Happy New Year (including Gokula and notes on Mermade Magickal Arts)!

I just posted the last two articles for my Gokula series today as Gokula is running a 20% off sale through 1/8, so I figured if you hadn’t checked the line out yet now is a perfect time! There are some definite goodies in their gigantic line and there’s actually a whole back half I didn’t review that are Mahavadhas sourced, so if you come across any of those that are good, do let us know in one of the Gokula post threads! Anyway, this takes us nearly to the end of the reviews stored up from last year, there may be a couple more to trickle in. More on this in a sec…

As I’ve been taking it easy over the holidays, I haven’t had too much of a chance to review or evaluate anything, but I did want to mention a few more Mermade Magickal Arts goodies. These aren’t intense reviews as I basically love all Mermade incenses which definitely all deserve deeper dives, but Katlyn tends to always be really busy during the holiday season and releases quite a few new vintages and I wanted to get in my thoughts before they’re gone. It was really nice to see Baccy Claus again, it’s at least the second vintage but I would guess the batch I had previously was before we started ORS up again. This one seems an improvement, never a surprise with Katlyn’s work, almost as if the middle had been brought up to match that peppery herbal note that makes this a scent unique in her catalog (think a mix of tobacco and herbal with the greener evergreen notes cradling this top scent). This one even has some unique elements in the mix with a touch of Amanita and Sativa, I’ve had the pleasure of an incense or two in the long past where Kat will mix something like this in and the results are always special and a bit different from the normal catalog. So certainly this is one to add to your cart right away.

Also checked out was her latest vintage of the Classic Kyphi, as I have long stated on these pages the Mermade kyphis are always well worth checking out, although I have been really unable to plumb the depths of this one quite yet. It’s really impossible to evaluate something this complex after just a sitting, but this will certainly be out right next to the heater over the next month. Some of the most recent kyphis strike me almost like drier wines compared to the sweeter ones, if you need an overall take. Forest Honey seems like a new experimental merging of two of her lines (say Sweet Medicine and Wild Wood for example) and is quite a bit different from Kat’s usual green holiday mix and a welcome variation. As always you get that great balance that allows you to experience both sides of the scent. But once again, I still need to dig out the time to really sit with it. Similarly with the Jasmine Dreams. I spend a lot of time both reviewing and evaluating and largely getting really fatigued by jasmine incenses over the last year, so it was great to get back to one that really highlights how good it can be. Perhaps part of the reason is this has a lot of green frankincense and repeat customers generally know how high quality this frankincense can be from Mermade. But this has a real nice peach note (resin seems to help bring this out) that you can often get out of the better jasmines and it seems like a perfect match with the better frankincense. So overall and as usual, it’s impossible not to recommend all these new treats, not to mention that it looks like Mermade has several Esprit de la Nature goodies in as well which always go really fast. I haven’t tried any of these but they’re always great as well. I would bet Bonnie probably has more at her site!

So with that said while there are probably a few more reviews in the wing to go, we’re reaching the end of the current “season.” This year is unique particularly in that there’s also very little in the current queue to review as well. I think we’ve debating internally that there are things like Satya incenses that I’ve sort of had on the table, but with less time to really review things of late it can be difficult to force yourself to take a look at incenses better worth avoiding. There’s a Review Information link at the top left if you’d like us to review your incenses, just let us know. Happy New Year everyone!

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Koyasan Daishido / Shikimi (Japanese Star Anise)

We’re always looking for quality affordable Japanese incense as well as scents that go into less common areas and this pleasant stick from Koyasan Daishido was a really nice find on both accounts. Star Anise, of course, is a spice used in a lot of different applications, but it may be interesting to note that Japanese Star Anise is a toxic cousin to that plant, not edible, and only used in incense. In Koyasan Daishido’s blend, the JSA seems based in a bit of wood and the spice has been well balanced. Anise has always reminded me of licorice, but this isn’t quite that sort of scent, it seems more like there’s a hint of the aroma that has been blended intelligently with other ingredients for a daily scent with a neat little spice kick that you often don’t find anywhere else. In a milieu where so many incenses can be classified as predominantly sandalwood or aloeswood it’s nice to see one a bit lateral to that. The JSA spice is one that is notably different from the sorts of cinnamon and clove mixes you usually see and while it may have some cooking spice associations, I think Shikimi is well blended for aromatic appreciation. It’s got an interesting dry and tangy mix at heart with the spice tweaking it just so. Affordable and different enough to stretch the incense collection, Shikimi also comes in a much bigger size if you end up loving it.

