Admin Notes

As of today (updated due to different information in comments) all incense reviews for Daihatsu and the Encens du Monde/Florisens range have been:

  • Edited to direct all links for available incenses to both Zen Minded (for EdM incenses) and Japan Incense (for equivalents from Japanese companies). A lot of the links in these reviews previously went to stores who are no longer in business or don’t carry the incense anymore.
  • Edited to severely overhaul the Encens du Monde and Florisens review line. This French company who contracts (or maybe contracted) with Japanese incense companies is really a lateral category that was introduced here in 2008-2009 due to Essence of Ages importing much of their line into the US. It was originally Encens du Monde and then Florisens was also adopted and there isn’t a terrible amount of continuity from one name to the other in particular because a lot of the incense lines were shifting around a lot. I couldn’t locate a website or any indication of current activity, so please feel free to let me know if you’re in France and know better.
  • Here’s what I do know and plan:
    • The lion’s share of the line is made by Kunjudo. Japan Incense now import Kunjudo incenses including several of the incenses that Encens du Monde did. My first plan, probably due by August, is to reconfigure the Karin line and another incense or few to a completely new review under Kunjudo. This will likely entail taking the Encens du Monde review that I edited today to restore links to Japan Incense and editing it one more time in order to add photos, missing incenses and so forth. I will still provide links to EdM incenses when they still exist.
    • For the rest of the reviews under Encens du Monde, they have all been updated to include links to currently available incenses wherever possible, usually at Zen Minded who were in stock on every incenses I added. In certain cases where a Kunjudo incense exists, I will be lifting those out of these other reviews and including them with the reconfigured and reissued Kunjudo article. I believe this will help to separate most of what is currently available from the historical information, which I will keep for reference. I may do the same for the two Koukandos later.
  • As such, there will not be a list of discontinued incenses like in the previous or future Admin Notes installments. None of the Daihatsu line has been discontinued from what I can tell, nor are any caveats known in terms of scent changes that I know of in either the Daihatsu or Kunjudo lines.
  • Edited to update categories on a number of reviews.
  • Occasional clean up, especially when reviews reference obsolete websites.

The work continues another day…

Oh and hey WordPress just informed me this is my 500th post. Landmarks and all that. 🙂

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Top 10 August 2010

This is, more or less, my top picks for the month. This does not mean that they are really in any kind of order (well OK, the Kyara Kokoh really is the top dog). There are also a lot more then ten incenses that I burn but we try and hold the line for the write up’s. I did find that as it got hotter in the Bay Area  my use of the Electric Incense Heater went up, as did my own blending for things to put on it. Great fun by the way!  -Ross

Kyara Kokoh by Baieido: I burn, maybe,  one plus sticks of this a month, in small “installments”. It is somewhat of an almost religious experience. Baieido says that this one is hand made by the owners using green oil Kyara that had been specially selected and I can believe it. It is pretty much beyond words and just gets better with each “installment”. Not inexpensive, but quite wonderful. Note to Baieido, if any of that green oil kyara is laying around ’cause it did not make the cut, I could find a use for it 🙂

Ogurayama Aloeswood from Baieido: Baieido is all about the woods. This one is from Vietnam and is considered a “sweet” scented Aloeswood. I love to put a small amount on the electric heater and let it gently infuse the room with it’s beautiful and very smooth scent. Trying to describe this is not easy, but basically it is about as pure of an Aloeswoods experience as you can get. If you like Aloeswoods then this is a great way to really start to understand them. Baieido’s Hakusui is another to try, actually any of them would work! At some point (when we get really brave) I think we might be doing some full reviews on the Baieido woods and possibly the Rikkoku (Six Countries) Set.

Saimei Koh from Gyokushodo: This is a wonderful Aloeswood and Sandalwood mix with a nice helping of spices, resins , herbs and  camphor. I do wish it packed a bit more “punch” and often find myself burning two sticks at once. It has a very classic “Old Japan” type scent. There are some similarities to a number of other makers scents but(at the moment) I think this one stands out.

Ranjatai or Kyara Seikan from Shunkohdo: Rajantai is one of my favorite scents; it pretty much has it all. Really good Aloeswoods combined with musk and resins. It’s deep, dark and wonderful, plus you get enough in the bundle to go on a real incense burning binge! Kyara Seikan adds Kyara to the mix and is also much smoother, it also cost more and is worth it (but not so “bingeable”) I ended up using both of these a lot during the Mystery of Musk series just to get a straight up scent logon for musk.

Honey Amber by Fred Soll: This is one of the very few incenses in the world to actually use Ambergris(beach caste). It has a really deep, yet clean amber note to it that the honey aspect adds an even deeper sweet note to. It is pretty strong so one stick can go for quite a few burns and still do up a room quite nicely. I think that Soll’s incenses are one of the best deals in the world and this one is right up there for me.

Copal Negro by Fred Soll: I would have to term this one as “heavy hitter” copal. It is smooth with a touch of sweetness in the background that kind of tempers everything together, but all that is riding on lots of deep dark copal. Wonderful stuff, great for grounding the environment of a room(or a person).

Japanese Musk from Koh Shi (Daihatsu): I am pretty sure that this does not use real musk, that being said it does really convey the idea of musk. It is  strong and has a nice, not too sweet, quality to it. It produces a wonderful scent to a room that also feels quite clean.

Swallows in Flight by Les Encens du Monde(Kunjudo): I had not used this a while and then “rediscovered” it last month. It is very complex, uses very good quality woods, resins, spices and maybe oils. Sometimes it almost seems a bit over the top in how much is going on here (another long learning curve)but having never been adverse to excessive excess, I just light another stick and go with it.

