Leslie from Leslie’s Incense Review has created a new incense forum. It looks like the old Incense Trader’s forum isn’t up anymore but there should be opportunities to chat and trade at the new forum. Do go over and sign up!
Ganesha Incense is a new company creating traditional Indian incense and based on my review package, ships from Thailand all over the world. Their incenses come in 100g containers, large tubes with easily removable lids that are really nice, you can actually set them on their base and they stay upright and are very easily accessible. There is no inner packaging (they’re essentially cardboard), so I’m not quite sure if the incense is protected over time, but based on what I sampled, I’m not sure it’s necessary as the lids fit snug and everything smelled nice and fresh.
It’s never stated on the packaging but I wouldn’t be surprised, based on some of the offered incenses and the base of the incenses if these were sourced in the Madhavdas family, the same venerable incense creators behind the Primo, Pure Incense and other lines. If not, there still seems to be a similar base at work, a mix of vanilla, sandalwood and charcoal. But like most of the incenses sourced through Madhavdas, Ganesha incenses do differ in overall scent and aren’t just the same incenses being sold under different names. As we have found out, this base can be solid for connoisseur and high quality incenses.
Based on the three incenses in the package, Ganesha seem like they’re off to a very good start. But first of all, a bit of a preamble as I haven’t reviewed a Nag Champa in a while and there is some history behind the style. Nag Champa incenses today are generally better than they were ten years ago, but if you go ten years earlier you go back to a time where they were much more impressive. One of the things I remember about the older Nag Champa is that the sticks were very gooey, it wasn’t uncommon to find smashed sticks where the consistency of the material was still quite wet. This has been attributed, sometimes from myself, to the use of halmaddi in the stick, a material that keeps an incense in a sort of state between wet and dry. However, I haven’t seen a single new Nag Champa incense since Olfactory Rescue Service has been active whose consistency matches the “historical” Nag Champa (not even Dhuni’s) and so I’ve come to the impression over the last few years that something in the mix has been lost since Satya Sai Baba changed hands and that it could be something more than just halmaddi. Halmaddi was (or may still be) on the CITES endangered species list and for a while it was very rare, and the Nag Champas during this period were very dry and mostly downright unpleasant. Fortunately incenses have been popping up since this dry period that clearly contain it and thus we’ve had a bit of a renaissance with the blend such as with the Mother’s wide range of champas. Halmaddi tends to give champas a uniquely balsamic middle which tends to balance nicely with the oils being used.
There is one important difference in the newer blends, however, and that is most of these are quite a bit skinnier than the “historical” champas and so the actual materials being used often don’t overpower the scent of the bamboo stick in the middle and this tends to cut through sometimes. I wanted to mention this as it’s not specific to Ganesha’s Nag Champa, all the new ones have it. But I also wanted to mention it because Ganesha’s version is very very good and I know the owner has made a strong effort to release a really authentic scent and even with the history given above, I’d easily think about this as the market’s go-to Nag Champa. It has a nice halmaddi base, a good balance between the sweet and dry and a touch of depth that all the good incenses in this style have. And unlike some other types of Nag Champa, I actually found myself enjoying this MORE with every stick, rather than less, which is not often the case. Overall I do wonder what a thicker stick with similar materials would be like, other than obviously more expensive. And I have been informed that as the company goes forward there will be more attempts at connoisseur level scents, which of course we look forward to with great anticipation.
Ganesha’s Jagannath is a Nag Champa variant and it’s a sweeter mix of spices and ingredients that is vaguely reminiscent of styles like Vanilla and Honey Dust as well as Maharaja, but unlike either lineage Jagannath is not a clone. This one has been exciting to try as where Nag Champa is an old familiar, Jagannath has just that right amount of newness to keep me pulling for it and learning more about the scent. Like the Nag Champa, there’s something stately and restrained about Jagannath, and my experience with it was that after a few sticks I started to notice a bit of depth to it, something that a lot of sweeter incenses can easily overwhelm. Ganesha’s incenses are true Indian style but don’t seem primed to overwhelm you with perfume like a lot of Indian incenses, their claim to natural scents really seems to bear out. Even last night I pulled out another stick and was even more impressed, like all good incenses you notice more with increased use and this one really does have a lot of subtlety to it.
