Awaji Koh-shi Part 2:Sandalwood, Fresh Sandalwood, Orange Osmanthus, Lavender, Scent of Forest (Ross)

This is Part 2 of the new Awaji Koh-shi series from Scents of Japan, for Part 1 go here.

This particular grouping would fall into what could be considered a more  “modern” style of scents. Most of them are either from the Low or Less Smoke styles. There are a lot more people who are attracted to this now days and it is nice to see more choices being made available to them.

Sandalwood(Saraike) A nice quality Sandalwood, sort of in the middle of the Sandalwood pack. A clean, fresh scent, with a slight touch of sweetness(this will appeal to many). Probably something that beginning incense users will really enjoy as opposed to some of the more classically styles Sandalwood like Baieido or Shunkodoh. I say this because I know a lot of people who consider those too strong. This is something you can light and let drift through the room and not really have to think about it. .It simply delivers a very pleasant aroma and would work well in a retail setting as well as at home. The more I smell this one,  the more attractive it becomes.

Fresh Sandalwood (Kogyokudo) Unlit this has a very strong perfume like scent to it. When burning, and it is a Less Smoke style, the perfume scent drops back somewhat and the Sandalwood element comes up towards the top. The overall impression is something of a light floral perfume mixed into Sandalwood oil with a slightly sharp edge to it. This does not have any of the dreaded (to me) syntactic scent to it, so the perfume aspect comes across cleanly(well there is a certain sexy quality at play here) Overall I would lean towards the one above, but that’s just my preferences.

Orange Osmanthus Fragrant Olive(Shochikudo) Osmanthus is a flowering shrub from China that produces a very strong and beautiful scent, The absolute of the distilled flower is stunningly beautiful as well as stunningly expensive( I got to sample some last weekend, great stuff)  The unlit stick smells pretty much like the oil, which has a fruity ripe apricot scent to it. When burning the scent is still there although the smoke(which is very minimal) does get in the way of it to a degree. I notice that after the stick has finished burning the Osmanthus scent still hangs in the air and adds a pleasant aroma to a room for some time. The Olive note is way in the back round of the overall scent and is a nice pairing for the Osmanthus.

Lavender (Taikado Koho) A Low Smoke style stick that has a really interesting scent. A sort of lavender with a hint of cinnamon/spice. I find this pretty intriguing. It was not what I was expecting at all. When I see lavender in the name I am pretty much expecting something along the lines of, say, Fred Solls or one of the Indians, this is totally different and got my attention. There is a degree of sweetness to it that is very nice. I tried this on some people and their reactions were very similar to mine. A good addition to a collection with a modern approach. Collage students would go for this as it would be a good intro into this style and the smoke level is low.

Scent of Forest (Shorindo) This is a low smoke incense that smells very fresh and clean but not particularly like any forest you would find in most of California(where I am). There is a very slight floral back round to this one and that, plus the overall clean quality of the scent, will make it attractive to many. It is a well made back round kind of aroma that is very modern in style and presentation.

I have noticed of late that many people who are interested in the low smoke type incenses are also not going for the “big wood” classic type scents(think Baieido Aloeswoods) or the mega floral or spice types( NK, Shoyeido and, of course, Indian styles). There is a  trend towards generally softer, somewhat perfumed and identifiable scents(Coffee, Green Tea, India Ink, Musk etc.) that work in more modern settings.

Part 3 should be up in a couple of days.    -Ross

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SAMPLER NOTES: Nihon Senko Seizo, Saraike Kunbutsudo, Keigado, 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, 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.

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.

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.

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!