SAMPLER NOTES: Keigado, Seikado, Kunmeido

I’ve long had the internal debate on reviewing incenses where I only have small samples, in many cases I often just hang onto the ones I’m going to buy anyway and do a review proper on them. But I’m getting to the point where I’m kind of backing up with them and in a lot of cases they’re new and it’s probably time to get the word out, particularly as we’ve been seeing a lot of new modern styled imports coming in in the last six months. So periodically and probably through the end of the year I hope to get some comments out on these in batches of (approx.) 5 or 6.

The three Keigados in this batch, however, have been around for a couple years. The Blue Berry was even discussed in some comments a while back, and I can see why, it’s a pleasant smokeless stick that does what it says on the box, exude a pleasant smell of blueberries that’s pitched just about right. However I’m at the point where I wouldn’t even be sure what I’d do with 370 sticks of this, I could easily even imagine getting tired of it. But it’s light, airy and friendly, I can’t imagine the person who would find it unpleasant.

Keigado’s Pink Magnolia is one of their three magnolias and I believe I covered the Purple Magnolia some time ago. Like the purple, the pink isn’t smokeless, the main difference is this stick evokes typical pink-like smells, perhaps rose or carnation in parts, as much as it does magnolia. In fact I was reminded a little of the Shunkohdo Shuhou I reviewed yesterday in terms of tone. The Pink Magnolia, however, has a slight bit of cinnamon spice in the mix which made me like it a little more than the purple, but overall this is the kind of low end, inexpensive floral that will appeal more to the modern than traditional incense fan.

Sennichiko, however, is definitely more in the traditional vein and strikes me as, perhaps, a slightly more inexpensive version of Keigado’s Full Moon, the amber scents are not quite as strong in this version, although it’s strong enough that this doesn’t just come off like another low end green sandalwood. But like most of those, it has a mild perfume oil on top that’s hard to describe, except that it seems to have a touch of patchouli or cinnamon in the mix. And certainly at $3 a roll, it’s kind of a steal.

Moving over to Seikado is another entry in the company’s Hitori-Shizuka line, the Fancy Floral. That’s not particularly the kind of description that really appeals to my sensibilities so much and my opinion wasn’t far off the same one I had for the Floral Elegant in the same line. Like many an NK floral (or even Daihatsu or Kunjudo), it’s part of the modern trend of perfumed incense sticks, and like a couple I’ll talk about later in the Shorindo Koibana line or the NK Free Pure Spirit line, I get watermelon more than I do floral, sort of a gentle and subtle feminine perfume that isn’t likely to do more than lightly perfume an area. Like the whole line, the base is sandalwood but in this incense more than the others it’s perhaps the most sublimated.

Seikado’s Kyoyama is also modern, but in this case they’ve put together a distinctive and special incense not quite like any other, although again I’m fairly put off by the sheer number of sticks (200+) in the box more than I am by the price; that’s probably way more incense than I can crunch at this point. Anyway this incense is unique in that it largely exudes the aroma of Sumi ink. Not having any conscious memory of Sumi ink specifically, I can say that it does remind me of the better examples of calligraphic ink I can remember and married to camphor it makes for a distinct almost oceanic incense, very water elemental. It’s smokeless, so never gets too potent, a bit spicy and overall this one just about anyone will need a sample of first to check out as it has virtually no comparison at least among imports.

Finally, another oldie from the Kunmeido stable, the Hosen is one I feel amiss at not having discovered earlier as although it’s a distinct modern floral, it’s really no less brilliant than most of the line’s traditionals and one of the best multi-floral air freshener type incenses I can think of. While it’s definitely a bouquet scent, I’d say the violet’s out front on this one but what’s great about it from my perspective is it’s almost as spicy as it is floral and the complexity the combined styles exude make for a fascinating burn. Some similar incenses might be Baieido’s Kokonoe Floral and Izumi and less so Shorindo’s Chabana Green Tea, all mentioned mostly due to their similarities as freshener types. A 200 stick box, again, could be stretching it for me, but in this case I might be on the purchase side of the fence as I can see this mixing into a day perfectly.

Up over the next few weeks new incense from Shorindo (including the excellent Wayko), a handful from the new Ancient Forest line, scents from Scents of Japan, Nihon Senko Seizo, Saraike Kunbutsudo, Tahodo and I believe Ross will have some words on a few new Daihatsus.


  1. Steve said,

    November 6, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Just noticed this review of Kunmeido Hosen and lit a stick of it. It always strikes me as such a bright, purple-y scent (perhaps I’m being influenced by the stick’s purple color) and I agree with your comments entirely, Mike. Kunjudo’s Karin shares, in my mind (nose) a very similar rich, perfumed, almost powdery spiciness to it that is so intoxicating, with the difference being in (I think) the top-note oils playing on top of that lush spicy base. Karin’s stays somehow warmer, with, again, the Hosen being brilliantly purple-bright to me. Both are wonderful and affordable incenses.

    Having talked a lot about aroma-fatigue, I will say that Hosen is a perfect stick to jolt your nose back to alertness. The pickled ginger on your plate of sushi. I can’t say I have anything else quite like Hosen. I don’t typically like florals (with the exception being Kyukyodo’s Azusa), but as mentioned already, it really is the spiciness that keeps the floral dimension from becoming cloying. And at less than a dime per stick, it’s a guilt-free burn every time 🙂

    – Steve

    • Mike said,

      November 9, 2009 at 9:11 am

      Great comments on the Hosen. It’s absolutely perfect for aromatic fatigue, I totally agree, it also has an almost air freshener quality to it without coming of like rubbing alcohol or hair spray or something. I’m really liking it for sure, I just got in a 70 stick batch. I’ll have to compare Karin with Hosen at some point. I realized about a year ago that Karin varies quite a bit in recipe, I compared two batches at one point, one was much amber sweeter and the other was a bit drier and muskier. The former was in the box but the latter was in a roll. I even wonder if the Forest of Flower version in both the Encense du Monde Karin and Meditation lines might also vary quite a bit as well. I just found out that the Golden Waves that’s in the Meditation line is a lot different from the original and now deleted Karin line, a much thicker stick and a woodier composition.

      • Steve said,

        November 9, 2009 at 10:39 am

        For the record, I have the regular box (200 sticks) of Karin and it is definitely “amber sweet” as you describe!

        – Steve

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