Nag Champa and Jagannath are two of Ganesha’s Silver incenses so it’s perhaps impressive at this point to note that they also have a Gold line as well (4 different incenses so far). The Gold incense I was sent was the Agarwood. As noted before when reviewing Indian agarwoods, they are very different from the Japanese scents. And there aren’t really that many of them, only Pure Incense’s blends come to mind at the moment. But I am really impressed with this one, it has a really astounding depth to it and seems quite superb especially for its price range. Given how expensive Agarwood is, to keep it at the 100g/$19.99 price there has to be some clever trickery involved in the makeup, and I was quite impressed by not only some of the spicy oud-like characteristics here but the authentically woody scent that pops up, some of which I would expect to be from the sandalwood in the mix as well. The combination of the base and all of these elements adds up to a very complex incense with some of those dark fruity notes you find in some ouds. It’s also very different from any of the Pure Incense Agarwoods. Like the Nag Champa and Jagannath, the more I sample the Agarwood, the more I like it.
Overall I’d say Ganesha Incense is off to a very good start and I’m certainly looking forward to trying any of their other incenses in the future (these were only 3 types out of approximately 15-20). The scents, presentation and solid price range have obviously had a lot of thought put into them. I’m not sure if the company plans on releasing smaller packets in the future or samplers, which I would think would be key to success and longevity, but I can also imagine that most Indian incense fans sampling these would wish they had 100g if they didn’t. We have a new winner on the market here.
Mermade Magickal Arts – Dia de Los Muertos, Pachamama, Sweet Earth, Sandalwood Oud Antique, Ali’s Rare Incense Powder 2015, Kyphi 2016, Oud Kyphi
January 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm (Aloeswood, Amber, Copal, Evergreen/Forest, Frankincense, Kyphi, Labdanum, Mermade Magickal Arts, Mike, Myrrh, Palo Santo, Sandalwood, Storax, Sweetgrass, United States, Vanilla)
As mentioned in my New Year’s post, Mermade Magickal Arts incense goes fast these days, although many of their incenses come back as vintages. This, of course, is a credit to the venerable Nevada institution who never fail to keep improving their art form. In recent years we have seen all sorts of new directions from them, including a line of central/southern/meso-American incenses, forays into Japanese style oud and sandalwood mixes, hybrids of these with resin and oud ingredients, and even a successful jump into Tibetan incense. Personally this continual high level of excellence and creativity has me watching the site fairly often, which means that the reviews here can come from samples or purchases. Sometimes I can’t get to reviews fast enough before certain scents rocket out of the inventory. So it’s worth keeping an eye out whether at the site or especially on Facebook for the next creation. Anyway I hope to tackle some recent new incenses here. The last time I looked all of these were available for purchase but it’s worth acting fast these days. The two new Kyphi vintages just went up after the New Year!
The first two incenses on this list fall roughly in the central/southern/meso-American category and are somewhat superficially similar in that both are blends of white copal, black copal and palo santo. In Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the emphasis is on the two copals with the palo santo wood being a slight, although noticeable touch. Copal has been called the frankincense of the west for good reason, but when it comes to the really quality forms of it, copal really has a strong and powerful personality all of its own, a much denser, earthy undertone to it that only the darkest frankincense resins and myrrhs touch on. Mixing the white (blanco) and black (negro) copals tends to be a perfect match, just like frankincense and myrrh, chocolate and peanut butter, salt and pepper etc. It gives the overall aroma the bright, lemony-piney notes of the white copal with the more subdued and mysterious elements of the black copal. I really love how in the middle it’s all so foresty but in such a different, more temperate way than how we describe it when we think of something green. It’s worth noting that lower temperatures on a heater won’t volatize the copal quite so quickly and allows the scent to dreamily work its way to your attention.
Pachamama incense uses a similar list of ingredients but I believe the locations from where the copals come may be different and there is a much higher ratio of Palo Santo in the mix. The ingredients list Palo Santo resin and wood from a recent shipment of really extraordinary Palo Santo which almost revolutionized my opinion of the wood. This is a really powerful and aromatic, with some minty overtones I had never noticed from previous samples, and is certainly worth grabbing on its own. It has an immense presence in this mix and the results end up being quite a bit different from Dia de Los Muertos as a result. The copals here really share the scent rather than dominate and strangely enough, I’d say that this actually seems more resinous and less woody than the previous incense, with a really impressive amount of complexity given the short list. Pachamama whispers of shamanic ceremonies in deep rainforests, rays of sunlight through leaves and the rich fertilized earth of an unspoiled nature.
