Kunjudo (Awaji Island) / HA-KO / Paper Incense / No. 1 Spicy Jasmine, No. 2 Agarwood, No. 4 Sandalwood

Japan Incense sent over these three beautifully designed paper incense leaves to review. Honestly as soon as I looked at their delicate construction, I had some hesitance in even wanting to burn them, the art and aesthetics seem so perfect (I love the delicate notches and details on the leaves). Second, I am getting to be of the age that if I’m burning incense and something else happens, like I get a call from work or there’s some sort of minor crisis to resolve at my place, etc., I can immediately forget what I am burning and come back with it depleted. I only had one chance at these really, so I needed to be ready. It’s one thing when you lose a daily stick, no worries, but man when that happens and it’s a kyara or something, it can be highly disappointing to be distracted. So, gulp, I took photos and wrote all of this before even lit a tip. Keep in mind as well that I am not sure if this qualifies as a “sampler notes” but since they all appear to be part of a five leaf set, one does not really have the luxury to try more than one without spending a lot of money. To me this feels like something of an aesthetic or artistic treat but at a bit over $5 a leaf it is obviously luxury priced. And it was paper so I was like how fast are these gonna go up? Also, I believe these usually come with a felt mat to burn them on. I didn’t have one so used a bed of ash. It must be said that you want to keep your eye on these when they burn as even the slightest draft can move the leaf from incense to fire hazard.

So I went in order and started with the No. 1 Spicy Jasmine. My first reaction was both that it burned a little slower than I expected (it still goes pretty fast) and that the aroma was definitely modern. As the leaf widens it gets a bit more smoky as well, unsurprisingly. But overall the paper they used is obviously formulated to not have much in the way of off notes (although after burning all three you can definitely get the “paper note” as well). Now I’m not sure I got much of an actual jasmine note out of this, although it certainly had some mild spiciness around the edges, but it’s still interestingly floral in a sort of wet way, a scent I might associate more with a perfume than an incense. In fact without the binder of a stick, it’s almost a bit purer this way. Overall the scent actually reminded me a bit more of something like peaches, but it did have a few subnotes in the mix which made it interesting. It’s hard to say with one leaf if this is something I would burn a lot more of if I had multiple leaves but it was an interesting experience. And I would think this could appeal to a more modern audience.

The No. 2 Aloeswood is probably a bit more over to my personal tastes and while this obviously isn’t wood burning, the creators have gone some way into making something reminiscent of an aloeswood scent, a perfume that is modern but maybe reminiscent of something like the Xiang Do aloeswood. It is still essentially a perfume on paper. Perhaps in this sense, having a leaf burning with a woodier scent is a bit more on point, almost autumnal in a way. I found this one particularly cooling in a way I wouldn’t have expected. Almost moody in its profile.

The No. 4 Sandalwood is perhaps a bit closer to the scent you know and love than the previous two although it feels like it’s mixed in with some perfume aspects, but in a way I thought was quite complementary with the wood itself. It is almost like the intent was to bring the spicier aspects of the sandalwood to the fore and like the Aloeswood, I found this to be somewhat autumnal. I liked the somewhat fruity aspects mixed in as well, I though these were a lovely touch. it’s almost like there’s a strong touch of apricot in the mix.

So overall one must think of these as an aesthetic experience, with scents derived from quality perfumes rather than the usual incense experience. Obviously these are not incenses you are likely to use every day, but would be something for special occasions or a nice aesthetic touch to plans. It’s like you actually want to watch the pretty leaf burn rather than leaving it alone for the scent. So anyway much thanks to Japan Incense for the opportunity to experience this novel form of incense, I found it quite fascinating and certainly the leaves are beautiful indeed.


Temple of Incense

As a kindness to Olfactory Rescue Service readers, Sam and Simi Aydee at Temple of Incense have provided a 10% off code! It is OLFACTORY. As we have stated in our reviews (which can be accessed either in our Reviews Index or by clicking on the Temple of Incense link on the left), we consider Temple of Incense one of the model western companies out there, with an absolutely astonishing and wide array of great incenses, well over 50 at this point. Their service and great energy is top notch. If you haven’t checked them out, now is a perfect time with the code.

News: Shroff Channabasappa, Vedic Vaani and others

So it appears there was some misunderstanding regarding the closure of Shroff Channabasappa and that the closure was actually temporary and COVID related (8 months). Ashok at Padma Store asked me to get out the message, but the company is very much alive, so we’re hoping to see more goodies from them. I have had a chance to check out the latest series of wet masalas through PS and they are all very good, maybe even a bit better than the final batch Essence of the Ages received before ending sales. So some very good news indeed! I am sure updated reviews on these will eventually show up here, although one might use previous reviews as a rough guide as you need to. Naturally these have all drifted a bit and one or two are actually completely different (the Saffron comes to mind), but we were not originally planning on reviewing these until the good news came across.

I accidentally ran across Vedic Vaani, which appears to be one of the largest Indian incense companies out there, based in Mumbai. They have an absolutely massive catalog of Indian incenses, they apparently ship to anywhere in the world in 3-5 business days, and for the most part it seems like with some exceptions, most of their incenses are minimum 100g boxes. They seem to range from something like $4-5 all the way to the high teens for 100g boxes, if you look in the masala range. I’m taking a quick test drive on some incenses to see if the service goes OK, so there may be hoards of things to discover in 2022 and after on the incense front here. But if you want to be a pioneer and check things out and then weigh in, you can do so here or when we get our VV review(s) up.

And I would be amiss not to mention some newer goodies we’re seeing at both our trusty stops at incense-traditions and Japan Incense. I will likely end up getting some reviews up eventually, but I really dug the Snow Mountain Gathers Incense, and the Sangdanli Temple Nunnery Incense and Sera Monastery seem quite nice as well on early takes. It’s worth noting that incense-traditions has opened up a whole new range of monastery loose incenses as well, and I of course grabbed the Wara Monastery. I seem to go through loose Tibetans much more slowly than other types, simply because they all seem like they’re better on charcoal than on a heater and I rarely use charcoals anymore, but would probably need to to fairly cover them. I still have old batches of the original Highland loose, an older Samye Monastery batch and a Medicine King or Mindroling one in a drawer somewhere. They tend to be dry but very aromatic.

Also worth popping over to check out Japan Incense’s New Products section. Notable are a couple more in the Kunjudo Kan Ken Koh series, this rather savory Koyasan Daishido Star Anise incense, both affordable and a bit different, and a trio of what appear to be new Baieido Ensei incenses. I either have some of these to review or they’re on the way. But there are a lot more goodies that have come in in recent months to try.