Mermade Magical / Classical Kyphi by Nathaniel, Deep Earth Premium

Howdy! Its been a while since I have written a review, but I managed to scrape some funds together to snag an order of Mermade Magical Arts’ Classical Kyphi by Nathaniel Musselman.
The wonderful people over at Mermade Magical also were kind enough to throw in a few samples with my order, including Deep Earth Premium 2013, so I will be doing a double review today!

Classical Kyphi has a scent that upon first whiff ,smells reminiscent of fresh raisin bread and frankincense. After a bit the cinnamon starts to come through, with a touch of anise. Heated gently on charcoal or an electric heater, this will surely please anyone who enjoys sweet, spicy scents.

The Deep Earth 2013 is hands down a new favorite of mine. I will most definitely be keeping a supply of this on hand, once I have the means to. As stated in the previous article by Ross, it comes across very thick, resiny and woody. Upon placing it on my charcoal censer, I was immediately hit with a strong aroma of labdanum, although curiously it does not list labdanum in the ingredients. Alongside the top not of labdanum, I noticed myrrh,  with a scent resembling honey and agar wood in the background. Anyone who is a fan of deep resin and wood scents will definitely love this blend.

Seikado / Meikoh Gohitsu (Five Brushstrokes) Aloeswood Blend, Daikouboku + Keigado / Jiyou Koh

Seikado’s Meikoh Gohitsu (Five Brushstrokes) Aloeswood: A nice, inexpensive Aloeswood blend from Seikado. It holds to a “middle of the road”  Aloeswood scent with a slight top note that is somewhat spicy. Which is not too say cinnamon like or anything along those lines. It’s actually quite different from other Aloeswood blends and is pleasant, easy to use as a background scent and a pretty good deal as an everyday incense. Fifty sticks in the box at around $14.00.

Seikado’s Daikouboku Sandalwood: This is a very nice straight up Sandalwood from the makers of Solitude line of wood blends. Seikado seems to big on the use of oils married up to Sandalwoods or Aloeswood to produce some pretty potent blends, almost ranging into what reminds me of Indian styles. In this stick they have not gone that route, opting instead to produce a very nice deep Sandalwood scent with a bare hint of spice/herb notes. I find it to be very easy to use and at the same time different then say the Baieido or Kyukyodo sandalwoods. This is another excellent everyday scent that will be merciful to your wallet.

Keigado’s Jiyou Koh: This is low smoke type incense, and it really is closer “no smoke”. Normally I do not like this style but this one I am finding pretty fun. When I first smelled it at Kohshi /Japan Incense it reminded me of something, about a week later I realized there were similarities with Shoyeido’s  Myo-ho in the top and mid notes. After looking at the ingredients list (Fennel, Cinnamon, Clove, Polygala tenuifolia (Polygalaceae), Angelica acutiloba) I realized that the first three are something I always associate with the scent of Myo-ho(along with Star Anise). All this being said I find this stick to be a pleasant backround scent, not very strong or prominent( like most low smoke stick) but it does add an interesting note to a room. Because it is a low smoke stick it will also tend to eliminate other scents, something to keep in mind if you want to clear the air.

SAMPLER NOTES: Shochikudo, Shorindo Kobiana Line (Discontinued), Tahodo / Sekizen Koh (Discontinued)

This is a slight summary of some of the more recent modern Japanese incense imports, including one traditional scent and another on the fence. [9/28/2021 – Please note that although the Shorindo Kobiana line has been discontinued, I have added one link below to what looks like remaining stock.]