Sweet Earth seems to touch on a lot of the same aspects of Pachamama but with a totally different palette. While Palo Santo remains in the ingredients list, we’re back in the more familiar territory and base of a (honey) frankincense and myrrh mix. The incense is a marvel in terms of how the incense reflects the name, how the whole scent profile comes from such an earthy base, that sort of freshly tilled, post-harvest scent of leavened soil, loam and clay. There aren’t really the notes of more citrusy frankincenses which allows the mellower honey scent to merge with the liquidambar storax and create the sweetness of the name. The poplar buds/Balm of Gilead is a scent I’m not particularly aware of on its own, so there was a complexity in the incense I found to be quite evocative and fresh. In some ways this incense is about half familiar (I was reminded of the previous Dionysos in part) and half completely new and unique, yet it’s overall quite inventive and original, and most importantly quite addictive.
Moving across the Pacific, we have Mermade’s latest Japanese-Oud hybrid incense Sandalwood Oud Antique, perhaps a follow up to the previous Ensense Antique. These incenses fall in the premium category due to the list of rare and high level ingredients being used, in fact there seems to be quite a high level of agarwood going on here from several sources, always a treat. This underlies the high quality sandalwood in the mix which is mostly dominant but the real twist here is the use of two oud oils. These oils as a mix strike me as being rich, spicy yet not overpowering, a merger that is aimed to create an equality with the finer wood qualities. Like with previous styles, there’s a really nice Japanese, almost candy-like mix that reminds me of certain work from, say, Shoyeido. Towards the end of the heat, things get quite spicy. Overall it’s a very classy blend, very stately.
We’re also seeing vintages of old classics come through, which is always heartening. One of these classics is Gregg King’s Ali’s Rare Incense Powder. I have reviewed this venerable scent once or twice in the past (I seem to remember the first batch of it being a mix of “lozenges” and powder) and have never seen it as anything less than a mandatory incense treat. Be sure to look at the list of ingredients in the link to see just how many fine ingredients are here, what’s always been extraordinary is that not only do they all mix well, but none of them are buried in the overall scent. It makes it once of the deepest and most complex incenses on the market. The sandalwood is perhaps the most noticeable link among all the ingredients in its luxuriant and most resonant guise, but for me I really love the way the vanilla works in this incense. Vanilla in so many cheap incenses is just a headache waiting to happen, in Ali’s Rare Incense Powder it is a delectable treat. Anyway for further impressions on this blend, it might be worth digging for previous reviews as there’s never been a batch of this that didn’t impress and I’ve never felt the quality to waver in any way.
And as it’s the beginning of the year, it is also Kyphi time and the 2016 vintage is as good as you could possibly expect. In fact I think I would need a time machine back to ancient Egypt to find a market kyphi that’s better than this one. The problem on my end is as these vintages improve with every year I’m running out of superlatives to describe it (sifting back through previous Kyphi reviews is also recommended here, I would think all of them still apply). You would need the equivalent of a Wine Spectator expert who could sift through the many subtleties of such a complex incense to really describe this Kyphi, as in many ways it is the fine, aged wine of incense and actually shares the qualities of really good spirits in terms of power and quality. In fact this is an incense where so many ingredients come together and end up merging into one totality where it can be actually difficult to make any differentiation from one ingredient to another. What’s even more impressive is there’s a second blend called Oud Kyphi which is a form of the original with added oud and agarwood before the incense becomes cured. It’s just like when you don’t think the Kyphi could get any more stunning, along comes this upgrade. Surely this could be one of the finest boutique incenses ever devised, it’s certainly not the kind of scent you’d double task to even if you’re able to. It’s a virtual whirlwind of complexity and astonishment, the kind of scent that could only truly be approached by fine poetry.
