Dimension 5 / The Utopian Dream Collection / Division By Zero, Sandstorm, Yume No Supaisu, Borneo LTD, Cosmika Flamboya

I hope those of you who are looking for the experience of a stick incense created from ultra-fine quality materials have had the chance to check out Josh Matthews’ Dimension 5 line. Given that many of these types of incenses tend to be run in small batches with Comiccon-like windows for purchasing, it’s good to see one a bit more available. And not only can you contact Josh at dimension5incense@gmail.com for more information as well as purchasing information on these incenses, this latest batch is also up at Mermade Magickal Arts for purchase as well! We are really glad to see this wonderful series of incenses available at both sources.

The first of the five incenses in this collection, Division By Zero, is described as a Vietnamese agarwood, sandalwood and spice blend with some oil work. Usually with Japanese incenses (or in this case Japanese-styled incenses), we tend to check if they’re predominantly agarwood or sandalwood based. In this case it really is a blend of both woods with a rather equal amount of spices. The mix, which I’d guess must contain a bit of cinnamon and clove, or a similar mix, imparts an almost applesauce-spice like element to the entirely, one that seems an equal to the woods. The aloeswood and the sandalwood sort of blend together where the crystalline nature of the latter seems more topped with the regal elements of the former. One notes as with all of the Dimension 5 incenses that there seems an almost painstaking attention to getting the balance right which allows all of the elements to shine in their own right. In this case it feels like the aloeswood is being used more for the top aspects than for any middle or base. The surprise is that it feels somewhat resinous, although that isn’t listed in the ingredients, but it’s a quality a lot of fine wood tends to impart on its own. In reviewing this on two occasions it was the first stick I burned in the morning and it seemed quite fit for that time of the day.

Sandstorm is Dimension 5’s most sandalwood-fronted incense, although it includes quite a bit of Indian and New Guinea aloeswood in it as well; however, the presence of sandalwood oil in the mix tends to mean the aloeswood is included to contour what is indeed a storm of sand(alwood). I tried an early version of this before this current refinement and was immediately amazed by it. I tend to prefer good Indian sandalwoods by a long margin usually because Japanese incenses seem to mostly center on certain qualities in the wood that have long been diminishing in quality due to shortages. Sandstorm does a better job of dialing the volume up on the overall scent a bit without losing those more heartwood like qualities. As a comparison, while I was reviewing this stick I also had the Kotonoha Indian Sandalwood blend out so decided to burn a stick of it to compare it. As a comparison, Sandstorm does appear to use quite a bit more aloeswood, as the edges of the scent tend to have agarwood qualities that are a bit deeper than what you’d usually find in a sandalwood-based stick. But these notes also maintain a bit more of that central sandalwood note in Sandstorm that the Kotonoha stick basically just hints at. Sandstorm adds what are some neatly complex aspects to what is a surprisingly involved blend for this type of wood. It’s a sandalwood to contemplate and even so just a bit more than that.

Yume No Supaisu is described as “A dry, woods, resins and spices incense with musk, kaiko, and others. An advanced incense connoisseur stick – the least immediate of the collection, tremendous depth, a highly complex incense for the blackbelt afficionado to learn over time. Old school Japanese with whispers of Tibet.” It has a very large list of ingredients: red soil Vietnamese agarwood, New Guinea agarwood, Indonesian agarwood, Tongan and Mysore sandalwood, spices, resins, musk, operculum of sea snail, and others. So where to start reviewing such an elaborate stick? There are really a ton of varying notes that come off this one. In front it feels almost like some sort of tangy fruit or plum, but this front really gives way to a mix of sandalwood and agarwood qualities that are quite startling. With so many different kinds in use, you are treated to a fairly wide range of aspects, but they all sort of hang together as one and that’s before the other elements outside of the woods pop out to tickle your nose. Once again that feeling of the unity giving way to a multiplex of sensations and then back again really arrests your attention. Truly a beautiful aroma and almost hard to believe it was possible to take this big a step up from the first two classics, but I’d dare say this is Josh’s masterpiece to date. There are depths in this one that you don’t reach except at the higher levels of Japanese woods. And the “whispers of Tibet” seem very real on this as well, there’s a note that pops up that feels a bit more swankily herbal than you would normally find in a Japanese stick. It’s a touch on this one I really enjoy.

