Shoyeido / Angelscents (12 incense stand alone sampler)

Shoyeido may have more 2 3/4 inch incenses than most other companies’ full catalogs. Their Horin, 12 Month, LISN, Incense Road, Floral World and the lion’s share of their Genji series all feature this type of stick which is something of a modern style, with a thicker, circular heft and a dominance of perfume oils which manage to not overwhelm quality bases in most of the incenses. The issue now that we’ve reviewed a good chunk of all of these lines is that after a while the aromas start to blur together and resemble one another. While the Horins can be set aside for being the most deluxe from this style and the LISNs due to the print on the stick, slightly different base and even more emphasis on modern, perfume styles, the rest of the 2 3/4 inch series really start to resemble each other especially when you’re presented with a 12 stick sampler.

This is the Angelscents sampler, a series of incenses with LISN-like names and aromas that crisscross the above-mentioned series. With only one stick the fleeting comparisons to other series are mostly what comes to mind, except, like with the Genji scents, the occasional wish that a certain aroma was actually made in bulk so that one could get to know it better. One gets the impression of a modern incense laboratory churning out variations in style where the big hits get made in bulk and the near misses shunted off to various sampler packs. Indeed, so many of these sticks in and outside the Angelscents sampler, are fleetingly reminiscent of Horin classics like Muro-machi. And like with the 12 month series, an incense will have noticeable hints of sandalwood and/or aloeswood in the mix, not at Horin-like quality levels but often close enough. My game plan was to burn half of a stick, record my impressions and then come back for a second round. In most cases my first round impressions captured about all I could without getting to know a scent over time and in all of these cases the impressions will be preliminary only. But that’s the sampler in a nutshell, as far as I know none of these scents can be found outside this package in the US, despite the fact they’re so close to scents in some of these other series.

Ethereal Times kicks off the series with an unusual mix of lemongrass and pine-like scents, slighly floral with a mix of low end aloeswood and sandalwood. The lemongrass-like scent gives it a bit of tang at the top but it’s not as strong as most incenses and could be a byproduct of the combination of perfumes being used.

Only For You resembles the Genji scent Kurohige found in the Enishi set (and if I’m not mistaken there’s a green stick in the Utataka set, Hachisu, that’s roughly in the same area), with a typically green aroma, with lots of mint, almost like sandalwood topped with wintergreen or spearmint and a bit of aloeswood in the mix. Shoyeido obviously do lots of scents like this, although I’d certainly love to see one in bulk as all three of these are merciless teases.

Talk of Stars seems like a variation on the cherry blossom scent with a mix of sandalwood and aloeswood, not quite as deluxe as the pressed incense in the Himenoka set but roughly along those lines. It has a touch of something a bit more dangerous or herbal to mix things up, but overall is a very friendly blend.

Mystic Beat is one of those sticks that might have fit into the Floral World series, it has a strong jasmine-like or perhaps floral bouquet scent with a touch of vanilla. It’s perhaps a bit too faint or mellow for the style to be a complete hit but it’s a nice change of pace in the set.

In My Light is reminiscent of Muro-Machi in terms of a caramel-like sweetness but on the surface has something of a coffee like aroma to it. It returns to having a touch of aloeswood for depth as well as the clay-like subnote I often associate with patchouli. Very unusual and intriguing.

Moondust really ups the sandalwood content and is an incense I find unusual in that this sort of orange and sandalwood sort of scent is one I tend to consider more solar than lunar. It’s in fact fairly hot and firy and quite peppy, if not particularly individual in its own right.

You can add Dancing Angels to the short list of scents listed in Only for You above, it has all the spearmint and evergreen you’d want in a green stick. Both of these are sweet, perhaps this is the less so of those in the Angelscents series, but it remains fairly candyish in the sense of those spearmint like candies that come out around Christmas time.

Infinite Moment probably reaches for something sublime given its name but comes off after one stick as a fairly weak and ineffectual light sandalwood-based scent. It also has hints of Muro-Machi, but is wispier and not nearly as complex and interesting as the In My Light scent mentioned earlier.

Perfect Time is another scent that could have been a Floral World “outtake” (for those not familiar with music speak, an outtake is generally a recording of a song that didn’t make it to the original album and is usually trotted out as a bonus track in the modern age). It could be lavender or violet in this one, it has features similar to both types, and is bolstered by quite a bit of sandalwood in the base. However, like the previous incense it’s a touch on the thin side, certainly an incense that wouldn’t measure up to at least the top three levels of the Floral World series.

I Can Fly is another variation of the sorts of sandalwood incenses found in both Incense Road and the Floral World lines in that it’s more than just the wood itself. This one has a touch of patchouli and tends to the slightly creamy.

Majestic Pinwheel is one of the best in the group, a sultry, exotic eastern floral with a bit of spice or even spikenard in the background. There even appears to be a touch of anise to the scent. Overall quite complex and deserves its own box.

Incognito Traveler is another really great once, perhaps a bit too wispy to last as its own incense but its combination of low end aloeswood with a spicier, cinnamon-based incense is very intriguing. There’s a 12 month that’s remotely similar (I want to say the December), but doesn’t capture the spicier qualities as definitively.

At $9.95, the Angelscents series is closer to Shoyeido’s lower priced items but at 12 sticks it’s gone a little too fast for comfort. One might be better advised starting off with the other similarly styled incense lines. Samplers like this can be fairly heartbreaking and in Angelscents case a good 1/4 or 1/3 of the scents are good enough to exist on their own (and it wouldn’t surprise me if they do in Japan). To use another musical metaphor, this is kind of like the “B sides” compilation for Shoyeido, at least existing outside more context.

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