African Aromatics (Ross)

This is a blog about resins and such used in African incenses and perfumes. I have had a chance to sample some of these and can say that they are quite good. Somewhat along the lines of frankincense and myrrh , but also different. I have a feeling after reading this blog that you can expect to see them showing up soon as notes in some higher end perfumes. The search for new scents is never ending and right now there is a big push on for the use of more natural ingredients by a lot of perfumer companies. New things are always sought after. It would be nice if the people of these tribes benefited from all this.    Enjoy -Ross

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Upcoming from Ross

Lots of new scents to sample over at Japan Incense when I went over there this last weekend. A review of 5 new scents from Gyokushodo by this weekend (these guys are the master of the subtle, multi-layered approach). Plus at some point some new floral/spice sticks (about 6-7 different ones) from a smallish maker(who shall remain nameless at the moment).

The first week in July I will be part of a 10 blog and 12 perfumers event called the “The Mystery of Musk” which is being organized by the Natural Perfumers Guild. You can read more about it at the above link. It should be great fun and provide some real insight into what is one of the most sought after scents in both perfume and incense. The list of perfumers and bloggers is pretty amazing. I invite you to check out the differnt blogs as these people have a lot of experience and know how in the olfactory arts.

I/we will be doing a post on incenses that feature the scent of musk in June as a sort of companion piece. Actually I just now thought of this so we will be headed to the secret Lab to figure it out 🙂

New Nippon Kodo / Kayuragi incenses

Looks like Nippon Kodo have added three new Kayuragi incenses to their list of American exports: Rose, White Peach and Green Tea. Kayuragi is definitely one of the better lines in the NK catalog, so these are quite intriguing…

New Shroffs are in

Assuming you have any money left after Beth’s exhaustive 12 day sale, I want to let you all know that not only are the old Shroff Channabasappa scents restocked at Essence of the Ages, but there’s a whole group of new ones including what could be considered the first true Indian premium incenses to reach US shores, several whose prices are very close to Japanese ranges. As always comments and then reviews will be eventually forthcoming, although keeping up with this amazing company is proving to be quite difficult! But be aware many of these will move fast…

Report #1 on Newly Imported Incenses

Last night I got to try some new incenses including a few of the new Shroffs. I was interested in all the new incenses of course, but particularly so of the new semi-wet masalas which I guessed would be the Shroff versions of the champa/durbar style. As I’ve been so impressed with the dry masalas that they do, I wanted to see what magic they could do with this other classic Indian Incense style.

So the first one I tried was their Champa. I should mention that nearly all of their semi-wet masala incenses are actually pretty skinny and I’d guess you’re getting quite a bit of incense for the price. Shroff’s Champa, as you might imagine, is actually both familiar and very different from the scent you usually associate with champa. In their case it seems to tilt a bit more to the floral side. I took something of a risk and went for 100g boxes of the 7 incenses in this style, assuming they’d be superb and while it’s too soon to say if I’m right they’re certainly very unique. The oils are almost eye stingingly rich, I assume because they’re all so fresh, yet they seem to be different in some way I can’t quite word yet.

I then tried the Vanilla and realized about half way through the stick that it would reduce my sampling time for the evening as it burned for at least an hour if not longer. It’s one of the more natural smelling vanillas in that it’s more like the extract than the typical, say, ice cream or candy aroma and was very different from any of the other vanilla champas I’ve tried. It’s extraordinarily potent and like the Champa I wasn’t sure what to think, while considering that once I get used to both of them I might like them very much indeed. But more on these when I get to reviews…

I switched to Akash Ganga next because like the semi-wet masalas, it came in a yellow box. I’m not sure if it belongs with the original cellophane wrapped group or the semi-wets, it really could go either way as while the stick seemed fairly dry it still had an almost champa like feel to it. I could barely describe it though, it reminds me of an unusual floral with some sandalwood hints in the background. Also very potent.