As I finish this up I also want to mention I’ve really been enjoying the Labdanum resin from Crete. When you think of how many great incenses from Mermade are made from such excellent quality material, it behooves one to occasionally check out some of the material on its own. I’ve tried labdanum before, but some of it can come with some nasty off notes. No worry, there are none of those here, quite to the contrary. So don’t forget to check this out as well as the palo santo wood and some of the many fine frankincenses and copals Mermade carry. There are many treasures to uncover here.
Hope everyone is doing well. I’ve had a bit of an uptick on various personal incense “advice” inquiries of late and unfortunately at a time where other activities are keeping me busy. I do intend to reply to most of these under the right circumstances, but at this point I’d have to say that inquiries that include asking me to do free research or to recommend incenses or resources for (usually start-up) business purposes I’m going to have to pass on, I’m afraid I just don’t have the free time to do these even when offered something in return. You can, however, ask for assistance on our Ask Olfactory Rescue service page. Although this won’t necessarily guarantee you a response, you might find some assistance among our other staff members or readers. If you’re unsure of the parameters of what is acceptable on this page, feel free to write me at the address on the About page, if questions are way off I won’t pass them through. I also highly recommend looking at the Review Information link (and some others) on the left if you’re a business asking for reviews as there are a lot of incenses that we won’t review here as part of our remit is to encourage the use of higher quality incenses which leaves out a lot of lines (like Gonesh or Hem for example) on the commercial market.
The other thing I would suggest before writing me personally, is to look around and get an idea of what Olfactory Rescue Service is about before writing me. I’ve had at least one or two inquiries that betray the lack of even getting a general idea of what we do here, like asking me to carry a line of incense (this isn’t an incense business it’s a resource) or include a business-run guest blog here. We’re not a business and don’t feel our readers will benefit from an invested interest here, although we certainly encourage others to create their own incense blogs (and I’ve always said, if you have one, we’re happy to link to you here). Anyway feel free to discuss here, and I’ll try to weigh if and when I can.
The following is a message from our good friend J. K. DeLapp at Rising Phoenix. Please direct all inquiries to the e-mail address below. Comments are disabled on this post. There has been some controversy over this offer (including a member of my staff, someone highly respected when it comes to this subject), so I would like to direct your attention to the comments section of this page which I have opened up for discussion. These comments include JK’s documentation about kyara, which, even if you’re not going to go for the offer, is very informative and interesting and worth the read. I want to reiterate that JK runs a sound business and the controversy over whether this is kyara or not should not reflect on his ability to deliver on this offer. I have allowed civil discussion in the above linked thread because it’s not for me to make the call on what is kyara or not, but at least it should give the buyer information in order to make their choice. – Mike
I’m in the process of getting my hands on some Kyara dusts – namely Red and Yellow Kyara dust.
Reliable supplier whom I’ve done business with for a long time.
The material is sourced from a construction company that uncovers the materials on building projects (as most Kyara is buried in the soil between 1-5 meters). So – this is definitely ethical material. 😃
The dusts are of superb quality, comes from “breakaway” loose pieces when the chunks are unearthed, and is ideal for making compounding further into incense – or using as is. Less than rice grain quantity is needed for use on it’s own – and will fragrance a room for hours. I use it in my clinic to great affect!
Whereas the price of buying Kyara is often closer to $750 per gram, these Red and Yellow Kyara dusts are being offered at the nominal price of $75 per gram.
I’m purchasing a fairly large quantity (part of why I’m getting a great price) – and could use a little help with the hefty bill of the large score.
Would be great if folks could handle picking up 1 or 3 or 5 or 10 (or more) grams!
**This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to pick up the rarest of incense materials at a fraction of the market price.
Payment would be up front – and I’ll have the material direct from the source in 3-4’ish weeks. I can then ship the quantity you’ve purchased directly to you.
A little goes a LONG way in compounding incense (used kind of like “salt and pepper” in food…just a pinch is all that’s needed) – or can be used as is for the most luxurious experience.
Again – this is for Red Kyara and/or Yellow Kyara dust. This is known as “breakaway dust” from larger pieces (as they are cleaned of any loose pieces), which is why I am able to get such a phenomenal price on this incredibly rare material.
This offer is a bit time sensitive – so if you’re interested – please do speak up ASAP!
