New Temple of Incense Scents

Temple of Incense has released a few new limited edition scents for the holidays here.

News: Shroff Channabasappa, Vedic Vaani and others

So it appears there was some misunderstanding regarding the closure of Shroff Channabasappa and that the closure was actually temporary and COVID related (8 months). Ashok at Padma Store asked me to get out the message, but the company is very much alive, so we’re hoping to see more goodies from them. I have had a chance to check out the latest series of wet masalas through PS and they are all very good, maybe even a bit better than the final batch Essence of the Ages received before ending sales. So some very good news indeed! I am sure updated reviews on these will eventually show up here, although one might use previous reviews as a rough guide as you need to. Naturally these have all drifted a bit and one or two are actually completely different (the Saffron comes to mind), but we were not originally planning on reviewing these until the good news came across.

I accidentally ran across Vedic Vaani, which appears to be one of the largest Indian incense companies out there, based in Mumbai. They have an absolutely massive catalog of Indian incenses, they apparently ship to anywhere in the world in 3-5 business days, and for the most part it seems like with some exceptions, most of their incenses are minimum 100g boxes. They seem to range from something like $4-5 all the way to the high teens for 100g boxes, if you look in the masala range. I’m taking a quick test drive on some incenses to see if the service goes OK, so there may be hoards of things to discover in 2022 and after on the incense front here. But if you want to be a pioneer and check things out and then weigh in, you can do so here or when we get our VV review(s) up.

And I would be amiss not to mention some newer goodies we’re seeing at both our trusty stops at incense-traditions and Japan Incense. I will likely end up getting some reviews up eventually, but I really dug the Snow Mountain Gathers Incense, and the Sangdanli Temple Nunnery Incense and Sera Monastery seem quite nice as well on early takes. It’s worth noting that incense-traditions has opened up a whole new range of monastery loose incenses as well, and I of course grabbed the Wara Monastery. I seem to go through loose Tibetans much more slowly than other types, simply because they all seem like they’re better on charcoal than on a heater and I rarely use charcoals anymore, but would probably need to to fairly cover them. I still have old batches of the original Highland loose, an older Samye Monastery batch and a Medicine King or Mindroling one in a drawer somewhere. They tend to be dry but very aromatic.

Also worth popping over to check out Japan Incense’s New Products section. Notable are a couple more in the Kunjudo Kan Ken Koh series, this rather savory Koyasan Daishido Star Anise incense, both affordable and a bit different, and a trio of what appear to be new Baieido Ensei incenses. I either have some of these to review or they’re on the way. But there are a lot more goodies that have come in in recent months to try.

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Absolute Bliss restock

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Absolute Bliss has received their latest restock from India, replenishing the stocks of many depleted incenses (Happy Hari and related) and adding a few new ones, so there will be some reviews coming. The new restocks include the wonderful White Lotus Oudh Saffron and Natural Beauty incenses, both huge favorites of ORS. Please contact Corey directly using the methods at his contact page for questions and ordering.

Temple of Incense Tulsi in stock

Believe it or not but I have been checking every so often to see when this fresh and vibrant incense would be available after getting a sample earlier this year. Stephen reviewed it here, but I just want to underline that I very much agree with the review. This is a very good stick indeed, a little different than the usual, almost like a side take on the line’s Green Garden.

Discontinued Happy Hari Incenses (Meena Supreme, King Sandal, King of Saffron)

Finally, as a bonus review and appendix to the reposted/redone Happy Hari series, I wanted to post all of the discontinued incenses from the Happy Hari line here for historical posterity. And I should say that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the incenses are discontinued at their original source, just that they are currently not imported to the West that I know of. For example, I believe Meena Supreme is still up and operating, but it’s not in the Happy Hari catalog at the present time. Also Indian sandalwood incenses like King Sandal change just as much from the differences in sandal oil quality over the years as well, although in this case the old version was a different incense stylistically as well. Also, Absolute Bliss has dozens of other incenses that come from the same Indian supplier, many of which we will be getting to as we move forward, but the discontinued incenses here were considered once part of the Happy Hari line. Keep in mind the historical reviews here were written probably somewhere from the late 00s to the early 10s and that I’ve possibly taken out some of the original context as orphan reviews. These are just here as a record.