Like many of the new imports we’re seeing there are quite a few new companies making their entry into the US Market, including an incense from Shochikudo called Kirari or Ocean Breeze. This one has a rather huge list of ingredients given as: rose, lavender, jasmine, ylang ylang, iris, lemon, bergamot, blue cypress, sandalwood, vanilla beans and oak moss. It’s almost like a starter list of essential oils and with a sampler I’d be hard pressed to say that any of these particular ingredients stand out more than any other except for, perhaps, the vanilla bean (I get an impression of some amber as well). This is an incense generally in the vein of Nippon Kodo’s Aqua, a floral mix with a distinct seaside sort of aroma, not quite briny, but a more upbeat and pleasant approximation, like a mix of garden and beach. It’s going to be only for those who really go for a sample as with a box of 200 sticks, it’s one you’ll want to be sure you really like at first. I found it quite pleasant, but my experience with Aqua was the same and I found it quite cloying over time so I’d be hesitant even though I think this is a better incense.

Shorindo has been extremely active on the exportation of front after entering the US market with their Chabana Green Tea mix, in fact since I received the following samples, they’ve added two more incenses in the Chabana line. The first of the four samples here is the most traditional incense in this whole group, a sandalwood and cinnamon scent called Wakyo. I love cinnamon so I found this instantly a winner, it’s not a particularly complicated incense, but it differs slightly from the traditional sense in that it seems polished and possibly made partially out of oils or perfumes. But give cinnamon essential oil is quite cheap, it all comes off quite authentic and just a bit stronger than the average Japanese traditional blend that doesn’t use oils like, say, Baieido Koh. It’s somewhat reminiscent of incenses like Shoyeido Horin’s Hori-kawa or even Kunjudo Karin or its Gyokushodo analog Kojurin in scent, maybe in the middle of this group in terms of a traditional to modern axis.

Shorindo has also brought over three perfume incenses in a line called Kobiana. These are definitely far to the modern style and seem to exist to carry over previously created perfumes, although they seem a little different in that they’re not quite smokeless. I doubt my impressions are going to be particularly useful, so as an addendum I’d like to refer you over to Sprays of Blossoms, Curls of Smoke for a much more informed review before I take a clumsy stab at these.

All three of these sticks, despite the color names, seem to be a dark blue color. The Kobiana Yellow Cute is created to be reminiscent of Etro’s Magot perfume and the notes given are, on the top, bergamot, lemon, jasmine and iris; lavender and cloves in the middle; and patchouli, cedar, vanilla and musk at the base. Like with the Kirari, I have trouble picking these apart although at least I can distinguish this scent from the other two in this series as being distinctly floral and very reminiscent of the types of perfumes you run into being worn in the US. As is the case, I tend to get as much of the alcohol or synthetic scent as I do the florals and completely miss any of the elements supposedly in the base with, perhaps, the iris, lavender and jasmine the most obvious scents to me.

I have a lot of trouble telling the Kobiana Red Elegant and Kobiana Blue Sweet apart, but both strike me as fruit and florals, and like the Kirari above, both are somewhat reminiscent of Nippon Kodo’s Aqua in that they both have an almost watery like scent. The Red is reminiscent of Chanel Chance perfume, the Blue Etro’s Anice. The Red lists pink pepper, lemon and pineapple on top; hyacinth, jasmine and iris at the heart (likely where I’m getting the Aqua similarity from); and amber, patchouli, vetiver and white musk in the base. Strangely enough from this mix I get watermelon, cyclamen and the listed jasmine, but it’s such a light scent that with a sample it’s really hard to break it down. Similarly scented, the Blue lists Brazilian rosewood, anise and bergamot; the middle notes iris, jasmine, anise and garden dill; and the base notes amber, musk and vanilla. I’m not sure if the note similarities between these two incenses account for why I can barely tell them apart, but for some reason I wasn’t getting much anise or rosewood and still felt it was mostly watery, fruity and floral. In the end I had to separate the two and test them at different times just to confirm for myself I hadn’t accidentally gotten the same sample twice and to maybe convince myself I don’t quite have the nose for moderns like these.

