I’ve written this page to detail how I approach reviewing incenses and to give information to those who would like to send incense to me for evaluation or who are just curious to my methods.
Incense, like any other form of art, lives in the memory of its appreciators. This means that there are a number of other elements beyond the incense that can come into play when evaluating an incense including your environment, relative mood, and the expectations one brings to a new scent. Environment is a large factor, as any incense, particularly those of quality and subtlety, will have qualities more or less evident depending on the size of the room and how well a room is ventilated.
Aromatic fatigue is another very important factor in evaluating an incense. Depending on your environment, it is possible to experience aromatic fatigue very quickly. What this means is that it’s very possible (and one must add allergies, colds and other elements that reduce one’s sense of smell) that one’s sense of smell may be muted under a number of different conditions. It’s my opinion that most of the finest incenses have levels of subtlety and aromatic complexity that are often lost very easily via aromatic fatigue. Even one powerful incense that manages to irritate one’s sinuses will likely make it very difficult to detect these qualities for subsequent sticks.
The way I account for many of these factors is to evaluate over time and in various conditions in order to mitigate for those times where senses aren’t quite as acute. It’s almost impossible for me to say anything useful about one stick. On the other hand, the best most complex and quality incenses are those I continue to grow with. With these I feel I’m comfortable when I can get to a point where I can recognize the scent’s potential, after burning 3-5 sticks, in order to try and detect the many subtleties finer aromatics, particularly aloeswood, bring to it. While I may not be able to describe anything of this complexity in full, after a few sticks if the potential of further experience is inherent, it’s largely considered a positive.
I also like to get at least one or two experiences where the scent surprises me and that’s usually by trying to experience a scent when I’ve forgotten what I’ve started burning, something not always easy to do. I can do this under busy conditions sometimes, and when it works it gives me a sort of minor revelation and usually introduces me to a quality that I hadn’t noticed when consciously evaluating an incense. So I like to engage the subconscious in this work when I can and feel that intuitive evaluation is as important as practical and emotional evaluation.
I take notes, although these are much more useful when I am evaluating from a sampler or a limited quantity of incense. If I’m not and I’m evaluating something out of personal use, my review will generally be written after I feel like I’ve “gotten” the incense and by that point I don’t usually need notes. This is obviously the best way, but it’s not always a feasible approach. When I review from samplers, I consider the reviews more “Sampler Notes” and don’t consider the reviews fleshed out (yet).
Companies or entities who would like to see incense reviewed in these pages or who have any questions can use the contact information given on this page to contact me:
- I will review almost every style of incense except charcoal blanks or other generic incenses that are dipped in oils. I may make some other exceptions.
- Send 4-5 sticks per scent. If these are premium or price is an issue, please contact me. Generally it’s my opinion if price is that much of an issue, it’s probably going to be great anyway.
- Incense/resin blends created for heating or burning on charcoal will likely take longer, but generally a review would be available 3-6 weeks after receipt. Feel free to write me any time if you need an update on my progress for something you’ve already sent.
- My personal preferences (which I also try to mitigate for in reviews) are generally inclined to spicy, dry and woody scents (I like certain resins a lot as well). Like most Japanese incense appreciators, aloeswood makes a big difference in my world, but I won’t judge incenses without this ingredient against those that do. A review should evaluate something for its own ambitions and not those of the reviewer.