Kunmeido / Heian Koh, Asuka

For my first post on the site, I decided to revisit some Japanese classics from Kunmeido.(Original post here)

Heian Koh is a green stick, a dark green, and it is square. It hearkens back to when the incense dough was rolled flat and cut into strips with a knife, giving the sticks a square rather than round shape. However, these are so perfectly exact that they are most likely extruded or machine-made square format.

Japanese aloeswood can come in a range from silent and bitter to sweet to engaging and even overbearing. This is sitting quietly in the sweet. The aloeswood coming across like hot spiced chocolate on a winter day. You can smell hints of cinnamon and nutmeg with this sweet, creamy aloeswood scent.  While reviewing this at night, I have burned this morning, afternoon, evening, and even late nights when I can’t sleep. Every time it’s sweet and soothing and a relaxing burn.

Because it has a square format, it gives off a stronger scent and smoke than a regular Japanese stick; this is almost like burning two thinner sticks at once. Since I started collecting and burning Japanese incense, this has never left my collection. I happen to have a roll I bought for this review, but I compared it to a roll I bought back in 2015, and the scent has not changed, so it has remained stable for the time being, as has the price.

This comes across as one of the more elegant entries compared to others in the low-medium price range like Houshou, Shoryu-Koh, or Jinkoh Reiryo Koh. But it is also at the far top of that price range, showing the price of higher-quality ingredients and the difference quality can make in a similar recipe. Not to cast shade on the others, I feel that this has more refinement and a smoother, more chill atmosphere. However, the scents are very similar due to the similarity in the recipe. Only the ingredients here are far higher quality.

Compared to Heian Koh, Asuka is an entry into the top shelf where I would still consider Heian Koh mid-range for price/quality. What changes here is the gravitas of the aloeswood. This is no longer a charming young adult with new stories, this is a much more mature adult with a bitter edge, and there is a saltiness that takes up much more space while the spices take a back seat and really just support the scent of the wood.

This is the same base recipe as Heian-Koh with adjustments to the quality and amount of aloeswood. I’m guessing Heian-Koh had some sandalwood or similar to cut the aloeswood content to keep the price down. That is not happening here. This smells like a pretty good Viet Nam type of aloeswood smell, given the bitter, resiny, and sweet notes I get in the aloeswood scent range. I get the refined and higher quality spices added with some hints of things like cinnamon and camphor to cool down the smoke. This still has sweetness, but it isn’t anywhere near as sweet as Heian Koh. Overall, this is a grand top-shelf aloeswood entry. At some point, this will most likely be the pinnacle as the kyara version disappears.

These sticks reference Japanese history. Both the Asuka and Heian eras are marked as the colonization of the hunter-gatherer society of the Jomon people by the Yayoi/Chinese coming in with iron technology and new ideas like Buddhism and its incense practices. The name Heian-Koh is either a reminder of the era of the same name or a minor pun on the name of Kyoto during the Heian period: Heian-Kyo. However the name is meant to come across, both scents can be a beautiful companion.

One of the classic Chinese incense recipes I have encountered is “Samadhi.” I have been told that this mixture uses the same ingredients as many modern Japanese recipes, such as Reiryo-Koh. Asuka and Heian Koh are both refinements of the formula with only hints at the Reiryo Koh ingredient that I don’t list it in the reviews themselves, but rather the ‘afterscent’ or finish of the incense has that sort of maple syrup and buckwheat that I associate with reiryo-koh as an ingredient.

