Mermade Magickal Arts / Naga’s Nest, Wild Wood, Scentuality, Kamiwaza, Ensense Antique

Receiving a new Mermade batch is one of my favorite parts of running Olfactory Rescue Service, in fact I can’t really think of too many other companies where I would be hard pressed to come up with a blend they created that I didn’t love. The whole spirit of the operation from the incense to the artwork to Katlyn Breene’s generosity and support makes reviewing the incenses a total joy and as the years go by, the sheer art and experimentation involved, now stretching into actual Japanese and Tibetan style incenses, never fails to elate. If you read this site and have not had the pleasure of checking the Mermade operation out, I’d consider it one of the first stops an incense lover should make. Everything created here is managed to the last detail and the ingredients used are top quality, only to be worked into something of even higher quality. Every chance I get to dish out the hyperbole I relish it greatly and with no reservation. And to see the line incorporate newer incense creators like Gregg King or our very own Ross Urrere only underlines the spirit behind the incense underground. Once I thought that high quality incense could only be found on the other side of the planet, now I know it’s made here too.

Mermade’s Naga’s Nest is a true original. One of the things you’ll notice about Tibetan incenses, particularly the ones sourced from Nepal or India, is that so many of the aromas you’ll find are embedded in very inexpensive woods, often the kind that smell like burning tires and make your eyes water. So imagine if you were to take a Tibetan rhododendron or lawudo incense, strip away all of the cheaper ingredients so that all is left is the aroma itself, and mix those ingredients with good resins and sandalwood adding just the right foresty touch so that the rhododendron ingredient isn’t suffocating anymore. What you have left is a gentle and unique scent floating like a mirage on the top of a good base. The scent is then recognizable from Tibetan incenses but allowed to flourish, and that it does in this blend, which lasted for hours when I put it on the heater. There really is no other incense like this in any market, in fact even the occasional powder incenses don’t sing like this one does. One only hopes Mermade will try their hand at some of the other Tibetan ingredients in a similar fashion.

Wild Wood, on the other hand, is another in the long lineage of Mermade’s forest blends. It’s probably no secret by now that I’m a huge fan of Katlyn’s work in this area, she knows how to craft them in a way where the aroma always tends to be perfectly green, just like you’d smell if you were walking in a forest. This art of using evergreen ingredients and using resins to intensify the scent always makes these a rare treat, and an incense style that might even crossover to friends that can’t abide by strong Indian incenses or heavy woods. Wild Wood is something of an evergreen mix with amber floating in the background, but like all of Mermade’s forest incenses, the green is still up to 11 on this one, with lots of fruity citrus from the combination of two frankincenses, the copal blanco and the pinon resin. The amber subscent acts to give what could be similar to a lot of resin blends a nice richness, and I’m assuming some of this comes from the two balsams in play. Naturally this also comes highly recommended and if you have never tried one of Mermade’s wild nature blends, there’s no better place to start.

The last three incenses here turn over to Japanese styles, with one slight exception. All three of these incenses start with a base of high quality sandalwood and agarwood, but the third element sends all of these to unique destinations. Readers may remember Gregg King’s fantastic Ali’s Roadside Lozenges. The newest variation of it is Ali’s Rare Incense Powder. I have not had the chance to try the latest blend on its own, but recognize its scent from the lozenges, it is an incense created from a staggering number of high quality materials.

Katlyn has managed to take some of this powder and create a meta-incense with it by combining it with the aforementioned base as Scentuality. This blend takes a while to get going on a heater, but when it does, it gets more impressive as it goes and lasts several hours. The mix of ingredients doesn’t tilt in any particular direction, which to my nose creates a kind of bewitching merging, particularly where the spicy and deep qualities of the agarwood intertwine with the complexity of the Ali’s. This creates a lot of rich and wonderful subscents that remind me of the kind of sweet, quasi-kyara candy scents you can find in some of the good Shoyeido wood and pressed incenses. The early scent is powdery and gentle before the agarwood really kicks in. Overall, it’s a fairly mellow incense, more akin to where a Baieido incense might sit and it’s a tribute to both Mermade and King that they’ve created a Japanese style incense of very high quality and complexity with all of the similar grace and subtlety you’d expect. It’s an excellent example of how incense circles and collaborations are improving the work year after year. And for just under $20 it’s quite price conscious and better than a lot of Japanese incenses in that range.

