Kida Jinseido / Ikuhokoh

I was reminded by the Reddit article I linked to yesterday that there was another recent favorite incense I had not reviewed yet. When ORS originally closed I don’t believe that Japan Incense was importing the Kida Jinseido line, or maybe we had just not gotten to them yet. Ikuhokoh is the brand’s top line aloeswood incense (at least imported to the US) and it’s a marvel. I was pleased to see I was not the only person reminded of Shunkohdo’s Ranjatai, as it seems to be at about that price range, level of wood, and scent profile. But it actually reminds me a bit more of the earliest formulation of Ranjatai that I had tried and not quite as much my current box, which seems to have lost a little bit of what made it special to me. Only a little bit, mind you, I’m sure the new formulation is mostly wood-dependent and it’s still great, there’s just a bit of depth missing now.

Ikuhokoh is a much sweeter incense, a blending with a really beautiful musk note that seems about as important as the woodiness. I also detect a bit of spikenard in the mix in a way that’s reminiscent to Shoyeido’s Nan-Kun. In an era where depleting aloeswood stocks have been depriving blends of aloeswood with this kind of scent profile, this really has a strong level of old school high-end aloeswood that manages to mix and interplay perfectly with the musk, to the credit of the recipe and creator. A lot of the down line Kida Jinseido incenses rely on spices in a manner that is kind of similar to Baieido incenses in some ways and there’s a little bit of complexity in the mix from that here too. It’s a surprisingly low key incense in many ways from having such a fine level of ingredients in it, but I would guess this is the kind of incense that is likely to disappear from the market at some point. I stocked a roll deep on it as it’s one of those scents that I tend to find compulsory for a period. It’s worth noting that even though this has a fairly high initial cost, the number of sticks is high and the quality even higher, so at an average I still think this is an excellent buy for the cost. The next in line, Hanakokonoe, is also somewhat similar to it, just a bit less deluxe and deep.

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Thoughts on the Major Incense Houses of Japan

I wanted to link to this article, as it’s truly one of the most well written, comprehensive and insightful reviews of Japanese incense I have read on the internet. Well done!

Wara Monastery Incense

So I have a new favorite. I stumbled across Wara Monastery Incense in Incense-Traditions.ca’s Tibet Monastery Incense Collection #2. First of all, this is not what I would call a user-friendly or accessible incense, not in the least. When I first lit a stick it reminded me somewhat of Dzongsar Monastery Incense. Dzongsar has something (Incense-Tradition.ca has tagged this pungent) of a note in it I find hard to describe that isn’t super friendly to my nose and I actually grabbed another sample of it to check it out again. I never grew used to the Dzongsar. I would have described it as somewhat funky, even if in many ways it’s one of the deeper Tibetan monastery incenses. However, a similar, more subsumed note in Wara actually works really well and is not overpowering (I’ll also say I noticed this more in the sample in the collection than in the roll itself).

But I mention this first because Wara is really a very different incense. For one thing it seems to have probably the largest amount of noticeable agarwood content than in any Tibetan incense I’ve tried (or at least something approximates it very well). No, don’t think that these long thick sticks are similar to Japanese incenses, but if you can think of a somewhat less expensive but noticeable aloeswood resin scent, this has it as a rather strong front note. It is a very dark, woody incense. I’m not sure any other Tibetans quite compare with it, even if the blend certainly seems to have notes of juniper, cedar and rhododendron in the mix. It also apparently has sandalwood, but to my nose this tends to sit under a lot of the other scents. I liken the overall blend to something like black licorice in a certain sense, but that is just one of a number of notes that spiral from repeated usage. The unburnt stick has a whole layer of spice content that is also a bit difficult to describe because it burns a little differently, but you can definitely sense the saffron and some spices roughly in the nutmeg/mace area. There’s even a bit of this that has more cooking-like scents to it, like a slight masala touch. Honestly, the whole scent profile of this is just amazingly complicated and is likely to keep any deep diver busy for months. I made sure to stock up hugely on it because lately I burn a stick or two every day. I’m just so fascinated by it. Highly recommended.

Old, Unknown Incense Brand

Hello! Today I’m going to be reviewing a box of three scents that were gifted to me by a friend a few years ago. These are very old from what I can tell and I would guess that they are from anywhere between the 1990’s to perhaps the 1960’s.

The box itself is made of glued pawlonia in a segmented construction, and has a spot color printed label applied to the top, Labelling the set “Yume no Kaori”/ Scent of Dreams. What I assume to be the manufacturer is printed alongside as

“神氣爽快
一性彌天”
Or Shinkei Soukai Issei Yaten, If I am reading it correctly.
It states it contains 3 fragrances, rose, lily, and violet.

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Inside, There is a roughly finished, unglazed ceramic incense stand in the shape of a leaf in the top compartment, wrapped in some kind of wax paper. Below it are three short clear plastic boxes with the images of each respective flower the scent is supposed to represent. Unfortunately, I believe as these sticks are so old, many of the aromatic compounds they originally had have dried out and been lost, as they all 3 seem to have a homogenous smell at this point in time, at least from what I can tell.