Josh provides a longer and detailed explanation for his Borneo LTD blend, which gives a window on a creator’s thinking about how they go about crafting their incenses. Josh uses a number of different types of aloeswoods for his blends, but this one focuses on a particular island’s resinous woods. This is somewhat edited but you can request the full explanations directly from Josh if you want to read more: “My apex Borneo island wood blend, featuring 4 different types of top-shelf Borneo agarwood and 2 primo Borneo island Ensar ouds, blended with resins and spices. If you’ve had very high quality Borneo agarwood on an electric heater then you’re familiar with those lovely “green mint honey” types notes and the deep woodiness … I spent a great deal of time balancing the ratios of the different Borneo agarwoods and Borneo ouds, and also balancing those elements with the resins and spices blend – the goal was to highlight those gloriously green, woody, somewhat austere type notes of Borneo agarwood while eliminating the acrid, harsh type notes that can so easily arise from such wood. Is there a sweetness in there? Maybe, but, more this is focused on the pleasure of bitterness. May have a learning curve..”

This was actually the one I dipped in first as I am fascinated by this type of wood and the surprising variation of regionally sourced aloeswoods. To say the least if Josh’s goal was to highlight the honeyed tones this is a pitch perfect job with that element directly in front and center. That mix of sweet and bitter is really the prime experience with all of the different woods and ouds mixing in for a rather unique, powerful, and yet very friendly aloeswood experience. In fact there’s not really a lot more to describe than what Josh does himself except to say this one is an extraordinary success. The thing about a lot of these really rich and powerful sticks with high quality materials is that they often tend to be so multiplex that their uniqueness isn’t always as obvious from initial burns, but I think like most of the incenses in this collection you are really getting a lot of differences as well that highlight why these types of woods are so coveted. This is an absolute beauty for sure and if Yume No Supaisu was a masterpiece on a multi-ingredient level, this one is a masterpiece of aloeswood crafting.

And finally we have the long-awaited Dimension 5 high-ender, Cosmika Flamboya. Josh says “This one pulls out all the stops. By far the most elaborate oil work of any of my sticks. A decadent mélange of agarwood, sandalwood, spices, oils, oud, resins, musk, and others. Stack it against any kyara incense in terms of wow factor.” It includes Vietnamese agarwood, Malaysian agarwood, sandalwood, oud, musk, operculum of sea snail, resins and others. So you could literally write an essay on exactly what kyara is but rather than being explicit that there is kyara in here, I think you can definitely describe this as least as a kyara-like incense. It has the kind of notes you might find in some of the real kyara incenses such as the sadly depleted Kourindo Kourindkyarai where caramel-ish tones meet a much deeper wood scent with that almost definitely kyara blend sweetness in the mix as well as a touch of that sort of minty-menthol-green note you find more in the less blended kyaras. But much of this plays on top of those deeper turpentine-like notes you only tend to find in the more expensive aloeswoods. A lot of these aspects seem matched with the other notes in order to bring out the woodiness, but there’s a rather dank musk note floating on top and some level of acridity that may come from the operculum. It’s all quite fascinating and gives you this feeling there’s so much more to learn from it once the stick has been used up.