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Kunmeido / Kyara Tenchi, Tokusen Kyara Ten-Pyo (Discontinued)

These two kyara incenses are the upper echelon of the Kunmeido line. Kunmeido is a personal favorite company for me, largely based on the high quality and relative affordability of incenses like Asuka, Heian Koh, and Shin Tokusen Reiryo Koh. But these kyaras take that range and elevate a similar trend to really rarified heights. ORS has reviewed many of the previous scents in this line (including one of these), but for context, their basic scent, Reiryo Koh, is made from sandalwood, clove, foenun graecum, patchouli, tarmelic/turmetic, and borneol camphor. Very roughly speaking as the ingredients improve the incenses go from a kind of basic spicy blend into really green territories, with a greater sense of refinement. So you start with the basic Reiryo-Koh, then a couple of variations of it (the Shin Tokusen and Aloeswood versions), then Shoryu-Koh, then you hop to green with Heian-Koh. Greater aloeswood content moves towards the great Asuka (the more recent Fuiji aloeswood probably falls more in between these two), and then you’re in kyara range with these two.

In fact in this case you might even describe Kyara Tenchi (I believe this was previously called Kyara Ten-Pyo and was previously reviewed by Ross in 2009) as a kyara-laced version of Asuka. While the stick is now a brown color, a lot of the green features from the Asuka scent still exist here. Kyara Tenchi is really an astonishingly complex incense. It takes that sweet green note from the Asuka and adds a sort of caramel-chocolate layer on top of it to make this an almost delectable sweet sort of kyara, certainly not too cloying, but definitely a bit in the candy-coated range. It’s probably a bit more cooling than the Asuka, maybe a bit of adjustment to match the borneol note more with the kyara in here. It really spirals out all sorts of complexities and sub notes from the level of woods and the match of ingredients, so it’s certainly one you want to get close to and feel out. Asuka on its own alright has a really surprisingly high resolution aloeswood back note to it, so it’s not a surprise this one does as well at a higher level. And honestly what is mostly incredible about it is its price, which Japan Incense has at $110 for a 70 stick roll. For my nose this is an uncommonly good incense for that low a range and while overall I think the level of real kyara in this is probably really small, the way the incense has been created magnifies the impact of it. Overall all of this is why it’s on my Mike’s picks list.

But the only reason the deluxe version isn’t on the Mike’s Picks list is because it was essentially discontinued due to the lack of kyara needed to make it. But every time I circle around to Japan Incense and see Tokusen Kyara Ten-Pyo still showing in stock, I’m almost shocked, because if you can afford high-end kyara range incenses then I would snap this up before it’s gone. If the regular is a 10 out of 10 then the Tokusen has to at least be an 11 or 12. I went on a bit as to how complex the regular version is but it really has nothing on this incredible marvel, it’s literally one of the greatest kyaras ever made that I could barely afford. This is definitely a variation on the regular Kyara Tenichi, but the wood is so high quality that the aroma takes a quantum jump up. It’s the literal, mind melting, 4K real deal. And it’s not just the woods here, it feels like a lot of the other ingredients that have followed this line up to this one are all at that kind of high-resolution brilliance and it means that a good listen will familiarize yourself with all of them independently while watching them interact all in the face of a world-class conductor. In particular it’s almost like it comes back to the Reiryo Koh scent as a climatic final chorus. The better wood also means it will likely be more to the taste of those who like their aloeswoods purer and maybe find the regular too sweet. Don’t miss this one because when it’s gone, it’s really gone. And if we’re seeing any real indications it’s that incenses like this are a vanishing breed.

Kunmeido / Fuji Aloeswood

Kunmeido’s Fuji Aloeswood is a bit of a sidestep from their classic Asuka incense. It’s may be just a bit less deluxe and a bit a less expensive than its cousin and I don’t know if I could argue that anyone needs both. Now if you’re working your way up their line from Reiryo Koh, I might normally caution one to take the cheaper step and in that sense Fuji is definitely more inexpensive. You’re basically getting 50 sticks at $28 for Fuji and 70 sticks for $56 with Asuka. So what are the differences? Well I know Asuka pretty well and there aren’t too many. If someone told me this was Asuka in disguise then I might think it’s an adjusted recipe to account for a little less aloeswood. Fuji Aloeswood is a bit drier and a bit more akin to more inexpensive sandalwoods in part. The aloeswood in it isn’t as well defined as Asuka’s is (Asuka’s balancing act is nigh on perfect to my nose), but it’s certainly present, but more as a subnote. It’s stronger than it is in the Heian-Koh and this is not as sweet. But other than probably some faint differences to the top oil this is essentially the same class, order, family and genus, just not the same species. If you’re like me and over the moon for the Asuka you probably will welcome it.