Kamiwaza is an incense in the same family as Scentuality, starting with the same or similar base but using clove, cinnamon, patchouli and borneol from Japanese sources as the “third element” in the incense. These ingredients have deeper aromatic qualities than you would normally find if you were to source them elsewhere and they merge with the base in a rich and spicy way that is a complete delight. The agarwood really pops in this blend, balancing all of the multiple sweetness and spiceness with a solid resin note. If you have ever tried any of Shoyeido’s speciality incenses whether wood chip mixes or pressed incenses you will recognize notes like a fresh roll of Sweet Tarts or a spice tea mix. But like with Scentuality this will likely be at a much more affordable price point and it all works without the use of perfumes and oils. One tip, however, the balance of the scents is probably best achieved by turning the heater a bit lower so the aromatics don’t volatize too quickly, particularly as the woods will go for quite a while.

Ensense Antique also uses a sandalwood/agarwood base, but the third ingredient here is an oud oil called “Encense Angkor.” As such, I would suggest, like with Kamiwaza, to apply gentle heat to this incense in order to not burn off much of the oud oil too fast. This oud oil is of the rich and spicy variety and it melds quite perfectly with the woods and it often seems like the scent dances somewhere in between them. It reminds me slightly of Ross Urrere’s sandalwood and ambergris or souked aloeswood in that the general aroma is woody dry, while having some very complex top notes resulting from the ingredients being very high quality. In particular the sandalwood comes through nicely on this one. All of these blends, as usual, come with the highest recommendation and it has been so much fun to see how Mermade is working in all sorts of incense world traditions, all of the blends created with such a deft and careful touch. And of course all of them are graced with Katyln’s terrific artwork, spirit and presentation, it never feels like any stone is unturned in reaching the final released work. And good news, there are even more blends in queue for review, including a carefully recreated Abramelin incense, an agar/rose/labdanum mix called Cyprian that absolutely wowed me last night, Mermade’s newest forest blend Dark Forest and a new “earthy blend” called Dark Goddess (I’m excited about this one in particular as the description references the old Mermade blend Hecate, an incense I still miss). Stay tuned!

14 Comments

  1. Terra Renee said,

    June 19, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Just got my order of pure Ali’s, and WOW! This is some STRONG powder. I put a tiny amount in a foil cup on the heater on the low setting and it was nearly overwhelming at first (I have the heater on my altar near my desk) but I moved the heater to the bottom shelf of the altar table and it was much less overwhelming. This incense truly fills the room with a gorgeous scent.

    • Gregg said,

      June 22, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Well, that last batch was the “bottom of the barrel” , so to speak, and somewhat stronger than usual. It is meant to be used at a rather low heat, as you have found out, between 150-180 works well on the heater, the design of the mix being to last for hours/overnight. Katlyn did mention that I could cut it back just a notch🙂 Speaking of Mermade, there are a couple of items that I have gotten from her that I haven’t seen reviewed that are deserving of recognition. I have been meaning to, but since my dad died, my mind just hasn’t been very focused. The first item was called Floating World, of which I was lucky enough to receive two different versions. This is not one of her woodsy mixes or one of myriad labdanum blends, but is instead a step into a new area that really surprised me. The contents are a blend of resins for the most part, with some “Oriental” additives (I’m thinking agarwood amongst others), with a result being an olfactory trip through an old time candy store. Really, smelling this immediately brought to mind childhood memories of walking past the open candy containers at the store. I can only imagine that this mix took quite a bit of time to get “right”, as resin mixes can be very tricky, for boring technical reasons not of interest here🙂 The other item I received was a nice electric agarwood chip heater, deserving of a separate article coming soon.

