Thoughts on the Major Incense Houses of Japan

I wanted to link to this article, as it’s truly one of the most well written, comprehensive and insightful reviews of Japanese incense I have read on the internet. Well done!

Burning Basics for Beginners

From the first time I burned a piece of fragrant wood, up until now, I’ve been trying to figure out the optimal way to burn wood at a temperature and rate that would allow me to appreciate its scent over an extended period of time, fill the room (and scent my clothes) with a beautiful and memorable fragrance, and that would be relatively easy to accomplish and share with friends. I haven’t yet found a burning method that accomplishes all of these goals at the same time, but I’d like to share my experiences so far. I hope some of you will take the time to share your own tips and tricks. I’m sure there are many techniques and materials that I’m unaware of.

Burning on charcoal- My first burner was a brass burner with a grill on top. Because it gets so hot it cannot be passed from guest to guest and has to be placed on a heatproof trivet to prevent it from scorching whatever is beneath it. If I were to purchase another charcoal burner I would try to find one that doesn’t conduct heat and has a grill that is recessed below the top of the burner.

I’ve tried 4 types of charcoal:
1) Self-lighting charcoal. This is easy to light but I haven’t found one that doesn’t have a nasty scent. Sparks fly from the charcoal when it is first lit. On the positive side, it’s inexpensive and readily accessible.
2) Japanese bamboo charcoal – These are supposedly scentless but to me they have a slight odor. They come in different sizes and shapes. The one that is covered with foil is cleaner to handle and seems to burn the longest of those that I’ve tried. (I haven’t yet tried the cylindrical shaped ceremonial charcoal). Bamboo charcoal can be purchased from many online incense vendors.
3) Bincho-tan charcoal- This is an incredibly dense Japanese charcoal that is made from ubame oak. It has a very clean burn and burns for an extremely long time. Unfortunately it is super difficult to light and to cut because it is so dense (it clinks like metal when it is dropped). Because this charcoal is expensive and so difficult to work with I’m not sure it’s worth the effort, although it’s a pleasure to find a scentless charcoal that stays hot for so long.
4) Coconut charcoal- This charcoal, supposedly scentless, also has a very slight odor. It’s larger and burns longer than the bamboo charcoal. Some might consider it disproportionate to the size of many incense burners. It’s easy to find on the web and is relatively inexpensive.

Charcoal can be lit with a crème brulee torch or cigar lighter, by placing it on the burner of an electric stove or in a mesh frying pan above a stove’s gas burner. I use a small pair of tongs (from Mermade Magickal Arts) whenever I have to move the charcoal or place things on top of it. Once I squeezed the tongs too hard and the piece of charcoal broke into small pieces and burned little holes in my wooden floor ;-(

When a layer of gray ash covers the charcoal it’s ready to be used.

If my goal is to scent a room, or my clothes and hair, I put a few small pieces of wood directly on the charcoal. The wood goes up in smoke very quickly and my clothes and hair absorb it’s scent, and retain it, for quite a few hours. I burn this way very rarely because although I like the lingering scent on my clothes, I prefer wood that smells less acrid than it does when burned this way.

If I want to use charcoal while enjoying the scent of the wood as it burns, I put a mica plate directly on the charcoal and top it with 4 or 5 small squares of aluminum foil that are each comprised of a few folded layers. A small piece of wood sits on the pile. If the wood isn’t burning because it’s too far from the heat I remove one foil square at a time until the wood burns slowly enough to release its oils without smoking. Generally I use one small piece of wood at a time when burning this way, and gently fan the air towards my friend’s or my face while the wood is burning.

I read about the Kodo ceremony and became curious about the role of incense in ancient and contemporary Japan. “Kodo” translates as “way of incense”. During a Kodo ceremony a Kodo cup is prepared, passed from guest to guest, and games are played that involve “listening to incense” and attempting to identify, and accurately pinpoint the relationship between, different woods. Making a basic kodo cup involves burying a lit piece of charcoal in “ceremonial” white ash, building a pyramid around the charcoal, piercing a vent to allow it to breathe, placing a mica plate on top of the charcoal and placing a grain-of-rice-sized piece of wood on top of the mica plate. The ash and mica insulate the wood from the heat of the charcoal and allow the wood to release its fragrance slowly and gently.