My last Shroff of the night was the Jaji in the Masala Base group, all of which look like they’re florals in the Sugandhi Bathi or Nargis 1931 mode, that is, kind of a sandy flecked black stick infused with perfume oils. Like the lion’s share of Shroff florals it was quite nice, but I have really no benchmarks on which to compare it to other than the aforementioned Shroffs. But at least I feel I’ve tried enough of these to know that my true feelings are likely to come out around the third or fourth stick once I get used to how exotic they are.

I didn’t burn any of the Purelands sticks yet but based on sniffing the unburnt sticks I can already make some observations as I’m familiar with 2/3 of them under different names. My guess is the Indian manufacturer that makes these is the same one that Mystic Temple and/or Incense of India have used in the past. Emphasis on the past, as all of these seem like they must be incredible. Both the Golden Champa (nothing like most incenses under this name) and Saffron & Rose (which was extremely impressive fresh) seemed unique to my nose. Purelands Flower was almost identical to Mystic Temple’s Green Floral Champa, which I’ve reviewed elsewhere, the strong camphor element made it quite obvious. Their Sandalwood is reminiscent of many of the better sandalwood masalas I’ve seen under different names in both the MT and IfromI lines, but heavily rich with quality oil. My favorite discovery in the bunch was to find that the Rasa Leela was the same aroma that Mystic Temple’s Reservoir of Pleasure *used* to be, which was one of my very favorite incenses of 10 years ago or so, so I’m really psyched to be finding it again and can’t wait to burn a stick. If the burning aroma also matches up to this I’ll need a larger batch for sure. And the Shanti is the classic scent that’s close to Satya Natural, Incense from India Honey Dust and Mystic Temple Vanilla, the aroma and lavender colored stick gave it away. But I must say every box looked at its highest possibly quality level reminding me more of the scents as I used to know them rather than what they’re sold under these days. In fact I used to love Honey Dust when I first tried it and felt it was one of the hardest hit scents when the ingredients started changing, so I’m hoping this one reminds me of the old version.

The best discovery of the night for me was the Dzogchen Monastery Lotus Ground Incense. Beth, you really outdid yourself on this one! What an incredible incense and so hard to explain. For one thing it’s a high end Tibetan for sure, but at its price it’s probably the best high end buy in Tibetan Incense right now. It’s like a combination of spicy and musky all at once with such incredible depth and a vibrant red stick. Those of you who like Holy Land, Highland, Medicine King, Samye et all just can’t miss this one, it’s phenomenally good yet very different. Over the moon on it and at $13 a roll it really brings the Chinese/Tibetan style closer to most price ranges. But then again I’m wishing I went for the double now.

Anyway I’ll continue early mini reports on these as I sample, since I know there’s been a lot of interest on all these new brands and at this point it could be months before I absorb everything enough to do good reviews on them. And of course a caveat that my opinions are very early on these so buyer beware, I’ve occasionally done about faces over time.

Newly Imported Incenses and more (updated)

Essence of the Ages has expanded their Indian incense stock in a near intimidating fashion. First of all, the expected Shroff Channabasappa new stock and restock is now in the house. This includes 24 incenses new to these shores and includes a half dozen wet masalas. Also completely new are stock by two Indian incense companies distributed through Britain, Pure-incense (about 3 dozen new scents all at connoisseur prices) and Purelands/Bhakti Yoga (6 scents), as well as the Maroma company who have what looks like 40-50 new blends. That adds up to well over 100 new incenses!

There are also quite a few new Tibetans in stock including a number of new Bhutanese incenses from last month’s e-mail-out, incenses from Shechen, Kuenzang Chodtin, Buddha Dhoop Udhyog, World Peace, Zambala and Dzogchen. You could almost create a new shop with these two updates alone, and suffice it to say we at ORS are happy to hear about tips on any new scents while preparing what we can for the review queue.