      • Terra Renee said,

        June 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        Strong or not, I love the “bottom of the barrel” batch! I would love to try some of these lozenges I hear so much about, or perhaps a fresh batch of Ali’s.🙂

        She’s sent me a few gifts and I’m just a normal customer. Mostly stuff for my kids (incense making kits and extra powder) and two samples of her perfumes, Faerie and I think Greenwood. Greenwood/Green Man was a whole bottle. It has this amazing evergreen smell and lasts almost all day when applied to pulse points like around my neck, where I usually wear perfume. I’m a woman, so of course I enjoy any perfume. My kids adored the incense making kits. They made three cones so far. Agarwood/Sandalwood with Frankincense and some Benzoin addd. They…kind of just throw whatever I have around that’s powdered into the mix. It didn’t smell bad though.

  2. Terra Renee said,

    June 5, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    I just placed an order and 3 days later she added a new version of Naga’s Nest! Now I have to place another order! Naga’s Nest is special, and I really want to try this new version.

  3. February 19, 2015 at 11:26 am

    […] just as I was wrapping up the previous Mermade review, another surprise batch of new creations showed up at the door. It’s funny but I’ve […]

  4. BringYourOwnBIOS said,

    February 10, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Has anyone tried the “Xochi – Mesoamerican visionary incense” or the “Demeter’s Bakery?”

    • Mike said,

      February 10, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      I haven’t. The next review group will be Abramelin, Cyprian, Dark Forest and Dark Goddess. I’m about halfway through the notes so far.

    • clairsight said,

      February 10, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      I have tried the Xochi. It has a major copal scent to it that is refreshing to me and also tends to make for a very relaxing evening. This was on the heater as opposed to burning it. I think burning would have more of a tendency to release an different set of scents to some degree. I am just about to place an order for more!

    • Chris said,

      February 12, 2015 at 3:41 am

      Yes, I have. I love them both. Bakery is luscious without being too gourmand. It’s pastry to a cosmic level. Xochi is dry and complex and induced interesting dreams for me. Highly recommend both.

  5. Christina said,

    February 7, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Mermade incense heater, which I think will be here next week. I’ve been reading all the reviews on ORS for Mermade’s incenses in the meantime, and I have a feeling I’ll be placing an order for a selection to try very soon!

    • BringYourOwnBIOS said,

      February 10, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      Yes indeed Christina – if you haven’t discovered Mermade you are in for a treat. I get the most awesome mythical/spiritual/shamanic/fairy-tale vibe from the scent of their incenses… They are typically highly impressive to other people also, whereas I have found that Japanese and Tibetan types especially are not always immediately well received.. Put some Deep Earth or Kyphi on that Golden Lotus heater when company is present and happily observe them marvel at the aroma..

      Mermade expresses a whole dimension of the incense experience – in my mind there’s the Japanese incense style, the Indian stye, the Tibetan style, the pure wood chip style, and the Mermade style..

      • Christina said,

        February 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm

        I received my heater, plus several samples including Kyphi and Wild Wood! I’ve tried the Wild Wood and it was lovely, I’m definately going to buy more of her forest blends. I’m going to try Kyphi today.🙂

  6. Mike said,

    February 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks! Yes, three out of these five don’t have any frankincense and four out of these five are very different incenses. Ironically the one that’s the most similar to previous work is pretty much my favorite Mermade style, Katlyn could make those for the rest of my life as far as I’m concerned.🙂

  7. BringYourOwnBIOS said,

    February 5, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Great review, thanks! Curious to try some of the more Japanese styles here.

    I love Mermade’s incenses and just the whole vibe, however I find that many of them smell pretty similar. She seems to load pretty much everything up with frankincense and/or labdanum and/or myrhh – and so they all wind up with a certain similar scent to them.. This is great when I’m in the mood for that scent spectrum – Kyphi and Deep Earth are among my favorite incenses ever – but it would be cool if she did some in a totally different style – and it sounds like some of these new ones might fit the bill.. Long live Mermade!


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