Forthcoming reviews: Yamadamatsu, KyaraZen and Nu Essence

So after making a recovery from about a three week fight with sinus infections and allergies I am about to put up some reviews.

Yamadamatsu’s Shu-ju line has expanded and it seemed like a good time to once again take a look at it. Also KyaraZen sent me two new creations done in a somewhat different style then what has come out so far, plus a number of agarwood blends. Last, but not least, I got a box with the entire incense line up from Nu Essence and will probably break this up into three reviews. Hope to get at least one of these out by the coming weekend. -Ross

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

Nu Essence: Part Two from Ross

I reviewed four blends from Nu Essence back in August from what I think of as the planetary series. I tend to think of the next four as the esoteric or magical set ( although that could be said for all the Nu Essence blends.) These are made to be used on charcoals, electric heaters and makko/laha trails. I personally think the electric heater is your best bet. They are made from very high quality herbs, spices, resins and oils. Something I wanted to point out about loose type incense is that unlike a stick or coil (because they are blended together and everything is ignited at once) there is a definite progression to the scent. It is very much like the way that natural perfumes work when applied to ones skin. You get the top notes first and work your way down to the base notes as the others evaporate. So when you are using these blends you will find that what you get at the beginning can be very different then what’s at the end. I find this quite interesting and it can give a lot more depth to the entire experience.
Oh yes, once again I think it is appropriate to point out that these blends are very, very potent. A little goes a long way…I am speaking from personal experience here 🙂

ABRA MELIN
Frankincense, benzoin, Lignum Aloes (Aloeswood), and rose.
This is about the play between the rose and the frankincense with the rest of the blend in supporting roles. The benzion adds a bit of vanilla sweetness and the lLignum Aloes add some woody notes to the very rich rose and frankincense notes. Very strong and sensual, heady might fit in here also!. This one tends to remind me of high quality bakoors.

HADIT
benzoin, orange, bay, bitter almond, and amber
Deep, sharp, at times bitter, with the sweetness of the benzion as a canvas for the orange, bay, amber and almond. The (I think) bay gives it an almost camphor like quality, the whole blend uniting into something that is refreshing and cleansing. Really nice but also unlike anything else I have smelled. Goes though many scent changes as it heats up so that all the parts get to play their rolls.

NUIT
Olive, sandalwood, storax, gum elemi, mastic, camphor, jasmine, and rose.
The jasmine and rose come out to play right at the get go, however they are sort of lifted up by the sandalwood and storax with the camphor playing a very subtle note in the back round. There are many different levels of scents going on here, all at once. I find it a pretty fascinating blend. You think, at first, its all about the rose and jasmine but then all the other ingredients come bounding in so it is constantly changing with no limits. Very much the female goddess principle to me.

RA HOOR
Dragons blood, storax, myrrh, opopanax, olibanum, rue, and tobacco.
A sort of revolving pallet of bitter, sweet and smoky hints with some herbal tones intermixed. Pretty complex and the least sweet of these blends. I find it very grounding and calming plus there is so much going on that it is easy to unhook from your world and just let go and relax into the scent. As it heats up this mix also goes through many changes as the different resins evaporate.

-Ross

Nu Essence Resin Mixes Part 1 (Neptune, Pluto, Moon, Uranus)

The Nu Essence Resin Mixes are completely unlike the Japanese loose mixtures I reviewed last week. They are based on a combination of ancient magical formulas as well as great scent combination’s.  I have a feeling many of our readers (not to mention Mike 🙂 ) might know much more then I about the esoteric aspects involved here. It is obvious that a lot of testing and study have gone into these blends. The musk, ambergris and civet are based on high quality synthetics that, unlike most synthetics seem to work well when heated. This could be because they are also pretty much surrounded in essential oils!
These mixes come in small metal tines. About an ounce’s worth of some very powerful scent. I used, at most, 1/8 teaspoons worth in a foil square on my heaters to try them out. Actually the first time I used one I piled it on and was pretty much overwhelmed. Really, these are very potent blends using natural herbs, resins and essential oils. Some of them use so much oil that they seem moist when opening the tin. One tin will last quite a while; it is a very good deal.There are over twenty (at the moment) different blends from this company. For this review I picked four of the planetary mixes. They use a great many different components, many of which I have not experienced before this. This, for me, makes it even more fun and interesting. I will be doing at least two more reviews on this line.
They seem to work best being gently heated, plus they will last longer that way also 🙂

Neptune:
Tonquin musk, benzoin, sandalwood, and rose.
Very deep, sultry rose and musk scent. Everything about this is powerful, almost overpowering. The sandalwood is like a low frequency carrier note way in the back round, the benzoin’s sweetness drifting through to catch your attention and then, once again, you are surrounded by the rose infused musk hues. This is not a light scent; there is almost, at times, a bite to it. This would, to me, be something to scent or flavor a room, as opposed to say taking a deep, close in, breath. It is very potent and takes the rose floral thyme into very sultry depths.

Pluto:
Sandalwood, benzoin, ambergris, amber, and bitter almond.
Upon heating gently one is immediately greeted with the sandalwood, closely followed by the bitter almond. The benzoin/amber/ambergris combination present themselves as a sort of soft yet potent ambery wave to my nose. There is a certain “stone” quality at work here (perhaps the amber is the actual crushed mineral rather then the resin spice blend usually found).
Again, not a light scent, a bit less forceful then the Neptune, but still for doing up an environment, not a Koh ceremony. The bitter almond adds many interesting, and to me, new scent qualities to the mix. The “bitter” aspect playing off the ambers and sandalwood/benzoin mixes. Great fun. I find myself more drawn to this one just because it is a bit more playful.

Moon:
Karaya gum, frankincense, wormwood, sandalwood, camphor, jasmine, and artemisia.
Spicy, camphorus, yet with a light floral (the jasmine) note. I guess uplifting or vibrant would be a good overall description. Not as strong scented as the two above but at the same time it holds its own in a very different manner.. As you heat it up and experience all the camphor tones the jasmine and frankincense keep drifting in. This would be great to set a very uplifting and at the same time, mellow vibe in a room. There almost seem to be many contradictions at play here as it shifts from an almost bitter( but not harsh) to sweet scent with the camphor tones playing through the middle. I am sure the other components play some subtle parts in this but I do not know them and the mix is so well combined that it is hard to separate things out. I could feel my head clearing up when this is going and at the same time a certain inner clearing going on also, which, given the wormwood and Artemisia, makes sense.

Uranus:
Jasmine, juniper, sandalwood, cinnamon, and benzoin.
At first heat the jasmine and cinnamon immediately start to drift up. This is a very interesting combination that somehow works really well. Alchemy in action! Think jasmine with a kick. The woods seem fairly muted at first, while the benzoin adds a little sweetness as a base note. As the upper notes fade into the back round the woods and benzoin come more into play and stay for quite awhile lending a certain grounded quality to the overall mix. I find myself very attracted to this one, probably because the jasmine and cinnamon blend really works for me. This is great to scent a room with just for the upbeat ambiance it gives. Very nice.

These are available at many of the Incense Suppliers we have listed in the side bar to the left.

Enjoy and Happy heating…Ross