with a slight mintiness and maybe a touch of green patchouli to it. Overall it’s a very accessible stick, like a walk in a snowy forest. In this case, I’d probably recommend trying out an Encens du Monde version first, unless you’re partial to low smoke incenses.

The Meditation line is really one of Encens du Monde’s finest, it’s quite solid across the spectrum, although I found Imperial Family a little hard to get used to at first. They’re all packaged in very attractive boxes, use high quality ingredients even down to the spices, and feature scents you’re unlikely to match outside of the incenses’ obvious, directly exported duplicates. And they’re quite interesting for having some of the most high end, non-aloeswood incenses available as well. It’s not at all difficult to give recommendations for all three of these.

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14 Comments

  1. ted said,

    October 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Ranshuko Temple is currently being sold at “The Monastery Store” and it’s listed as “Abbot’s Daily Incense”
    (http://www.dharma.net/monstore/product_info.php?products_id=76)

  2. glennjf said,

    September 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I’ve been sampling the Kunjudo Company product Byakudan SHIRAYUKI or Sandal wood SHIRAYUKI as it’s written on the side of the long box meditation style I have here.

    There are two companies importing this incense into Australia. http://www.finejapaneseimports.com.au operated by the lovely Ryoko and the other is a wholesale only business called Incense of the World (IOTW). This incense is the IOTW imported version. You can find more Australian Retailers by searching the Review your Incense Retailer page (see link, Pages listing, to the left of your screen).

    The scent from this incense does not appear to align with the reviewed short version scent, the Les Encens du Monde version. Instead, this incense reminds me very much of warm doughy bread baking with a wet sticky almost cloying gamey baked venison type overlay, very strange and different. I have burned a number of sticks over a few weeks and each time the incense bewilders me. There is some ingredient in this mix I am either not familiar with or it may be I am but so far I have not twigged to what it is so it’s got me in a sort of holding pattern right now for determining if I’m loving it or just liking it.

    I’m hoping it won’t lose the present appeal when I do manage to solve the mystery. The situation with this particular box of incense seems akin to that of the previously reviewd Awaji-Baikundo Wabi-Sabi incense and how that incense mystified the reviewer until they finally twigged that it resembled somewhat the scent of coffee, even though there is no mention of coffee in the ingredients.

  3. glennjf said,

    July 17, 2010 at 1:14 am

    A thought, maybe I’ve made another connection?…

    Celestial Nave and Ranshuko Temple Blend

    Ranshuko Temple… a Koukando (Kokando) Company incense? http://www.koukando.com/shouhin_09_ippairi.html

    Koukando packaging, image only –> http://www.koukando.com/images/se_09_752.jpg

    It’s a tiny image plus but it looks about the same packaging to me.

    • glennjf said,

      July 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

      After further reading appears this is sort of old, but very interesting news, a lot of work has been put into clearing up the Encense du Monde incenses around working out which companies they originated from.

  4. Ricardo said,

    October 12, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Many years ago I bought Ranshuko temple incense and I remember how exquisite the box smelled for a long time, I think I basically noticed the agarwood and camphor notes and use to open the box just to enjoy the fragrance. However that incense which I still keep now smells like an old book (nice) unburned and when burned is not as good and powerful as I remember. Considering the ingredients: Sandalwood, Agarwood, Patchouli and so on I assume that it would have aged very well but apparently it hasn´t. On the other hand back when I bought Ranshuko almost a decade ago I also bought Kyukyodo Azusa which I also keep to this day next to Ranshuko in the same drawer, but that box still smells amazing and strong and when burned is as good as new. So is it just me or Ranshuko was not that natural to begin with?

    • Mike said,

      October 13, 2009 at 7:26 am

      Both natural and synthetic oils will dissipate over time, so I doubt it’s a natural vs synthetic issue, in fact I’d guess both Ranshuko and Azusa are totally natural incenses. That’s pretty amazing about the Azusa though, which I’d think would have a very high oil content and would age faster than the Ranshuko. It might depend on how much you’ve used from each box as well, depending on how tight the roll is, the tighter the sticks are packaged the less they’re likely to age.

  5. Mike said,

    February 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    They’re interesting because they appear to be English translations of French translations of the original Japanese names! Anyway hope you like em. My guess is if you’re getting a short roll of the Virgin Snow, it’ll be the green one. I think it’s the long stick Meditation form that’s smokeless.

