Les Encens du Monde / Karin, Swallows in Flight, Royal Nave, Golden Waves, Blissful Mountain, Guiding Light

One month ago, I planned to write an article on a few of these incenses with the fact hanging heavy that at that point one could not buy Encens du Monde incenses in the United States. I’m pleased to say that this has changed and that the first batch of these incenses are now available at Essence of the Ages. We must all thank Beth for her persistence in trying to provide these incenses, several of which are world class, particularly in an era where the dollar isn’t doing so well. You’ll be able to read more reviews of these incenses in the future, but there are a number I want to cover right away as an early introduction to the line.

Les Encens du Monde is a French company who contracts with several Japanese companies to distribute various incense lines. The lion’s share of incenses distributed by this company appear to be made by Kunjudo, at the very least the Karin line is certainly a Kunjudo line, but there are others in their catalog created originally by Shoyeido or Baieido. A few of these duplicate incenses you can already find in the US, which makes any sort of discussion about this company’s incenses a little difficult to be specific about. Several of the line’s incenses also exist in Temple and Ceremony lengths and while I’d normally just consider them long stick versions, I’ve seen some of these incenses referred to as “Temple quality” while also having a significant price attached to them.

It also seems like EdM have switched around their lines a bit. I ended up buying both Golden Waves and Royal Nave overseas as part of the Karin line, only to realize that EdM have not only changed the Karin line, but the presentation and stick number as well. Both Golden Waves and Royal Nave  seem to exist as Temple or Ceremony sticks, but they do not appear to be part of the Karin line anymore. These two aromas are not currently available in the US, but I suspect we will see them eventually. I’d assume Simply Incense may still have Karin versions in limited stock. Nevertheless, all of these details make it a bit difficult to talk about these incenses in terms of lines. This article does cover the four temple/ceremony incenses in question, although all my versions come from the Karin boxes or samples. Both Blissful Mountain and Guiding Light can be found in the Meditation category.

The first incense in question is a bit complicated. Kunjudo’s Karin is already imported into the United States. As already mentioned, Karin also appears to be a line via Encens du Monde. While the boxes of the Karin incenses have changed, the old box of Forest of Flowers appears to have the same presentation, ingredient list and stick color as Kunjudo Karin, so I’d assume this is the same incense. I find Karin to be one of the gems of inexpensive incense, an affordable and fantastic blend of sandalwood, Daphne wood, and cinnamon that hits a number of different buttons. It has hints of amber even without the ingredient listed as well as wood, spice and floral and it manages to spin out different combinations of these elements like an echo of expensive aloeswoods. It’s fresh, vibrant, wonderfully spicy and addictive enough to have been a personal top 10 incense in May and I can imagine wanting deep stock in it.

Swallows in Flight is one of Kunjudo’s masterstrokes. It’s a rich, decadent and almost confectionary-sweet blend that starts with an aloeswood base and adds indulgent aromatics. The minute this one hits the nose I think of things like caramel and nougat, as this has a combination of sweet and musk that reminds me of walking into a candy shop. It definitely has a slight perfume on top with hints of white mocha that cyclically hide the base, only for the agar to remind you it’s still there in the background. It might be an incense that’s too rich at times, but when it’s right it’s a tough one to beat.

As, I mentioned before two Karin incenses are not part of the line anymore. The first of these is the stupendously good Golden Waves. Of all the EdM incenses I’ve tried, this is the one with the most obvious agarwood note. Sometimes I don’t notice this for some reason, but my most recent stick reminded me that this is very much based on the aloeswood, with a rich sweet musk and a note of hazelnut or something similar added to the top. All these elements go to making this one of those aloeswood sticks with mutable qualities, making it a fascinating stick to explore over time. At the Karin price this is a very affordable incense for its quality, which may be part of the reason it’s not in that line anymore. Hopefully we’ll see the long stick versions in the future, as this is no incense to be resigned to obscurity.

The other ex-Karin incense is Royal Nave. This isn’t quite so woody, its bouquet working more as a combination of various spices and woods. Like Guiding Light, it seems that Kunjudo do indeed like working on incenses with a massive number of ingredients and so this one is often like a faceted jewel, looking different from every perspective. The description tips us off to the aniseed, but it’s not that dominant of a characteristic to my nose. I’d say it’s more strongly spicy than strongly woody, but there’s also a perfume oil in the middle that adds to the overall complexity and comes out strongly with little fatigue. It struck me as what a Nippon Kodo Kohden stick might be like with better ingredients and also had hints of gingerbread cookie. Like many incenses in this line there appears to be a tilt to the sweet.

EdM’s Meditation line appears to have many of their high end incenses. The first of these in question is the stupendously good Guiding Light (scroll to bottom). It blends agarwood with 7 essentials and 8 wood powders for a very dense and woody incense. The aroma is all about spicy wood and I get hints of old wooden chests, brown sugar, clove, high quality sandalwood, and leather. There is definitely a high oil content, but its aroma adds a bit of mystery and insularity to the blend. Given the claim of a large quantity of agarwood, I was surprised that it didn’t have that much of a dominant note, so my guess is it’s more mid quality wood, and the blend evens some of the more specific characteristics out. I’d actually like to see this in a shorter stick, a length more appropriate for its strength outside a temple.

Finally, a really interesting, high end sandalwood and oil blend, Blissful Mountain (fourth item down). Like many EdM incenses I can imagine one of the other lines has smaller packages of the same or similar incense under a different name, based on the description of combining sandalwood with lily essential oil. Blissful Mountain is a very thick, green stick that starts with the base aroma of a common every day green sandalwood, and adds a very potent and powerful floral lily oil to it. The combination is quite intense and due to the stick’s thickness, only a fragment of a stick would totally fragrance a room. The oil is very rich, a slight tad to the soapy/floral side, but overall rather excellent, and given very few incenses already sold in the US have this sort of aroma, it’s well worth checking out. My guess the lily essential oil here adds significant to low sandalwood costs.

A browse through Essence’s EdM list will show there are dozens of aromas in the company’s lines, many of which I’m looking forward to trying and writing about down the line. There may be a small bit of risk in exploration, given that there do appear to be some crossovers between currently imported incenses and the EdM versions, but for the most part most of these have not seen our shores until now. Indeed, EdM has now expanded our choices for Japanese incense significantly.