July Top Ten

So really I burn a lot more then just these but ya got ta draw the line somewhere 🙂

Yamadamatsu Kouboku Senshu Sandalwood: This is straight up high-grade sandalwood and not much else. I think it is one of the very best sandalwood scents one can get, assuming, of course, that you are not interested in a sandalwood blend. Japanincense.com sells this, sometimes it comes in a box by itself and sometimes they stock it in a three-way combo pack with an aloeswood as well as a kyara blend. To me the other two are a bit much, but I know many people who would be very happy with them.

Baieido Byakudan (Sandalwood) Kobunboku: Recently got a new box of this and was very happy with it. I think it is one of the best sandalwood “woody blend” style sticks around, along with Shunkohdo’s. They are both relying on the wood and not oils, which makes for a very different experience.

Seijudo Kyara Seiran: All of the three kyara blends from Seijudo are very good and really it probably comes down to which day as to which one I like the most. These are loaded with the scents of kyara, musk and a number of other “secret ingredients” that make for  real show stoppers. I can think of at least three to four times where I have lit one of these for someone and literally watched them lock up in amazement, me being one of them.

Shunkohdo Ranjatai: Shunkohdo tends to make pretty traditional scents, when I light a stick of this I always get a sense of going back to a different era, it is sort of like instant time travel to Old Japan. It is very elegant and at the same time primeval with the scent of the musk wrapped around a very good aloeswood. As an added attraction there are a lot of sticks in the box. This is on many of our Top 10’s with good reason.

Daihatsu Chips or Slices: So if you really want to smell sandalwood and you have some sort of incense heater or even good quality Japanese coals, this is it. It does not get any better that I have found. I like the slices, if for no other reason that they look cool. Shunkohdo also makes these and they are very similar in scent.  Given the increase in sandalwood prices as well as it continuing decline in availability these are a great thing to have and hold onto.

Kunmeido Kyara Tenpyo: This is a beautiful kyara blend that is ultra refined and more or less the top of Kunmeido’s line. The woods really stand out with just a faint hint of the Reiryo Koh scent in the backround. It is very uplifting and refreshing and also makes for an interesting choice for meditation, especially during Summer. Not as expensive as the Seijudo’s and also probably not as much kyara.

Kunlha’s Lotus Pema & Loong Po: One of our readers wrote in about these (thanks IO) and I ordered a bunch recently. So far I have found myself using the Loong Po and Lotus Pema quite a lot. The sticks are much thinner then the standard Tibetan style and there are around 20 per box. They seem to be made without any animal ingredients (not 100% sure about this) but do use what seems to be very good quality materials. They may also be formulated with a more “Western” audience in mind. The Lotus Pema has a very nice clean juniper scent to it and is quite uplifting. The Loong Po has a subtle green herbal scent with a very light but noticeable clean floral/perfume-ish top note riding over the whole thing. This is a pretty unique combination (at least to me) and one that works for my nose. Both of these sticks have enough complexity to keep them interesting although they are lacking in the funk factor.

Mermade Magickal Frankincense: Mermade has a great line up of frankincense’s at the moment, and they are all different smelling. I am particularly fond of the Superior Hougary and the Black Frankincense, their lemon lime and orange smells are truly wonderful . At Christmas we burn frankincense for the 24 hours before Midnight Mass, I really am looking forward to this one.

Fred Soll’s Honey Amber: I do not know of another stick quite like this one. It is a great blend of scents that just work well together with a very deep and almost hypnotic scent quality that does a great job at scenting a room.  Great stuff at a good price.