I very much wanted to make a Kodo cup, and despite many attempts it continues to be both difficult and time consuming. It’s trickiest figuring out how deeply to bury the charcoal and how much to tamp the ash. However when I succeed it’s very satisfying. Making the cup with care and respect can be a meditative process and some woods that I’ve burned this way have smelled especially smooth, rich and soothing. Passing the cup between friends is very enjoyable, and I feel a special reverence participating in such a venerable and age old tradition.

The last way I use charcoal is with Shoyeido’s Portable Incense Burner. I like the refined yet rustic charm of the design and being able to comfortably pass the burner between guests. It’s much easier than making a Kodo cup and it works particularly well with very small granulated chips.

Electric burners allow the user to control the temperature by turning a dial. The wood is placed either in a metal bowl or on a mica plate above a ceramic heating element, depending on the model. The thickness and density of the wood determine the optimum temperature at which to set the dial, which can be adjusted according to the behavior of the wood. The ability to control the temperature is a big advantage of these burners and the design makes it easy to combine other incense ingredients with the wood. If you line the pan with a piece of foil clean up is a breeze. On the down side, some of these burners have a faint smell of metal,  it’s a little inconvenient to have to be near an electric outlet, and a dangling wire makes passing the burner somewhat awkward.

Speaking of cleanup- I’ve found that using alcohol can help remove resin from mica plates. It doesn’t remove the residue completely but it takes off some of the superficial stains. I’ve always washed the plate with water after wiping it with alcohol.

The most recent burner I tried is Shoyeido’s Kodutu battery-operated portable wood chip heater. This burner is perfect for sampling pieces of wood. A round mica plate sits over the heating element and a small wood chip is placed directly above the coil. Although the heating filament only stays lit for 3 minutes it can immediately be reactivated. There is a dial that can be set to 3 different temperatures and replacement mica plates can be purchased. This burner makes a great traveling companion and because it is so easy to use I find myself reaching for it when I want to indulge my senses without going to any trouble.

Electric and battery-operated burners can be purchased from japanincense.com and essenceoftheages.com.

Lastly, it’s possible to burn a piece of wood quickly with a lighter- just long enough to get a whiff of the fragrance ☺

Although I still haven’t found a burner that’s good at doing all things well, is easy to use and is very affordable, or a method of burning that’s satisfactory in every situation, I have found a variety of burners and methods that work well in different circumstances. I would be really interested to hear what works for you, about your favorite practices and products, and what doesn’t work, too! I feel as though I’ve just gotten my feet wet, and I’d like to have company as I head towards deeper and deeper water ☺

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A Whiff of Japan

During my recent visit to Japan I had the good fortune to visit Yamada Matsu in Kyoto, and Tenkundo in Kamakura. At Yamada Matsu Ms. Yuka Kawahara, who speaks English, assembled a beautiful, traditional Kodo cup and generously burned a few different pieces of green kyara for my enjoyment and education. I had expected all of the green kyara pieces to smell the same but there was a lot of variation. In general, what seemed to distinguish green kyara to my untrained nose was that each piece contained a full spectrum of scents that ranged from bitter to sweet (although some amplified one end of the spectrum more than the other). The most interesting piece, because it was the most unexpected, was very acidic- it had a sharp, fizzy and very penetrating smell. All of the green kyara pieces were stronger than the subsequent yellow and white pieces that Ms. Kawahara kindly burned. The white and yellow kyara projected less and smelled somewhat thinner and less complex.

