Gyokushodo Jinko Kojurin, Jinko Hoen, Jinko Yozei: Current Stock

All of these have been reviewed some time ago here at ORS but there are a lot of changes going on in the incense world (things like a scarcity of materials as well as huge prices increases in the raw ingredients) so I thought it would be interesting to not so much compare them to the old ones as much as just take a present time look at where some of my favorites are now. I think, in general, that the biggest difference is in the woods and how they are used by many manufactures. But since there is not a lot we can do about that it is a good time to get sample sizes and see what moves you.
Jinko Kojurin: Sort of the start of the agarwoods blends for Gyokushodo it has a somewhat musky base mixed with a light perfume scent. All this floats above the woodnotes. This might be a good place to start if you were very used to Indian style incenses. There is a somewhat sharp or tangy character in the overall scent profile which many will find agreeable.
Jinko Hoen: The classic Japanese incense smell, Agarwood, Sandalwood, Camphor, Cinnamon, Clove. I am sure there are quite a few more things in here but it is so well done that I cannot tell what they are. Just opening the box is a treat in itself. When lit the different materials blend into a very harmonious whole that is much greater than the single parts. This is not a strongly scented stick and I have been known to burn two at once but this seems to be a trait of many of Gyokushodo’s offerings. I think this is a real winner as well as a good buy.
Jinko Yozei:  This is beautiful. Woody, smooth and on the somewhat “sweet” side of agarwood’s scent profiles. Like many of the incenses from this company it is also mild, although a friend(who is Japanese) finds it just right. If you are looking for woody type incense, without too many other additions this would be right up your ally. For sure this and the Jinko Hoen should be in the Hall of Fame, they really are treasures.

Advertisements

Mermade Magickal Arts / Kyphi 2014

In the late 90s, I bought my first Kyphi incense from Mermade Magickal Arts, after seeing the recipe for it in Scott Cunninghams’s book The Complete Book of Incenses, Oils and Brews. Kyphi recipes are probably the most elaborate incense recipes available. They usually include raisins, wine, honey and multiple resins and spices and the incense takes multiple steps to complete including some aging and maturing. The recipes come from old Egyptian payprus records and vary in ingredients and steps depending on the recipe.

When I bought my first Mermade kyphi, it was loose and stored in a wonderfully designed glass tube like all of the incenses of the time. It was rich, indulgent and quite arresting, but in a way it was a mere shadow of what Mermade are now doing 15-20 years later. In recent years, Mermade has been creating yearly vintages of this fantastic, legendary incense and the years of experimentation and collaboration (I believe Katlyn Breene and Nathaniel Musselman have both been involved with the evolution of this style over the years) are paying off more and more as each new vintage reaches the market. Kyphi 2014 is absolutely not to be missed if you’re even remotely interested in incense, it is one of the finest scents that has ever reached this nose. And it’s not a loose powder in a glass tube anymore, but small cakes that are sold in both .5 and 1 oz sizes.

This kyphi could almost be a polyincense in that over the period of heating it actually shifts and morphs as the more volatile elements release. The base scent is a fine wine-like, berry-prune-raisin mix that grounds a kaleidoscopic range of subscents and spice notes. While most previous kyphi mixes have evinced the qualities of fine woods, I’m not sure any of them have been as perfect as the woods note in this one which mixes in nicely with some leather and turpentine hints. As the incense heats, it changes and shift, alternatively fruity, creamy, rich, delicate, intense, teasing, fruity and spicy. The complexity of it would be bewildering in different hands but here there is no obfuscation at all in the delivery; at all times you can sense both the separation and mingling of the fine ingredients involved.

This is truly the work of people who are deeply passionate about fine incense, a work that shows a level of professionalism and commitment that could be unmatched in this country. And better yet, there should be a Deep Earth 2014 to be released soon that is something of an offshoot of the kyphi, an incense no less impressive and complex. To this day, I’d be hard pressed to even think of a Mermade incense that isn’t at the apex of its craft, so to see the company continue to raise the bar on fine incense is something to be celebrated.

Yamadamatsu Shoyo & Shigei

Yamadamatsu’s Shoyo is quite enlightening, hence the name as it is written here means “Shining Light”. This coil has a strong initial top note of both vanilla and a resinous labdanum scent, combined with at first a woody, salty aloes wood that eventually fades to a mid/base note of cedar. There’s not much else to say other than this is a wonderful scent well worth the price.

Shigei on the other hand is all about the wood. Unlike its predecessors, this coil forgoes any blend and instead contains a straight blend of Vietnamese aloes wood, with a top note of buttery, salty aloes wood to its scent. With a price of 10$ per coil, it is definitely a incense you will want to sit down with and study.

Yamadamatsu Gyoka

Yamadamatsu’s Gyoka blend is the lowest of the line of aloeswood coils currently available. It has a top note of strong, slightly sweet, spicy, peppery aloeswood, alongside a buttery mid note of medicinal herbs and a touch of lysimachiae herba. Overall it reminds me a lot of a Baiedo blend, but slightly sweeter. The fragrance of this blend has a bit of a learning curve to it, and after a bit of time spent with it, it begins to remind me of an old log cabin, with the rich turpentine and wood scents that one associates with such.