Minorien / Fu-in / Sandalwood, Aloeswood, Kyara + Scents of Japan / Eucalyptus

It is particularly true with incenses that feature strong wood notes that shifts in materials affect these the most by a long shot, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the basic Minorien line again after all these years. I am very fond of the Minorien line, in fact I’d easily call them one of my favorite Japanese outfits from top to bottom. They have this Fu-in line (previously reviewed here and here), two of the best kyara blends on the market (reviewed here, here, and here), a couple of fantastic aloeswood blends somewhere in the mid price range and some florals and moderns that are rather good as well. They have also tailor made incenses for the western market through Japan Incense and at least one other company as well. They do what they do very well. However, we are starting to notice what appear to be some large shifts in their recipes and as a result this is unlikely to be the only time we revisit their incenses.

So let’s start with their Fu-in Sandalwood. While this may have shifted some since my original review, nearly everything I said there still remains true. This isn’t your usual somewhat thin on the ground basic sandalwood, it feels to me like they’ve taken good quality wood and bolstered it a lot with some oils as well. I mention in my previous review that it makes it somewhat similar to some Indian dhoop sandalwoods and I think that’s still true. Much has been made about the Minorien “wet” note and I think that’s often because the incenses marry fine materials with fine oils and that gives this affordable sandalwood a very pleasant and somewhat damp-like aroma. So this one isn’t really about capturing more old mountain sandalwood type qualities or being super high end, it’s more about pitching something in the middle that works really well. So honestly when I started to rebuy my incense stock, this was one of the first I started with. So really, there aren’t much in the way of shifts and this is very dependable. Even if there is some trickery to make a $14 box smell above average, it’s super well done. And if you want to just try a bit of it there’s a mini box too. There are also other shapes and sizes (of all but the Scents of Japan Eucalyptus) as well, maybe close to a half dozen in total. You might be able to grab high end sandalwoods, and some cool low end blends, but I think this might be the best of the affordable single notes.

The big change in the line is really the Fu-in Aloeswood, which to my nose is almost a completely different incense than the way it used to smell. Simply put this used to be one of the most satisfying aloeswoods for its price on the market and in many ways it’s merely very good now, if that makes sense. I don’t notice the “wet” smell on this one quite like I used to, although the incense does appear to be going for the same sort of profile. It feels like it’s a bit more polished now, which I don’t quite remember from older stocks as much, and occasionally I get what might be described as more perfume-like elements, which also seems new to this incense. I would guess, of course, that the base woods are just different, and Minorien is still attempting to craft this one as a very legit aloeswood smell and it still is. But I did feel on this one my previous review was somewhat obsolete now as it’s quite different. There was something a bit more unique about this one in the past and it feels like this one is more reaching for it than hitting the target. Of course if you’re coming fresh to this you won’t notice any such thing and I definitely wouldn’t wave you away. But if I think to the Ryugen, the Aloeswood has almost like the same kind of craft going on except with the high-end kyara it’s at a much more impressive and unique level.

The real comparison though is when you move forward to the Fu-in Kyara. Now I have weighed in before that this isn’t really what I call a kyara, quite frankly if you want that kind of note you’ll get a little in the Ryugen and a bit more in the Chokoh, although I think with both they are being bolstered by additional perfumes and ingredients. But here I think you’re getting more a of a premium aloeswood scent and at least the overall profile starts to hint at kyara. I was thinking very recently after sampling the Kourindo Kyara just how utterly vast the gap is between the real thing and the label, but my secondary concern is if you’re going to use the label at least make it worth it (looking at you NK). I’m not sure the subnote range in this incense is all that more complex or vast as it is in the aloeswood, it’s more than the materials here are better, and the overall profile a bit more polished and sublime. It’s unquestionably a terrific incense, and it is deeply resinous and bitter in the best aloeswood fashion, but I do remember that back in the day I didn’t feel it justified the leap from the Aloeswood where now I think it probably does. And although it has been a while since I had my first box of this, it also feels like the profile is somewhat different, in ways that are probably hard to remember at this point. But overall you are more or less getting a quality akin to the amount of your money willing to shell out and as you can see there’s a big box in the picture which should show how much I really do like this one. It has that aloeswood intensity you can almost feel in the middle of the forehead as it tugs on the energy.

