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. ūüôā


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’orchid√©e)¬†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.

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.