  6. Claire said,

    February 17, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks Mike. I’ve dropped Simply Incense a line to try and verify whether their Virgin Snow is the green (smoky) variety or the black (smokeless) variety. Thanks for the tip on trying Pine & Orchid Wedding (which they do have in stock) before Whispering Bamboo. Don’t they have great sounding names!

  7. Mike said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Hi Claire, Per the comments above you, I’d just be sure that the Virgin Snow short sticks are the green smoky ones rather than the black smokeless ones, which I can’t personally vouch for. I do like the green smoky ones quite a bit though. I’m not sure I’d call them natural per se (although they very well might be), but they’re definitely quite pleasant and not synthetic smelling. I’d check to see if they have Pine and Orchid Wedding first though, that might be the one from EdM in this price range I like the most.

    The next batch of EdMs I’ll be writing about are: the Pine & Orchid Wedding, Whispering Bamboo, 1000 Years of Wisdom, Oriental Breeze (Shobikoh also I think) and likely Middle Path and Aloe Vera. Whispering Bamboo I do like, although I’m not sure I’d recommend it if you haven’t tried it first, it’s kind of subtle and somewhat low end. But it is very natural smelling.

  8. Claire said,

    February 16, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Mike, you mention that the Virgin Snow short sticks are imbued with quite a bit of oil or perfume – is that a natural or synthetic smelling perfume as my preference is generally along the lines of natural.

    Also, you mention Whispering Bamboo elsewhere via comparisons (so I presume you must have tried it) but there isn’t actually a review of it that I can find. Is this a natural smelling incense?

    Are either of the above worth tacking onto the end of my order for the 2 different Baieido Kobunboku’s (as they don’t look particularly overly expensive)?

  9. Bernd Sandner said,

    January 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    PS

    I just found a wbsite, where the Gokuhin Daikunko is listed under Kunmeido:

    http://www.tomsincense.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=83

  10. Bernd Sandner said,

    January 26, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Mike,

    I also believe the Gokuhin Daikunko to be a Kunmeido stick,
    i just did not find the proof yet.

  11. Mike said,

    January 26, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Hey Bernd, thanks a lot for the extra information (not to mention my original sample of Blissful Mountain that started me on the EdM journey). You’ve cleared up what I was somewhat vague on and confirmed that the long stick, low smoke version is definitely a different incense than the shorter stick, which is definitely green and smoky. As I’m not terribly fond of the black low smoke sticks, it confirms for me which version I should restock with.

    Nice call on the Ranshuko – Goikuhin Daikunko comparisons, I’ve only had the latter for a month or so and can see what you mean. I’ll need to do some further research on it as I had it marked down as a Kunmeido stick, it would certainly be a very different blend for Baieido anyway. Whatever it is, it’s very nice.

  12. Bernd Sandner said,

    January 24, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Mike,

    nice to read your comments. Many of your and my observations, concerning smell, inside, and outside of these incenses, seem to be almost identical,
    like virgin snow and byakudan shirayuki.
    I ordered the Byakudan Shirayuki as an Encense du Monde product from Rorando in Munich. Here, on their webside

    (https://ssl.kundenserver.de/s8503319.shoplite.de/sess/utn1545a4c7f30ca70/shopdata/index.shopscript?main_url=https%3A%2F%2Fssl.kundenserver.de%2Fs8503319.shoplite.de%2Fsess%2Futn1545a4c7f30ca70%2Fshopdata%2Fproduct_overview.shopscript)

    it is sold as “Sandel-Schnee” (sandal-snow) and
    Neige immaculée santal(pure, or virgin, sandal snow).
    The package I got is the long version. On the back there is a sticker, which says:
    les encense du monde, Byakudan Shirayuki, Sandel-Schnee, Neige immaculée santal. On the bottom of the package it says “Kunjudo” with their special company emblem. (By the way, this emblem you can also find on the Blissfull Mountain and the Seeds of transformation)
    it is a long black stick, very dense, maybe pressed.
    It is a littlebit less smoke, not really low smoke. But it has got the noticeable extra smell of low smoke incenses, and will leave white ash.
    You can draw your own conclusions from that.

    I agree very much with what you say about Seeds of transformation and Blissful Mountain!
    I also ordered them as encense du monde products, but, as I said before, you can find the Kunjudo logo on the package as well, as on the Byakudan Shirayuki.

    It is also right, what you say about the Ranshuko. In addition to the Reiryo-koh, I also find it fairly similar in smell to the Gokuhin Daikunko, a temple stick, which you can find on the EOA website, in the Baieido section, bottom of the first page.

    Best! Bernd


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