Finally, it should be noted that Minorien sometimes designs incenses for outside the Japanese market, in fact it’s fairly well known that their Frankincense is one of these. There’s also one called Kuromoji (Forest Breeze) and then there’s a three-incense line designed for Japan Incense which include Sage, Myrrh and the fantastic Eucalyptus. I would guess there are others. I wrote about this one in my 14 One of a Kind Japanese Incenses article from earlier this year, but I wanted to circle around again to have it in place for an actual review. It may very well be that I’m not as big of a fan of Sage and stick Myrrh (I do like a good resin) to have been the right audience for the other two, but on the other hand I wouldn’t have thought so for the Eucalyptus either, but it really turns out to be a really cool scent. We have a lot of Eucalyptus trees in California and so it’s a fairly familiar scent but you don’t usually see it as intensified or as prettied up as it is in the Japan Incense version. I like its uniquely minty-like presence in this stick and the way it is refined for something like a modern/traditional hybrid that really works. I would guess that most people don’t have a eucalyptus incense in their article so this is one to start with and one that’s quite affordable too. It’s a lovely, fresh sort of aroma and unlike anything else.

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Admin Notes

Site updates still happen. My general plan on these things is to make notes on older reviews when I have new stock on something and can confirm (or not) if an incense has remained the same. I have:

  • Updated many incenses from the Bosen company. This includes four of the five on this page and some clean up on the others. Bosen has remained surprisingly consistent in the years since we first reviewed them. I do have an upcoming review on a few we missed and hope eventually to go back in and redo the aloeswoods, as if anything has changed it’s likely to be those. But at least the Tibetan-styled incenses seem to remain largely the same recipes.
  • Updated the Kyukyodo reviews. Kyukyodo are one of the Japanese companies that I believe to be hit the hardest due to materials changes. Sho Ran Koh has been addressed here. Azusa and Gyokurankoh, along with a couple of new reviews, have been addressed here. Noted that Shiun and Yumemachi have been discontinued, including the latter’s most recent limited edition (there is a Shiun in the Ho-Un gift set, but it is a completely different incense). Have noted on some reviews that many of them were written prior to Japan Incense carrying the line, so it is not always clear if certain incenses have been discontinued; however, when at all possible links to Japan Incense have put in place.
  • Updated the Minorien line. While the high end incenses have seemed to be remarkably stable, there is a plan to revisit the Fu-in woods as the profiles have changed drastically on the aloeswood and perhaps less so on the kyara. Also a plan to eventually redo the Kyara Chokoh review, in order to include the long stick variation if possible. Our original review was a bit early stage and feel this one is special enough to need an in depth review. But all of the reviews have had links fixed to Japan Incense and any necessary cosmetic edits and changes.
  • Updated the Shunkohdo line. Noted that the sandalwood incense Yae No Hana has been discontinued. Tried in most places to standardize the English spelling to Shunkohdo. While pronunciation-wise it’s the same, Koh is a generally used word for incense so I try to update all spellings so that this clear, if only due to preference. Updated links to Japan Incense. Confirmations that Ranjatai and Yoshino No Haru (short stick) remain virtually the same.

Minorien / Kougiku (Chrysanthemum), Hana Murasaki (Violet)

I don’t usually go deep enough into a company’s catalog to start experimenting with moderns and florals, but I’m a huge fan of the Minorien line and since it’s not a terrible large one, I wanted to see what they had left after all the wonderful aloeswoods, sandalwoods, kyaras and frankincense. It was a good move because I discovered another aloeswood-related incense with the Kougiku mini stick. I first introduced this in my 14 One of a Kind Japanese Incenses feature, but I wanted to memorialize it as an actual review as it’s a lovely and rare piece of incense art.

Kougiku (it’s also spelled Kagiku, but I’m sure both are fine from a transliteration point of view) comes in a little square box and yet like other Minoriens it is packaged with the paper covered trays. It’s just in this case they’re smaller and a bit more adorable as a result. Each little stick packs a glorious little wallop of a chrysanthemum-scented aloeswood, one of those rare convergences that even your family might be OK with. And of course it’s not a surprise from such a venerable company that the combination is pitched fairly perfectly, like a modern and a traditional coming to the table for a friendly handshake. It’s got a bit of a spicy middle, some caramel notes, and no lack of neat wood presence and so could easily also be the kind of floral an aloeswood appreciator is OK with. Honestly the only issue I have is it might be cool in a longer stick or coil form too. It comes and goes so fast, so it’s hard not to light up another one.