Like Shochikudo, Tahodo has currently exported only one incense to the US, although similar to Shorindo Wayko, this is something of a modern/traditional blend. In this case Sekizen Koh is clearly something of a perfumed sandalwood stick and not authentic in terms of a pure sandalwood, but it makes up for it with a nice blend of clove, nutmeg and slight floral and citrus hints. It tends to the slightly sweet and in another life could have easily been added to, say, one of Daihatsu’s modern lines. Like most perfumed incenses I’m not sure how long I’ll last in terms of appreciation, but my initial samples were extremely pleasant and I liked it right away, especially due to the attractive nutmeg subnote.

More in the next installment including pairs from Nihon Senko Seizo, Saraike Kunbutsado and Scents of Japan.

Baieido / Jirushi / Zuikun, Tokko, Sutoko

Baieido’s granulated incenses come in two different lines: natural woods including one chipped sandalwood mixture (Byakudan) and two chipped aloeswoods called Jinko and Extra Jinko, and the three blends known as the Jirushis, a mixture of woods and spices that are both somewhat similar to their Kobunboku line sticks and a bit different in that most if not all of the blends, kick star anise up front in the scents.  Where Shoyeido granulated blends appear to have almost eye-watering levels of oils or perfumes in the blends, as always Baieido granulateds tend to work purely on the level of natural ingredients and are relatively much more serene.

As always granulated mixtures tend to be aromatically different depending on whether one burns the mixture directly on charcoal or various wood trails or uses a heater. For the purpose of these reviews I did the former method on a dar trail and used a Shoyeido incense heater for the latter.

Zuikun is the low end in the group and its mixture of sandalwood and various herbs gives the scent an almost Tibetan-like aroma with a combination of tangy and almost treacle-sweet flavors on top of the general wood base. Otherwise the scent is fairly similar to the lower end Baieido Kobunboku sticks with a very smooth contour that comes out a bit more on the heater. The same method brings out more than a hint of star anise as well as caramel and toffee-like characteristics. On a trail, naturally, the woods volatize at a quicker rate and the sandalwood is quite a bit more present early in the use. The star anise is still quite strong, with even more licorice-like aspects and even though it doesn’t say so in the ingredients, I noticed some resin bubbling on some of the woods that made me think there must be a small content of lower end aloeswood in the mix as well. There’s also a bit more clove and cinnamon and overall the charrier scent given by the trail was a bit more to my tastes than the slow emissions from the heater on this blend.

The Tokko drops the tangier, more overtly herbal notes from the Zuikun and ends up being fairly reminiscent of the Tokusen Kobunboku stick, in fact I’d guess the sandalwood and aloeswood proportions are probably fairly similar here. Even on the heater this has a more woodier presence and a greater level of that classic Baieido cinnamon and clove spice. Like the whole line and in particular this incense, the star anise adds a lot of pep to the mix and the scent is up to Baieido’s unusually high ingredient standards. Higher temperatures on the heater bring out the woods even more, as well as a slight, wet muskiness underneath. The incense is a bit more similar to Zuikun on a trail, but spicier, hoarier and richer with noticeable aloeswood content and quite a bit of borneol or camphor, the usual clove and star anise as well as a bit of hay, sweetgrass and herb. It’s a bit less similar to the Tokusen Kobunboku stick using this method and seems to benefit from the ingredients volatizing faster and more as a unit.

Sutoko is the high end incense of the three, and in some ways as similar to Kaden Kobunboku as Tokko was to the Tokusen. The aloeswood level is even more prominent and the scent is overall woodier and more contoured. Sutoko brings back a touch of the tangier aspects of the Zuikun, but overall this seems to be a bit less of a blend and more a combo of sandalwood and aloeswood aspects. On a heater there don’t seem to be as many extra ingredients to volatize faster and, indeed, on a trail the difference isn’t as pronounced as it is in the first two blends. The aloeswood seemed to be akin to the same type used in the regular Syukohkoku (which I think is Ogurayama) and on a trail it adds a more noticeable charry and resinous scent to the blend that aloeswood lovers should warm to pretty quickly.