Baieido Sawayka Kobunboku: I love cinnamon and this has lots. This is really good in the morning when getting up and getting it together enough to make it out the door to work. It also gives an interesting scent to ones clothing and/or hair. I got both this and the Koh at the same time and at this point am not to sure if they are the same thing, I am leaning towards two different mix’s but could be wrong. Maybe David Oller will chime in with some insight 🙂

August Top Ten 2011

Minorien  FU-IN® Kyara Ryugen: This is Minorien’s top of the line(at least here in the US)  Kyara blend. If you are familiar with the companies style then you will see that this is the end result of ever increasing refinement. The balance of all the differing elements and the way they have been mixed is truly remarkable. Not to be missed and you can pick up a small box for around $40.00.

Keigado East Temple (Ansoku): Sandalwood with a spice note that is also somewhat (a little) perfume like. This is a very pleasant and usable “everyday” incense. I find myself giving away a lot of this just to show people that you can get good Japanese incense and not blow away your bank account.

Kyukyodo Akikaze : No one does this style like Kyukyodo. There are notes that are floral married up with perfumes and all this rides across a quality Aloeswood base. One of the masterpieces of the incense maker’s art. It’s available from Kohshi by special order. Not inexpensive, but worth it.

Kunmeido Shoryu Koh (Rising Dragon): A great Aloeswood mixed with a wonderful “green” note, which seems (to me at least) to be this companies signature style. This one is much more forward in all these elements but also smoother than their Reiryo koh blend and costs much less than their upper tier blends. A nice balance point.

Seijudo Shiragiku White Chrysanthemum: One of the great deals in incense, with a distinctive “high end” style that mimics the much more expensive real Kyara sticks that this company also produces. It’s rich, powerful and you would swear, loaded with Kyara and musk. This is not the case but it is a great introduction to that world. This is a great treat for one’s self.

Shoyeido Muromachi: This has seemingly gone though some changes over the years but is still great incense and also a pretty unique scent. Nice, almost caramel note which is mixed into the woods. I use the coils, which seem to me to have a slightly woodsier note going for them then the sticks.

Nu Essence ABRA MELIN: These are small tins packed with a lot of scent. This blend has a strong rose note along with frankincense and other resins. There is a wonderful interplay between all the different ingredients and the scent can change depending on the length of time on the heater. Very nice to scent a room and a little goes a long way. I have encluded the makers link as it’s a very informative site.

Mermade Arts Pan’s Earth: Deep resin scent mixed in with the woods and the addition of Patchouli and Vetivert, which adds a lot more depth to the mix. There is also a slight edge to this incense, which reflects the idea of Pan to me. Pan’s Earth is always a winner but I think this batch is one of the best.

Deep Earth Premium-2011: These incense balls or nuggets have been aged for quite awhile which adds complexity and depth to the scent. They are very resinous with wood notes as well as a subtle blending of spices. There is a slightly sweet side to the whole thing and it is best used in an electric heater at a low setting.  This is a good choice for reflection and meditation.

Baieido Kokonoe Koh: I find this to be a really good and classic Baieido style stick. It has a great combination of Aloesood, Sandalwood and spices and is also very reasonably priced. This would make a nice gift for someone who is not into the sweet or floral scented incense’s. This is one of my “go to” or must have sticks.

Awaji-Baikundo Jihi – Amacha kou: One of the best amber scents around and it also has some serious Boral camphor along for the ride. It’s quite distinctive and very good. I use it a lot late at night. The scent lasts a long time and also works well for scenting clothing.

– Ross

Kunmeido / Gokuhin Daikunkoh

We’ve covered quite a few Kunmeido incenses in the past and have probably discussed this temple length “every day” stick in the past, because it’s a high quality, fairly notable work in a style that’s usually dull as ditchwater. Kunmeido, of course, are quite well known for using fenugreek as a spice in their incenses, which gives incenses like Reiryo Koh and Unkun Koh signature aromas. With the thick and long Gokuhin Daikunkoh, you get a something of a variation on Reiryo Koh. This is a firey, spicy sandalwood blend, so spiced with herbs even calling it a sandalwood doesn’t seem quite right, it’s entirely defined by that sharp note in the spices. Overall this feels quite a bit more deluxe than the usual “daikunkoh,” it’s perhaps most similar to Baieido’s large aloeswood coil, but not quite as refined. If you love the other Kunmeidos, don’t forget this one.

