May Top 10

May’s Top 10 includes 3 blends that work great on an electric burner.  If you don’t have one, this one works well and is popular with many of the folks on ORS.  It gets HOT, so start it low and slowly increase the temp over a period of time as needed.  The selections below do quite well at “10” on mine…

 Ocean of Night – if you didn’t already know, ORS’ own Ross is a gifted incense crafter and OoN is all the proof you’ll ever need.  It is an all natural blend of a dozen-plus elements including frankincense, sandalwood, oak moss and other secret woods, resins, herbs and spices, all pulverized together into a black sand consistency and aged for a minimum of two months.  No oils are added.  And as we would expect from Ross, he has obtained the finest source possible for each of his ingredients, regardless of cost!  The result is a deep, rich, velvety blend in both appearance and aroma.  I don’t have the “nose” or familiarity to dissect this complex concoction yet, though I do recognize the frankincense resin and a top note of what is likely the oak moss (thanks for that insight, Mike!)  I’ve found this luxurious black sand does best gently heated on my electric burner, letting the blend slowly warm to release its essence (hitting it too hard with the heat can induce the fine granules to scorch and turn harsh).  As further testament to the quality of ingredients (and Ross’ blend) OoN is also compelling just sitting unheated in its bottle – I could certainly see this as a unisex perfume.  If you appreciate fine hand-crafted blends like we have from Mermade Magickal, then OoN should be on your list.  Now Ross doesn’t have cases of OoN sitting about – I believe he thoughtfully prepares the occasional batch as he finds the time and ingredients – so it might not be an immediate acquisition for you.  But I bet if you ask him reeeeaaaaal nice… 😀

 It’s no secret here that I generally turn the ol’ evil eye to rose incense, but Bukhoor Marwah has changed that.  Anne, our resident rose incense and bukhoor master, sent me a sample of this unpromising-looking blend (think quarter-sized discs of black, tarry and tacky ground “coal”) and a moment of warming on the electric burner soon had my room filled with a lush, warm perfume of rose and other resins.  It’s a venerable and comforting scent, and while I don’t see it as a daily go-to incense, I can see having cravings for this – perhaps a good chilly day burn or summer-evening-screendoors-open kinda thing.

 Dream Snake is an energizing blend from Mermade Magickal that I’ve enjoyed for some time.  It has the unique property of not requiring a heater or charcoal – just light a mound of it and it will burn.  Now, I have tried this and frankly it just smelled like scorched ingredients to me, but, gently warmed on the electric burner, it reveals all of its wonderful aromas.  I see there may be a new formulation (my bottle is over a year old) so perhaps the new blend does better being “lit on fire” versus a gentle warming.  It hasn’t improved my trance dancing or oracle abilities as promised, though – perhaps you’ll have better luck!  😀

 In Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, the Wonka factory is a metaphor for Tennendo.  And the illusive Golden Ticket represents Kuukai.  Charlie spent his last dime to get it, and you should too!  It even made my Top 10 in January.

 My father was from Winston-Salem, NC, home of R.J. Reynolds (the cigarette manufacturer).  On childhood visits, I remember there was a sweetness in the air there from the tobacco leaves curing in the warehouses – a wonderful summertime aroma.  Snow Lion (bottom of page) conjures that memory with its mild, rich sweetness.  If you are unsure where to begin your Tibetan addiction, I recommend SL as a good beginner’s stick – no particular strong notes and nothing unfamiliar or off-putting to modern noses.  Light it in a forgotten corner and let the fragrance slowly drift to you.  And how cool is the wood box it comes in?!

♦ Baieido’s Kobunboku is a wonderful plum flower incense that has been a favorite here for a long time, appearing frequently in Top 10 lists and the Hall of Fame.  I, however, didn’t get to it until recently.  I’m already a big fan and have been burning a lot of it recently.  It’s inexpensive, too, so really hard to beat as a daily incense.

 Kunjudo’s Tokusen (Special) Karin was introduced only a few months ago and takes the “regular” Karin’s sandalwood, cinnamon and floral and further refines it.  If you liked the original, then the upgrade costs very little more and is a much smoother experience.  You may purchase it here.  We don’t have a formal review yet on ORS, though it did cause some buzz earlier this year in our Review Your Incenses area (scroll down to the comments from April 9-12, 2010 between Janet, Pinjie and myself.)  Warning:  it’s been known to cause random outbursts of dancing for joy 😀

Here you can read the review and my (and others’) comments on Minorien Aloeswood.  This recent addition to my collection has quickly risen to the upper ranks of personal favorites.  Perhaps more pricey than the typical daily incense, I seem to have to burn it constantly anyway.  And hey, it is cheaper than the Fuin Kyara Ryugen, so I tell myself I’m actually saving money 😀

I have been a long-time Tennendo Frankincense person, but recently decided to try Minorien Frankincense based on the many positive comments here. Its darker, pungent, resinous character is a great contrast to Tennendo’s light and melon-like one and I find that I enjoy it just as much as the latter. It’s nice to have options…

  Haru No Kaori from Shunkodo is the floral incense to try if you don’t typically like florals.  A fantastic blend of wood keeps the sweetness in check and is a regular recommendation by me for those new to Japanese incense.