Deep Earth Premium – 2010 from Mermade Magical: This is something for the heater, to be gently warmed over a period of time. It has many musk like elements to it as well as resins and spices, It is a very deep, complex and meditative scent that really shows off Katlyn’s skills as well as the use of very high quality materials. It also takes quite awhile to make with a lot of ageing involved, which is reflected in the complexity of the scent. Beautiful.

Healing  from Mermade Magical: One of Mermades incense triangles, which is along the lines of a cone. This has a very clean and clear scent to it, I find it refreshing and uplifting; it seems especially good during the summer months. There is a great play between the resins and woods Somewhat unique and very nice.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses – A Valentine’s Day Tribute to the Flower of Love

It’s February 1st, and Valentine’s Day is only 13 days away. In keeping with the holiday centered on love and romance, I have decided to do reviews on rose incenses. After all, the rose is the flower most often associated with amour (that’s the French word for love, by the way) and romance.

Indeed, the rose makes a significant appearance in one of the most deeply romantic of Shakespeare’s plays, Romeo and Juliet. It is a love struck Juliet that mentions the rose in her famous soliloquy:

JULIET:
      ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
      Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
      What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
      Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
      Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
      What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet;
      So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
      Retain that dear perfection which he owes
      Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
      And for that name which is no part of thee
      Take all myself.

So was Juliet right? Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? With regards to the following incenses, I’d say… definitely, maybe. The following ten incenses cover a range of styles, countries, and prices. Each has the rose scent in one form or another, and each is, in its own unique way, special and lovely. I hasten to add though, that this is not the list of the top ten best rose incenses, ever. There are a million rose incenses out there in the market, and it’s impossible to cover them all, obviously. These ten incenses were selected to give you, Dear Reader, a sampling range of what’s good, available, and perhaps to you, new and different.

I have grouped these incenses by Country, and where possible, have even given the word for ‘rose’ in that country’s language. After all, a rose by any name is always a thing of beauty!

Japan:

Fun trivia fact, the Japanese word for ‘rose’ is ‘Bara.’

Encens du Monde’s Rose:

 As some of you already know, Encens du Monde is a French company based near Montpellier, France. They are a major distributor of quality incenses in Europe, offering a fine variety of Japanese, Indian, Tibetan, and other incenses. It’s speculated that some of their incenses are actually made by Japanese incense companies, and then sold under the Encens du Monde label. At any rate, Encens du Monde’s Rose incense is a Japanese style incense, i.e. without a stick core. This incense has a soft, slightly spicy floral rose scent. I catch whiffs of benzoin and clove mixed in with the rose scent. The rose is both a top note and mid-note here. The benzoin and clove come in at the end. Incidentally, the marketing write up on the label reads “The delicate and feminine nobility of the May rose.” And that is actually an apt description, the rose scent here is decidedly a young rose scent; this is not the deep full-bodied aroma of a mature rose, but that a of young spring rose, just in the process of blooming.

Shoyeido’s Rose (as a part of the Royal Floral World Incense Pack):

Shoyeido’s Royal Floral World Incense Pack contains 60 pieces of three different scented incenses. There are twenty sticks each of jasmine, rose, and sandalwood. The sticks are a short seven cms or two and three quarters inches. Despite their tiny size, don’t be fooled, these little guys pack quite a scent wallop! One little stick will scent a room easily. The rose incense in this pack is a strong spicy rose floral. The rose is actually a mid-note here, with the top notes being spicy, and again, there is benzoin, clove, and cassia. I even catch a whiff of sandalwood and vanilla as the endnotes, which add a sweet finish to this stick. This is a more mature rose scent, deeper and a bit darker, but it’s not a strong rose aroma. Nonetheless, it’s quite enjoyable, and I think those that like spicy florals will like this incense.

Baieido’s Rose (Smokeless incense):

Like incense but have a problem with smoke? Or have family and friends that have allergies and issues with smoke? Then smokeless incense may be the item for you. Baieido’s smokeless rose incense is a soft subtle rose incense. This is a gentle rose aroma that quietly wafts around the room, scenting the atmosphere. This rose scent doesn’t have the spice elements of Encens du Monde or of Shoyeido. This is a simple, gentle rose scent, with just a hint of greenery mixed in at the end. The green note connotes leaves, and stems, and adds a light airiness that is quite enjoyable. Indeed, I wonder if the green note may even be green tea.

India:

Fun trivia fact, the Indian word for ‘rose’ is ‘gul’ or ‘gulab.’

Pure Incense Connoisseur Rose:

I’ve recently been a bit critical of Pure Incense for using the same base blend in all their incenses. I mentioned that the base elements often exude a vanilla and honey sweetness, resulting in all their incenses having a similar scent with no distinct personality of their own. That said, I do like Pure Incense as a brand, and I do like their Connoisseur Rose incense. Unlike Encens du Monde or Shoyeido, this is not a spicy rose floral scent. Rather it’s a sweet rosey floral, with elements that verge towards candy like at times due to the vanilla and honey notes in the base. Indeed, the sweetness reminds me of desserts and candy such as rose scented Turkish delight. Those that prefer sweet florals over that of spicy florals would probably like this. In fact, I think this incense would appeal to children because of the sweet elements in it.