The Olfactory Rescue Service Top 25 (Mike and Ross)

Today we introduce to you the Olfactory Rescue Service Top 25. However, unlike our usual top 10s and last year’s combined top 20, we thought we’d do something a little bit different and a little bit tricky. This year’s top 25 is something of a meta-list, in a way we want to capture the best of incense by looking at things from a larger perspective. So instead of having one incense per entry, we’re just going for broke: full companies, sublines, incenses, incense materials, incense supplementals – everything we could think of that would lead to a top tier incense experience. In fact we started at a top 20, expanded it to a 25 to make sure we got everything and ended up with a pretty good group.

Please keep in mind as always that our best of lists are something of a lark. For one thing I think both Ross and I probably find it somewhat difficult to truly tier these in order and so while maybe we like the stuff at the top a little more than at the bottom, maybe, there’s no particular rhyme or reasoning to the ordering and we consider everything on here to be superlative work, perhaps with a few individual idiosyncracies we won’t mention. As a whole though, I think this is a good look at what we consider the best incense related stuff on the US market today and we’ve pared it down only to include what is available here. As each entry often includes several incenses, we’ve left off links to reviews and sites, but just about everything on here has been reviewed previously and links to them can be found in our Reviews Index. So, after the cut, the ORS Top 25. Read the rest of this entry »

Kunmeido / Kyara Tenpyo

Kunmeido is a very well know and loved, not to mention respected, company who is the maker of such standards of the industry as Reiryo Koh, Heian Koh and the ever stunning Asuka. Japan Incense has now brought in their kyara blend called Kyara Tenpyo. It comes in both a small and large box.

Kotaro at JI gave me a sample that I have been slowly working with for about a week. It has similar scent characteristics to the Asuka as well as Shunkohdo’s Kyara Aioi no Matsu, more towards the Aioi no matsu then the Asuka. It has that sort of herbal “green” note layered on top on a much more predominate woods note then the Asuka. This, I think, is the kyara at play, lending overtones that are chocolate like under the green note and at times slightly ginger in quality. This is all very subtle, produces a really very complex and multi layer incense and it has taken me quite awhile to get to even a fraction of what I suspect is in there. Many of the incenses that use the green note (I have no clue as to what herb/spice creates this) do so with almost too much punch. This is not the case here. Every thing about this incense speaks of an extremely masterful hand in its making, exercising a lot of restraint and experience. This is not something to light and walk away from, it is much more suited to study and focus. Really, quite a master piece of the art

[NOTE 7/13/2021: Kunmeido changed the name of this incense to Kyara Tenchi. There is a more recent review from Mike here.]

SAMPLER NOTES: Awajishima Senko, (Nihon Senko Seizo), Saraike Kunbutsudo (both incenses Discontinued), Keigado (Kaori Discontinued), Kunmeido

Time for another batch of samples, four relatively new imports and a couple old scents I’m managing to get around to now…

Two scents have arrived from Nihon Senko Seizo (now Awajishima Senko), the first a cedar incense called Momiji Koh that comes in a ten roll set with single rolls sold individually. This does what it says on the box, however unlike cheaper cedar incenses, Momiji Koh manages to exhibit some of the wood’s finer qualities, with notes of evergreen and especially conifers floating lightly on the top. Undoubtedly this is an inexpensive incense that could easily be filed with daily sandalwoods and there are some interesting subtleties that imply there may be a bit of sandalwood in the mix, but overall this tends to hit a sort of generic cedarwood in the middle. It’s definitely more pleasant than the cedarwood you might find in Tibetan incenses, on the other hand Indian masalas and some American red cedarwood is perhaps a bit more overtly aromatic.