– Steve



I’ve been finally finding the time to sit down and write incense notes over the last couple of weeks, so am finally starting to make some progress. I hope to start rolling out these reviews in July when I’ve got a hefty batch and more momentum. Anyway these are things you may be seeing when I start up again: incenses from Incense from India, Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, a series of Flora/Fluxo incenses from various manufacturers, more from Triloka, Fred Soll, incenses from Tengboche, Shechen, Shroff, Stupa, Arogya and quite a few more things from Shoyeido including a couple Genji packs, a few Granulateds, a couple In Kohs, and their kneaded range. And the rest of the staff also have some cool thing coming up. So bear with us through this early 2010 drought, hopefully it will be ending in the future…

New Nippon Kodo / Kayuragi incenses

Looks like Nippon Kodo have added three new Kayuragi incenses to their list of American exports: Rose, White Peach and Green Tea. Kayuragi is definitely one of the better lines in the NK catalog, so these are quite intriguing…

April Top Ten (Ross)

This is more or less what I have been using during April ( OK,thats a lie, there were a bunch more but I only get to talk about ten 🙂  The list is not really in any order ( except for the Kyara Kokoh! ) as I have found that it really does depend on the day and the mood. Enjoy  -Ross

Baieido Kyara Kokoh: OK, it’s not at all practical or even sensible, but damn, it’s good. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is Baieido’s Koh Shi Boku but there are a whole lot more levels going on in the Kokoh.  You can read the review on it here. It would be really nice if Baieido came out with some kind of sampler, I am sure it would not be inexpensive, but it would put it into the realm of doable.

Baieido Byakudan Kobunboku: Easily one of the best deals in Sandalwood on the market. Nice spice and camphor top notes with a really high quality wood which holds down the finish. If you are looking for Sandalwood be sure to check this one out, it’s a big favorite around here. A slightly dryer alternative might be Shunkodo’s Sarasoju or for the wetter side the Fu-In Sandalwood.

Gyokushodo Saimei koh: I just wish this came in a long stick or coil, I find it to be a great backround scent that can be captivating, yet unobtrusive at the same time, not a bad trick. It also perfect for meditation. The spices and woods are somewhat subtle but very refined, not at all over powering. A very “classic” Japanese incense scent that I find myself using a lot.

Kunmeido Kyara Tenpyo: One of the very best of the “green” note incenses one can find. These guys know how to do it and the addition of Kyara is a beautiful thing. I tend to think of this one as the most refined and polished of the Kunmeido line up, at least that you can  get here. It also comes in a smaller size.

Fred Solls Magical Copal: This is Copal mixed with “additions” which make for a very deep, grounding and meditative scent. This a major dose of resins and is also about as far away from a floral as one could get. Not sweet, very heavy resins and quite wonderful, great stuff. There just happens to be a sale at EothA

Shunkodo Houshou: This is one of those somewhat “hidden” aloeswoods that is a really great deal. The woods play with a somewhat bitter sweet chocolate note that make for a superbly dry style. At around $20 it will not break the bank but does get you a great example of Aloeswood from one of the best incense makers in Japan. You might also consider the Tennendo Bronze.

Koh-shi Japanese Musk: This is actually made by Daihatsu. It has a very dense, deep musky scent overlaid on a wood base note. I find it to be very captivating and it would be pretty easy to go through a box in a hurry. There are also some great spice notes worked into the mix, overall it’s a big winner. Works really well to do up a room to set a mood.

Mermade Goddess Hymn: This is really made to be slowly heated and a electric heater works best. It is a truly beautiful mix of resins with a light rose note mixed in, all of which float over the woods base. This and Golden Bough are my two current favorites in this style. I find myself using them quite a lot and many people I know who can not deal with smoke are big fans of these two.

Seikado Solitude / Hitori-Shizuka: This is a (I am assuming)an  perfume/E.O. scent floated over a Sandalwood base that, to me, is just beautiful. There are no synthetic off notes as so often happens in this style. I use this a lot later in the evening or to go to sleep to. It reminds me of a really well made and elegant perfume, it is also not at all overpowering. Nice clean packaging to, makes for a great gift.

Shroff Channabasappa Amir: I find this incense and in fact the “Natural Incenses” from Shroff to be really unique among  Indian style  incenses. Given the price point of most of the incense from India it is pretty hard for me to believe that there is very much in the way of real Essential Oils in them, and to my nose they generally( not always) have a somewhat synthetic note mixed in. This is not the case here and the price most likely reflects this. It’s worth it. This is a really nice scent and opens this style up for many people. Stunning and gorgeous come to mind as descriptions. You might try the Shamana Gold in the same section also.