Shroff’s Night Rose:

Of all the incenses reviewed in this post, I think Shroff’s Night Rose is the most romantic named one of them all. I don’t know, but there’s a certain romantic element there, the name kinda just connotes romance, and love, and starry skies over a trellis full of roses, with their sweet floral scent gently wafting in the evening air. Well, ok, I’m a bit of a sappy romantic at times; you didn’t know that about me, did you? 🙂

Anyhow, Shroff, the masters of Indian agarbattis, serve up another delight in their Night Rose incense. This one is actually similar to Pure Incense’s Connoisseur Rose, but without as many sweet elements; there’s a vanilla note here, but it’s not as strong as in the Connoisseur Rose. More importantly, the rose is stronger, and is the topnote, too. Even unlit, this stick is choice, smelling softly of roses. This is not a super strong rose scent, though, so those of you looking for that should look elsewhere (and I’ll tell you where that is at the end of this post).

Tibet:

Fun trivia fact, I don’t know what the Tibetan word for ‘rose’ is. Though it might just be ‘sa snum.’ At least that’s what popped up when I tried to use an online English/Tibetan dictionary. However, I’m not even sure that the dictionary was working. If you know, chime in!

Chandra Devi Rose:

This is a smokey rose incense, with the typical campfire smoke smell that is common in so many Tibetan incenses as an endnote. The rose scent here is a soft and subtle one, and comes in bursts. This isn’t a bad incense from Chandra Devi, though their jasmine one is far superior to their rose. If you like smokey rose scents, Chandra Devi’s rose may be the one to try.

USA:

Fun trivia fact, the American word for ‘rose’ is ‘rose’, just like it is for the Brits, Canadians, Ozzies, and the rest of the English speaking world! 😛

Orthodox Incense’s Mt. Athos’ Rose:

This particular rose incense is done up in the Greek orthodox anthonite style, which is to say that pieces of frankincense are soaked in floral oils (in this case, rose) and dried and cured, and then dusted with purified clay powder. The end result is a rosey frankincense scent, though here, the rose florals dominant, and the frankincense is a slight endnote. This Mt. Athos rose was actually made in a monastery in America, thus my classification. Anyway, the rose scent is a soft sweet floral, and quite rosey indeed. This is a fairly potent incense, two teaspoons of it on my electric incense burner scented my apartment very well. In other words, this has a good scent throw. And the scent is very nice, too.

Nu Essence Venus:

Ah, Venus, an aptly named incense to feature in a Valentine’s day themed review. Venus was the Greco-roman goddess of love. And the Nu Essence Venus incense is definitely inspired by that. The write up on the back of the tin states, “Creative imagination, the bridge between the mind and the heart, from thought to Art. Remembering that real victory is through love.”

This is a very interesting incense. Visually, just looking at this incense is arresting. It’s the color of red ochre clay, and is soft and powdery with little bits of dried rose petals in it. There are a number of other ingredients, and rose is not the star player, but is instead, a member of the symphony. Every ingredient is playing a part, and rose is one element of many. Some of the ingredients are sandalwood, benzoin, marshmallow root, nutmeg, rose, peppermint and myrtle. The scent is a bit complex, starting off floral, then hitting spicy, then drifting into sweet, and finally ending as minty (that’s the peppermint kicking in) and uplifting.

Fred Soll’s Joyous Rose:

If Shroff’s Night Rose has the most romantic name of all the incenses in this post, it’s Fred Soll’s Joyous Rose that is the most romantic incense of them all. Fred created this incense for his wife, Joy, and named it after her. And what a joy it is, indeed. Fred’s signature use of pinon resin and high quality oils are present here as in all his other incenses. The pinon and the rose would seem to be an odd blend, but they work as nice contrasting elements, and play off each other well. I liken this to finding an unexpected wild rose amongst a pinon forest. The rose shouldn’t really be there, but it is, and it brightens and uplifts the surrounding pinon forest.

United Arab Emirates:

Fun trivia fact, the Arabic word for ‘rose’ is ‘wardh.’

Duggatal Oudh Wardh Taifi:

Oh, you really didn’t think that I wouldn’t give this one a mention, did you? This is still my all time favorite rose incense, and is one of my favorite incenses, plain and simple. Earlier I said that if you were looking for a stronger, truer rose scent, I’d tell you where to find it. Well, Dear Reader, here it is. I’ve already given a detailed review of this incense, so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say, this is the truest rose scented incense out there that I know of; the scent is incredible, and perfectly captures that of fresh cut red roses.

Well, there you have it. A sample of various rose scented incenses for you to peruse and try. All the incenses mentioned above, except for the Duggatal Oudh Wardh Taifi, may be purchased at Essence of the Ages. The Duggatal Oudh Wardh Taifi may be purchased at Paradise Perfumes.Com.

Whether you plan on using any of the above rose incenses for a Valentine’s Day evening with your sweetheart, or if you simply want to scent your home with the scent of roses, I think any of the above would create an interesting atmosphere. I’d like to think that there’s a little something for everyone, and that the price ranges for these incenses reflect that sentiment, too. The prices range from a few dollars for a roll of Shroff’s Night Rose to close to forty for Shoyeido’s Royal World Incense pack.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, I know it was a pleasure writing it for you.