Tsukiyama is also a very evergreen incense, this time going for a pine scent, however where Momiji-Koh is decidedly cedarwood, Tsukiyama seems decidedly more complex. There’s definitely the evergreen notes you’d expect for a pine incense but there seems to be something of a less traditional oil mix on top that modernizes the scent to some extent, making the finish fruity, bright and attractive. At times I’ve detected hints of patchouli, apple, spearmint and berry in the mix, all of which I assume are less notes and more attributes of a certain intricacy in the mix.

Saraike Kunbutsudo also now exports two modern incenses  to the United States via Kohshi. Mt. Fuji is an incense somewhat similar to Shorindo’s Wayko discussed last installment, with sandalwood and cinnamon listed as the two main ingredients, however Mt. Fuji is a more traditional mix even with the spice blended with some unidentifiable light floral qualities. As such the cinnamon doesn’t cut through so much and make the incense stands out and the result is actually quite mild and mellow which I can imagine are likely to be attractive qualities to some purchasers. It has a very restrained feel to it. [This appears to have been discontinued. – Mike 7/6/21]

Shizuka-No-Sato comes in a huge 500+ stick box making it necessary to get a sample to see if it will have such lasting power for you. I found it to be not terribly different from the previously mentioned Tsukiyama incense, although as shown in the ingredients the jasmine/floral mix is certainly prominent. I found it to be just as mild and smooth as the Mt. Fuji overall, as if the characteristics of the company were an elegant restraint, but such a quality makes it difficult to discuss from a sample. It is quite pretty with no offputting qualities found in relatively inexpensive florals (per stick here of course) with a mix of slight woodiness, a light spice and berry along with the jasmine and likely rose mix. [This appears to have been discontinued. – Mike 7/6/21]

I forgot to mention Keigado’s Kaori when last discussing the two Magnolias but I didn’t want to forget it as it’s a very nice affordable sandalwood with a slighty minty tone as well as hints of cedar, pine and patchouli in it – a very green incense overall. Like several of the Keigado traditionals there’s something of an oil strength to it and as such it also has a touch of something reminiscent of the line’s Full Moon, perhaps a slight touch of whatever it is that creates the amber in that incense. Overall though the  middle is somewhat airy, giving the whole incense a fleeting smell and as such it’s one of the lightest incenses in the Keigado catalog. [This appears to have been discontinued. – Mike 7/6/21]

Had good luck with Kunmeido’s wonderful Hosen incense, but the sandalwood, lilac and cedar mix of Unjo Koh isn’t nearly as immediate. By proximity, it did remind me a bit of the Kaori, but without the amber-like depth to it and a much woodier middle. Strangely I didn’t detect lilac much at all, but I can imagine it’s the sort of scent that could get buried among the ingredients and here the woodiness is probably responsible for that. It’s slightly sweet and evergreen and perhaps the cedar is the most dominant note. Certainly pleasant, but fairly dull especially for a Kunmeido scent.

Next up in the sampler notes series, a pentad of scents from American company Ancient Forest. I’ll be out and away for about a week at this point so bear with me if comments or questions addressed after today aren’t attended to until next week. Thanks!

SAMPLER NOTES: Keigado, Seikado, Kunmeido

I’ve long had the internal debate on reviewing incenses where I only have small samples, in many cases I often just hang onto the ones I’m going to buy anyway and do a review proper on them. But I’m getting to the point where I’m kind of backing up with them and in a lot of cases they’re new and it’s probably time to get the word out, particularly as we’ve been seeing a lot of new modern styled imports coming in in the last six months. So periodically and probably through the end of the year I hope to get some comments out on these in batches of (approx.) 5 or 6.