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My notes on each of the three are below:

Yume no Kaori Lily – Stick smells of talcum powder, with a hint of amber. aroma of caramelizing frankincense, musk, bit of amber, hint of floral but way in the back. just a bit powdery but not cloying or harsh.
Yume no Kaori Rose – Stick smells of talcum powder, with a hint of amber. same as Lily, but less of the floral and getting a hint of mildew every now and then.
Yume no Kaori Violet – Stick smells of talcum powder, with a hint of amber, a bit stronger than the other 2. Aroma same as lily.

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incense-traditions.ca

I just wanted to give a shout out to Hart and everyone else at this fantastic source for Tibetan incense which has now been added to our sellers below on the left And by Tibetan incense I don’t mean the kind of wood filler/campfire sorts of scents you get with a lot of cheaper fare, I mean the real deal, the monasteries and therapeutic incenses from the heart of Tibet. My rule for being on this list is personal experience from myself or any of our staff and I’ve just ordered my third box and the service is terrific. If you’re in the US, you will find this seller is likely to get your incense to you as fast as any other domestic incense seller.

First of all if you’re like me and Tibetan Medical College Holy Land sits permanently among your favorite top 10 or 20 incenses then Incense Traditions is an excellent source for this and the price is much cheaper than what Essence of the Ages charged for it years ago. I notice that over time the A grade of this incense evolves a little but at heart it still remains the same classic. In fact it’s almost like the subtle notes are what change, making it tremendously fascinating. I was also reminded that their long stick Grade 2 is really just as good, maybe not quite a complex but on the other hand it delivers exactly what I love about it. Honestly when I get in boxes and rolls of these two scents I often find it hard to burn anything else. It was nice to try another of the company’s incenses, Long Du Relaxing Incense, although it is a very different sort of blend, almost like the home scent embedded in a more woody, foresty sort of mix, definitely quite cooling. But seriously, if you read this site and have not tried Holy Land yet then, please, check it out as soon as you can. It is a wonder of the incense world. I can think of very very few incenses for $10 a box/$12 a roll that are this good.

I believe when I reviewed Nectar here so many years ago I thought it fell under Tibetan Medical College. It is actually an incense of the Traditional Tibetan Medicine Pharmaceutical Company. With language differences it’s probably not shocking those two would get mixed up, not to mention Holy Land and Nectar share certain similarities, but it was also good to revisit this as well, I was reminded what a fantastic incense it is in its own right. The notes here on saffron and borneol are well on point too.

Samye Monastery Incense is a funny one as well as it seems like every time I get a box of this from whoever it’s like a completely different incense. They’re always good, rich and dense, complex and deluxe, but my review elsewhere on this site is ultimately obsolete. I do like the new blend though, it’s got a very high altitude resins and wood combination I am looking forward to exploring more. Like I mentioned when I started this article, there’s a feeling of the legit to it, it’s not one of those “let’s bury a mild scent in a bunch of cheap wood” sorts of things that tends to be common among other Tibetan dealers. It has a crystalline brilliance to it that I am getting to know better.

Gang-Zi Mani Nunnery incense is a neat little gem in a striking black tube. One sort of branch of Tibetan incenses often tend to have a sort of red/berry sort of scent to them and this falls roughly in that rubric while being quite a bit more complex that what you usually find. I also like that Incense-Traditions.ca has user reviews and would draw your attention to how insightful and dead on a lot of the regular reviewers are there, as I too sense a sort of resinous almost frankincense like resin in the mix along with the berry like redness but then there’s a whole other herbal and spice level to it that really adds to its complexity.

Anyway I highly recommend checking out some of the company’s sampler boxes. I’ve been working my way through their Tibet Monastery Incense Collection #2 (I just ordered a box of the Baigu, but it’s a bit early for me to share notes, but I liked it right away). I will also add that a lot of incenses are sorted by various notes/tags. When I clicked on the one for “pungent” for Wara Incense I laughed, and you would have to go dig up my long-ago review of Dzongsar incense, to figure out why, but yes I noticed the similarity right away. I am not yet done with you Wara!

Anyway there’s a lot to discover here and I’m definitely busy checking more out. I tend to find myself needing to switch from Japanese to Indian to Tibetan incenses when I want something different and exploring this site has really given me more appreciation for some of Tibet’s deep cuts. And oh they seem to be nicely stocked on the Bhutanese end, and it has been a while since I dipped my toes in there. Highly recommended source for great incense.

Fundraiser for Ross Urrere Memorial

Hello!

My friend Stacy Lazzara has created a fundraiser for a memorial to ORS writer and incense and perfume creator Ross Urrere here:

Fundraiser by Stacey Lazzara : Ross Urrere Memorial (gofundme.com)

On behalf of Olfactory Rescue Service, I encourage you to join us, in honor of a man much missed in our community.

Mike