Best,

Anne

Clearing up Encense du Monde

In my last Encense du Monde article I was given assistance by a couple readers on the origins of some of the incenses, that is what company they originated from. Given that most of the line heralds from several companies I thought I’d put up the rest of the line to see if we can’t collectively clear up the rest of the line. Originally I thought in doing so we’d find out where some duplications are, however it’s become clear that even in cases where there seems to be duplication, there often isn’t. I was pretty stunned to find out that Middle Path and Mount Fuji were apparently the same name as the two Daily incenses Daigen Koh and Hoyei Koh, as they are very different in scent. So anyway, here’s the list after the break, if you can fill in the gaps in the comments I’d most appreciate it. Pictures of the incenses can be found here and on subsequent pages. Eventually once complete I’ll put up a comparison page between similarly named incenses for reference. Read the rest of this entry »

Les Encens du Monde (Florisens) / 1000 Years of Wisdom (Koukando Sennenko), Pine & Orchid Wedding (Kunjudo Shoranko), Whispering Bamboo (Koukando), Oriental Breeze (Kunjudo Shobikoh) (Discontinued), Aloe Vera (Discontinued), Middle Path, Mount Fuji

It’s dawned on me recently that if you want really high quality but low price incenses, the various Encens du Monde sandalwoods are really some of the best on the market. It’s true there’s something of a price markup with most of these due to the incenses’ long travel regiment, but I think the quality of most of these incenses does indeed offset these prices to some extent. The real difficulty with these incenses is making sure you don’t overlap with something directly distributed to your country; however, my experience over time has been that even in the cases that incenses do overlap, there’s still enough of a recipe difference to set two similar brands apart.

For example, I reviewed Koukando Rangetsu vs Encense du Monde Jade Orchid a while back and while you certainly only need one or the other, I felt the EdM variety was slightly the superior with a better wood base. Later I got the opportunity to compare Kunjudo’s Karin in the box to Karin in the tube and found that the difference was nearly significant, the former much sweeter, the latter muskier and more traditional, making me wonder if the Encense du Monde Forest of Flowers variant might differ in its own right [NOTE 7/3/21: As it turns out this is because it was really Karin vs Tokusen Karin]. With these experiences I wouldn’t be quite so sure that even when two packagings match up in style that you’re dealing with the exact same incense. And Ross’s warning in the latest top 10 should be taken under advisement as well, there are indeed formulation changes happening with nearly every incense under the sun as aloeswood, sandalwood and halmaddi all get rarer. In the group I’ll be reviewing today, the Oriental Breeze packaging matches up with the “generic” Shobikoh incense [NOTE: Discontinued], but I’d make a guess that the Shobikoh probably isn’t quite as strong as the Oriental Breeze given the difference in price. In summary, buyer beware. I believe most of the EdM incenses in this review are made by Kunjudo, with the known exception of Mount Fuji, which is a Shoyeido incense not otherwise distributed here. [Correction: Please note Francois’ comment below for the right origins of these incenses]

1000 Years of Wisdom (1000 Ans de Sagesse) is something of a potpourri type of incense with ingredients extracted from various wood powders, essential oils, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus and patchouli. It’s a black colored stick but not of the smokeless kind usually found in this color. It’s a hard one to describe given there are really no dominant scents other than the eucalyptus content being fairly obvious with its almost menthol like cooling scent. It does appear to have the typical sandalwood base and although there is no obvious aloeswood content, oil or otherwise, has some similarities to the Shoyeido Sei-Fu blend. Whisps of sweetness, anise and even an herbal flavor that reminds me of veitivert pop up occasionally, but overall this is an incense formulated for a unique scent. It’s not at all a bad deal for the almost $9 a roll and one I’ve found gets better with use. This incense, available in a large box, has been identified as an equivalent to Koukando Sennenko.

Pine & Orchid Wedding (Mariage du pin et de l’orchidée) I’ve tried in the short roll but it also appears to be part of the Japonessence line as well, although I’m not sure if it varies in scent or not. This is one of my very favorite under $10 sandalwood based rolls and in some ways it’s almost like a low octave and inexpensive version of the incenses you see as Seeds of Transformation and Blissful Mountain in the much pricier Meditation range. That is, it’s a wood based stick with a fabulous floral oil on top, a marriage I’ve really grown to appreciate with use. The floral oil isn’t as expensive or as high class as it is in the previous mentioned incenses but nor is it bitter or off  putting, just a bit mellower (it should be mentioned that the two top ends use lily essential oil rather than orchid, but the results are too similar not to compare). The pine is typical of its use in most Japanese incenses in that it’s a woody scent rather than the heavily resinous pitch you’ll encounter in, say, Fred Soll’s incenses (Shunkohdo Matsuba Pine is fairly close for example). Overall just a perfect scent, fresh and calming and even with the EdM hike, very affordable.

Like 1000 Years, Whispering Bamboo (Le Chant des bambous) is a pretty complex and multi-ingredient heavy scent, although in this case we’re dealing with a square stick with the typical green color. The ingredient list has “a delicate touch” of violet along with sandalwood, cinnamon, eucalyptus, Chinese plants and patchouli. And in particular the Chinese plants aspect evokes similarities to various traditional Kunmeido and Shunkohdo scents that use medicinal herbs, with a unique spice as a backdrop. This is a much more intense scent than, say, the bamboo incense found in Kunjudo’s Three Scents box due to these herbs, although I would suspect the slightly fruity undertones are where the violet manifests (or at least it doesn’t all evoke for me what I typically think of as a violet scent). Overall its quite unique and another EdM winner that improves for me with every stick of use.

As I mentioned before, Oriental Breeze (Brise Orientale) has packaging reminiscent enough of Shobikoh as to hint that we’re dealing with a very similar incense and a significantly different price. Of all the incenses in this review, this is the most obviously inexpensive, it’s described as a sandalwood incense with clove and cinnamon, a combination very common at the lower price ranges. The wood, unlike with the other scents here, is a bit on the bitter side at times, and the oil content is much lower, making this one only roughly indistinguishable from most lower end “every day” sandalwoods. Although I haven’t tried the Shobikoh per se, it may be the one to start with given its low cost. Those stocked heavily with green low end sandalwoods will likely not need the duplication.