If interested – please do email me ASAP at: JDeLapp@TheRisingPhoenixGroup.com
PS – a photo of a 53.2g piece of Yellow Kyara that I have – as an example of the quality these dusts come from:
I’ve tried to make Olfactory Rescue Service a place where you can share complaints about businesses, but what I had in mind was when there is a serious problem, like if someone runs off with your money for good. And yet I’ve let some minor complaints through and unfortunately what this has done, particularly in Essence of the Ages case, is send people over here en masse to complain about things that actually should be directed to the business itself. We do realize that over the last year or two Essence has changed the shipping times from within a few days to seven business days. This is now clearly stated on the site. And seriously if it goes over a business day, let’s not complain. I realize we want our incense as fast as possible but let’s not pretend that most incense businesses are corporations on the level of Amazon who have the infrastructure to deal with things in a way one single person running a business can’t. One thing I have noticed is that when Beth gets a complaint here, she will respond to it and 4 times out of 5 there isn’t a counter response, because her logic is tight. On the other hand, I think people need to pay close attention when something is out of stock. If you don’t want to wait for something to restock let her know that on the order when you place it. Believe it or not, I don’t work for any of these businesses and yet I’m having to play middleman in a way I don’t really have as much time for at the moment due to other concerns. But I do know that Beth is good people and I’ve probably let out the leash too far on letting things pass through here and I’d bet money the incense orders would go out faster if she didn’t have to keep explaining herself or replying to repetitive emails. Just have some patience. Be good people yourself.
From now on, one’s complaints must be serious for me to let it pass through. You see some of the complaints here have been petty about people who have been almost extraordinarily generous. Complaints about Mermade for example better be damn convincing, because the evidence is far more in favor of extreme generosity than it is about making mistakes about orders. If I have to be honest by allowing complaints against people who process orders above board, I should be equally honest when I know the business integrity of someone as well. Let us be kind to each and understanding to each other.
Also, and I think I’ve said this before, if you’re a stranger complaining, I’m going to be very likely about deleting complaints unread, because unfortunately most of you don’t come back when your complaint is responded to by the business. People who read these complaints should pay attention to the responses and not automatically assume a complaint is valid if a business follows up.
Finally, let’s be clear about who runs Olfactory Rescue Service. It’s not any of these businesses. It’s me and my staff. I will explain the rules as kindly as I can and I will do the utmost to be honest and fair. But I have no fear of moderating severely when these rules are not respected. I would prefer the site to be as drama free as possible.
July 15, 2015 at 7:43 am (Mike)
I just wanted to quickly mention that Mermade Magickal Arts is, for a limited time, offering a newly updated Aromatic Vaporizer. I believe the initial count on these devices is 30 and dropping, so if it’s interest to you, you’ll want to act fast!
July 13, 2015 at 8:32 am (Aloeswood, Ambergris, Bakhoor, Benzoin, Champa, Conch / Marine Snail / Operculum, Frankincense, Hougary/Premium, Mike, Musk, Myrrh, Rising Phoenix Perfumery, Rose, Sandalwood, United States)
I’ve been really looking forward to writing about Rising Phoenix since I started corresponding with JK DeLapp some months back. It may not be known to all readers but there’s really an amazing community of incense artisans in the United States now and often even when it looks like I’m posting about a new company with new incenses, I’m actually posting about veteran work in the field. We’re talking about high quality incenses on the level of Katlyn Breene and Ross Urrere but with a distinctly individual direction and focus that is expressly JK’s. Two of three of these incenses are intended to be in the middle-eastern Bakhoor style and yet while they carry forward the qualities of this style of incense, they avoid all of the trappings of the cheaper stuff and instead move closer to what might be considered mid to high end Japanese incense quality. The other incense, while not a bakhoor, has a similar level of quality. All three are fabulous incenses made with numerous high quality aromatic ingredients covering multiple levels of activity whether one heats or uses them in charcoal and those who have enjoyed the work of other artisans we have featured here should immediately line up at Rising Phoenix Perfumery’s Etsy store before the incenses are gone.