Minorien’s lil Hana Murasaki/Violet coils (these also come in sticks, although I have not compared them for differences) are another floral treat, although this time there are no woods outside of whatever base the oils sit on. This is straight along the line modern floral incense but very nicely done. Violet is another one of those flowers that can become indistinctive in the wrong hands and while this doesn’t come quite up to how amazing Shoyeido’s high end Floral World violet was before the deluxe version got deleted, it’s still a very worthy treat nonetheless and certainly one of the best violet incenses I can think of off hand. I am running the risk of going hey people this violet incense smells like …. violet, but at least in this case it really does and there aren’t a lot of harsh notes or floral bouquet dilutions to get in the way, which is a lot more common with cheaper fare. I don’t do a lot of florals but I am happy with this one as an occasional diversion.

The Long Stick

My love for Minorien’s Kyara Ryugen has been documented here before and I recently restocked my second box. But after trying long sticks of a couple of other Minorien scents, both of which made me curious how different the formulas were as I enjoyed them more than I remembered, I was curious what Ryugen would be like in a long stick. I unwrapped my first stick tonight and it just brought up a bunch of questions which kind of relate to the difficulty in reviewing and describing high quality wood incenses over long periods of time. It is both a different incense and then it isn’t. For one thing I think the kyara element of the stick is much more pronounced in the long stick and the sort of dark wood oil in the short stick isn’t quite as strong. The long stick is just as complex, but at times it feels like it hits pockets of really high quality wood that make my head melt. But where I would describe the regular stick as a mix with kyara sort of in the middle of it all, it’s a lot more dominant here. So the question I have is like do the long sticks just take longer to sell and therefore you’re often reaching back to older stock? Does the difference in price (because in many instances the longer stick is more expensive per inch) show that long sticks are often more deluxe and wood heavy? Is it just the way different boxes hit different supplies of wood? I don’t know for sure, but this sweeter more kyara rich version of Kyara Ryugen was a really, really good call. It’s like having two versions of your favorite incense.

14 One of a Kind Japanese Incenses

This article was an idea to have a Top 10 of what I consider one of a kind Japanese incenses in the sense that the 9 incenses and one line (of 5 incenses) would all be scents I consider unique. I thought of this burning selection #2 today. This list is in absolutely no hierarchical order, I just went through and thought of incenses that are so singularly their own that there’s really no other incenses like them, no match in their own line or in other company’s lines. So it features both affordable and highly priced wonders. I didn’t really have time to go through and link to previous reviews to them at least yet (and not all of these have reviews, so there is a first time showing or two), but you can use the search engine to the left to find my years-old impressions of them and in certain cases I give my thoughts here of what I think of them now. Do you know any one of a kind Japanese incenses that aren’t on the list? Please feel free to share them in the comments and discuss!

