Mermade Magickal Arts / Green Faerie

Oh here’s another one … five left at the point I posted this (and Kuan Shi Yin was gone by the end of the day I posted it, so…) Green Faerie, if I was to give it the most simple explanation, is something like an absinthe resin blend. I’ve always really enjoyed the aromatics of a nice absinthe (I don’t partake much of alcohol anymore) so it seems like a very natural and cool idea to transport this sort of almost liquorice-like bouquet to an incense format, especially by a creator who has gotten really good at creating oil blends that often have the depth and intensity of fine wines or spirits. First of all the resins, which is really quite a list: mastic dipped in fir balsam, green frankincense dipped in violet leaf absolute, and Hougary Oman Frankincense. This creates an incredible strong base that honestly lasts for hours and hours, I even left my heater on overnight and got wafts the next morning (it is also very sticky stuff and takes a bit of extra effort to extract from the tin). I really feel like that violet note cuts through nicely, but overall the sum parts of this really set up a nice background to give the more absinthe-particular herbal content a base to exude their strengths in. These are wormwood, tagetes lucida, davana and Egyptian mint. I love the way it feels like these herbs were carefully chosen to bring out that particular absinthe aroma, particularly with the anise/liquorice and minty notes. But that’s not all, there appears to be some jasmine, rhododendron and sandalwood as well, which gives the overall scent some slighter and more complex notes. Anyway I think you’ll know from the word absinthe if this is going to be along your lines. It’s of course quite a bit more than that and the equal or more to any spirit’s aromatics and like all Mermade brews an absolute winner.

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Kuengacholing Peozokhang (Gelephu) / Bhutan Incense

It’s funny to me writing up another Bhutanese purple-red stick incense how much I’m starting to warm to these. You kind of want to come from the approach of, well if you know a couple of these you know the style. And you do, there really aren’t a lot of surprises. But it’s such a friendly incense overall, such an accessible one, that variations on it seem to do each example of it favors as well. I’m probably a number of observations from the level of detail where I’ll finally know where I sit in comparison to one another, but not only do I like this style, I particularly like it as a contrast to burning other incenses. Try it after a kyara or an Indian or even another Tibetan.

Anyway I’m not sure exactly what this is called. From the website on the package, the company or monastery (the “peozokhang” if you will) is Kuengacholing, but the large font on here merely says Bhutan Incense. I believe incense-traditions.ca sells this as “Gelephu” (Gelephu is a Nepalese town, so I’m not sure it’s really the name of the incense. It will work for purposes of this review but there may be no actual name.) and this seems the best way to identify it, it just doesn’t particularly stand out on the packaging. Major ingredients include juniper, rhododendron, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg (I’m surprised they didn’t include sandalwood because it’s usually on a list and it’s obviously in this one). That berry-like juniper sweetness is really the incense’s main note, but I like the way the rhododendron weaves its way through a bit like a tobacco note or something, it gives it a slight touch of wildness to it. The spice mix is there too, not particularly loud but blended just right. If Lhawang Driden is one of the deeper Bhutanese incenses, then Gelephu might be something of a lighter, higher mood example of the style. It’s not at all lacking in depth, but the musk in this is probably at its lightest and so it forgoes any density for a bit of an airier scent. It’s quite well-balanced and I find it really uplifting as well. A splendid example of a Butanese incense and very affordable too.

Mermade: Cyprian, Xochi, Luna, Naga’s Nest:

This is the first of about three different reviews I have put together, the other two will come out later this coming week.

Cyprian – Agar-Labdanum-Rose: This is an altogether wonderful blend that uses three of my favorite materials. As a mood setting or meditation blend it is perfect as it works for both moments of reflection as well as warmth. Best on an electric heater, it can last quite a while and has a long “hang time”.

Xochi – MesoAmerican Visionary Incense: Fresh, bright and alive is how I think of this one. The Copal’s and other resins mixed with the assortment of herbs and flowers is a great and lively scent on the heater that works really well at the end of the day. It does help one to relax and let go, which is not a bad thing at all. This has become one of my favorite scents and is quite different from what I normally go for. Nice for Spring and Summer times.