[Original Meena Supreme review] But even if you can’t count on incense nirvana, usually something so prized is usually going to be quite good and for the most part Meena Supreme succeeds from just about every angle and if it may not be the best incense ever created, I’d definitely say it’s one of the more unique and desirable of Indian incenses and certainly one I’m going to add to our Hall of Fame. Meena Supreme is a fluxo incense which means it’s solidly in the genre inhabited by Sai Flora, Sai Deep, Sai Leela and the like, which also means it’s a big stick, highly aromatic and something of a major smoke producer. This is perfect for me, especially during the dawning of spring where various allergies often make smelling Japanese incense very difficult, but if Indian incense smoke is too much for you, Meena Supreme will likely be too. In fact during the first two sticks, I wasn’t even sure if I would end up liking it, but it was likely because it was just too much at the time.

Since my initial foray into Meena Supreme, I think I’ve burned three to four boxes of it if not more (the size box I got fit about 6-8 sticks I believe). It is a highly addictive scent once you get it as most signature scents are and is also very hard to describe. Meena Supreme starts with the same earthy, almost stable-like background tones of Sai Flora but that’s where the similarity between incenses ends. Where Sai Flora goes in a bright, heavily floral, brassy direction, Meena Supreme is much more sultry with a mix of woods, rose, cocoa, coffee (with milk) and most importantly a feeling that all the subscents have been blended and aged. Most importantly Meena Supreme had the ability to make me think about it a lot when I wasn’t burning it, which has let to a lot of impromptu reaches.

[Historical King Sandal review] Happy Hari’s King Sandal is a champa type scent that will be familiar to those who have tried incenses like Rare Essence’s Sandalwood Supreme and Precious Sandalwood. However, unlike those incenses Happy Hari’s Sandal has a nice and sweet sandalwood, honey and halmaddi mix that really lifts the whole scent so that you have a fine oil mix riding an excellent base. In Indian incense, these are the types of sandalwood sticks I tend to prefer as the oils smell very woody and not so much a buttery/vanilla thing like so many of the masalas have.

[Historical King Saffron review] The King of Saffron will be of no surprise to anyone having some experience with Indian incense, as this yellow dusted, thin masala is common in other lines as Saffron or Saffron Sandalwood. I would mention that there’s a slight freshness and clarity to this version that might make it the one to start with. In many ways it’s a “classic” Indian scent and one I might put in a starter set.

Kunmeido / Kyara Tenchi, Tokusen Kyara Ten-Pyo (Discontinued)

These two kyara incenses are the upper echelon of the Kunmeido line. Kunmeido is a personal favorite company for me, largely based on the high quality and relative affordability of incenses like Asuka, Heian Koh, and Shin Tokusen Reiryo Koh. But these kyaras take that range and elevate a similar trend to really rarified heights. ORS has reviewed many of the previous scents in this line (including one of these), but for context, their basic scent, Reiryo Koh, is made from sandalwood, clove, foenun graecum, patchouli, tarmelic/turmetic, and borneol camphor. Very roughly speaking as the ingredients improve the incenses go from a kind of basic spicy blend into really green territories, with a greater sense of refinement. So you start with the basic Reiryo-Koh, then a couple of variations of it (the Shin Tokusen and Aloeswood versions), then Shoryu-Koh, then you hop to green with Heian-Koh. Greater aloeswood content moves towards the great Asuka (the more recent Fuiji aloeswood probably falls more in between these two), and then you’re in kyara range with these two.

In fact in this case you might even describe Kyara Tenchi (I believe this was previously called Kyara Ten-Pyo and was previously reviewed by Ross in 2009) as a kyara-laced version of Asuka. While the stick is now a brown color, a lot of the green features from the Asuka scent still exist here. Kyara Tenchi is really an astonishingly complex incense. It takes that sweet green note from the Asuka and adds a sort of caramel-chocolate layer on top of it to make this an almost delectable sweet sort of kyara, certainly not too cloying, but definitely a bit in the candy-coated range. It’s probably a bit more cooling than the Asuka, maybe a bit of adjustment to match the borneol note more with the kyara in here. It really spirals out all sorts of complexities and sub notes from the level of woods and the match of ingredients, so it’s certainly one you want to get close to and feel out. Asuka on its own alright has a really surprisingly high resolution aloeswood back note to it, so it’s not a surprise this one does as well at a higher level. And honestly what is mostly incredible about it is its price, which Japan Incense has at $110 for a 70 stick roll. For my nose this is an uncommonly good incense for that low a range and while overall I think the level of real kyara in this is probably really small, the way the incense has been created magnifies the impact of it. Overall all of this is why it’s on my Mike’s picks list.