There is a feeling with the Dimension 5 line, particularly due to the shortness of the sticks that is kind of Boggle-like in that you have something like a set time to name all the incense notes before the stick depletes. You are reminded that the premium ingredients are premium for a reason but one thing I really like about these is Josh seems to craft these to maximize the notes and really get them out there in a clear presentation. These are very much incenses to give your entire attention to, they are not at all made to light and be peripheral, there is simply too much goodness to these to waste them like that. Even in reviewing I had to almost block out the time to make sure I had a nose on the stick through the entire burn. And these are simply the best Dimension 5 work to date, some of the deepest and most extraordinary mixes that you would almost expect to see in the upper stratospheres of premium Japanese incenses. So if you’re for mining for depth I can not recommend these highly enough. PS: if you have an Instagram account you can also access some short videos where Josh talks about these incenses.


Kyukyodo / Mukusa no Takimono

Kyukyodo’s little Mukusa no Takimono set (I’m not sure if this is an exact translation but the set is basically “six kneaded incenses”) includes six different modern, short-stick scents and a holder and is clearly intended as a gift box. I would definitely pop over to this Kohgen page for more info. The downside to sets like these (think of many of the Shoyeido Genji gift sets) is that if you particularly like a scent then you have 5 sticks and counting and will need to buy the whole gift box over again. This is essentially a seasonal themed set although the total of 6 scents is tabulated by having two corresponding to winter and one that is all seasons. They are all color coded. I am not sure I have ever tried a Kyukodo modern, per se, so it was interesting to compare this to previous Shoyeido and Kousaido buys, which these sticks most closely resemble. But it should be kept in mind that all of these are probably as comparable to actual kneaded incense which you usually heat on charcoal of a mica plate. Also, the description of this set as modern sort of belies the fact that is really a high-end, deluxe agarwood selection and certainly recommended to fans of the wood as well as traditionals. The price of $48 a set actually seems fairly dead on for the quality on display here. It’s a work of art.

The first, all-season stick is black and is called Kurobou. My translation skills aren’t great and searches brought up some odd and concerning ideas for what it means. There’s a translation that corresponds with a form of Japanese sweet, although it does seem to take a bit to realize how sweet it is. In the end I’ll thank Stephen and some Reddit sub support for the translation here being “subtle scent.” It’s basically an aloeswood stick in the modern sense, and the ingredient list at the Kohgen page lists agarwood, clove, sandalwood, powdered operculum of a rock shell, white musk and kunriku powder (I’m not exactly sure what this latter element is as the Kohgen page is the first one up on a Google search). It reminds me a little of Kyukyodo’s Seigetsu, not only in that its a black stick but the sort of caramel tinge here is also really prevalent once it kicks in and it’s a little reminiscent of the way Shoyeido’s Horin Muromachi coils have that too. It’s probably my favorite stick in the box and while the wood doesn’t go too deep, it’s a genuinely pleasant little treat that balances a bit of heartiness against the delectability of it.

Baika is a plum blossom incense with a red color, and perhaps not surprisingly is the set’s spring incense. The ingredient list gives agarwood, sentou (the closest translation I found was something like “public bath”), powdered operculum of a rock shell, spikenard, sandalwood, clove and white musk. It is a much deeper incense that you might expect from, say, Shoyeido’s Baika-ju and seems to have a healthy amount of aloeswood and sandalwood in it, making it so whatever blossom scent from it is about even with the base. It’s the kind of incense that makes you wonder why there isn’t a bigger box of this available, as it reminds me a lot of the most recently reviewed Minorien Chrysanthemum. I kind of love this sort of floral and woods mix, it’s like the best of both worlds, and it’s something of a shame to need to lay out this money for about 10 inches of the scent. Like the Kurobou this is my kind of modern and it very much resembles your basic kneaded incense that is going for a Baika scent, although it’s a bit more perfumed than you might find in that sort of traditional format.