I wish I had more time to pay attention to the many beautiful and interesting pieces of agarwood displayed in Yamada Matsu’s glass cases, as well as the handsome incense burners and sandalwood carvings, and the huge variety of sticks and chips that were available to purchase. I was so transfixed by the uplifting, luminous, sublime and soothing scent of burning kyara that I didn’t realize how quickly time was passing and I had to rush away to a previously scheduled appointment.

At Tenkundo, which I located by following the scent of incense that enticingly drifts into the narrow street, the owner, Mr. Suda, escorted me upstairs to an elegant room that was the epitome of the refined Japanese aesthetic. He generously burned pieces of green, purple and black kyara for me to sample. I felt very relaxed and calm during the session, although I was disturbed to hear Mr. Suda’s confirmation that kyara and agarwood are becoming increasingly scarce. Tenkundo is an offshoot of Nippon Kodo, which has a very strong presence in the Chinese market. Mr. Suda brought out a carefully wrapped piece of agarwood that amazed me- it was longer and thicker than a man’s forearm! A Chinese buyer had just purchased it, for carving, for a very hefty sum. At the end of my visit Mr. Suda showed me a small lacquer container inlaid with mother of pearl that is used to store pieces of agarwood for use during the tea ceremony. If only the exchange rate had been more favorable…

Before I left for Japan I had written to a number of incense stores asking if kyara was available to purchase. Most of my queries were not answered, and the couple of stores that did reply, using Google Translate, said they were out of stock. I would strongly suggest to anyone who plans to visit Japan on an incense quest that, if possible, they engage the help of a translator. There were so many questions I wanted to ask but my inability to speak Japanese prevented me from taking full advantage of the wealth of knowledge I’m sure my hosts would have gladly shared.

Incense sticks are burned in huge burners at some of the temple entrances. It is traditional to light individual sticks or bundles of incense, which are sold along with good luck charms and fortunes at small stalls at the temple entrance, and to place them in the ash-filled burner, after which smoke is waved towards one’s body and/or rubbed into one’s clothes for purification and health purposes. Most of the sticks smelled like a combination of sandalwood and agarwood; at some of the temples the scent was woodier, at others sweeter and at others it had a spicier, more herbal scent. The scent of incense added to the feeling of calmness and tranquility that pervaded the atmosphere regardless of how many worshipers and visitors were present.

Coiled incense (I recognized boxes of Shoyeido’s Tenpyo) was sold at a couple of the temples and very large pieces of agarwood were on display and for sale at Kinokoku-ji, the Golden Pavilion (or maybe that was at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, where there are 2 rooms that were used as incense chambers). Most of the temples sell incense that has the name of the temple printed on the packaging but the temple does not make it.

There are many small stores that specialize in incense and many offer incense appreciation classes on a regular schedule, although I don’t know if any classes are conducted in English. Both Shoyeido and Baiedo offer factory tours, by appointment. Kyukyudo had a large selection of sticks and fragrant woods, however, once again my inability to speak Japanese made it extremely difficult to get information and make purchases.

I wasn’t able to visit as many incense shops as I would have liked, however Ms. Kawahara and Mr. Suda were extremely kind and generous, and experiencing the entrancing scent of kyara with such gracious hosts are experiences I will always treasure.

Incense on the Tree of Life

I’ve written a long article on my other blog based on incense use in the Western esoteric tradition. It might also be of use to those fairly new to incense who want to choose a scent from zillions of different choices. It covers Patchouli, Jasmine, Lavender, Rose, Frankincense, Dragon’s Blood, Cedar, Myrrh, Musk and Sandalwood incenses. Readers are welcome to come over and suggest other incenses if they’d like.

Changes

There seem to be quite a lot of changes going on in the incense world, which are becoming more and more apparent. A major one is that the cost of the raw materials to make incense (as well as natural based perfumes and ouds) has been steadily rising for the last few years. This year has seen drastic price increases in sandalwood and agarwood. Much of this is happening because the supply of “wild harvested” wood is becoming much more limited as it becomes harder to find. It has also become much harder to get any of the woods, at any price. There is a real limit to how much is still available; it is not something that can be cultivated (at least not yet). This same process is happening to many of the most popular ingredients, to the point where it is becoming impractical to use them in the quantities they were used in, in the past.