The first of these incenses is called Musk Rose Bakhoor. Like all three incenses, this one comes in a 3.5g sized glass jar wrapped in Japanese Washi paper. The incense is a fine earthy powder that is immediately redolent of the finer materials in incense. I remember a day when you couldn’t buy a good rose incense, but even fresh from the jar you know you’re onto a good thing here. The ingredient list is impressive with the wood base combining sandalwood and four different kinds and origins of aloeswood. On top of this blend we have a mix of Russian Centifolia Rose (an attar I assume), Champa and an all natural and extremely fine Hina Musk. You would think almost any one of these top ingredients could suffice for a great incense, but all three of them together make for an exceedingly complex and heavenly blend of scents that deliver an aromatic epiphany over and over again. These are the types of fine scents whose descriptions couldn’t possibly live up to the billing, the kind of subtlety lost in cheap floral incenses. There is one caveat here though, this is the kind of aloeswood heavy incense that the Golden Lotus incense most of us use from Mermade Magickal Arts isn’t quite hot enough for even at maximum and so in order to fully experience the whole scent, I had to experiment with the blend on charcoal as well (good news though, I believe there will be new methods of heating on the way in the near future from MMA that should allow the woods to come out more). It is truly hard to encapsulate how much goodness is going on with this blend. The rose hits you first as any good rose scent does, but the finer ones have personalities that transcend the usual experience of walking through a rose garden and this one is a scent you could just fall into. The champa will bring back memories from the years when champa-based incenses were at their best, I had multiple hits of deja-vu with every use of this incense, I’m not sure any other word could describe it better than awesome. One wonders just how much the champa and musk ingredients modify the overall scent as I also seem to pick up more of it a bit later in the heat when the sandalwood starts to come out. I’ve always found it interesting as well how Sandalwood can work so cleverly in an aloeswood heavy mix, although this may have been the way it works with a low heat. Needless to say there’s so much going on this incense that it will take many uses to really explore all the directions its going. It’s quite simply a masterpiece.
Rising Phoenix’s Resin Bakhoor is something of a high-end take on frankincense and myrrh resin mixes. I was charmed to learn that this incense actually started as an Abramelin incense because you can actually sense that this is the origin, particularly from the way aloeswood and frankincense are mixed. This has a similar type of base to the Musk Rose Bakhoor, although in this case even if the aloeswood mutes a bit at low heat it doesn’t affect the scent quite as much as the previous incense, simply because the resins here are really arresting. There’s a real melding of scents here to create something quite new and special, a real eye to how each ingredient modifies another. Frankincense and myrrh are kind of the peanut butter and chocolate of the incense world anyway, but I really like the way the limier aspects of the green frankincense meld with the good quality Ethiopian myrrh here, it’s as if they were one resin with multiple faces. Some of this is due to the benzoin and labdanum in the mix, both of which seem to intensify the overall fruitiness going on at the top. And what a fruitiness it is, not just the typical lemon or lime qualities you usually get with resin mixes, but a sense of age and subtlety as well, which is a nice trick that is enhanced when the method of burning or heating makes sure to bring out the deeper qualities of the aloeswood and sandalwood. It’s actually somewhat rare to see a resin blend formulated with such a wide array of fine materials and even rarer to find one where every ingredient counts in the mix.
Rising Phoenix also offer various types of aloeswood and sandalwood, and offer as an option with their Indian Sandalwood Powder, An Ambergris Souked Sandalwood Powder (scroll down). Those who have had the pleasure of trying Ross Urrere’s take on this theme will recognize the style, where the crystalline, high-end scent of fine, fresh sandalwood is modified by the salty and sublime scent of ambergris. However, Rising Phoenix’s version of this uses (Golden) Irish Ambergris, rather than the more common New Zealand sourced material, which makes me want to eventually compare the two. I find this style of incense to be simple in terms of getting a two-scent, highly clear aroma, which is a good thing as the materials being matched here contain enough complexity in their own right that they would be drowned out in a more complicated blend (ambergris in particular does not shout, it sings). And of course if you’re only familiar with sandalwood in stick incenses, then experiencing what fine powder is like is a must as its better qualities are always revealed in a heat. In fact I would even think this would work quite at well at lower temperatures as a little goes a long way.