Kayou (lotus leaf) is a green stick for summer and the ingredients given are spikenard, agarwood, powdered operculum of a rock shell, sandalwood, turmeric and patchouli. It is fairly similar to the Baika except the turmeric and patchouli particulary turn it away from a much more obviously floral bent into something a bit more general. There’s still the same level of sandalwood and agarwood here and as one goes from incense to incense one can also feel how the operculum gives way a bit to the tendencies you tend to find in kneaded incenses, almost like a mix of salty and marine. Once again one is struck by just how deluxe the ingredients are here, at the same time you are searching for each incense’s specific scent, you tend to notice the similarities that underpin them all.

Kikka (chrysanthemum) is a yellow stick (for fall) containing agarwood, clove, powdered operculum of a rock shell, kunriku powder, white musk and spikenard. It’s a bit drier and less sweet compared to the recently referenced Minorien chrysanthemum, but it’s certainly roughly similar if a bit more deluxe. As previously mentioned, all of the incenses have an underlying kneaded-like base to them that creates as much of the aromatic profile as the top notes, so this still has a touch of marine saltiness in the very background. It’s a tremendously gorgeous and rich little treasure with quite a bit of depth to it. Like the Minorien the floral plays beautifully off of the woody notes.

The two winter incenses are last. There is Jijyu, a purple stick which apparently means “chamberlain.” The ingredient list here is agarwood, clove, powdered operculum of a rock shell, spikenard and turmeric. Kohgen also seems to mention something about sentou and musk, although it is phrased in a way that implies that they may have been in the recipe rather than this version of it. This is a very noble, woody, and not at all floral incense with something of a similarity to the Kurobou, although missing all of that incense’s sweetness. Once again the impact of the strong agarwood note is the most noticeable thing about it with the usual base notes secondary. One might describe this scent as heavily masculine, but it’s the kind of agarwood scent also described as aristocratic.

And finally the brown stick Ochiba (Fallen Leaves), which lists agarwood, clove, powdered operculum of a rock shell, kunriku powder, white musk and spikenard. Kohgen notes that “the amount and order of adding ingredients are quite same as in Kikka, but the quantity of agarwood or white musk has been increased.” It’s interesting to not see sandalwood in this list as the overall aroma seems to have a rather powerful level of it along with the rest of the wood powder. It doesn’t strike me as wintery in the same way the Jijyu does, but you can certainly get some level of the clove at work which does have the extra effect of adding a bit of a holiday vibe to it. It’s a lovely little stick, and don’t forget like all the others, this has a strong agarwood and operculum presence as well.

Anyway I should mention that when I went into reviewing this it was on my third stick in each box, but it almost felt like I didn’t really start to notice the power of the scents until I got started writing about it. This is a very special set. I have reviewed sets like the Shoyeido Genjis before where occasionally you might find one scent in a set with some agarwood in it, but you rarely find one like this where all six have this aroma in abundance. It’s a high end gift set utterly redolent in more of the high end ingredients you see in Japanese incense and well worth checking out.

The Rising Phoenix Perfumery / Musk Rose Bakhoor, Resin Bakhoor, Ambergris Souked Sandalwood Powder

I’ve been really looking forward to writing about Rising Phoenix since I started corresponding with JK DeLapp some months back. It may not be known to all readers but there’s really an amazing community of incense artisans in the United States now and often even when it looks like I’m posting about a new company with new incenses, I’m actually posting about veteran work in the field. We’re talking about high quality incenses on the level of Katlyn Breene and Ross Urrere but with a distinctly individual direction and focus that is expressly JK’s. Two of three of these incenses are intended to be in the middle-eastern Bakhoor style and yet while they carry forward the qualities of this style of incense, they avoid all of the trappings of the cheaper stuff and instead move closer to what might be considered mid to high end Japanese incense quality. The other incense, while not a bakhoor, has a similar level of quality. All three are fabulous incenses made with numerous high quality aromatic ingredients covering multiple levels of activity whether one heats or uses them in charcoal and those who have enjoyed the work of other artisans we have featured here should immediately line up at Rising Phoenix Perfumery’s Etsy store before the incenses are gone.