  1. Kyukyodo/Sho-Ran-Koh (Laughing Orchid) While I largely wanted to avoid a great deal of aloeswood incenses, where either in line or out of line you can usually find something similar in style, I find Sho-Ran-Koh utterly unique in its mix between oils and woods. Like most Japanese incenses I think it has probably taken a minor hit from what it smelled like ten years ago, it’s either my nose or the blend isn’t quite as complicated anymore. But I do think it still really fits the Laughing Orchid name in that the scent has an incredible amount of movement in it and almost playful and joyful quality to it. There’s aloeswood certainly, but the creators of this incense have a completely unique mix of other ingredients on top that made this a one of a kind, there is no incense in its line or any other that quite capture what it does. Even the more premium Kyukyodos I believe are not quite as excellent as this one. It is truly one of the treasures of traditional incense, a prime expression of Japanese art.
    https://www.japanincense.com/ky-0005.html
  2. Kunjudo/Hogetsu What used to be Incense du Monde and then became Florisens I believe still markets this incense as Guiding Light, but the mark up as it sails around the world is quite substantial. I was pleased when Japan Incense began to import this on its own and for a $20 spot which makes it an excellent deal. This is described as a mix of woods and while there’s probably a bit of aloeswood in it, there’s really not enough to make this an aloeswood incense per se, but the blend of woods and oils here gives off an utterly unique, salty and tangy incense that has been a favorite of mine since I first tried it. The fact that it’s not really an aloeswood or a sandalwood incense and yet still remains high quality is very rare in Japanese incense and there’s absolutely nothing else that smells like this that I know of. And I nearly ran out of my Guiding Light box as I discovered it was imported so I can now happily stock this one deep.
    https://www.japanincense.com/kj-0032.html
  3. Tennendo/Propolis – This is a very special incense. It is a modern short-stick sort of deal and you have to spend into the mid 20s but you get a large amount of sticks with a scent that is unlike anything else in incense (I certainly can’t think of any other propolis stick incenses). It’s essentially the resin that bees bring back to build their hives and as such the properties of the wood resins change into a remarkable and rich scent that actually kind of hints at other wood resins while not being close enough to be duplicative. So it’s modern, deep and intense all at once and the aroma is powerful and fills the room really quickly.
    https://www.japanincense.com/tn-0035.html
  4. Shoyeido/Horin (the original line). While I’m technically cheating here given that the newest incense in this line, Shira-kawa, is essentially a variant of Hori-kawa, the five incenses, both stick and coil, in Shoyeido’s original Horin line are remarkable in that they start with vanilla and spice/amber blends but notably tackle a few rare modern aloeswoods of which there are really no other analogs in the field of incense. When I first started restocking, most of these were actually at the top of the list for me. You will find that through Amazon marketplace a lot of these are actually priced cheaper than the Shoyeido going price as well. I’m not sure what my favorite of the five are but I often feel it’s either Hori-kawa because I love the cinnamon in the mix or Muro-machi because it as a very nice caramel-aloeswood blend I’m not sure you can find anywhere else.
    https://www.shoyeido.com/category/horin-incense-coils
  5. Minorien/Kyara Ryugen – Unless you’re looking at one of the really high end purer kyara woods like Baieido Kyara Kokoh, for me Ryugen is the singular and most impressive kyara blend ever made and one of my all time favorite incenses. I don’t think I can match my original review of it, so I’ll point you there. Most kyaras are amazing enough to have very complex personalities but often that complexity actually creates similarities, where in this case there’s an oil mix with the woods that just gives off this unique mystical nightshade sort of ambiance that has as much vibe as good taste.
    https://www.japanincense.com/mn-0020.html
  6. Shoyeido/Premium/Nan-Kun I was glad this incense survived the recent cuts as it’s the one incense where spikenard is a really powerful presence, something you don’t see as much anywhere else. It’s also, of course, a pretty expensive and premium aloeswood incense at the same time, but rather than going for the hoary antique side of things the woodiness presents a balancing act with sweetness in an analogous way to the great Kunmeido Asuka stick while ending up in a completely different area. I actually like this one in tandem with Ga-Ho, as for years I’ve always rotated them in sequence due to how different there are, but it also ends up reminding me that this is really the rarer of the two sticks.
    https://www.shoyeido.com/category/southern-wind
  7. Shoyeido/Xiang-Di/Forest Popular incense companies Shoyeido and Nippon Kodo churn out modern sticks almost as fast as you can keep up with them and many of them are so geared to specific scents that they can often just be aromatically monochromatic and at worse bitter or synthetic smelling. This little gem has always been a favorite to me as its crystal freshness doesn’t have any off notes and captures the fresh feel of a walk through an evergreen forest with a candy touch. It’s no secret I love green incenses whether it’s the Kunmeido’s or Mermade Magical Arts but this presents the scent in a completely different venue and actually succeeds for its build.
    https://www.shoyeido.com/product/xiang-do-forest/xiang-do-incense
  8. Minorien/Kagiku (Chrysanthemum)  I’m not a huge floral fan so my eyes tend to zoom by them in catalogs and it probably zoomed right by this one at some point without noticing that it’s also an aloeswood incense. Also something of a modern scent due to the short, thicker stick, the combination of floral and wood here is something I’ve seen before (probably, I can’t think of any off hand) but certainly not as a Chrysanthemun scent. A sample of this one won me over almost instantly.
    https://www.japanincense.com/mn-0060.html
  9. Kyukyodo/Azusa  Another Kyukyodo gem and perhaps the world’s greatest floral or at least jasmine. Powdery, sweet, not bitter in the slightest with a distinctly pretty scent, I have kept this in stock since I first purchased it. However, I do miss the slim long stick boxes.
    https://www.japanincense.com/ky-0053.html
  10. Japan Incense/Theology/Eucalyptus You can tell by the box and the little inserts inside that this is a Minorien incense marketed for the USA’s finest source of Japanese incense, Japan Incense. Many incenses like this are likely targeted for people who visit off the streets and gravitate to more familiar scents and as everyone in California knows eucalyptus trees are ubiquitous in a way that incenses of that scent really aren’t. I was surprised by this one in a way I wasn’t quite by the Myrrh and Sage in the same line, but still I’m always impressed by Minorien and how brilliant they are, I think maybe four of my favorite incenses are made by this company. This has a nicely polished Eucalptus sense with a bit of richness to it that I was surprised to find and now that it’s in rotation, it’s actually easy to see how different it is from anything else I own.
    https://www.japanincense.com/ji-0002.html

