Musk Scented Incenses-Japan (Ross)

In keeping with the musk theme for the Natural Perfumers Guild “Mystery of Musk” project( and ORS being an incense review site) I was thinking of bring out an all inclusive list of incense with a musk scent in them. Then Mike mentioned “Ross, you might find it an easier to job to list the incenses WITHOUT musk of
some sort in them. 🙂 “ after doing a quick search at Essence of the Ages I realized that he was totally right. So instead I will break this down into at least two, maybe 3 parts.

We are starting our aromatic and musky journey with the Japanese side of things and I am listing incenses that I personally know have a musk scent in them. They are also available in the US. Some might use the real deal, while others have opted to use botanical sources for the musk scent, or possibly an “aroma chemical”.

In the history of Japanese incense it seems to me from what I have read that musk has played a very large role as both a primary scent and also as a scent fixative, much like in perfumes. Musk has a tremendous amount of staying power and can help to anchor other scents as well. In Chinese Medicine it also has many therapeutic properties so it has been popular for ages. I have seen very old receipts for kneaded incense balls where it became obvious that it was more a question of how much musk rather then if it was in there or not. Some companies still make this style (not available in the US through) and the price reflects the scarcity of the ingredients. The use of Kyara, high quality Aloeswoods and musk can really put a dent in ones bank account 🙂 I can only imagine the scent, but given the sophistication and esthetics of those times I am sure it is amazing. Shoyeido does make the kneaded style, but I have not had a chance to try them. I have tried some from Yamada Matsu (Kurogata & Genmyo) and these do have a musky scent to them, mixed in with the woods and spices, quite nice and perfect for those who cannot deal with smoke.

In the world of incense sticks from Japan I am going to talk about the ones I know and think are in the “best of class” category as far as musk scented.

Shoyeido’s Kyara blends (Sho-Kaku, Myo-ho and Go-un) all have that quality to them, besides the great wood notes, it is one of the major aspects that makes them so good. The musk helps round out and sort of lifts the scent up.

Shunkodoh’s Ranjatai and Kyara Seikan are both two of my all time favorites. They are somewhat similar but the addition of the Kyara wood in the Seikan produces a smoother scent. Personally I think Ranjatai is one of the best deals in incense, the initial outlay for a bundle is not cheap but you get a very large amount of incense and if you do like musk scents, it’s here in spades.

Kohshi’s Japanese Musk, which is actually made by Daihatsu is inexpensive yet has a tremendous amount of smooth musk scent. Leaving the box out in the room will fragrance the room all by itself.

Seijudo’s collection of Kyara’s (Kyara Horen, Kyara Seiran and Kyara Enju all have a musk scent bonded with the Kyara aspect, they are all quite good and considered some of the very best in Japan.

Tennendo’s Shingon apparently uses a botanical musk as its scent, it’s nice, not in the same class as Ranjatai, but it also only costs around $6.00

You can check out the reviews in the side bar on the left, every one of these is in there, there is also a list of stores that we have had good experiences with that tend to carry at least some of these.

Many of the more expensive one’s are available in sampler packs. If you have some favorits be sure and write about them. Enjoy –Ross



  1. Mike said,

    June 29, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Ranjatai’s definitely one of the best buys in incense.

  2. glennjf said,

    June 28, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Mystery of Musk Part 1, Part 2

    Thanks Ross. It’s a pretty big world of Japanese incenses happening out there when I realise that I have not tried any of those (yet) 🙂

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