More news from Ross here… Kohshi in San Francisco is about to release incenses from two of the best in Japan, Yamadamatsu and Seijudo. Both of these companies are large and have a real depth of products, much of it at the very top of the incense world. We are talking beautiful Kyaras, Aloewoods and Sandalwoods here. I have gotten to sample some of it and I can tell you that it is superb. Might give the Shoyeido Premiums a run for the money 🙂 … I’ll add that I completely agree with Ross on these, some of these will compete with your favorites.
Stay tuned.

Coming up in the next several weeks or so the initial salvo in a long multi-part series on Fred Soll’s incense line, a few more Shrinivas Sugandhalaya/Satya Baba scents, three Tibetans from Boudha, two large coils from Baieido, 7 scents from Primo, 6 from Nandi, lots more from Shroff and probably my next write up, 6 roll incenses from Mandala Arts.

Two new Shoyeido/Genji packages

Here. Scroll to about the middle, there’s a new two-fragrance set called Ukifune (Rowboat) and a smaller 20 stick package of Hanachiru-sato (Field of Blossoms). Just a guess, but I’d guess at the $39.95 asking price for Ukifune that there’s probably some aloeswood involved.

Gyokushodo

Just wanted to let the list know that both Japan Incense and Essence of the Ages have managed to restock the Gyokushodo line, including one new-to-the-US aloeswood incense, Jinko Yozei.

Couple new items

First of all, ORS sends its best wishes to Beth at Essence of the Ages on her broken foot! Second, she’s got two notable new items in stock now. First, you can get the fantastic Minorien Fu-in Kyara Ryugen in mini boxes now. This is one of my favorite incenses and you even get a neat little wood box with it. Second, the hype on Bam Champa is not at all exaggerated. We’re talking deja-vu time for old blue box Nag Champa lovers. I added it to our Indian Hall of Fame a few weeks ago and it should make a nice comparison to demonstrate how really different Nag Champa is now from what it used to be (so good even opening the box was amazing). Highly recommended and easily one of the best durbars on the market now. I’m hoping to eventually do a comparison article on a number of different Nag Champa variants at some point such as Goloka, Shantimalai, Raj Laxmi and others, Bam would be well out in the lead as of this writing (although the Raj Laxmi is awful fine in its own right).

Administration, news etc.

We’re in a bit of a quiet phase here at ORS, at least outwardly, as time as been taken up for both Ross and I for different reasons. While I’ve meant to get some work up on the site, I haven’t had the right series of conditions for write ups, but hope (hope) to have at least one up by the end of the week.

I’m a little sad to note that Kotaro and Jay at Japan Incense have temporarily closed their “brick and mortar” store, having meant to visit in person the next time I’m in the bay area. I can only imagine the overhead in the Marina district must be very high, but do hope it returns as I’m sure anyone doing business with them will fully agree. We’d once again like to thank them for all their work in bringing lots of new incenses into the country and enriching our lives as a result. And as they’re still in operation as an internet store, we recommend dropping by.

I’m also delighted to announce that ORS is bringing on a new writer, Nancy Hyton! Nancy’s an acupuncturist and herbalist at the Center for Holistic Medicine, a new perspective on incense I think everyone will enjoy and appreciate. I should have her account up in the next few days and hand over the microphone at that point. I should also mention that we’re always open to new contributors here (we’re looking in particular for someone who’s good with Indian incense), so if you’re interested in joining the ORS team, please do contact me through the Review Information page on your right.

And more good news, it looks like we have the start of another incense-related blog here: http://synaesthesiae.blogspot.com/. With  the initial post on a visit to Shoyeido headquarters, this site is one to bookmark!

And a reminder to check over at Essence of the Ages, who is getting a number of new incenses. While there are a lot of NEW signs next to companies, don’t forget to check some of the standbys for new scents, I noticed new items in many of the old companys. We’re constantly amazed at Beth’s archaeological talent at digging up new scents and can imagine there’s some new gems in there.

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