Luna – Lunar Resin with Jasmine: So, using real Jasmine in incense is really kind of an art form. It can be very difficult to get it to smell right, the blend of materials with it is all important as are the quality of the materials. This one has it all working together and is sublime. It is not overwhelming as many of the Indian or Japanese style Jasmine incenses can be, it just sort of takes a place in the room and lets life go on in a much more pleasant fashion. Highly recommended as a true floral incense. Best gently heated.

Naga’s Nest – A Himalayan Fantasy Incense: I really like the Rhododendron in this mix, it adds an honest water note that is very unusual and quite fascinating and rides over and through the different woods, herbs and frankincense notes. Something very different from Mermade that will appeal to a lot of people. On a hot day this might be just the thing to cool things down a bit.

Mermade Magickal Arts / Naga’s Nest, Wild Wood, Scentuality, Kamiwaza, Ensense Antique

Receiving a new Mermade batch is one of my favorite parts of running Olfactory Rescue Service, in fact I can’t really think of too many other companies where I would be hard pressed to come up with a blend they created that I didn’t love. The whole spirit of the operation from the incense to the artwork to Katlyn Breene’s generosity and support makes reviewing the incenses a total joy and as the years go by, the sheer art and experimentation involved, now stretching into actual Japanese and Tibetan style incenses, never fails to elate. If you read this site and have not had the pleasure of checking the Mermade operation out, I’d consider it one of the first stops an incense lover should make. Everything created here is managed to the last detail and the ingredients used are top quality, only to be worked into something of even higher quality. Every chance I get to dish out the hyperbole I relish it greatly and with no reservation. And to see the line incorporate newer incense creators like Gregg King or our very own Ross Urrere only underlines the spirit behind the incense underground. Once I thought that high quality incense could only be found on the other side of the planet, now I know it’s made here too.

Mermade’s Naga’s Nest is a true original. One of the things you’ll notice about Tibetan incenses, particularly the ones sourced from Nepal or India, is that so many of the aromas you’ll find are embedded in very inexpensive woods, often the kind that smell like burning tires and make your eyes water. So imagine if you were to take a Tibetan rhododendron or lawudo incense, strip away all of the cheaper ingredients so that all is left is the aroma itself, and mix those ingredients with good resins and sandalwood adding just the right foresty touch so that the rhododendron ingredient isn’t suffocating anymore. What you have left is a gentle and unique scent floating like a mirage on the top of a good base. The scent is then recognizable from Tibetan incenses but allowed to flourish, and that it does in this blend, which lasted for hours when I put it on the heater. There really is no other incense like this in any market, in fact even the occasional powder incenses don’t sing like this one does. One only hopes Mermade will try their hand at some of the other Tibetan ingredients in a similar fashion.

Wild Wood, on the other hand, is another in the long lineage of Mermade’s forest blends. It’s probably no secret by now that I’m a huge fan of Katlyn’s work in this area, she knows how to craft them in a way where the aroma always tends to be perfectly green, just like you’d smell if you were walking in a forest. This art of using evergreen ingredients and using resins to intensify the scent always makes these a rare treat, and an incense style that might even crossover to friends that can’t abide by strong Indian incenses or heavy woods. Wild Wood is something of an evergreen mix with amber floating in the background, but like all of Mermade’s forest incenses, the green is still up to 11 on this one, with lots of fruity citrus from the combination of two frankincenses, the copal blanco and the pinon resin. The amber subscent acts to give what could be similar to a lot of resin blends a nice richness, and I’m assuming some of this comes from the two balsams in play. Naturally this also comes highly recommended and if you have never tried one of Mermade’s wild nature blends, there’s no better place to start.

The last three incenses here turn over to Japanese styles, with one slight exception. All three of these incenses start with a base of high quality sandalwood and agarwood, but the third element sends all of these to unique destinations. Readers may remember Gregg King’s fantastic Ali’s Roadside Lozenges. The newest variation of it is Ali’s Rare Incense Powder. I have not had the chance to try the latest blend on its own, but recognize its scent from the lozenges, it is an incense created from a staggering number of high quality materials.