The next three incenses could be considered “sampler notes” in that I’ve only tried a couple sticks of each and don’t feel I’ve exhaused the aromatic potential of any of them. The good news is that with all three I felt my best experiences were towards the last stick, and in one case I did an almost complete turn around. This case was the Aloe Vera, admittedly not one of my favorite scents, it’s quite the common addition to soaps and even tissue paper, with its very noticeable green, verdant and fresh scent. My initial take on this incense was that it was too bitter and unpleasant, but I found myself actually warming to it by the second stick. It really does what it says on the box, representing the aroma in a wood base, with some hints of clay and patchouli in the mix. I perhaps did not have enough of a sample to know how I’d feel about it in the end but still ended on a positive note.

Middle Path I liked from the start, it’s a purple stick with a very purple “feel” to it, slightly mellow and otherwise not terribly far from most low end green sandalwoods, except it generally avoids the bitter tendencies found in the woods. There’s quite a decent sandalwood value here, with a noticeably sawdust like aroma, but the best part is the myrrh and spicy oil, the former of which would account for the mellowness. One I think I’ll be adding to the next incense order. [NOTE: While the link to Zen Minded also has “Daigen Koh,” I am not sure if it’s the same as the Daigen Koh in the Daily line. The Dailies used to have different colors but the ingredients list seems a bit different.]

Mount Fuji, as previously mentioned, is a Shoyeido incense not distributed through the main company, perhaps because it’s fairly similar to the same line’s Miyako-gusa scent. That is, it’s a typically spicy, but uncommonly rich and slightly sharp low end sandalwood mix that wouldn’t have fit particularly comfortably in the Daily or Classics range.  There appears to be lily of the valley in this one, but I didn’t notice the same sort of powerful oil that’s in Seeds of Transformation or Blissful Mountain, more so I got impressions of forests, pine and other woods and maybe a touch of patchouli. But again, with only a couple sticks its possible I was just missing the notes.

Likely next up on the Encens du Monde agenda will be a look at the Aromambiance line, which to my nose is almost how I’d envision Nippon Kodo moderns if they were done a bit better. But that will be some time down the road. As far as these incenses are concerned, Pine and Orchid Wedding is something of a must, but other than the Oriental Breeze and maybe the Aloe Vera, all the rest seem to be strong low end sandalwoods all with unique combinations you may not have tried before.

Les Encens du Monde / Meditation; Short Rolls / Celestial Nave (Koukando Ranshuko), Seeds of Transformation; Virgin Snow (Byakudan Shirayuki)

Previous Encens du Monde / Meditation reviews

The French distribution company Les Encens du Monde is responsible for bringing over a number of great incenses to the Western world; however, several of them overlap with currently available incenses and there are also subtle differences between overlapping incenses, all of which make them somewhat problematic and difficult to review. As a distribution company, Encens du Monde brings over a number of different incenses which are dominantly from Kunjudo, but also feature scents from Shoyeido, Baieido, Kokando and others.

We can generally guess an overlapping incense by the graphics on the roll, which, while not identical, tend to feature a similar artistic motif, for example the green roll with Koh game symbolism on Kokando Rangetsu and Jade Orchid. The same goes for two of the three incenses here, there’s a definite overlap between the Celestial Nave and Ranshuko Temple Blend (which now appears to be deleted or unavailable from many suppliers) boxes, almost identical in this case. And the motifs of Virgin Snow and Byakudan Shirayuki (also translated as White Snow) are also similar enough to be considered fairly identical. However, there appear to be slight differences among the recipes that could be attributed to either a different batch or an adjustment for a particular market. I’m not sure what these all are, but will account for them given a particular incense.

Celestial Nave was fairly easy to identify, as I mentioned above, as the same incense as Koukando’s Ranshukoh, the orange box and graphics making this fairly obvious. However, I’ll be reviewing from the latter box. The ingredients on both appear to be the same: agarwood, sandalwood, kansho (spikenard), cloves, patchouli and camphor. And in this incense’s case you can quite easily pick up just about every single ingredient even though they also blend together nicely. It’s a long, thick, square stick with plenty of burning time, reflecting its value for temples nicely. The sandalwood seems to be of very high quality, the agarwood and camphor notes, the clove particularly strong and spicy, and the kansho and patchouli faint but still noticeable overall. It’s fairly similar in some ways to the Reiryo-Koh blend in that it’s tangy and strong natured, with something of a hoary, earthy vibe to it; in fact other than that incense it’s tough to compare Ranshuko to anything. In most aloeswood/sandalwood blends, the aloeswood tends to dominate but it could be that the reverse is true here. I’d actually had this for a while, so when I pulled it out for this review I was surprised at how much better it was than I remembered, it’s a very memorable scent. But I’d hunt down the Ranshuko version before it disappears, as it’s half the price the Encens du Monde version is and a steal at that price. Even if you can’t, Celestial Nave would be well worth it.