By now, it should be pretty clear that Baieido is very highly regarded by the Olfactory Rescue Service team and these three blends will only add to that high opinion. They’re all somewhat familiar, but the addition of star anise and other herbs does indeed set these apart from being entirely redundant.

Incense Body Powders / Shoyeido Johin, Gokuhin, Tokusen; Baieido Zukoh; Scent of Samadhi

Incense body powders are an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable way to expand the scope of your incense experience. Like high quality Japanese sticks, these powders are deliciously aromatic, relaxing and grounding. Wearing them is like traveling in a delicate mist of fine incense all day long. One of the more interesting qualities of these powders is that their smell is enhanced by perspiration. Just like the heat of cooking releases the flavors of culinary herbs, body heat and moisture amplifies the aroma of the powders. These powders are also a viable option for those who are sensitive to commercial perfumes, 95% of which are derived from synthetic petroleum sources. They contain nothing artificial, consisting only of essential oils and finely ground medicinal-grade herbs.

Incense body powders have their roots in ancient India where they were originally rubbed on the hands and sprinkled on temple floors to prevent the spread of disease. Over time the use of the powders expanded, and applying them became a more symbolic way to attain spiritual purification before ceremonies, meditation, or yoga. By spreading the powder on the palms and then lightly dusting it all over the hair and clothing, one could effectively smudge or cleanse the aura. According to Shoyeido, Buddhists monks would sometimes even put a small amount of these powders directly under their tongue to enhance mental clarity during meditation.

Here is a listing of the ingredients of the 5 incense body powders I am reviewing:
Shoyeido / Johin: Cinnamon, Sandalwood, Clove, Camphor
Shoyeido / Gokuhin: Cinnamon, Patchouli, Camphor
Shoyeido / Tokusen: Cinnamon, Clove, Camphor, Sandalwood
Baieido / Zukoh: Cinnamon, Cassia, Clove, Sandalwood, Camphor, Star Anise
Scent of Samadhi: Clove Oil, Red Sandalwood, Tulsi Oil, Rose Oil, Cardamom Oil

The offerings from Shoyeido and Baieido differ in smell, but only subtly. As you can see, all contain very similar ingredients. The effect of the blends in general is reminiscent of oatmeal cookies, 5 Spice, mulled cider, pumpkin pie, or even chai tea. The camphor note does come out as well, making for a really nice earthy, spicy blend, appropriate for men or women. Shoyeido offers three different grades of their body incense and what distinguishes them the most is the quality of the ingredients used in each one more than the smell. Tokusen is the highest grade and it definitely has more staying power, depth and richness. Baieido’s Zukoh is comparable in quality to Tokusen with the main difference being that it is slightly more woody. If you would like to try the Japanese powders I recommend going straight for Tokusen or Zukoh because their scent is more refined and longer lasting.

Scent of Samadhi [NOTE 9/28/21: I can’t easily find a home source for this body incense, but it still seems to be available if you look around a bit, so I’m not ready to mark this as discontinued yet. – Mike] is a totally different experience all together. Comparing this to the Japanese varieties is very much like comparing Japanese incense to Indian incense overall. The Japanese powders are drier, woodier, and spicier while Scent of Samadhi is moister and more floral. Yes, Scent of Samadhi contains clove, but there the similarity ends. The powder is stickier, obviously heavier with oils when you compare ingredients, and sort of reminds me of the masala-type incenses. Because of its high oil content even less is required for application as compared to the Japanese powders and it’s aroma last the longest of all. I really do like this one for its uniqueness. The blend is dominated by the rose oil, making this one a more feminine experience. It also mixes really well with the Japanese powders, resulting in a delicious blend where the floral and the spice balance each other out quite nicely.