It is good news to see these incenses on the market and better news to know that even more styles are planned! Those of us who await every new Mermade blend with that sense of pre-Christmas anticipation will likely start finding themselves doing the same thing with Rising Phoenix. But this company doesn’t just have us awaiting the next blend, it encourages people to learn about and create their own aromatic products. You can find informative videos at this link. To see more than the introductory video, all you have to do is sign up with your name and e-mail address. And with new methods of heating and burning on the way, there should be more informative videos to share with you all in the near future.
One of the things I’ve been noticing of late is that I can often have a Mermade incense in queue to review (the latest two are the fantastic Heart of the Sun and Honey (Amber Champa) incenses) and then they’re already gone by the time I make a move to writing about them. So it should be said that in general Mermade vintages are going out to higher demand, so it behooves oneself to move quick on these things, perhaps even quicker than waiting for our reviews as unfortunately we can’t get to everything in time as much as we’d like to. Olfactory Rescue Service is of course well pleased that more and more people are experiencing Mermade and Katlyn’s bountiful creations as I can’t imagine a time where we wouldn’t have good things to say about them. The latest creations could be gone by the time I get this posted and it would be a shame as both of these are comparatively unique to the roster and well worth checking out.
Another thing I’ve been noticing is how Mermade’s linking of myth and magick to the incenses give them a sort of power in their own right. Dionysos is one of these and the label immediately puts in mind the feral Greek wine God and his intoxicated entourage. When the first notes of the incense arise from the heater, the scent is grape, berry and wine all of some mysterious vintage. But woven through this central note is the wildness you’d associate with this God, an evergreen, balsamic and grassy mélange that speaks of remote pagan locations. Two of the incense’s notes are Greek Aleppo pine resin and Bay laurel leaves, both of which work with frankincense, myrrh and labdanum to give this scent a noticeably different feel to it. It’s a brave creation and has that touch of the weird to it that helps to get these images rolling.
Icaro moves across an ocean from frankincense and pine to copal blanco, elemi and Breu Claro, from European forests to the rainforests of Brazil. The comparison between these two incenses shows how different scents can be. It is something of a hot, dry incense especially in comparison to the liquid resin-like qualities of Dionysos but it’s also defined by an intense cactus-green scent that likely comes from the ground ayahuasca that is buried in the copal-heavy mix of ingredients. This combination speaks to the shamanic myths of the area and strangely enough I’m also reminded of how close to the word Icaro (defined at the Mermade link), the Greek figure Icaros sounds, and how both speak of long voyages and journeys. Once again, we’re seeing new directions being assayed by Mermade and this is a heady combination that has an impact similar to the Dream Snake of many years ago.
I was sent other current samples of Mermade works, including two variations of a stick version of Pan’s Earth, one an aloeswood version thereof. I had enough to know these were beautiful and heady blends that speak of how strong Mermade’s stick incense has been getting with new variations (and this goes for the Honey/Amber champa sticks to which I’m looking forward to more of after I rocketed through my tube of the amazing things). Mermade is also selling Styrax Benzoin, which comes looking like a fragile geode of dark crystals sparkling in part due to the added tincture/essential oils. This nurturing of the natural brings out a very gentle amber-benzoin scent on a heater, mild and unassuming and avoiding some of the harsher qualities of cheaper benzoin.
I also received a sample of small disc-like lozenges of Deep Earth, but when I opened the little package, I lost one of them as it shot out of the package into that same dimension lost socks go. The other landed on my heater where its familiar but variant scent reminded me of how much I love the lineage of this incense, I believe I still have samples going back at least five vintages.
In summary, it’s just always a joy to go through Katlyn’s latest work and share it, but don’t forget these incenses are getting more and more fleeting as people learn about this venerable company, so it doesn’t hurt to grab a vial or two right away. Also, next review I should have some incenses from a new entry into the nicely growing US field of incense artists, a “newer” company I have really been looking forward to talking about…
So 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 probably never mentioned what boxes from Katlyn look like, although customers are surely familiar, but even the presentation of the arrival has the same care everything else does. It should be noted of course that Katlyn’s talent at art matches the same talent involved in the incense creation, so part of the fun is seeing the labels and stationery that comes with each box. As someone who gravitates towards the motifs of western esoterica, I find the way each incense comes packaged to be a delight and in fact anyone who has been involved in the western mystery schools to some extent will be delighted at the symbolism just on the tiny jar of the first incense to be reviewed here and even the bag the jar sits in. There is an attention to detail that rewards the attentive.