Seeds of Transformation is one of two incenses in the Meditation line that features a sandalwood stick drenched in the essential oil of the lily. I reviewed the other sandalwood/lily incense, Blissful Mountain, at the top link, which is a thicker stick, however even though the descriptions are virtually the same, the incenses differ in a way that’s quite difficult to capture in writing. Both are terribly gorgeous incenses, two of the best florals available, with no off tones in the perfume, just a rich scent of flowers that really lingers. If I were to guess, I’d say that the oil might be a bit purer with the Blissful Mountain, where there might be a bit of spice bolstering the Seeds of Transformation, but these differences could be between the thick and thin stick versions as well. Like the high end florals in the Shoyeido Floral World series, both incenses have great definition and thus belong with the aloeswoods in the more expensive incense ranges. Really beautiful work here, I can even see why there are two similar incenses in the same line. [NOTE 7/14/21: It looks to me that a similar incense still exists under the name Juzan Daikunkoh; however, that incense is a thicker stick equal to Blissful Mountain.]

Virgin Snow tends to be a bit more complicated. The version I have comes from the shorter rolls, but there are 3 versions of it, including a long stick meditation version. The odd thing to me is, despite the long box being identical to the Byakudan Shirayuki (White Snow), the version I have isn’t low smoke by any means, fairly normal actually, which makes me wonder if there’s a recipe change for the version distributed via Incense Works. Regardless, the short roll sticks are really nice incenses, green sandalwoods also imbued with quite a bit of oil or perfume. The freshness and slight evergreen nature of the stick does reflect the incense’s name quite well, and it’s also quite sweet and friendly with a slight mintiness and maybe a touch of green patchouli to it. Overall it’s a very accessible stick, like a walk in a snowy forest. In this case, I’d probably recommend trying out an Encens du Monde version first, unless you’re partial to low smoke incenses.

The Meditation line is really one of Encens du Monde’s finest, it’s quite solid across the spectrum, although I found Imperial Family a little hard to get used to at first. They’re all packaged in very attractive boxes, use high quality ingredients even down to the spices, and feature scents you’re unlikely to match outside of the incenses’ obvious, directly exported duplicates. And they’re quite interesting for having some of the most high end, non-aloeswood incenses available as well. It’s not at all difficult to give recommendations for all three of these.

Encense du Monde (Florisens) / Karin / Pearl, Ruby, Moonlit Night, Perfumed Prince

[NOTE: Updated later 7/3. All incenses with Kunjodo equivalents available at Japan Incense have been linked. Links to the actual Encens du Monde incenses now go to Zen Minded.]

Reviews of the previous Encense du Monde/Kunjudo Karin incenses can be found here.

Karin is a strange line [NOTE: this refers to the Encens du Monde Karin line, not the Kunjudo one.] having so many differently styled incenses. Along with the amber-infused every day style of Karin and the decidedly aloeswood leaning Swallows in Flight, we have two less smoke incenses with square cuts (Pearl and Ruby), a very similar round cut but not smokeless incense (Perfumed Prince) and a floral yet traditionally styled incense (Moonlit Night). There really isn’t much of a qualitative difference among the six incenses, even the one you think would be the most expensive (Swallows) seems to get much of its impact from the oil, in a similar way to Tennendo’s roll incenses, like Renzan or Tensei.

The two less smoke incenses are quite pleasant surprises. Both use something of a charcoal formula for a base, yet neither have the slight bitterness that even the Baieido smokeless incenses have. Both are very modern perfumes, having little relationship to most incenses or even other florals. Pearl [assuming within Kunjudo this is the same as the Takara Pearl] has an almost vanilla or honeysuckle like perfume, sultry, mellow and reminiscent of modern perfumes. It reminded me a little of an old memory of daffodils, with hints of talcum powder and even tonka bean at times. It’s still surprising to me that such a mellow aroma isn’t cut through by its own base. Ruby [assuming with Kunjudo this is the same as the Takara Ruby] might be even more delicate, with slight hints of rose and carnation in the midst of what is a fresh, cleansing sort of aroma similar to Baieido’s Izumi but not as intense. There are some citrus-like notes in particular that help to separate it from the Pearl, not to mention it’s lacking Pearl’s creamier notes for something a bit more overtly floral.

Perfumed Prince might have been the third of this style if it was less smoke and square cut. It still has what seems like a similar charcoal base, although it seems to have the normal smoke content of a Japanese stick. Strangely enough, however, it’s an incense very similar in aroma to Pearl, with an almost coffee creamer-like aroma on top. There seems to be some strong vanilla notes involved, although it’s hard to tell if this originates from vanilla itself or a resin like benzoin. I also get a bit of jasmine or marshmallow in here as well. Like Pearl, it’s a very gentle incense that is likely to appeal to even those put off by traditionals. The only issue is there’s some slightly metallic hints that might come from the base, but these hints aren’t noticeable enough to be offputting. [NOTE: I am unable to locate, yet, the Kunjudo equivalent.]

Moonlit Night (I believe this one to be the same as Karin Togetsu) differs greatly from these three, being a traditional, wood-based incense. Inspired by the aroma of the Daphne flower it draws the obvious comparisions to Forest of Flowers, a sandalwood-based incense that also incorporates the Daphne aroma to fine effect (honestly Karin/Forest of Flowers is about as good as an inexpensive Japanese incense gets). Moonlit Night’s floral nature is much more overt, to the point where it reminded me of a lot of Nippon Kodo and other Kunjudo florals, however, Moonlit Night stops just before it gets bitter or offputting, leaving the incense’s floral nature rather pure. Unlike the other three incenses in this review, Moonlit Night has some wood base to it that prevents it from being a fully modern incense and in many ways bridges the three black stick florals to the other two traditionals.

I’m not a big fan of floral incenses, but have to say that the four in question here are among the best I’ve tried in that they are all rather original aromas without the problems associated with cheaper incenses: the bitter off notes, bad charcoal bases and inexpensive perfumes without any true depth. They really make the Karin line one of interest throughout the six incenses, and present some modern styles that one might be able to introduce to even the most casual appreciator of incense. Even at these travelled prices, these incenses are generally worth it. Were they to arrive in the US without a European side trip like Karin does, I’d be telling you about their high quality/low price ratio.