Recently I noticed at least a 30% bump in retail sandalwood and agarwood prices within Japan. It’s worse over the last few years. A fifteen-gram bag of SS grade Jinko that sold for 7200 yen in 2009 is now at 18,500 yen. There are lots of rumors that people or even countries are buying up stock, which will drive prices even higher. Logic would point to big price increases by all the incense makers, not to mention formula changes as a way to keep prices down or offering lesser amounts of sticks in a bundle at current prices. All this appears to be happening, although very few makers are talking about it, at least anywhere the average buyer can find. Which is where the importers are caught in the middle, once you order and pay for and then receive a large order getting a refund or replacement for incense (or rose, jasmine, etc)that is not up to the quality you expected becomes a very difficult task.

To add more fuel to the fire currency rate fluctuations are all over the board so (for the dollar) one’s money does not go as far. The dollar has fallen off about 50 points in the last two years to the yen. If you are an importer of incense right now that means your wholesale profit margin is pretty much gone, one might say, literately, up in smoke.

I notice in our site that there is mention of changes in the scents of a number of incenses from many manufactures lately. Mike’s recent piece pointed out some from a number of the Indian and Tibetan makers and I have seen mention of similar differences from some of the Japanese makers.

Incense, much of which use natural materials has always been subject to change as there are always differences between different batches of the woods or spices/herbs/etc. that go into them, this is very much what all people who work in the scent industry (at any level) go through when ordering a new, say, jasmine absolute or sandalwood or even just trying to restock from the same supplier. One can pretty much count on having to make some adjustments to achieve a similar scent profile for a specific perfume or incense. This goes on all the time; in fact I think that a lot of the training that an incense master (in any country) or perfumer goes through is based on being able to recreate a specific scent profile with the materials that are currently available. I think that this is becoming harder and harder and in some cases not even possible as supplies (especially high quality woods) become increasingly difficult to get at a price that is economically realistic.

There are a huge amount of reviews at ORS, probably more then anywhere else, yet I am starting to see where they may no longer be accurate given all the changes that are going on. I have seen people get upset because our reviews may no longer hold true, or their nose is not the nose or esthetic of the reviewer.  I would like to point out that we are in no way “professional incense reviewers”. We do it because we like the stuff and are crazy enough to buy incense in the amounts that we do. Nor do we get subsidized or bank rolled by any of the makers or sellers. Sometimes we get samples, but then again we also buy a lot. Right now I would be hesitant to make large purchases, unless it was something I had just sampled. Even then it is going to be a gamble.

In this country we assume everything is standardized in quality and will stay that way, no matter where it comes from. That has never been true and is less so now. The people who bring incense into the country are taking huge chances with a lot of money. They are also the same people who took the time to put together the network of communication and trust to get the process rolling. I am quite sure they did so and continue to do so because they feel a commitment to their customers, it for sure is not because they are making any large profits, which have been cut even more of late.

So it is “buyer and importers beware” at the moment and probably for the foreseeable future. Enjoy what you have, be sensible in your purchases, life goes on.

OK, now back to looking for that 15 gram bag of Jinko buried in my closet!

Fifth Anniversary of the Natural Perfumers Guild

So today marks the fifth anniversary of the Natural Perfumers Guild, which is a good start. It has come a ways, gone through changes and looks to be in it for the long haul. You can find a list of the different blogs and bloggers at the bottom of this post that are writing something for this event (plus, I think, there are a few other places that will mention something about it).

I have always been attracted to the scented side of things. Making things out of different woods in my Dads shop at home was great because of the smells of the different woods.  The subtle difference in scents between different raw clays and glazes when making pottery added a whole other dimension to ceramics. Hiking, camping, waking up in the mornings in the mountains and taking that first deep breath in at first light were very special moments. The sense of smell adds a huge, but at the same time, very subtle boost to ones sense of the world around them. It’s also so often overlooked.