But the only reason the deluxe version isn’t on the Mike’s Picks list is because it was essentially discontinued due to the lack of kyara needed to make it. But every time I circle around to Japan Incense and see Tokusen Kyara Ten-Pyo still showing in stock, I’m almost shocked, because if you can afford high-end kyara range incenses then I would snap this up before it’s gone. If the regular is a 10 out of 10 then the Tokusen has to at least be an 11 or 12. I went on a bit as to how complex the regular version is but it really has nothing on this incredible marvel, it’s literally one of the greatest kyaras ever made that I could barely afford. This is definitely a variation on the regular Kyara Tenichi, but the wood is so high quality that the aroma takes a quantum jump up. It’s the literal, mind melting, 4K real deal. And it’s not just the woods here, it feels like a lot of the other ingredients that have followed this line up to this one are all at that kind of high-resolution brilliance and it means that a good listen will familiarize yourself with all of them independently while watching them interact all in the face of a world-class conductor. In particular it’s almost like it comes back to the Reiryo Koh scent as a climatic final chorus. The better wood also means it will likely be more to the taste of those who like their aloeswoods purer and maybe find the regular too sweet. Don’t miss this one because when it’s gone, it’s really gone. And if we’re seeing any real indications it’s that incenses like this are a vanishing breed.

Admin Notes

So now that I’ve got a bit of a writing cushion going, I’m turning some effort towards upkeep. As of today, all incense reviews for Awaji Koh-Shi, Baieido and (Awaji-)Baikundo have been:

  • Edited to direct all links for available incenses to the Japan Incense site. A lot of the links in these reviews previously went to stores who are no longer in business or don’t carry the incense anymore and Japan Incense is often the gateway for many of these companies into the US as well. This appears to be the most stable US resource for these scents.
  • Edited to tag and/or add notes to all discontinued incenses. These include:
    • Awaji-Kohshi (Shochikudo) – Orange Osmanthus
    • Awaji-Kohshi (Shorindo) – Scent of Forest
    • Baieido – 350th Anniversary box, all three scents (this was a limited edition).
    • Baieido – Izumi
    • Baieido – Byakudan Kokoh
    • Baieido – Kokonoe Floral
    • Baieido – Kokonoe (Koh Special) (this was a limited editon).
    • (Awaji-)Baikundo – Byakudan Amacha Kou
  • Edited to put caveats on certain incenses due to scent changes. There may be more coming but the current list is:
    • All five Baieido aloeswoods.
    • Baieido / Kai Un Koh
    • Baieido / Jinko Kokoh
  • Edited to update authorship and categories on a number of missing reviews.
  • Occasional clean up, especially when reviews reference obsolete websites etc.
  • [Edit 9/15/21: Noted on review that Koh/Sawayaka was renamed as Cinnamon in Baieido’s Imagine Series. Link also updated. See comments below.]

Naturally if you know that any of this information is incorrect any way you can post here or use the About page to contact me. Also, when I mean discontinued, I really mean discontinued in the US market, some of these scents still may be available in Japan. There are a few links I left to incenses not for sale anymore if there was still an active web page.

Mermade Magickal Arts / Sanctuary, Pan’s Earth (2021) + Esprit de la Nature / Lavender Kyphi (via Mermade) (Discontinued)

Here’s another handful of Mermade offerings including one direct from Esprit de la Nature. One I almost missed and the other two newly arrived…

I bought Sanctuary a little while back so I’m not sure if what I’m reviewing here was the first or second batch as mentioned on the page. Katlyn lists the ingredients for this blend of sacred space as Copal Blanco, Copal Negro, Maydi and Sacra Frankincense, Breu Claro, Greek Sage, Palo Santo, Peru Balsam and Fir Balsam. So I think the one thing that this instantly brings to mind is the idea that this is something of a South American blend with a touch of the outside. Space clearing incenses often to tend to be resin heavy, so this checks the box, plus this has that sort of uplifting feel that copals frequently bring to incense especially when they’re high quality. Sanctuary is also a bit of gentle blend, much more so than resin mixes that are frankincense heavy, in fact the frankincenses here seem to have not so noticeable an impact on the overall bouquet. The Palo Santo is fairly obvious as it always is in a mix, and I very much like the way the balsams weave in here as well. Once again Katlyn’s skill at blending multiple ingredients and getting them all to face out in a noticeable way is quite apparent.

Be en Foret’s Lavender Kyphi (picture is just a sample container but cool enough to include – check out the final artwork at the link) is another one of her intriguing variations on the old Egyptian formula. Check out this amazing ingredient line up: “From the Garden: Salted lavender buds and Dominican Sage leaves from my garden, Spikenard root from the Himalayas, Violet leaf extract from France. Resins: Dark Frankincense, Tolu Balsam, Dark Benzoin, Labdanum, Kua Myrrh, Liquidambar, Peru Balsam. A dash of aged Ambergris in Sandalwood oil ● Bound with organic honey and raisins ● Rolled in Agarwood and Sandalwood powder.”