Seikado / Gokujo Kyara, Minorien / Kyara Chokoh No. 5 (Five Notes)

Seikado Gokujo Kyara: There is a style of incense that, in the US, Shoyeido Sho-kaku has come to be the example that we all refer to. Probably because it got here first and is also one of the greats. There are, in reality, a number of other Japanese incense makers who produce similar scents that Japan Incense has brought into the US by this point and Seikado’s Gokujo Kyara is certainly one of the best. It has all the wonderful musky notes dancing around the central deep wood/kyara somewhat vanilla scents that I have seen literally stop people in their tracks when first smelling it. There are none of the charcoal notes that some of these mixes have, which I find a little hard to deal with. I think this is a wonderful incense and worthy of anyone’s collection, plus it comes at a great price for what you are getting.

Minorien Kyara Chokoh No. 5 (Five Notes): Kyarazen sent me a stick of this to try some months ago; it was love at first scent! There are the “wet” notes Minorien is known for but they are much more restrained then in the Kyara Ryugen, there is also a much stronger or noticeable overall wood presence then the Ryugen. But what really sets it apart, at least for me, is a sort of honeyed scent that flows in and out of the overall mix. This is not dominating but rather adds to the refined nature of this incense. I think this is one of the best sticks on the market at any price point. Long Stick. Wee Box.

I am working on a Top 10-20 for sometime in December, stay tuned!

Japan Incense (Minorien) / Theology Series / Eucalyptus, Sage and Myrrh

These are three scented offerings from Japan Incense’s Jay Cowan, who had them made by a major producer in Japan [NOTE 7/5/21: All appear to be produced by Minorien –  Mike]. These tend to be a very “Japanese” take on these scents as compared to other companies styles. They have an overall elegant and somewhat subtle scent as opposed to the more standard “in your face” style. I was personally pleasantly surprised at how nice the Eucalyptus is, this is not something that I would normally buy but I picked up a box of it before Christmas and have been steadily going through it. The eucalyptus scent is lifted up out of the ordinary with a slightly (very slight) sweet woods base note that also seems to run through the rest of the line and works well with all of them.  The Sage is also very approachable with a light sage note mixed in with the above mentioned sweetish/woods. The Myrrh continues along the same lines as the other two with a noticeable main note mixed with the base. This one was also a surprise as getting a decent myrrh scent out of a stick is (IMHO) rarely successful.

Overall I think these will appeal to many people who would like to experiment with these scents but do not want to deal with the big amounts of smoke and normally very strong scents that these three plants can present. These are not for smudging as much as for creating an lightly scented environment. Let your nose be your guide!

April 2012 Top Ten

1. Dhuni Frangapani: Maybe one of the best flora’s around. It smells a lot more like the real flower then, say, as essential oil. It is also not cloying or overly sweet. A remarkable incense and well worth the price (actually it is dirt cheap compared to most Japanese scents, I am clueless as to how they manage to do this).

