Dimension 5 / Urrere Unlimited

One of the sad parts about resuscitating ORS earlier this year was that the man who was practically my original partner in running the site passed away not long after I announced the site’s return. ORS might not exist if it wasn’t for Ross Urrere. Historically, this site started when I started posting about incense on my own blog. Ross joined in quite a bit and then there was some discussion about actually breaking off the incense part of the blog and creating something independent. Ross agreed to start writing, christened the site fairly quickly and off we went for many years. Ross also was interested in making his own incense and over the years went from afficionado to a revered creator in his own right. Ross was very generous and kept me fairly well supplied with samples of his incenses like Ocean of Night, Comfort, Souked Aloeswood or Sandalwood with Ambergris, all of which were brilliant. I am sad that I have completely run out of Ocean of Night even though, I was probably the benefactor of 4 or 5 vintages of it, but I do remember it fairly well (there is some truth that the inspiration to start up the site again came from revisiting a lot of vintage incenses that I actually ran out by the time I pressed go). Ocean of Night was a remarkable incense, almost sui generis from an incense standpoint, with an oakmoss presence that really set it apart from many of the heatables on the market. And I know I wasn’t the only fan of it, in fact I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like his incense work, a work I might add that was informed by studying perfume as well. In fact it is his friends in Mandy Aftel’s circle who inherited Ross’ recipes and I can certainly say for myself I look forward to the day that these return to availability.

Another appreciator of Ocean of Night is Josh Matthews at Dimension 5 who actually created this really wonderful tribute to Ross, an incense that includes Ocean of Night as an ingredient in the blend (as well as a tiny touch of the original in order to suss it out in his blend). We did make sure to OK it with Ross’ inheritors and very much appreciate their graciousness in allowing Josh to offer this wonderful stick of incense. So first of all, Ocean of Night included sandalwood, oakmoss, frankincense and the usual unlisted herbs, resins, spices and woods. To create Urrere Unlimited Josh uses Vietnamese and New Guinea agarwood, as well as other spices, including cardamom. Just reading this again, I like the idea a lot to use this unique spice in the mix. If Ocean of Night included any agarwood it was largely marginal so this uniquely crafted stick that actually marries that scent to fine aloeswood is a perfect tribute. I like the unique take of matching up the cardamom spice with the oakmoss front of Ocean of Night. I also like the way Urrere Unlimited reminds me of Baieido’s Kai un Koh in its relative unsweetness as Ross was a huge fan of that stick. The aloeswood here has a nice sense of dry elegance and bitterness that I think matches the incense quite well. The blend also reminds me a lot of another favorite of Ross’s, Shunkohdo’s Ranjatai. All of these things make me feel like Ross would have appreciated this stick very much. And overall there is a lot to listen to, after a few sticks I think you’re very likely to sense a lot more of what is going on than just the surface.

Like Tibet With Love, Urrere Unlimited is also part of Dimension 5’s Eclectic Collection sampler. Reviews of the final three scents in this sampler as well as a new batch of incenses called The Terra Collection are all forthcoming here, but are all now available. If you are interested in any of these incenses or previously reviewed sticks, please contact Josh at dimension5incense@gmail.com. I will say again that these are wonderful treats for the incense connoisseur, made from a collection of very fine materials, many of which rarely show themselves in stick form. In that sense many of these are completely unique in the market.

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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

Ross Urrere

I am sorry to share the news that Ross Urrere has passed. Long time readers of Olfactory Rescue Service may know that Ross was pretty much my partner during most of the site’s original existence and not only would the site not have its name if it wasn’t for Ross, but none of his enthusiastic reviews and articles on incense. To say the very least it would not be the resource it is today. When I decided to open the site back up a couple of months ago I wrote Ross to tell him, but sadly we were not able to connect and while I am not aware of the details of his passing, after not hearing back from him, I was concerned. Ross was well known in the incense community not only for his work here, but he was an amazing incense creator in his own right and I had actually just heated a little bit of his own classic Ocean of Night a few days ago. He will be deeply missed.

Yamadamatsu / Shu-ju Series (Overview)

The Yamadamatsu Shu-ju series has been around for some time but has never gotten much attention here. This is more in the realm of a heads up rather then full on review, there are no “lesser lights” in this line up. You might think of this set as a sort of “Laboratory Standard” in stick form as to what good wood based incense is supposed to smell like. To a large degree this smells like incense used to. The scents are the deep agarwood scent of high resin content that one might have found in a Rikkoku set from years ago. Each as a slightly different scent to it that is reminiscent of its name.

I think the current batch is pretty close in scent to the ones I have from five years ago but given that my older sticks were not keep air tight it gets hard to tell. It is, to my knowledge, the only series of its kind (at least on a major commercial level, Kyarazen’s single area sets are also along these lines).

Japanincense/Kohshi sells these at a remarkable price, one, which is pretty much at Japanese retail and  makes these a great deal. The Yamadamatsu line is one of the very few that is sold in this country at these prices and this includes their other incenses as well as their pure wood pieces.

The Kyara sticks tend to go out of stock the fastest which is somewhat humorous to me as the others smell just as wonderful but of course we all get stuck on the Kyara hype.