For example, check out the amount of research and information provided by Mermade on their newly created version of the legendary Abramelin ceremonial incense blend. This is a historically documented incense associated with the occult work, “The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage,” a guide written to teach a student how to converse with their holy guardian angel and largely associated with Aleister Crowley’s philosophy of Thelema. Of course much has been written elsewhere on this subject and so we’ll stick to the incense itself. Katlyn has chosen to create this incense with one part green frankincense, a half part mix of myrrh and storax and a quarter part aloeswood powder. While this seems like a simple recipe the quality of ingredients can have a massive effect on what the final product will smell like and this is I’m sure the first of its kind used with the powerful and lime-like green frankincense. I know this isn’t Katlyn’s first attempt at such an incense and different attempts and styles can make them all quite different from another. This work has a maturity that has allowed for quite a bit of subtlety most of which seems to float around the beautiful and heady myrrh and storax combination in the middle. The frankincense is definitely powerful in this but once heating gets underway all of the parts merge very nicely together with the aloeswood providing a subtle and more fleeting sort of presence. I also love the color of this incense, it tends to a lovely golden like shade which reflects rather perfectly with the intent behind the incense. One wonders if the original creators behind the incense ever envisioned or formulated the incense with such fine ingredients.
Also a simple, lovely and almost overwhelming incense is the labadanum, rose and agarwood combination found in Mermade’s new Cyprian. This mix strikes me as quite different than a lot of the other Mermade incenses. It’s as if the ingredients are all adding up for something very spicy, alluring and somewhat vigorous. The rose scent in particular is beautifully calibrated and reminiscent of some of the old rose and resin mixes, somewhat veiled by the incense’s spiciness, but still very authentic and gorgeous. The labdanum and agarwood are all finely balanced and the whole thing works perhaps because of its simplicity as a combination, allowing the nature of each ingredient to bring life to the blend. Strangely there is a beguiling earth or clay tone in the mix, as a result of the incense’s combination and the fresh incense itself almost seems to have a complex level of hoppiness to it. I was quite taken away with this blend and highly recommend it as a deep intersection of floral, resin and wood.
I reviewed Wild Woods in the previous Mermade installment and Dark Forest is another in Katlyn’s long and distinguished line of forest and woods incenses. This one is definitely a bit closer to center than the ambery Wild Woods and has a very pungent foresty green presence that is practically unadulterated with any note that might move this off center. I’ve admitted my almost unconditional love for this kind of scent before and this one is no different. It’s not complex in a wider sense, but there is a lot of activity within the greenness, made possible by juniper, black spruce, cypress, fir and cedar with strong backing from the black frankincense. There’s a slight note of patchouli on this that fills in around the edges, not to mention and even more fleeting glimpse of vetiver, both elements that just give different kinds of greens to the whole. As always, there’s a bit of sweetness to the evergreen and resin combo. As always, these incenses are bullseyes and tend to be as user friendly as anything on the market.
Dark Goddess is a new vintage of a previously named incense with some similarities, but overall I think this new blend is quite a bit different in scent. For one thing, the patchouli was a big note in the previous incense, here it’s much more subtle and blends with greater balance. As someone who doesn’t mind a healthy bit of good patchouli, and by that I don’t mean the cheap stuff that can overwhelm a drum circle, I love both the old and new Dark Goddess, but certainly like all of Mermade’s work, the most recent vintage is always the mature work. This mix, which includes ingredients that tend to the polar opposite of the blends based in green frankincense, such as black Ethiopian resin and black frankincense, is a very complex incense where the parts interlock like pieces of a puzzle making it just that more difficult to pick out the single elements. All of the resinous material gives the incense hints of molasses, caramel but also something a bit more dry with the herbs, especially the vetivert, giving it all an earthly feel.
As always, these are just a segment of the wonderful work going on at Mermade and it’s always a distinct pleasure to be able to share my impressions. One thing I often notice is later on I tend to pick up new things as I use the incenses, further giving testament to the depth of the art at play here. And so once again I highly recommend newcomers to Olfactory Rescue Service to visit the site, grab a heater and try out some of the luxuries in the Mermade catalog, as they’re all limited editions and vintages that eventually give way to new ones.