When using incense it took me awhile to understand that the ones I gravitated to were generally those which used natural ingredients. There is just something that “smells” different to me between those built with woods, resins, herbs, spices and real oils and those that are not. Not that it’s not possible to make odd/bad smelling incenses or perfumes with naturals (as some of my own experiments are examples of 🙂   But for my nose, generally, the naturals just work better.  The incense has lead to perfumes and classes with Mandy Aftel, who has been a great source of inspiration and knowledge and an appreciation of the real Art of Perfumery.

I love to source out new scents and spend hours on the net looking into obscure leads on new places. I am always fascinated at how different the same plant can smell from each place. As I write I can see a box with at least ten different bottles of Rose in it. Each is different and special in its own way. So I find it funny to hear, “It has Rose in it”. Really?, from where? What year? How it distilled and what was the weather/soil/water like in the area where it was grown? Using natural materials can be very tricky, very demanding and an takes an overwhelming passion.

It isalso getting much more expensive  and difficult to obtain many of the key ingredients. The prices for ALoeswood and Sandalwoods have recently gone up around 20% to 30%, that assuming you can find them. The same holds true for most of the oils used in perfumery. Not to mention the many governmental restrictions being imposed or thought up. Its a great time to be into he naturals and at the same time it is a bit scary.

So, when you find them…enjoy!

[Links below cleaned up and edited – Mike 7/6/21]

Ca Fleure Bon
Anya’s Garden
Anu Essentials Blog
I’m Just Saying
Bellyflowers
Ellenoire
Aromatics International
Olive and Oud
A Little Ol’Factory
Natural Perfumes
Aromatherapy Contessa
Absolute Trygve

Mandy Aftel and the 2011 Fifi’s

The Fifi’s are the perfume worlds Oscars and this year, for the first time ever, there is a natural perfumer in the running. Mandy Aftel has three different perfumes on the ballot. If you are interested in seeing a small independent “niche” perfumer win, one who is also directly responsible for the perfume world and the buying public becoming aware of alternatives to main stream perfumes and fragrances, this is your chance to make a difference. Having her perfumes on this year’s Fifi ballot is a huge step forward for all the independents and small perfumers.

You can caste your vote by going here: Facebook Page for FiFi 2011 Consumer Voting, or you can also go through this link, which is sponsored by some of Mandy’s students: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152953168103565.

She is asking that people vote for the scent called Honey Blossom so as to not split up the votes.

Honey Blossom was created in a meeting of the minds with fellow niche perfumer Andy Tauer for a project where they both created perfumes from a starting point of two materials (each of them picked one material) and their scent journey is chronicled on Nathan Branch’s blog (which is always a good read in itself). This is a fascinating read into the creative process of two very well thought of artists.

I was lucky enough one evening to go by Mandy’s studio to drop something off and she had just pretty much finished up Honey Blossom. To say she was excited would be putting it very mildly.  She puts her all into her creations and it shows, this is a stunning, very beautiful floral with miles of depth and, on me, lasted about 6 hours or so. Plus it keeps evolving as it goes, what more could one ask for?

You can also check out my piece on being in a perfume class with Mandy here.

Mandy Aftel ..The Room of Many Bottles Full of Good Smells

I love the raw materials of incense and perfume. Many of them tend to have very blurred borders in their usage between one and the other. I have come to realize that I am a somewhat “materials oriented guy” when it comes to this sort of thing and because of all this I started gathering up a lot of essential oils, absolutes, resins, herbs and all the rest of the raw materials that go into creating incense and what has been termed by Octavian Coifan as “The Eighth th Art” or perfume.

There are no schools for incense making in this country, or if they exist they are pretty well hidden. So I decided to try another route and take perfumery classes. I had read Mandy Aftel’s book “Essence and Alchemy” and was captivated by her insights into the worlds of scent and its references to metaphysics. It didn’t hurt that I had studied some of the ideas within the Alchemical teachings and figured I would feel at least comfortable and probably highly intrigued in a class taught by her. It’s also very convenient that her studio is nearby and close to some of my favorite restaurants and coffee shops, how could it not be wonderful?