I highly recommend these, the 15 stick sets in the presentation case are a work of art and very affordable, plus you get the case they come in.

Kyarazen Enterprises: Holy Lotus and Blue Lotus

I have gotten to sample both of these incenses recently; the Holy Lotus is available now at Kyarazen’s Etsy sit.

The listed ingredients are “Himalayan juniper, Mysore sandalwood, borneol, etc” and I am sure after about 10 sticks of each that there are quite a few other ingredients in both of them They are done in such a way that it becomes very hard to discern any individual notes. On occasion one can say “oh yes Juniper or Sandalwood” but it really seems to depend on the state of ones nose at that moment. Neither of these two are “florals” except in an allegorical sense. These are based on original, very old Chinese formulas when floral additives were not too common. These incenses are part of the Hall of the Peaceful Heart series, made by Dr Li Fupeng of Kyarazen Enterprises.

The Holy Lotus is a bit “sweeter” or rounded, while the Blue Lotus a touch dryer or perhaps astringent (but still very softly so). Both of these would lend themselves very well to meditation, as they are great for concentration and centering.

The scent does tell you that as in everything I have had the chance to use from Kyarazen the materials used are truly remarkable as is the amount of effort that goes into the production. His ingredients remind me a lot of the materials on Mandy Aftels perfume organ. Everything on it is sourced through much effort and sometimes years of tracking down, and then used in such a manner as to present a flawless work of scented art. This seems to be true for both of them.

On another note, if given the chance to get a hold of the Cyro Mysore sticks, don’t think, just go for it. There is nothing better in a Sandalwood, really, they are astounding. When I figure out where I managed to store a video clip of the grinding process I will post it. Don’t know of anyone else willing  to use liquid nitrogen in order to not loose any of the sandalwood oils! -Ross

Found the clip….don’t try this at home!!!

Kunlha Incense: Jetsun Dolma, Lotus Pema, Shing Tsa, Pangpoe, Loong Pö

These are produced by Kunlha Incense, which is a small family business. They are made without any animal materials and also seem to be made of very high quality herbs and woods. They are also pretty much “non sweat sock” or “funk note” in style. At the same time they are very approachable to a pretty broad range of people if you don’t demand the above two stylistic elements. Other than Loong Po there do not appear to be any oils used. At this point I have re-ordered three times so I am pretty sure I like them 🙂

Jetsun Dolma (Green Box): I think this is modeled after Green Tara as it is listed as “curative and healing incense”. The scent is a bit heavier then any of the other sticks, which might be valerian or mugwart. It is also very relaxing (to me at least) and is great later in the evening. This one seems to be herb heavy with some wood notes in the background. I find it fairly pleasant but not something I would use just for the scent.

Lotus Pema (Yellow Box): This is the wood scent one hopes to find when trying out anything that says “cedar” or “juniper”. It is beautiful, subtle, and very clean with no off notes at all. Really a great stick of incense in the pure wood style. This has become my “go to” woods scent. Highly recommended and I have yet to find anything comparable to it.

Shing Tsa (Blue Box): The cinnamon, rhododendron, and juniper in this blend seem to inter weave themselves yet at the same time you can sense each separately, which is a pretty good trick in incense or perfume. It can be very entertaining to sense them as they play out in the room. Great for mornings and afternoons. Really a well-rounded incense, almost Japanese in style. Uplifting and not overdone.

Pangpoe (Red Box): This is along the lines a of a fairly traditional “red stick” Tibetan incense. Lots of herbs and some woods totally blended into an overall combined scent profile. Classic but at the same time maybe not as much a standout like the three above. IMO, as always.

Loong Pö (White Box): This one seems to be designed as something to use for post work chill out. It has a mellower background scent then the Pangpoe with the addition of a perfume note added into it. Since my box is at least two years old and the note is still there (somewhat reduced) I am assuming there are some synthetic aspects to the scent. Essential oils or Absolutes, especially any floral’s do not tend to last that long unless tightly sealed, which these were not. However it is an interesting scent, like a light floral mixed with (maybe) aldehydes, pretty classic in style and not overwhelming at all. A nice mix and a pretty good stick that should appeal to many people.

-Ross

Mermade: Cyprian, Xochi, Luna, Naga’s Nest:

This is the first of about three different reviews I have put together, the other two will come out later this coming week.

Cyprian – Agar-Labdanum-Rose: This is an altogether wonderful blend that uses three of my favorite materials. As a mood setting or meditation blend it is perfect as it works for both moments of reflection as well as warmth. Best on an electric heater, it can last quite a while and has a long “hang time”.

Xochi – MesoAmerican Visionary Incense: Fresh, bright and alive is how I think of this one. The Copal’s and other resins mixed with the assortment of herbs and flowers is a great and lively scent on the heater that works really well at the end of the day. It does help one to relax and let go, which is not a bad thing at all. This has become one of my favorite scents and is quite different from what I normally go for. Nice for Spring and Summer times.