The first of these incenses is called Musk Rose Bakhoor. Like all three incenses, this one comes in a 3.5g sized glass jar wrapped in Japanese Washi paper. The incense is a fine earthy powder that is immediately redolent of the finer materials in incense. I remember a day when you couldn’t buy a good rose incense, but even fresh from the jar you know you’re onto a good thing here. The ingredient list is impressive with the wood base combining sandalwood and four different kinds and origins of aloeswood. On top of this blend we have a mix of Russian Centifolia Rose (an attar I assume), Champa and an all natural and extremely fine Hina Musk. You would think almost any one of these top ingredients could suffice for a great incense, but all three of them together make for an exceedingly complex and heavenly blend of scents that deliver an aromatic epiphany over and over again. These are the types of fine scents whose descriptions couldn’t possibly live up to the billing, the kind of subtlety lost in cheap floral incenses. There is one caveat here though, this is the kind of aloeswood heavy incense that the Golden Lotus incense most of us use from Mermade Magickal Arts isn’t quite hot enough for even at maximum and so in order to fully experience the whole scent, I had to experiment with the blend on charcoal as well (good news though, I believe there will be new methods of heating on the way in the near future from MMA that should allow the woods to come out more). It is truly hard to encapsulate how much goodness is going on with this blend. The rose hits you first as any good rose scent does, but the finer ones have personalities that transcend the usual experience of walking through a rose garden and this one is a scent you could just fall into. The champa will bring back memories from the years when champa-based incenses were at their best, I had multiple hits of deja-vu with every use of this incense, I’m not sure any other word could describe it better than awesome. One wonders just how much the champa and musk ingredients modify the overall scent as I also seem to pick up more of it a bit later in the heat when the sandalwood starts to come out. I’ve always found it interesting as well how Sandalwood can work so cleverly in an aloeswood heavy mix, although this may have been the way it works with a low heat. Needless to say there’s so much going on this incense that it will take many uses to really explore all the directions its going. It’s quite simply a masterpiece.

Rising Phoenix’s Resin Bakhoor is something of a high-end take on frankincense and myrrh resin mixes.  I was charmed to learn that this incense actually started as an Abramelin incense because you can actually sense that this is the origin, particularly from the way aloeswood and frankincense are mixed. This has a similar type of base to the Musk Rose Bakhoor, although in this case even if the aloeswood mutes a bit at low heat it doesn’t affect the scent quite as much as the previous incense, simply because the resins here are really arresting. There’s a real melding of scents here to create something quite new and special, a real eye to how each ingredient modifies another. Frankincense and myrrh are kind of the peanut butter and chocolate of the incense world anyway, but I really like the way the limier aspects of the green frankincense meld with the good quality Ethiopian myrrh here, it’s as if they were one resin with multiple faces. Some of this is due to the benzoin and labdanum in the mix, both of which seem to intensify the overall fruitiness going on at the top. And what a fruitiness it is, not just the typical lemon or lime qualities you usually get with resin mixes, but a sense of age and subtlety as well, which is a nice trick that is enhanced when the method of burning or heating makes sure to bring out the deeper qualities of the aloeswood and sandalwood. It’s actually somewhat rare to see a resin blend formulated with such a wide array of fine materials and even rarer to find one where every ingredient counts in the mix.

Rising Phoenix also offer various types of aloeswood and sandalwood, and offer as an option with their Indian Sandalwood Powder, An Ambergris Souked Sandalwood Powder (scroll down). Those who have had the pleasure of trying Ross Urrere’s take on this theme will recognize the style, where the crystalline, high-end scent of fine, fresh sandalwood is modified by the salty and sublime scent of ambergris. However, Rising Phoenix’s version of this uses (Golden) Irish Ambergris, rather than the more common New Zealand sourced material, which makes me want to eventually compare the two. I find this style of incense to be simple in terms of getting a two-scent, highly clear aroma, which is a good thing as the materials being matched here contain enough complexity in their own right that they would be drowned out in a more complicated blend (ambergris in particular does not shout, it sings). And of course if you’re only familiar with sandalwood in stick incenses, then experiencing what fine powder is like is a must as its better qualities are always revealed in a heat. In fact I would even think this would work quite at well at lower temperatures as a little goes a long way.

