Gyokushodo: Saishuko & Shunsui (Ross)

Gyokushodo is a very old incense company who has only recently come to light in the US. They have actually had some of their offerings available here for some years but never seemed to have their name mentioned.

They have a number of lines, each of which are pretty tightly grouped as to a style. Their woods and oils lie have been here the longest and you can see our reviews on them here. The new group to come in seems to be centered on the use of traditional woods and herbs/spices without the addition of oils, at least to my nose. The first two to come in were Saimei koh and Umeshoin. I personally find them to be very well done as well as very traditional style scents. They are not particularly strong and are much more geared to setting quietly nearby rather then doing up a large space(unless, of course, like some of us; you burn a bunch at one shot 🙂  ) .

Saishuko uses a good grade of Aloeswood mixed with what is labeled as Lysimachiae herba (Reiryo-koh). So given that, I was expecting something along the lines of one of the incenses from Kunmeido. This is not the case. Instead I find an almost musky scent, with some additional sweet notes as well an occasional hint of clove and/or cinnamon. Way in the background there seems to be a slight green note. Again this is all pretty subtle, refined and elegant but not something that would be considered overpowering or overwhelming. It would be equally at home during meditation or even during a meal.

Shunsui also uses a good grade of Aloeswood as well as a part of a marine mollusk. I am sure there are other spices at work here also. It has a sort of bitter sweet scent to it that is stronger in delivery then the Saishuko mentioned above. Again this has a seemingly very traditional scent to it, yet it is also not a very common scent in the incenses that have come into this country (so far). As a side note the mollusk used as a main ingredient here is usually used as a fixative (something to prevent the other scents from going away too fast) This is a pretty unusual use of it and it works out well.

One thing about all of these is that they pretty much need to be first on the nights “burn list”.  So trying to taste a bunch at one sitting can be pretty difficult. Also, they all seem to have a pretty deep learning curve with many layers residing within each stick Oh yes, all of this line seem to come in a rather heavy plastic wrapper as well as in their own box. This means that they are going to hold onto their aromatics for quite a while, nice touch.

Right this moment the only place I know of where you can get these in this country is at Japan Incense. I would assume this will change but who knows.

I will be reviewing another three of these within a day or two.    -Ross


  1. June 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    […] June 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm (Gyokushodo, Incense, Japan, Uncategorized) You can see the first two sections about this entire grouping here and here. […]

  2. janet said,

    June 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Just on first try, without enough familiarity to catch more than initial impressions, I have to say that I took strongly to Saishukoh right off, mainly because of the potency of its woodiness, which to my nose has a lovely smooth scent that is supported by a bit of peppery-spiciness and a decent hit of camphor. Shunsui is really interesting, I had a hard time getting a handle on that underlying dry and slightly bitter green note, but it’s definitely one of a kind and I think it’s a great change of pace.
    None of the Gyokushodos seem that mild to me, although they are more reticent than the more perfumed varieties.

  3. Mike said,

    June 10, 2010 at 7:28 am

    That’s a good question whether these have oils or not. I’d suspect that the Saishuko does have a little just because of its similarity to Samei koh and Umeshoin (and they’re fairly redolent in the fresh stick form too). If Kunmeido incenses have a green note, a lot of these Gyokushodos strike me as having an orange note. That almost orange and cinnamon spiced tea sort of mix. But with the Saishuko it seems there’s some real wood that kind of cuts through it all right in the middle. Anyway it knocked me out right away.

    Shunsui is deadly subtle. Last night I think I burned three sticks in a row and it really got my attention. There’s something in it that reminds me of a few of those Korean incenses, a certain kind of tanginess, but that’s mixed in with the seaside like aroma the whelk operculum must be bringing to the table. There’s really a lot going on.

    Very true about not being able to do long sessions with these (and the other two new ones), they’re so subtle you tend to lose them quickly. Anyway these strike me as very creative midline aloeswood mixes.

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