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

SAMPLER NOTES: Shochikudo, Shorindo, Tahodo

This is a slight summary of some of the more recent modern Japanese incense imports, including one traditional scent and another on the fence. All of these scents are available from Essence of the Ages or Japan Incense.

Like many of the new imports we’re seeing there are quite a few new companies making their entry into the US Market, including an incense from Shochikudo called Kirari or Ocean Breeze. This one has a rather huge list of ingredients given as: rose, lavender, jasmine, ylang ylang, iris, lemon, bergamot, blue cypress, sandalwood, vanilla beans and oak moss. It’s almost like a starter list of essential oils and with a sampler I’d be hard pressed to say that any of these particular ingredients stand out more than any other except for, perhaps, the vanilla bean (I get an impression of some amber as well). This is an incense generally in the vein of Nippon Kodo’s Aqua, a floral mix with a distinct seaside sort of aroma, not quite briny, but a more upbeat and pleasant approximation, like a mix of garden and beach. It’s going to be only for those who really go for a sample as with a box of 200 sticks, it’s one you’ll want to be sure you really like at first. I found it quite pleasant, but my experience with Aqua was the same and I found it quite cloying over time so I’d be hesitant even though I think this is a better incense.

Shorindo has been extremely active on the exportation of front after entering the US market with their Chabana Green Tea mix, in fact since I received the following samples, they’ve added two more incenses in the Chabana line. The first of the four samples here is the most traditional incense in this whole group, a sandalwood and cinnamon scent called Wayko. I love cinnamon so I found this instantly a winner, it’s not a particularly complicated incense, but it differs slightly from the traditional sense in that it seems polished and possibly made partially out of oils or perfumes. But give cinnamon essential oil is quite cheap, it all comes off quite authentic and just a bit stronger than the average Japanese traditional blend that doesn’t use oils like, say, Baieido Koh. It’s somewhat reminiscent of incenses like Shoyeido Horin’s Hori-kawa or  even Kunjudo Karin or its Gyokushodo analog Kojurin in scent, maybe in the middle of this group in terms of a traditional to modern axis.

Shorindo has also brought over three perfume incenses in a line called Kobiana. These are definitely far to the modern style and seem to exist to carry over previously created perfumes, although they seem a little different in that they’re not quite smokeless. I doubt my impressions are going to be particularly useful, so as an addendum I’d like to refer you over to Sprays of Blossoms, Curls of Smoke for a much more informed review before I take a clumsy stab at these.

All three of these sticks, despite the color names, seem to be a dark blue color. The Kobiana Yellow Cute is created to be reminiscent of Etro’s Magot perfume and the notes given are, on the top, bergamot, lemon, jasmine and iris; lavender and cloves in the middle; and patchouli, cedar, vanilla and musk at the base. Like with the Kirari, I have trouble picking these apart although at least I can distinguish this scent from the other two in this series as being distinctly floral and very reminiscent of the types of perfumes you run into being worn in the US. As is the case, I tend to get as much of the alcohol or synthetic scent as I do the florals and completely miss any of the elements supposedly in the base with, perhaps, the iris, lavender and jasmine the most obvious scents to me.

I have a lot of trouble telling the Kobiana Red Elegant and Kobiana Blue Sweet apart, but both strike me as fruit and florals, and like the Kirari above, both are somewhat reminiscent of Nippon Kodo’s Aqua in that they both have an almost watery like scent. The Red is reminiscent of Chanel Chance perfume, the Blue Etro’s Anice. The Red lists pink pepper, lemon and pineapple on top; hyacinth, jasmine and iris at the heart (likely where I’m getting the Aqua similarity from); and amber, patchouli, vetiver and white musk in the base. Strangely enough from this mix I get watermelon, cyclamen and the listed jasmine, but it’s such a light scent that with a sample it’s really hard to break it down. Similarly scented, the Blue lists Brazilian rosewood, anise and bergamot; the middle notes iris, jasmine, anise and garden dill; and the base notes amber, musk and vanilla. I’m not sure if the note similarities between these two incenses account for why I can barely tell them apart, but for some reason I wasn’t getting much anise or rosewood and still felt it was mostly watery, fruity and floral. In the end I had to separate the two and test them at different times just to confirm for myself I hadn’t accidentally gotten the same sample twice and to maybe convince myself I don’t quite have the nose for moderns like these.

Like Shochikudo, Tahodo has currently exported only one incense to the US, although similar to Shorindo Wayko, this is something of a modern/traditional blend. In this case Sekizan Koh is clearly something of a perfumed sandalwood stick and not authentic in terms of a pure sandalwood, but it makes up for it with a nice blend of clove, nutmeg and slight floral and citrus hints. It tends to the slightly sweet and in another life could have easily been added to, say, one of Daihatsu’s modern lines. Like most perfumed incenses I’m not sure how long I’ll last in terms of appreciation, but my initial samples were extremely pleasant and I liked it right away, especially due to the attractive nutmeg subnote.

More in the next installment including pairs from Nihon Senko Seizo, Saraike Kunbutsado and Scents of Japan.