The powders come in small packets, about ½ oz. Because so little is needed for the desired effect this is certainly enough to last for months. Shoyeido also makes a nifty ebony holder [NOTE 9/28/21: This is still in the Shoyeido catalog but it shows out of stock] for the Japanese incense powders that I would recommend picking up. It’s perfect for shaking out just the right amount of powder for application and makes a very convenient, portable container. I really love these powders, especially Tokusen and Zukoh, and would highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in expanding their incense repertoire.

Daihatsu / Myo-jou, Taganohana, Kaizan, Chyo-Sin

Daihatsu are a Japanese company who, like Nippon Kodo, tend strongly to modern styles of incense with the use of perfume blends. Unlike Nippon Kodo, Daihatsu manage to be fairly successful with the format, creating many incenses in the $5-$10 range that are quite good for the price. I’ve sampled the company’s Tanka range in the past; however, it’s this range of four sandalwood based incenses (scroll to bottom) that are a little closer to home in terms of traditional scents, even if these still could be considered modern in that the woods are married with strongly scented perfumes and/or oils to reach their aromas.

The four incenses in question here increase slightly in price for each title starting at $5-6 for Myo-jou and ending at $10-12 with Chyo-sin. All are boxes of approximately 55 sticks at 5 1/2 inches per stick, and the incenses all come in unusualy hexagonal, cardboard rolls within the boxes, rather nice packaging given the prices. All four incenses are sandalwood based, both in the oils and basic stick; however, most of the aromatic play appears to be in the perfume.

Myo-jou is unusual, at least for my tastes, in that it’s not only the most inexpensive incense of the four but it may be the one I prefer the most. It’s possibly the driest of the four incenses, although the top oil is among the most heavily scented of the four. Overall it’s a sort of sandalwood and spice blend where the spices help to bring out those very qualities in the wood. Along with the wood and spice, I smell hints of nougat, talcum powder and candy floss, although the sweetness of these side hints never overwhelm the odor. Like many incenses with so much in the play oils, the aroma is a bit on the shallow side, but it’s well-priced and certainly the best place to start in the Daihatsu catalog.

Taganohana acts almost as a contrast by being the incense of the four with the least strength in the perfume oil, letting some of the woody base play as part of the aroma. Cinnamon and star anise are added to the ingredients chart for this incense and you can get intimations of both, bolstering the spicier elements into a more richer aroma than the Myo-jou. With less of the oil in the play, this incense comes a bit closer to those in the Shoyeido Daily range. Of these four Daihatsus, Taganohana is probably the least sandalwood oriented. Comparing it to a Baieido spice stick like Koh or the Syukohokoku range demonstrates fairly well how different a perfume-fronted spice stick can be from a more traditional blend.

Kaizan seems to move back to an aromatic area closer to Myo-jou in that it’s another sandalwood and spices blend without a list of specific ingredients. It’s probably the most overtly perfumed of the four sandalwoods here with a more floral/vanilla/musk type of blend, soft, sultry and a bit muted. Of the four incenses here I think this was originally the one I liked second best, but over repeated use I’ve found the oil to be just a tad thin, as if it hints at something it never quites reach. On the other hand such a restrained formula keeps the incense from attaining the sorts of harsh, bitter or soapy notes you tend to find in modern and/or synthetic incenses, which, given how inexpensive these sticks are, is no mean feat.

The range’s high ender, Chyo-Sin, gets its price likely due to the presence of some rose oil with the sandalwood. I’m not particularly fond of rose/wood sorts of incenses, but this is quite a bit different in the perfume, capturing elements a more natural stick might have missed. Part of this is the spice middle, which helps to balance the floral rose elements and give the incense some extra richness. Giving this a secondary revisit, I might have switched this box out with the Kaizan when I decided to buy two of the four boxes.

