Japan Incense’s 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. 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. I

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!  -Ross

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Top 10 August 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awaji Koh-shi: Fresh Citron, Water Lily, India Ink, Japanese Musk, Coffee, Green Tea (from Ross)

Scents of Japan has some pretty deep ties to the Awaji  Island incense makers and has had these scents custom made for them for their Awaji Koh-shi line. There was a lot of R&D involved as they wanted incense’s that could hold their own in the market as well as be unique. This is Part 1 with Part 2 to follow shortly.

Fresh Citron (Seasonal Yuzu)(Awaji Baikundo): I am not sure what Citron really smells like, but assume it is “citrusy” in nature. This particular incense is not like anything else I have sampled. There is a great citrus note combined with an almost pink pepper top note and way under it all a slight wood scent. This is really surprising and delightful in its delivery, excellent for an overall refreshing room scent. Very uplifting, light, and the pink pepper  really brings it up into another level.

Water Lily (Less Smoke)(Keigado): This is a very subtle and almost etheric scent. I think the name aims more at a concept rather then a true scent as I am not too sure that water lilies have a scent( well maybe blue lotus). All that being said this is a very pleasant light floral note that is very much a back round rather then in your face incense. Not particularly sweet, and it does invoke the feel of the name. A lot of people who would like to try incense but do not want something too strong will find this just right.

India Ink (Less Smoke)(Seikado): India Ink is famous for( well one of the things) its scent, which is a mix of many materials as well as Patchouli oil and camphor. This incense is a wonderful combination of materials that has a very soothing and grounding quality to it, much more going on here the just the Patchouli oil and camphor. A great back round scent that to me invokes far away places and times. Somewhat stronger then many less smoke type sticks. It is defiantly a distinctive scent and something that could fit in many different enviroments.

Japanese Musk(Daihatsu): Whoever figured this scent out is really good. The musk is right up front with a light floral/spice and cream back round. Its surprisingly strong but not over powering and every time I burn some I think of the colors magenta and violet, which sort of describe the scent characteristics to me. Very elegant and almost hypnotic at the same time, a solid winner. I think it will appeal to a wide variety of people.

Coffee (Less Smoke)(Kunjudo): This smells like a very good cup of French Roast with a bit of heavy cream, no sugar, to round it out. An very pleasant and friendly sort of aroma that is actually stronger burning then unlit. It is supposed to act as an air purifier and freshener. I was not at all sure what a coffee scented incense was going to do for me but ended up being quite pleased. I can see this could be very useful in commercial areas or at home as a back round scent.

Green Tea (Less Smoke)(Kikujudo): A nice medium tea scent. Not really sweet and with that subtle bitter edge that tea can have that, to me, gives it character. There is a green note that flows through the whole mix and kind of holds it all together. There are no forceful notes in this stick, rather it is a grouping of three or four delicate scents that work very well together to add a distinctive “Japanese Tea” scent to a room, in other words, it smells like its name.

Scents of Japan Firefly Series, Beech & Amber (from Ross)

Scents of Japan has had these two low smoke incense sticks custom blended for them in Japan. They both use the low smoke charcoal process to produce their scent and at the same time when you light the stick in a draft free area, it will remain standing with a white ash tower and you can watch the red/orange part of the burn moving down the length of the stick. Thus the “Firefly” moniker.

The Firefly Beech really does smell like a beech tree with a sweetish finish to it. Kind of interesting as I have not seen or smelled anything like this before. This is not really the type of scent I gravitate towards but I can see how many people would, especially as it is pretty faithful to what a beech tree smells like.

The Amber stick has a rather nice amber scent to it, on the sweetish side of that category, but not overpowering. The low smoke(really almost no smoke) means that people who normally cannot deal with the smoke issues could, most likely, use this.

These are great fun in low light conditions as it makes the “Firefly” aspect stand out and would probably work well at a party or similar environment.

Samples were rovided by Scents of Japan.