Katlyn has managed to take some of this powder and create a meta-incense with it by combining it with the aforementioned base as Scentuality. This blend takes a while to get going on a heater, but when it does, it gets more impressive as it goes and lasts several hours. The mix of ingredients doesn’t tilt in any particular direction, which to my nose creates a kind of bewitching merging, particularly where the spicy and deep qualities of the agarwood intertwine with the complexity of the Ali’s. This creates a lot of rich and wonderful subscents that remind me of the kind of sweet, quasi-kyara candy scents you can find in some of the good Shoyeido wood and pressed incenses. The early scent is powdery and gentle before the agarwood really kicks in. Overall, it’s a fairly mellow incense, more akin to where a Baieido incense might sit and it’s a tribute to both Mermade and King that they’ve created a Japanese style incense of very high quality and complexity with all of the similar grace and subtlety you’d expect. It’s an excellent example of how incense circles and collaborations are improving the work year after year. And for just under $20 it’s quite price conscious and better than a lot of Japanese incenses in that range.

Kamiwaza is an incense in the same family as Scentuality, starting with the same or similar base but using clove, cinnamon, patchouli and borneol from Japanese sources as the “third element” in the incense. These ingredients have deeper aromatic qualities than you would normally find if you were to source them elsewhere and they merge with the base in a rich and spicy way that is a complete delight. The agarwood really pops in this blend, balancing all of the multiple sweetness and spiceness with a solid resin note. If you have ever tried any of Shoyeido’s speciality incenses whether wood chip mixes or pressed incenses you will recognize notes like a fresh roll of Sweet Tarts or a spice tea mix. But like with Scentuality this will likely be at a much more affordable price point and it all works without the use of perfumes and oils. One tip, however, the balance of the scents is probably best achieved by turning the heater a bit lower so the aromatics don’t volatize too quickly, particularly as the woods will go for quite a while.

Ensense Antique also uses a sandalwood/agarwood base, but the third ingredient here is an oud oil called “Encense Angkor.” As such, I would suggest, like with Kamiwaza, to apply gentle heat to this incense in order to not burn off much of the oud oil too fast. This oud oil is of the rich and spicy variety and it melds quite perfectly with the woods and it often seems like the scent dances somewhere in between them. It reminds me slightly of Ross Urrere’s sandalwood and ambergris or souked aloeswood in that the general aroma is woody dry, while having some very complex top notes resulting from the ingredients being very high quality. In particular the sandalwood comes through nicely on this one. All of these blends, as usual, come with the highest recommendation and it has been so much fun to see how Mermade is working in all sorts of incense world traditions, all of the blends created with such a deft and careful touch. And of course all of them are graced with Katyln’s terrific artwork, spirit and presentation, it never feels like any stone is unturned in reaching the final released work. And good news, there are even more blends in queue for review, including a carefully recreated Abramelin incense, an agar/rose/labdanum mix called Cyprian that absolutely wowed me last night, Mermade’s newest forest blend Dark Forest and a new “earthy blend” called Dark Goddess (I’m excited about this one in particular as the description references the old Mermade blend Hecate, an incense I still miss). Stay tuned!

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery / Himalayan Healing- Agar 31

It’s been awhile since I have used Tibetan style incense and as I rediscovered it is very different from the Japanese. This one, Himalayan Healing- Agar 31, from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery intrigued me because I saw it or the style (still not quite sure which from the way it was written) in a book I am reading called “Incense and Incense Rituals” by Thomas Kinkele.

He talks about the purity and general healing attributes of this one and I was so curious that when I saw it at Essence of the Ages I decided to find out how it worked for me.

Right off you can smell the Aloeswood/Agarwood as a major base note in the mix. It’s strong enough to make me wonder how they can charge so little for the box. After that I am sad to say I do not recognize too much else. But the ingredients list is huge which means things are going to be in small amounts per stick. The woods stand out, it’s not sweet or flowery, yet has a very clean and open quality to it.

Its interesting given the size of the stick (pretty near to a quarter inch, think club, not stick 🙂 ) that there is not that much smoke put out. However the room becomes rapidly refreshed in scent and “vibe” or how it feels. Given the write up at EoA this is what I was hoping for. I noticed in my own self that I felt calmer and more focused. Its not the kind of stick that would be an every day scent, well actually it might be depending on your lifestyle! It is however, something that I will have around for when needed.