I found it interesting that secondary samples of Taganohana and Chyo-Sin both struck me as being a little less strong in aroma than I previously remembered, which I could chalk up either to a muted sense of smell or possibly a little degeneration, which is something a bit more common when the aromatics are carried by perfume. However, I found that this actually helped to bring the wood bases out a little more and improve my opinion of the range. Because overall if you put together affordability, packaging and perfume art success, these four Daihatus incenses actually do a pretty good job at hitting their marks. Given the price range, these tend to be as successful or more so than other modern incenses at the same range, which should make them well worth checking out for the price conscious.

Les Encens du Monde / Moments of Eternity, Moments of Serenity (Discontinued)

In the Encens du Monde Short Rolls list are a couple of incenses that are actually quite different from the others in the line. For one thing, they’re at least an inch shorter each than the rest of the short rolls and they’re also quite a bit thicker. The thickness of the stick, however, doesn’t really add to the smoke content and both of these incenses are quite smooth and consonant even while made up of a number of ingredients. Like many roll incenses, these two come singly or in boxes of (12) rolls. I’ve also seen gift boxes with rolls of both and a holder, but as far as I know these haven’t been imported yet and could be discontinued.

Moments of Eternity is an earthy, tan colored stick and made from white sandalwood, cinnamon, oak moss and essential oils. Overall it’s actually not a heavily perfumed incense, which is often the case for many brands in the Encens du Monde canon, instead it definitely goes for a strong spice content and as such is reminiscent of gingerbread cookies or graham crackers. While it’s not a particularly startling incense at the beginning, I’ve found myself presently surprised coming back into a room full of the aroma of one that has been burning for a while, it has a mellow consistency to it that’s quite nice, a spicy stick that’s really never overwhelming.

Moments of Serenity is the green stick companion and a far less distinctive incense, created from sandalwood, cinnamon, benzoin, kansho (spikenard), star anise seed and cloves. I could see this ingredients list almost being more appropriate for Moments of Eternity as it implies a high spice content. However Moments of Serenity is far more like a green, every day sandalwood in scent. While there are notes of the ingredients list in the top part of the aroma, they’re very subtle and often lost with fatigue, leaving the stick smelling rather standard after a while. I spent quite a few sticks just trying to suss out further qualities from this one and was left disappointed (nor was I convinced age was a factor in this case). However, it does share the same slick and consonant qualities of Moments of Eternity, even if that particular incense is the most successful of the two.

Overall, I’d recommend Eternity, but would suggest other green sandalwood types with more distinctiveness (for example Kyukyodo Ikaruga or Shoyeido Evening Zen) over Serenity.

Shunkohdo / Zuika Koh

I have had a box of Zuika Koh from Shunkohdo for about 5 months. I got it, used a little, and then got caught up in some other incenses and only recently started burning it again. Really, I think I had to grow up into it.

Mike reviewed it last November and in recently going back to look at the review (because, yes, he was and is one of my main sources for what is worth getting :0 )), I sort of rediscovered it. So I realized that it had gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle and decided to bring it back out to play.

The ingredients list on the websites seemed a little lacking to me so I wrote to Kotaro at Japan Incense asking for a little more input. He wrote to Shunkohdo and they wrote back: “Ross, I got mail from Shunkohdo. It is a company secret recipe. However, he mentioned to me that Zuika Koh contains some of following ingredients such as: aloeswood, sandalwood, clove, cinnamon, star anise, spikenard, patchouli, benzoin, and borneol.”

Which are pretty much the standards of the Japanese incense world. Of course there is the “secret” part that makes up the difference and adds that certain something of uniqueness. One thing that I am now noticing about this incense is the quality of the materials. The aloeswood is really nice, and given the price of the stuff of late, that can become a deciding factor in scent and cost.

Also Zuika Koh straddles that fine line between spice and floral where neither one is out front and the wood element can still play such a big part. Actually in this incense they all sort of trade places through out the burn. This is a really pleasant and captivating grouping of scents. It is great for the reflective moment or perhaps study. It’s calming, not overpowering, yet at the same time can really get your attention once you start to discover all the subtle nuances it has. As Mike said it’s better to burn this one early on if you are going to be using more then one incense, then you can really enjoy it.

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