It is good news to see these incenses on the market and better news to know that even more styles are planned! Those of us who await every new Mermade blend with that sense of pre-Christmas anticipation will likely start finding themselves doing the same thing with Rising Phoenix. But this company doesn’t just have us awaiting the next blend, it encourages people to learn about and create their own aromatic products. You can find informative videos at this link. To see more than the introductory video, all you have to do is sign up with your name and e-mail address. And with new methods of heating and burning on the way, there should be more informative videos to share with you all in the near future.

Gyokushodo / Saishu Koh & Shunsui

Gyokushodo is a very old incense company who has only recently come to light in the US. They have actually had some of their offerings available here for some years but never seemed to have their name mentioned.

They have a number of lines, each of which are pretty tightly grouped as to a style. Their woods and oils lie have been here the longest and you can see our reviews on them here. The new group to come in seems to be centered on the use of traditional woods and herbs/spices without the addition of oils, at least to my nose. The first two to come in were Saimei koh and Umeshoin. I personally find them to be very well done as well as very traditional style scents. They are not particularly strong and are much more geared to setting quietly nearby rather then doing up a large space(unless, of course, like some of us; you burn a bunch at one shot 🙂  ) .

Saishu Koh uses a good grade of Aloeswood mixed with what is labeled as Lysimachiae herba (Reiryo-koh). So given that, I was expecting something along the lines of one of the incenses from Kunmeido. This is not the case. Instead I find an almost musky scent, with some additional sweet notes as well an occasional hint of clove and/or cinnamon. Way in the background there seems to be a slight green note. Again this is all pretty subtle, refined and elegant but not something that would be considered overpowering or overwhelming. It would be equally at home during meditation or even during a meal.

Shunsui also uses a good grade of Aloeswood as well as a part of a marine mollusk. I am sure there are other spices at work here also. It has a sort of bitter sweet scent to it that is stronger in delivery then the Saishuko mentioned above. Again this has a seemingly very traditional scent to it, yet it is also not a very common scent in the incenses that have come into this country (so far). As a side note the mollusk used as a main ingredient here is usually used as a fixative (something to prevent the other scents from going away too fast) This is a pretty unusual use of it and it works out well.

One thing about all of these is that they pretty much need to be first on the nights “burn list”.  So trying to taste a bunch at one sitting can be pretty difficult. Also, they all seem to have a pretty deep learning curve with many layers residing within each stick Oh yes, all of this line seem to come in a rather heavy plastic wrapper as well as in their own box. This means that they are going to hold onto their aromatics for quite a while, nice touch.

Right this moment the only place I know of where you can get these in this country is at Japan Incense. I would assume this will change but who knows.

I will be reviewing another three of these within a day or two.    -Ross

Gyokushodo Saimei koh & Umeshoin

Japan Incense/Kohshi recently brought in two more additions to the Gyokushodo line. Gyokushodo is very well thought of in Japan and is only recently getting the recognition it deserves here. You can refer to the other write ups we have done on the company here, here, and here.

Saimei koh comes in a thin square cut stick with a orangeish brown color that reminds me of Turmeric. Unlit the scents of  Borneo Camphor and a large helping of herbs, spices and a back round note of oils are evident. When lighted the Borneo Camphor is not noticed but the quality of the woods present becomes the dominate back round note (aloeswood andsSandalwood) with, in typical  Gyokushodo style, the spices and oils intermixed. There is a definite spicy punch here, the Turmeric mentioned above comes to mind, with the oil note sort of rounding out and smoothing things together. This sort of reminds me of Tennendo’s Karafune sticks, the Silver or Gold. [NOTE: Link changed to point to new packaging, incense may be different from review. – Mike]

This does not seem like the other offerings that Gyokushodo has had here before. This one is much more about the spice/herb notes mixed in with excellent woods rather then the oils that have predominated before. Nice contemplative scent and also works well as something to use before a dinner or gathering. I think this would be a great addition to ones collection at a good price for what you are getting.