Luna – Lunar Resin with Jasmine: So, using real Jasmine in incense is really kind of an art form. It can be very difficult to get it to smell right, the blend of materials with it is all important as are the quality of the materials. This one has it all working together and is sublime. It is not overwhelming as many of the Indian or Japanese style Jasmine incenses can be, it just sort of takes a place in the room and lets life go on in a much more pleasant fashion. Highly recommended as a true floral incense. Best gently heated.

Naga’s Nest – A Himalayan Fantasy Incense: I really like the Rhododendron in this mix, it adds an honest water note that is very unusual and quite fascinating and rides over and through the different woods, herbs and frankincense notes. Something very different from Mermade that will appeal to a lot of people. On a hot day this might be just the thing to cool things down a bit.

Winter Resins

[NOTE 7/5/21: Links changed to direct to general Mermade’s Resins, Woods and Herbs Page, Mermade’s Natural Perfumes Page. I’ve left the Apothecary’s Garden links as is. Both are still great sources for the same materials but please check for availability. – Mike]

There is a lot of great frankincense on the market right now as well as other resins, all of which seem to work really well during the autumn and winter months as relaxing as well as comforting scents.

Mermade has some great Light Green Frankincense as well as crystalline Frankincense Absolute, which I have not seen before. They both have a nice citrusy scent that is very clean and a really nice room scent, excellent for cleaning a rooms atmosphere on any level, either used on coals or in the electric heater. Also the loose mix called “Floating World” has a far amount of resins as well as spices (actually it somewhat reminds me of Spirit Temple) and is another great one for this time of year.

For a resin scent that is wearable and in a liquid form check out the Body Oils. I have sampled both the Greenwood and the Kyphi and both are wonderful.

ApothecarysGarden also has some great resins, Frankincense as well as Pines and Spruce as well as civet and castorium for tincturing. Since the owner is actually going to the countries involved and talking to the people who do the harvest (or in the case of the Pine and Spruce I think it is him doing the harvest) they seem to be very good and I like the personal connection. The Riva, Fereana, Neglecta and Papyrifere are all good as well as not what one tends to find other places. He also stocks a number of tinctures, essential oils and care products that he is doing himself. I have tried a number of these and the quality is high.

Kyphi from The Scented Dijinn

Justine Crane is a perfumer of the old school, using natural essences and materials to produce luxury perfumes, body products and incense. I have tried two of her Kyphi blends and was impressed by both.
The Red Kyphi has all the deep qualities one might expect from a Kyphi blend, there are also many other layers in here, lots of study time and a good choice as a meditative scent. Overall, to my nose, there is an herbal scent as well as a resinated feel to it mixed in with a sort of animal note. Not in the sense of actual animal materials as much as a feeling or vibration. Think Primal scent. This is not the type of incense that is going to fill up a room if used on an electric heater (which is what I am using). It is more along the lines of wearing a very close perfume or cologne that is for your benefit(or someone you are close to).
The Pink Lotus Kyphi is stronger the Red and also has a very interesting progression of scents. The pink lotus aspect jumps right out, mixed in with some resins. Then it all settles down into what I can only describe as sultry, sumptuous, and very seductive. Just the thing for a romantic evening, maybe not so much for meditation 😮 .
I notice at her Esty store that there is also a Lavender Kyphi and if you go onto her blog you can read about the process, which is fascinating and quit informative. Kyphi is not something that one casually knocks out in a day or so; it is a long-term process with many steps and a lot of expensive ingredients. Making it takes passion, using it is a joy. Have fun. -Ross

Gyokushodo / Jinko Kojurin, Jinko Hoen, Jinko Yozei (Revisits)

All of these have been reviewed some time ago here at ORS but there are a lot of changes going on in the incense world (things like a scarcity of materials as well as huge prices increases in the raw ingredients) so I thought it would be interesting to not so much compare them to the old ones as much as just take a present time look at where some of my favorites are now. I think, in general, that the biggest difference is in the woods and how they are used by many manufactures. But since there is not a lot we can do about that it is a good time to get sample sizes and see what moves you.

Jinko Kojurin: Sort of the start of the agarwoods blends for Gyokushodo it has a somewhat musky base mixed with a light perfume scent. All this floats above the woodnotes. This might be a good place to start if you were very used to Indian style incenses. There is a somewhat sharp or tangy character in the overall scent profile which many will find agreeable.

Jinko Hoen: The classic Japanese incense smell, Agarwood, Sandalwood, Camphor, Cinnamon, Clove. I am sure there are quite a few more things in here but it is so well done that I cannot tell what they are. Just opening the box is a treat in itself. When lit the different materials blend into a very harmonious whole that is much greater than the single parts. This is not a strongly scented stick and I have been known to burn two at once but this seems to be a trait of many of Gyokushodo’s offerings. I think this is a real winner as well as a good buy.

Jinko Yozei:  This is beautiful. Woody, smooth and on the somewhat “sweet” side of agarwood’s scent profiles. Like many of the incenses from this company it is also mild, although a friend(who is Japanese) finds it just right. If you are looking for woody type incense, without too many other additions this would be right up your ally. For sure this and the Jinko Hoen should be in the Hall of Fame, they really are treasures.

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