I still remember my first class, being clueless as to what to expect in such an environment, although I was sure it would not be anything like, say, a Microsoft Network class (amongst other things I am also an IT). So I studied up in Mandy’s Level One Work Book and left for the first morning of class praying that I would not look or act too much like a neo-barbarian or whatever other low life images came to mind.

When walking into Mandy’s perfume studio one is greeted by the sight of what I now always think of as “The Room of Many Bottles Full of Good Smells”, and yes, I do see this with capital letters. It’s done up in light creamy white walls and a stunning amount of polished   wood. There are wooden book cases and shelves everywhere (totally filled) and on one side is a large glass container with at least five pounds of high-grade Frankincense (my eyes went to this very quickly; it’s an incense thing, kind of comforting). But what really just sort of rivets ones attention is the huge wood perfumer’s organ. A quick estimate tells me there have got to be at least five hundred bottles on this thing, all nicely labeled and sorted. My little “materials oriented guy” brain goes into shock – just think of all the wonderful smells in them! OK, I was a little short on how to really use them, but…damn, five hundred bottles!

Now it is my third time coming to a weekend class with Mandy, but it’s almost always the same reaction when walking in. It is a beautiful space to work and study in, well designed for its purpose.

Class starts, there are six other students besides myself and they are from, in this class, from all parts of the US. In other classes I have been in they have been from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. The class starts out by everyone introducing themselves and why they are here.

This is where things become so much more than you could imagine before getting there. Mandy, as the teacher, is incredibly passionate about what she does and as far as I can tell she never really stops being that way. There always seem to be ideas coming up on what to do next. She is really an entrepreneur of the first water with a huge imagination and a lot of focus.  Plus she has that special ability to pass on what she has learned in a manner that is validating and seems to be perfect for the person she is talking to. She has seen or  made most of the mistakes that someone starting out will run into and is not scared to tell you about them on the off-chance that you will then not need to go there. She is also out front about what it can cost in terms of time and money to go down this road, both of which can be high. In fact she mentions repeatedly how many times she has tossed out the test blends, experiments and just plain mistakes. It is amazingly reassuring to the beginner to hear someone who is very high up the perfumers ladder say what amounts to, it’s not all going to work and it does take some real live time, energy and money to make it happen. She is being very truthful as she says this, but there is also a smile on her face. It is a rare teacher who can laugh at themselves and she does have a wonderful sense of humor.

Mandy and feedback to the class

You also get to bounce ideas off of your classmates, which is invaluable. Every one of them has a different way of looking at any given assignment. Each day in the Studio will last about seven hours and you will make anywhere from three to five scents, based on what the class wants to go for or what Mandy thinks would offer the best experience. It becomes a very focused and intense time. You might be surprised at how concerned one can become over what one drop of say, Cade, will do to your blend and the clock is ticking. One DropYou  get to have honest feed back from her on where each scent is at and you also get to hear the same thing about your classmate’s endeavors. She is incredibly good at discovering where the mistakes are and how to correct them. This is invaluable information to the beginner.

As the weekend progresses you find yourself trying many new ideas, not just because there are so many new raw materials to try, but because you get to see and smell what everyone else is trying and then see where you could incorporate some of this into your own creations.

At some point Mandy will create something from selections the class gives her. This is one of the more profound moments. It’s one thing to open a bottle of say, Jasmine Sambac, and just smell it, it is a whole different level to open the same bottle and know what it is going to smell like right now and then in fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, an hour and so on as it dries down. Plus, what happens when you add it to other E.O.’s, absolutes and whatever else is in the mix, remembering that each one of them is also going through its own evolution within the bottle. Being a perfumer is a lot like conducting a large orchestra. It’s really about how all the separate essences (instruments) will mix together (harmonize) and how that scent (sound) is going to be received by the world. So to see someone who has put the many hours necessary to educate the nose and now has a very good idea as to what is going to work with each other and under what conditions is a real treat. Right there you can see that it is really all about taking the time to educate yourself on how the parts can play and harmonize together with each other.Your wrist, a perfumers best friend!