Umeshoin also comes in the thin, square cut stick, this time with a medium green color and also with the Borneo Camphor scent as well as an assortment of spice notes. When lighted the Borneo Camphor once again sinks below what my nose can sense (your results may very  ). The overall impression here is that the wood notes are being showcased more then the spice or oil notes. There seems to be a great helping of the woods in the mix and the other scents are there to sort of shape the scent rather then play a major part. This one reminds me of a really good, expensive and elegant men’s cologne(somewhat spicy citrus or Chypre) from long ago. It’s like it was applied some time ago and just the barest hint is still there. I find this one needs to be studied and tuned into, some time taken with it.  Good for meditation or reflection, probably not something you would use to scent a room. Many of the higher end Japanese sticks have this quality, they use great woods and a minimal amount of “colorant”  so that they become much more of a personal moment rather then a crowd pleaser. Then again many go the other route, so much for trying to put incenses into neat little niches! [NOTE: Link changed to point to new packaging, incense may be different from review. – Mike]

Drepung Loseling Monastery / Gold Seal, Zin-Poe

Drepung Loseling is a Tibetan monastery based in Karnataka State, South India, established there after the Chinese government forced many monasteries out of Tibet in 1959. Previously it had existed near Lhasa, where it was established in the 15th Century. Among several small cottage industries that support the students of the monastery is a small incense making project that produces these two exports, Gold Seal and Zin-Poe.

Both incenses are made from similar ingredients, over 40 different substances that include saffron, white and red sandalwood, juniper, cedar, fragrant arborescent and medicinal plants, ground conch and musk. Like many Tibetan incenses, the use of faunal ingredients may clash with Western ecological philosophies, although in the case of the Drepung Loseling incenses, the ingredients do tend to be leavened by the woody bases of the incense, meaning that the overt aromas these elements bring are quite mild. Despite the $16 price on the boxes, both contain enough sticks of incense to last you for a long time – in fact I’d say nearly every corner of each box was full with the reddish tones of the incenses.

Like other Tibetan incenses with grades, one gets the impression that the Gold Seal incense is Drepung Loseling’s A grade. The color of the stick is a darker, burgundy-ish red and the sticks are definitely quite thin. The aroma is more concentrated, tarter, crisper and more on the cherry or berry side. It’s a surprisingly gentle incense for a Tibetan high ender, definitely pleasant but not replete with the types of complex notes high enders often have. It’s even difficult with the ingredients list to call which notes are more in evidence.

On the other hand, Zin-Poe almost seems like a more leavened version of the same incense. It seems clear there’s a greater content of cedar and/or juniper wood along with the rest of the ingredients, not only are the sticks thicker but the color is definitely pinker and not quite as dense. The aroma is definitely quite a bit lighter and not terribly distinctive, although the red berry notes are still the dominant scent. In particular, the black ash left ofter does seem rather typical of incenses that have high quantities of cedar. However there are some interesting notes that comes out, including slight tobacco/herbaceous hints and a little bit of caramel (spikenard?). Overall it seems a bit watered down (I’d suggest starting with the Gold Seal) but it’s quite sweet and pleasant and not at all a difficult incense.

Tibetan incenses do generally become quite impressive when the prices start closing in on the $20 mark, however the price here also seems to reflect the quantity of incense in the box, which is quite considerable. For example Zin-Poe contains 50 10″ sticks, but it’s likely that is the count on the unbroken sticks; you’re as likely to get a number of extra sticks or fragments as well, given how full the boxes are.