Shoyeido Aesthetic Series: Kasumi, Oboro, Shino-nome, Miyako-gusa (by Nancy)

[As of 7/31/09, Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa have been discontinued. Kasumi and Oboro are still available. – Mike]

This series from Shoyeido was designed to produce 70% less smoke than their traditional incenses and definitely succeeds in doing so without sacrificing any olfactory enjoyment. Burning incense usually produces a lot of airborne particles which can irritate the respiratory system and eyes, making this series perfect for those with allergies or other sensitivities. Another unfortunate side effect of regular incense burning is the copious amounts of dust that is produced. Because this series burns cleaner, it also produces less dust by default. In general, the scents in this series not only burn lighter, but have more delicate aromas as well, almost ambient in quality. They tend toward the sweet and floral side of the spectrum more than the woodsy or spicy side. This line is very affordable for the quality making it a great introduction into the world of Japanese incense and each box of 40 sticks comes with it’s own ceramic burner tucked into a compartment under the top flap.

So far I have sampled four of the five selections offered in this line, including Gossamer, Illusions, First Light, and Botanica. Kasumi (Gossamer) is sweet like vanilla bean with a slight hint of cinnamon. Patchouli is also listed as an ingredient but I do not detect any of this herb’s distinct muskiness in the mix at all so it‘s probably more of a minor player. Described by Shoyeido as being “For any setting or occasion with a spirited and balanced nuance of fragrances,“ it is overall very enjoyable!  Oboro (Illusions) is the most resinous of all, with a definite aloeswood edge that lends an acrid or sour quality. It has a sweet note too, probably from the benzoin resin, and a high, almost imperceptible note of camphor. Compared to Kasumi, this blend is more complex, better for contemplation than atmosphere and perfect if you‘re in a more meditative state.

It is in Shino-Nome (First Light) that the sandalwood base common to all the blends in this series really comes out. Blended with cinnamon and benzoin, this incense has been one of my top ten picks for the past year. I even invested in the 10-bundle gift box! I burn this one at my acupuncture practice and everyone who walks through the door comments that they love it.  The scent is rich and uplifting and universally loved, making it a favorite of mine for gift giving. Recently, however, Miyako-gusa (Botanica) has eclipsed them all! Contrary to what you’d think based on the name, this blend is not strictly floral. It is by far the most complex of the four that I’ve sampled from this line, with distinct base, middle and top notes. There is a floral quality, but there is so much more! I also detect aloes wood, cloves and maybe even a citrus scent (orange peel?). This makes for a very unique and thoroughly enjoyable mix! Overall, a great series of incense, each blend distinct and light enough to be burned on a regular basis.