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.

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.

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