2. Dhuni Citronella: I really like the somewhat sharp top note in this one; it is unlike anything else I am familiar with in incense. The floral notes that follow behind are also very nice and like the Frangapani not cloying. A very nicely balanced scent.

3.Tennendo Enkuu: One of the last words in a dry scented incense. Very elegant and austere as well as a great mediation tool. Lots of Vietnamese Aloeswood make this unique and a real winner.

4. Kyukodo Murasakino: This comes in a truly beautiful wooden presentation case, inside of which is a scroll shaped tube covered in dark silk. The sticks are a deep shade of green and have a wonderful aloeswood base upon which a stunning, somewhat indescribable floralish/spice/perfume set of notes ride. I cannot think of any other maker that does this as well as Kyukodo. This is a real show stopper and is also a very classical “Old Japan” scent offering. They seem to have pulled out all the stops on this one, the word “flawless” comes to mind.

5. Kyukodo Seigetsu: A beautiful Japanese floral based on aloeswood. More overtly floral then Murasakino but less sweet then Azusa. Somewhat like Jasmine but with notes of Honeysuckle and some other white flowers. Like some of the offerings from Kyukodo there is a very slight under tone of charcoal (at least to my nose) but in this case the overall floral is so beautiful that it just does not matter.

6. Mermade Hougary Light Green Superior Frankincense: If you like Frankincense you should get this. It has been hard to get really top quality green Hougary and I am glad that Katlyn has found a source. This has a really clear citrus note riding across the resin backround that is pretty unbeatable. A winner.

7.Baieido Byakudan Kobunboku: One of the all time incense deals and still going strong. Given the recent price increases in sandalwood I was a little worried but having used this for the last ten days or so and compared it to an older box it still rocks. I tend to judge most other sandalwoods by this one. It has a very well done and classic set of spice notes (cinnamon, clove, camphor and lord only knows what else) that add to the blend.

8. Minorien Granulated Aloeswood Blend: A great loose aloeswood blend for the electric heater or coals. Very spicy with a big dose of Japanese/Chinese herbs mixed in at a very reasonable price. Somewhat dry in nature without all the overt green notes that can tend to be in these blends.

9. Yamada Matsu Firebird Select (Houjoukoh Gokuhin): There is a wonderful dry, aloeswood set of notes here on top of which clove, borneo camphor and a host of other notes are riding. The wood really makes this loose mix, which reflects the price. I have found my hand reaching for this a lot since I got it from Kohshi in San Francisco.

10. Baieido Kai un Koh: Because sometimes you just need an incense that can run with the big dogs 🙂 Very deep, thick, strong, multi layered, strong and with an amazing balancing act between dry and spicy, not to mention strong. Not for all occasions but just the thing for some moments. There are a lot of reasons that this has been in so many Top Ten’s at ORS, all of them viable.

 


April 2011 Top Ten

Tennendo: Enkuu: Dry, austere and intriguing. The perfect meditation scent (well, for some of us). A long time favorite here and with good reason. This is not a simple scent, there are a great many levels to it; it can become a fascinating study listening to it.

Baieido: Kun Sho: This is Cambodian Aloeswood with the subtle addition of a supporting caste of a few other traditional Japanese incense materials. The whole idea here is to showcase the Aloeswood and of all the incense makers I think Baieido does this the best. I reach for this box quite a lot.

Yamada Matsu: Hyofu: This incense relies on a very good grade of Aloeswood, probably Vietnamese, to produce this sort of ultra light floral/clean note (which might be Jasmine) that mixes in with the woods and produces a scent that is very hard to describe and also very intriguing. It has an interesting property of cutting through other scents even though it really is a seemingly light scent. Great for meditation or as something to subtly scent a room. This one also takes a long time to even start to figure out  🙂

Kyukyodo: Kinbato: A very nice Aloeswoods base with some sandalwood added in over which rides a beautiful floral with hints of spice. I find this to be a real favorite of mine the more I pull it out. Kyukyodo is shaping up to be the masters at these types of Japanese floral/perfume scented incense. It probably does not hurt that many of these recipes apparently come from the Japanese Imperial Court and its past  incense masters.