By the end of the class you have seen and done quite a lot. You have a much better understanding of how the materials work together and when to use which ones. You may have meant people who you can bounce ideas off in the future, which will be a great help. You have gotten to play in the “The Room of Many Bottles Full of Good Smells”! You will walk away with many more ideas than when you walked in and a much greater appreciation of the possibilities that can open to you.

Making perfume really is an art and there are many, many ways to go about it, being taught some structure and techniques and receiving honest feedback can go a long ways towards helping one with their goal. This is probably (at least for me) one of the most valuable lessons I learned. Oh yes and Mandy’s opening statement (somewhat paraphrased) “This class is not about making anything good, it’s about spotting the mistakes and fixing them”.

I would like to thanks Mandy and her husband Foster for a wonderful time along with all my fellow perfumers in training (all three seasons worth, you know who you are). I feel honored to have gotten to study with all of you… Also thank you Michelyn Camen at Cafleurebon.com with some editing input and help.

  Hey, anyone know where I can get my hands on some antique Sandalwood oil or Boronia?  One can get very spoiled with access, even for a short time, to Mandy’s collection  😮 )

Cheers    -Ross

Mystery of Musk Pt 4: Verdigris, Musk eau Natural, Temple of Musk (Ross)

Unfortunatly it took awhile for me to get the time necessary to write these up, sometimes life seems to get much too complicated.

Verdigris from BellyFlowers: A somewhat anise like  top note as well as an all to brief hint of cedar, that quickly fades away into a lavender and clary sage blend that is a lot stronger on my skin then the blotter. The name pretty much says it all, green, fresh and upbeat.  To me the musk aspect is very faint and may act more as a fixative then as an attention getter. In this composition this works well and I think it helps to keep the fresh/green aspect more towards the fore front. Nicly done and the scent seems to hang in there for quite awhile

Musk eau Natural from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz: Stunningly nice spices at the start that persist down into at least the heart, there is a beautiful resins accord that mixes well with the spices and in the background we have beeswax giving it all a nicely rounded shape, although I think there might be labdanum in here also. Actually there could be quite a lot of other ingredients as this one has many levels going on at the same time, like a large orchestra where all the many parts make up the beautiful finished piece. I must admit that this type of scent really appeals to me and it also reminds me of many different aspects in the incenses that I tend to use most, spices mixed in with Aloeswoods. Depending on how much was applied one could wear this for a casual time or for the “special” night. It doesn’t hurt that Dawn went for the 30% perfume concentration, I am finding that this can be very important in a lot of natural compositions. Musk eau Natural  is elegant, sophisticated and a touch of wicked. What more could one want?

Temple of Musk from Strange Invisible Perfumes: The citrus notes at the top are very interesting to me, there is no one type of citrus that I can peg, but I found myself very infatuated by them ( why yes, I do walk around a lot with my forearm jammed up to my nose, why?) The myrtle listed in the notes as well as the Black Current seem to dance in and out of the heart notes for another interesting pairing. This perfume seems to have very sharply defined timing. What I do not get is where the musk aspect went. I just could not seemingly find it, which my just be my take on musk.

Sadly the sample from Alfredo Dupetit did not survive its run in with our Postal service, the envelope it can in looked like it had gone Mano e Mano with a fork lift and lost big.

Cravings drawing winner!

The winner of the bottle of Cravings from  Perfumes By Nature” is Dionne. Please send me email with your full name and address and I will pass this one to Ambrosia at Perfumes By Nature. You can find my email in our “About” page, last line on my Bio

The drawing was preformed by a three year old friend of mine who decided this one looked the most interesting. I am still trying to understand how this worked for her.

More reviews coming tomorrow -Ross

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