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


  1. Alex said,

    June 2, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    From the stuff I know on here (Japanese) this is an awesome and balanced top 10! A Tennendo incense is always tempting, and the Minorien Aloeswood is especially great when I feel like going for a ‘different’ scent. Haru no Kaori, of course, is also grand.

    I’ve been in the spring mood lately: accordingly, my go-to incense was Minorien Sandalwood. I also got a lot of play out of Kobunboku, and I even treated myself to a few sticks of my dwindling box of Heian koh over the last month.

  2. Mike said,

    June 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I’ve had the tube Tennendos out lately including Kuukai. Those are scents I don’t think I’ll ever tire of. I think my next restock will be some of those and it’s very tempting to go for a full box.

    I’d think you probably have the “new” Dream Snake. The old probably refers to Mermade’s original series of tube incenses, most of which are virtual legends now, the new Dream Snake was a remake of one of those, and back in the day all those incenses were colored, the Dream Snake having a very reptilian green color. I still have like a half finger length vial of it but it’s definitely lost a lot of its original punch due to the ravages of time. I have to admit missing a lot of those so much I try not to think of them! Of course it helps there’s so many great new aromas to capture my imagination.

  3. Janet said,

    June 1, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Awesome picks, Esteban!
    As a matter of fact, Pinjie and I throw out occasional “current favorites” lists to one another, and I’m pretty sure Kuukai, Haru No Kaori, and Tokusen Karin were on my last one 🙂
    And Minorien Aloeswood makes frequent appearances there, too…and their frankincense is my go-to for that scent.

  4. Pinjie said,

    June 1, 2010 at 7:44 am

    You are so funny, Steve! Love your Japanese picks! What a lucky boy to be able to try Ross’ Ocean of Night! 🙂

  5. Masha said,

    May 31, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Glad to see the Minoriens getting some love, I own everything they make and can’t get enough!

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