Mermade Magickal Arts / Kuan Shi Yin

In the don’t blink they’re gone category I just realized that the batch of Mermade’s Kuan Shi Yin that went live on July 11th is already down to three left, so I’m gonna talk about it real quick as a bonus review for today, because I don’t know if this is going to last until the intended review date with a couple of other new blends I just received. This is essentially an osmanthus-fronted sandalwood and agarwood mix. Every so often it feels like Katlyn comes across some special and unique floral oil which is the basis for a very limited release. My previous encounter with Osmanthus comes from the Nippon Kodo Kayuragi stick and while you can surely sense the similarities this is surely a much more deluxe oil with a greater level of dimension and resolution to it. It’s a delightful scent indeed, very much a spring sort of vibe. It feels like any heat of this is largely going to have this scent, both from the oils and flowers, out in front, and then the second wave is largely going to be more sandalwood-heavy with the agarwood and oud mix being the third and most subtle note. The effect here reminds me a little of the Minorien Kougiku stick (review tomorrow!) with the way the chrysanthemum and aloeswood interact, and like with that mix I do enjoy florals very much in this sort of context. But strangely one of the times I heated this I got this interesting sort of floral and popcorn mix that really gave me this deep nostalgia of coming out of the back of a local movie theater, almost as if the latter note followed me out in the midst of a bunch of spring blooming going on in the sunshine. I’m not sure how much of that was the bouquet or what it did to my memory, but one of the fascinating things about a great incense experience is the way certain mixes can go in like that and pull out some pleasant moment of the past. Get this one while you can!

Advertisement

Awaji Koh-shi Part 2: Sandalwood, Fresh Sandalwood Breeze, Orange Osmanthus (Discontinued), Lavender, Scent of Forest (Discontinued)

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 Kunbutsudo) 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 Breeze (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. College 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.

Nippon Kodo / Kayuragi / Aloeswood, Bitter Orange*, Osmanthus, Pomegranate

Nippon Kodo’s Kayuragi line consists of eight different incenses all packaged in very striking cardboard slips over wood boxes. They’re obviously created for the western market, although unlike the Morning Star lines these are fairly expensive incenses for the quality, especially for what are sandalwood-based incenses, pricing anywhere between $9-$14. Kayuragi also comes in both sticks and cones, the latter perhaps a little less expensive per box. While I haven’t tried the entire line and may not for a while, I do get the impression that the whole line is pretty user friendly and at least two scents in this current list are among the best-selling and most popular in the line.

The Kayuragi Aloeswood reminds me a lot of their new Kohden aloeswood incenses, where those familiar with the difference between sandalwood and aloeswood bases will immediately note that all the aloeswood play is in the spice or oil notes rather than the base, with the sandalwood being as dominant as anything in the blend. This gives me the impression of a sandalwood stick being dipped in aloeswood oil, rendering the entire aloeswood scent in this influence as surface notes. It’s as if they eliminated all of the depth and expansiveness of aloeswood and kept the sweet top notes, spicing everything up for Western noses. It’s a pleasant incense, sure, but, as an analogy it feels like one’s drinking an American commercial beer rather than a Belgian tripel ale.

Bitter Orange was a scent I was really hoping to like, as I’ve never tried an incense that captured citrus to my liking. But I found the scent to be fairly cloying and offputting, which may mean that I’m not really fond of the Bitter Orange flower as opposed to a bitter/orange combo. Every stick of this has basically made me like it that much less, but I don’t think I’d chalk that up to the quality as much as to my resistance to the style. While Kayuragi incenses don’t tend to have much of a soapy, synthetic offnote, if there was one scent close to that it would be this one. [*NOTE 9/27/21: Bitter Orange was replaced with Mikan Orange. As far as I can tell this may be a name change, as there seems to be some correlation with Mikan and Bitter. I have not confirmed, but I would be surprised if the recipe has changed much.]

Osmanthus was recommended to me at a local store a while back and appears to be one of Kayuragi’s most popular lines. It’s easy to see why as this is a very mellow, floral almost watery incense that’s extremely accessible. Of course, this also means that there’s not a whole lot of depth to the scent, but those who like very mellow florals (think honeysuckle for example) will probably enjoy this easily. Unlike Bitter Orange, there’s nothing offputting at all about this one.

Pomegranate was my first Kayuragi and still remains my favorite of the four I’ve tried. Fruit-based incenses aren’t often all that succesful to my nose (a lot of the times it seems the woods and oils are at cross purposes), but this one more or less nails it on the head, it’s got a tart, berry like note that tends to dominate the base and should be recognized as pomegranate without a lot of head scratching. Again, this isn’t likely to appeal to those who want complexity or depth to their scents but it’s certainly a better alternative to scents like this that come from spray cans. Occasionally I find this mixes it up quite pleasantly.

So really, Kayuragi seems to strike a decent balance between its base and top scents and should really appeal to those who might be adverse to more traditional or exotic scents. It’s generally one of Nippon Kodo’s better lines in this vein, if a bit on the pricey side, and definitely one of the more smartly packaged brands around.