The three Keigados in this batch, however, have been around for a couple years. The Blue Berry was even discussed in some comments a while back, and I can see why, it’s a pleasant smokeless stick that does what it says on the box, exude a pleasant smell of blueberries that’s pitched just about right. However I’m at the point where I wouldn’t even be sure what I’d do with 370 sticks of this, I could easily even imagine getting tired of it. But it’s light, airy and friendly, I can’t imagine the person who would find it unpleasant. [Please note that the link now goes to a 70 stick for $7 bundle, rather than the old 370 stick version, I think this makes this incense more attractive given you’re not getting too many sticks. – Mike 7/6/21]

Keigado’s Pink Magnolia is one of their three magnolias and I believe I covered the Purple Magnolia some time ago. Like the purple, the pink isn’t smokeless, the main difference is this stick evokes typical pink-like smells, perhaps rose or carnation in parts, as much as it does magnolia. In fact I was reminded a little of the Shunkohdo Shuhou I reviewed yesterday in terms of tone. The Pink Magnolia, however, has a slight bit of cinnamon spice in the mix which made me like it a little more than the purple, but overall this is the kind of low end, inexpensive floral that will appeal more to the modern than traditional incense fan.

Sennichiko, however, is definitely more in the traditional vein and strikes me as, perhaps, a slightly more inexpensive version of Keigado’s Full Moon, the amber scents are not quite as strong in this version, although it’s strong enough that this doesn’t just come off like another low end green sandalwood. But like most of those, it has a mild perfume oil on top that’s hard to describe, except that it seems to have a touch of patchouli or cinnamon in the mix. And certainly at $3 a roll, it’s kind of a steal.

Moving over to Seikado is another entry in the company’s Hitori-Shizuka line, the Fancy Floral. That’s not particularly the kind of description that really appeals to my sensibilities so much and my opinion wasn’t far off the same one I had for the Floral Elegant in the same line. Like many an NK floral (or even Daihatsu or Kunjudo), it’s part of the modern trend of perfumed incense sticks, and like a couple I’ll talk about later in the Shorindo Koibana line or the NK Free Pure Spirit line, I get watermelon more than I do floral, sort of a gentle and subtle feminine perfume that isn’t likely to do more than lightly perfume an area. Like the whole line, the base is sandalwood but in this incense more than the others it’s perhaps the most sublimated.

Seikado’s Kyoyama Bokusho is also modern, but in this case they’ve put together a distinctive and special incense not quite like any other, although again I’m fairly put off by the sheer number of sticks (180+) in the box more than I am by the price; that’s probably way more incense than I can crunch at this point. Anyway this incense is unique in that it largely exudes the aroma of Sumi ink. Not having any conscious memory of Sumi ink specifically, I can say that it does remind me of the better examples of calligraphic ink I can remember and married to camphor it makes for a distinct almost oceanic incense, very water elemental. It’s smokeless, so never gets too potent, a bit spicy and overall this one just about anyone will need a sample of first to check out as it has virtually no comparison at least among imports.

Finally, another oldie from the Kunmeido stable, the Hosen is one I feel amiss at not having discovered earlier as although it’s a distinct modern floral, it’s really no less brilliant than most of the line’s traditionals and one of the best multi-floral air freshener type incenses I can think of. While it’s definitely a bouquet scent, I’d say the violet’s out front on this one but what’s great about it from my perspective is it’s almost as spicy as it is floral and the complexity the combined styles exude make for a fascinating burn. Some similar incenses might be Baieido’s Kokonoe Floral and Izumi and less so Shorindo’s Chabana Green Tea, all mentioned mostly due to their similarities as freshener types. A 200 stick box, again, could be stretching it for me, but in this case I might be on the purchase side of the fence as I can see this mixing into a day perfectly.

Up over the next few weeks new incense from Shorindo (including the excellent Wayko), a handful from the new Ancient Forest line, scents from Scents of Japan, Nihon Senko Seizo, Saraike Kunbutsudo, Tahodo and I believe Ross will have some words on a few new Daihatsus.

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