Dhuni: Khus:  I burn this in small amounts as I find it strong. That being said I also really like the somewhat greenish and uplifting qualities it has. There are a lot of the Indians that are simply too much for me but this one works quite well. Great stuff and not to be missed. I figure Dhuni (who seems fairly new) is already one of the best around and look forward to new releases. I would really like to see them go for a big woods line.

Minorien  Kanzeon: This is very different from the standard Minorien’s we have had in the past, you can check out my review on this and Daijyoukoh for all the tasting notes, but in general I find this a very refreshing and clean scent, just the thing for Spring time.

Minorien: Granulated Kyara or Sandalwood: These are in a granulated or loose style and while they work well on an electric heater they really cut loose on a makko trail. The Kyara is somewhat reminiscent of their Kyara stick incense, but it is also much more potent and “in your face”. Very deep, almost musty at times, not used lightly! The sandalwood is altogether different with a wonderful sandalwood scent combined with camphor and spices; it’s an upbeat scent that is very fresh and spicy. Available at Japan Incense/Kohshi

These next three are all from small makers; most of them are limited editions or small batch runs. They all use the best of completely natural materials. These are the real deal in hand made aromatic art and every one of them is a treasure.

Mermade: Incense Kisses: These emit a wonderful coco/chocolate scent for all you foodies, very different from anything else I have tried, anywhere. Don’t miss these; they are really fun and something of a real show stopper. You might also try Spring Sutra, which uses a very special Attar(something like 50 different ingredients distilled into in just this). Got a feeling this is very limited. A stunning romance floral.

Nathaniel Musselman: High Temple: Nathaniel does quite a lot of research and goes to great lengths to source the materials for his blends; most of them are also very labor intensive. This one is great on a heater with a great, rich resin scent. It really does justice to the name as it’s very easy to picture something along these lines in ancient temples in Egypt and surrounding areas. It has a very clean and open feel to it. I find that using it on a heater or charcoal, letting it simmer and coming back into the room after about ten to fifteen minutes is a wonderful experience.

Parfume Phyto:  Rose Neriko: Neriko are incense balls made to be gently heated, not burned. When done correctly they will last at least an hour, with enough scent left in them to use again. These are a sort of East meets West scent, using traditional Japanese incense materials and techniques with the addition of assorted forms of rose added. They are delicate, gentle and at the same time come with quite a lot of depth. Not overpowering but they do get the point across. Plus they are smokeless and totally hand made from first class ingredients.

Minorien / Daijyo Koh, Kanzeon Aloeswoods Blends

It has been a while since we have seen anything new from Minorien so I am sure these two Aloeswoods blends will make a lot of people happy, and not just because they are new. Neither of them is dependent on the “Wet” scent that became something of a signature quality with Minorien incense.

Daijyo Koh is a dark colored stick which seems to use very good Aloeswoods as a base with a very complex and layered mixture of spices and herbs for the middle and top notes. There is an almost bitter yet smooth quality to this scent which has also been intermixed with a very subtle chocolate note. This is a very complex and intriguing mixture of scents that can smell very different throughout the day, depending on what you might have been smelling moments before. I find this one to be complex, somewhat austere and in general a positive addition to anyone’s collection. The chocolate note alone, even though it is not a strong one, would and will make this a keeper for me. Long Stick.

Kanzeon is a medium brown or tan in color and also uses quality Aloeswoods as a base. It uses a tiny amount of the wet notes in the mix, more as a highlight or shading rather then as a major expression. This is a very complex scent, sometimes there can seem to be a very light floral note up near the top that as soon as one tries to focus on it seemingly vanishes. There is an over all fresh quality in the play of the different notes, upbeat and very clean. This one would also be a great addition to anyone’s collection as it is different enough from anything else I have sampled to warrant a buy. Long Stick.

Either of these would be great for meditation or to simply scent a room, they are both very well done and I have to think that Minorien put in a lot of time on getting these just right.

There is also rumor that three granulated or loose mix incenses from Minorien are coming in, I have not personally seen these yet but I am pretty excited at the prospect.. I will be posting links to all these as soon as they are up.

Hopefully this week I will be reviewing a new grouping of scents from KohShi called “Seasons” (I have sampled some of these and they are quite good) and two new ones from Daihatsu, a visually stunning Sandalwood (purple with real gold flecks) as well as an Aloeswoods blend.

-Ross

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