Les Encens du Monde / Prince of Awaji, Imperial Family, Ikebana (Discontined), Jade Orchid/Kokando Rangetsu

Other Encens du Monde (also Florisens) reviews can be found here.

Encens du Monde is a French company that contracts with various Japanese companies, especially Kunjudo, to provide a number of lines of incense to the public. Due to such an arrangement, the prices of these incenses tend to be quite a bit higher than most in the same range, although the overlap between EdM incenses and those already catalogued in the US is small enough that the lion’s share of EdM incenses could be considered new to US shores. Overall you’d probably have to consider EdM a somewhat higher priced, more boutique version of Nippon Kodo, who tends to market their incenses more so to gift and new age shops, than appreciators of traditional Japanese incenses. As of today only Essence of the Ages supplies this company’s incenses for the US market.

Encens du Monde include numerous sublines, many of which signify the length of the stick. Prince of Awaji is the line’s most deluxe luxury incense, Imperial Family a long stick Meditation incense. Both Ikebana and Jade Orchid are long rolls and floral in bouquet, the former two incenses definitively woody.

I’ve struggled with Prince of Awaji for quite a while as this is a good example of where the Encens du Monde price differential makes a difference. Readers of our Hall of Fame page will notice the Luxury category, which are boxes in excess of $150. In nearly all cases, a box of incense costing over $150 is going to be superb and while they will always be cost prohibitive given a certain salary, it’s hard not to recommend most incenses at this price for those who can afford them. However Prince of Awaji is more a Premium level incense at a Luxury price and while it’s still excellent, it’s hard to justify it as a Hall of Fame pick given its expense. Going for it are what seems like a larger number of sticks than what’s on the box, at least at a guess. Like several other EdM incenses like Whispering Bamboo and the two Karin smokeless incenses Pearl and Ruby, Prince of Awaji is a square stick, skinner than, say, Baieido Kai Un Koh but similar in cut. Prince of Awaji is described as having accents of kyara and that would be a fair statement. That is, this is not a kyara incense in the same way, say, Koh Shi Boku or Aioi no Matsu are, rather that element of the incense only exists at the most faintest top note, the note missed most with aromatic fatigue. In fact of a dozen or more burned sticks, I only caught this note once and while it’s quite sublime, it’s not likely to survive past what is a rather workmanlike and slightly nutty aloeswood base that, while reminiscent of other excellent EdM aloeswoods like Golden Waves or Swallows Flight, is rather pale and not particularly compelling without the essential oils to bolster it. Overall most incenses at $150 or more are intense and heavily aromatic, Prince of Awaji by comparison is less rich and far more fleeting, whatever good can be said for it.

The most striking thing about Imperial Family would have to be the attractive box, its green, floral motif one of the most striking outside pawlonia boxes. Incense-wise, it’s very difficult to describe, ostensibly a sandalwood based green blend, but that would incorrectly imply a noticeable sandalwood aromatic element. Instead the woods and spices blend into something far more difficult to put a finger on, with a number of rarely used woods that give the incense a slight tang to it. The description implies flowery, but it’s quite unlike Pine and Orchid Wedding, Ikebana, Whispering Bamboo, Virgin Snow and other green EdMs with stronger floral elements. Overall it’s a difficult incense to really talk about as it’s quite unlike other woody incenses and might be something of a risk given its relative expense and quantity. I’m still fairly neutral to it although there are indeed some accents that are intriguing and overall it is reminscent of other incenses with rei-ryoko root or other medicinal herbs, particularly from Shunkohdo or Kunmeido.

Both Ikebana and Jade Orchid are sandalwood-based long rolls with very floral aromas. Ikebana presents a bouquet-like floral that will remind many of Kyukyodo’s similar florals (such as Azusa and a few currently unexported to the US). While Kyukyodo florals tend to hide their base more than this, leaving Ikebana with a noticeable sandalwood center, the jasmine-tinged multi-floral perfume oil on top will likely be considered very pleasant and similar, with a bit of spice to pep things up including what seem like cinnamon and patchouli, similar to many low end daily incenses. Overall a bit powdery and sweet, with only a bit of sharpness from the base.

Jade Orchid is one of the Encens du Monde crossovers, being an almost identical recipe to Kokando Rangetsu. Kokando Rangetsu is an extraordinarily affordable floral sandalwood with what I would have described as a jasmine oil in front, but what appears to be something of an orchid aroma based on the EdM name. A lot of sandalwood incenses at this low end often have sharp or bitter notes in the base, but the Rangetsu seems to avoid these. It’s interesting to compare Rangetsu to Jade Orchid as the recipe does indeed seem to be slightly different despite what is similar packaging and almost identical aromas. Jade Orchid seems to have a higher quality and more sandalwood rich base than Kokando Rangetsu, despite their being very little difference otherwise. While it’s not the sort of difference to explain the same in price, Jade Orchid has a pleasant woodiness to it that gives it the slight nod.

Lots more Encense du Monde incenses to still cover, the next batch should cover four more Karin blends and after that some more short rolls.

Best Incense – August 2008

[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above or the Top Ten Lists category on the left.]