Gulp. That’s a whole lotta goodness there, as is common with labyrinthine Kyphi preparations. Be sets this at a very low temperature kind of melt so you really gotta get in there to experience how complex this is, but of course the lavender is in front just like the name implies. One thing I love about kyphis is there are multiple ingredients, multiple recipes, everyone does them differently, they’re aged and tend to have vintages even among single “authors” and so vary all over the place while still hitting these notes that remind me of the finest of wines or even ales. The second thing I notice off this incense is the honey and balsam scent, a lovely mix that also tends to highlight the spikenard which is a favorite of mine. I do tend to like my lavender as close to the plant as possible, so I appreciate that it’s the kyphi that tends to be sweet here, which is a really nice contrast. And yes this does have that almost thick, wonderful base of a kyphi, more noticeable as the heat progresses, which I always contribute to the raisins and the way they kind of infuse a bit of wine-like goodness to the mix. Anyway I hope you’re convinced on this one, Be has the kyphi juju down!

And if kyphis are a tradition going back to Egyptian times, Katlyn has made something of a vintage out of Pan’s Earth herself. This is one of Mermade’s perennial classics, an almost definitive pagan earth incense, a mix of divine resins with all sorts of herbal notes that furrow their roots deep into the soil. And like kyphi, repeated vintages of Pan’s Earth always seem to improve and get more deep and impressive, and honestly, this one’s even a bit of a quantum jump in how good it is, easily my favorite of all of the good scents under this name. So what’s in the 2021 version? Black frankincense; breu claro; copal negro; vetiver root; aged patchouli; agarwood chips, powder, and oud; Pan’s Earth Special Blend Oil; Arbor Vitae cedar tips; jatamansi; costus root; kua; and Yemeni myrrh. The first thing that always strikes me about Pan’s Earth, despite all of the high end ingredients is that patchouli and vetiver mix. That green, soil-rich earthiness is just right up my alley and has always been the feature that would draw out this god of satyrs (and to be fair jatamansi and spikenard also have a little of it). If you’re gonna talk about Pan you need something feral and dark, something that makes civilization vanish. However to my nose this is actually a bit more resinous than I remember previous vintages, and it almost feels like the aged depth of it actually highlights and provides a well-roundedness to the incense that reminds you that the mystery of Pan still remains and that matched with all that earth is the sense of the universal as well. Perhaps 100s of years from now, some future archaeologists and anthropologists will be trying to make sense of the complexity of Pan’s Earth. Because this great incense is now becoming a tradition like kyphi, where there’s so much to experience, a review may not be able to do it full justice. One subnote melts into another into another. Definitely don’t miss this!

Admin Notes

So just a quick note to mention that I’ve added some more group incense photos to the Reviews indexes, all Japanese companies. More will be coming from Tibetan and Indian lines eventually.

Also I noticed at Japan Incense they have a discontinued note next to Baieido’s Byakudan Kokoh. So a quick salut to that lost scent, which was a very wonderful deluxe sandalwood. I have personally noticed that the Jinko Kokoh really took a major hit on my last purchase, definitely not as great as it once was. However, Kyara Kokoh, maybe because it is priced at where stock moves a lot slower is still one of the titans of incense. Due to the natural ingredients I think Baieido’s scent profile may change more than any other. Kai Un Koh definitely is not what it once was; however, the Syukohokokus still seem pretty stable. I’m assuming the more affordable line is probably doing OK too, although I haven’t revisited these in a while.

There are a ton of reviews coming up. Somehow, from previously undiscovered reserves of energy, I’ve managed to get on a really productive roll and reviews are about 3 weeks deep at this point and I may have time to push that a bit deeper the week of the 4th. Some of these include the restoration to ORS pages of a well-known Indian incense company as well as the beginning of a deep dive into the utterly fantastic Temple of Incense line, both in July. Japanese incense reviews from Kunmeido, Shunkohdo, Keigado, Seikado and Baikundo (and eventually more from Yamadamatsu, Kunjudo and others) are coming. A range of Tibetan incenses from various monasteries. More in the Soul Sticks line. Another Mermade (and Esprit de la Nature) drop this Wednesday. If you’re from a new incense company and would like to be evaluated here please check out the About page and drop me a line as I can’t promise how long the energy will last, but for me it’s easier to keep this up when everything is rolling like this.

Have a great rest of your weekend all!

Kourindo Incenses at Japan Incense

Great news, it looks like Japan Incense has stocked a good chunk of the Kourindo incense line. Once again we are impressed at the ability of Jay and Kotaro to bring the world of Japanese incense to the US.

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