  1. Tibetan Medical College / Holy Land – The question du jour: When is Essence going to restock this? Yes, I know I haven’t come close to finishing up the box yet. Yes, it’s probably a waste to burn 50 sticks of this at once, but I won’t know for sure until I try. Anyway, while the answer is certainly ASAP, I hope my (mild) anxiety over this reflects just how totally and completely crushed over Holy Land I am. It’s quite likely to be my favorite incense for quite a while as only…
  2. Highland Incense – …is anywhere close to how I feel about it. In fact Highland here comes pretty darn close as a #2 and as the product of a retired Tibetan Medical College doctor, it’s not difficult to think about these two in the same breath. But where Holy Land gets the step due to its unbelieavable floral middle, which comes out the most when you’re not looking for it, Highland has such a balanced muskiness with a nice sweetness that it also constantly compels me to return to the box.
  3. Baieido / Jinko Kokoh – Every premium series seems to have its own character and style and the kokohs aren’t any different. In fact the defining aspect, at least of the Byukaden and Jinko Kokohs, is more so the ingredients other than the woods. Particularly the borneol and spices which seem to be at about the highest, natural level available in these incenses. They help to make these among the most penetrating incenses available. Would love to see these in long stick form.
  4. Baieido / Kunsho – I think it dawns on anyone using any one of the five Baieido aloeswoods (in Pawlonia boxes) that the series is strong from top to bottom, but it really takes a good half a box to realize just how great they really are. I’d been a little late grabbing a Kunsho box, but so glad I did as every stick is an exercise in reflection. Sweet, deep, classy, refined, this one may be just as good as the next step up Koh En. Or at least I think so this week.
  5. Shunkodo / Kyara Aioi no Matsu – I’m so enamored with Kyara Seikan that it occludes my view on the Aioi no Matsu. The other issue is the AnM suffers pretty hard with aromatic fatigue, given that so much of its majesty is in the very top spice notes. But when you get everything, it’s truly extraordinary with a dozen or so different aspects going on. A tremendously complicated blend.
  6. Samye Monastery / Samathabadra – This would have been a little higher earlier in the month when I was finding it difficult not to burn it a bunch. It’s an unusual incense, more consonant when you’re not paying too much attention but extremely diverse when you are, as you notice all the aspects to it. And there’s really no other incense quite like it, dark, rich, mysterious and ambrosial.
  7. Shoyeido / Premium / Ga-Ho – I just can never get enough of this one, an easy all-time top 5 pick and my favorite Shoyeido premium. It’s dry and spicy/heavily resinated wood one-two attack gets me every time. The day I buy 135 sticks is the day it becomes a #1 pick for a few months.
  8. Encens du Monde / Meditation / Guiding Light – Probably because it’s fairly essential oil heavy, this incense does a fantastic job scenting a larger area over time. I really adore the smell of this one, especially after about half a long stick has burned. Even with all the oils this is at essence a very complex, very woody incense. Just one or two sticks a month tends to push it into my monthly best.
  9. Tennendo / Karafune Kahin-Gold – It took me a while to come around to this series, in fact had I written the review today I’d have compared them to the above-mentioned Baieido aloeswood series as they’re really that difficult to parse. Over time I’ve been noticing just how quality the aloeswood is in this and (in lesser quantity) the Silver. But now these are starting to really grow on me and I’m starting to notice more of the woody qualities. Sleeper hits for sure.
  10. Tibetan Medical College / Nectar – This one has fallen due to the Holy Land, which seems in comparison to be more of a B grade, but this is a B grade better than most A grades. The intensity of the spices isn’t as high and I suspect that’s due to juniper berry. But it’s still one of those incenses you can smell the musk straight off the stick and it only suffers in comparison to Holy Land

Les Encens du Monde / Moments of Eternity, Moments of Serenity (Discontinued)

In the Encens du Monde Short Rolls list are a couple of incenses that are actually quite different from the others in the line. For one thing, they’re at least an inch shorter each than the rest of the short rolls and they’re also quite a bit thicker. The thickness of the stick, however, doesn’t really add to the smoke content and both of these incenses are quite smooth and consonant even while made up of a number of ingredients. Like many roll incenses, these two come singly or in boxes of (12) rolls. I’ve also seen gift boxes with rolls of both and a holder, but as far as I know these haven’t been imported yet and could be discontinued.

Moments of Eternity is an earthy, tan colored stick and made from white sandalwood, cinnamon, oak moss and essential oils. Overall it’s actually not a heavily perfumed incense, which is often the case for many brands in the Encens du Monde canon, instead it definitely goes for a strong spice content and as such is reminiscent of gingerbread cookies or graham crackers. While it’s not a particularly startling incense at the beginning, I’ve found myself presently surprised coming back into a room full of the aroma of one that has been burning for a while, it has a mellow consistency to it that’s quite nice, a spicy stick that’s really never overwhelming.

Moments of Serenity is the green stick companion and a far less distinctive incense, created from sandalwood, cinnamon, benzoin, kansho (spikenard), star anise seed and cloves. I could see this ingredients list almost being more appropriate for Moments of Eternity as it implies a high spice content. However Moments of Serenity is far more like a green, every day sandalwood in scent. While there are notes of the ingredients list in the top part of the aroma, they’re very subtle and often lost with fatigue, leaving the stick smelling rather standard after a while. I spent quite a few sticks just trying to suss out further qualities from this one and was left disappointed (nor was I convinced age was a factor in this case). However, it does share the same slick and consonant qualities of Moments of Eternity, even if that particular incense is the most successful of the two.

Overall, I’d recommend Eternity, but would suggest other green sandalwood types with more distinctiveness (for example Kyukyodo Ikaruga or Shoyeido Evening Zen) over Serenity.

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