Product Review: Shoyeido Daily Incense Series

There are few sensual treasures in this world as great as incense. The gentle wafting of smoke in the air, the lingering aroma, the feeling of presence in a space otherwise unoccupied… Incense has been around as long as humans have been torching their surroundings, and (Fortunately.) greatly refined over time.

The product of that refinement can be found in many commercially available incenses on the market today; But if you are looking for a high quality, low smoke, masterfully blended olfactory symphony, you will eventually find yourself staring down a box of Shoyeido.

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Shoyeido is a Japanese koh incense company that has been around for centuries, passing their techniques and recipes down over time. Their processes and scents have truly been refined into an art form. With respect for the environment, Shoyeido uses only natural materials in their incense. With respect for culture, they encourage the world to contemplate the Ten Virtues of Koh*. Incense ascends past a simple consumer “fragrance” product, into the realm of true spiritual and sensory experience.

Shoyeido offers many incense lines, but today I will be breaking down and reviewing their most popular series: Shoyeido Daily Incense.

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The daily incense line consists of eight uniquely blended incenses crafted from high-quality natural materials. Each scent has a Japanese name and English interpretation of the name printed on the front of a beautifully colored box. If you examine the ingredients listed on each, you will find that many of these scents are composed of five or so similar ingredients: Sandalwood. Cinnamon. Clove. Camphor. Patchouli. Yet each variety, only enhanced with few extra spices, is remarkably distinctive in it’s scent and presentation.

Daigen-koh: Great Origin

“Sandalwood and cinnamon combine to promote comfort and insight.”

30 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are sandalwood, cinnamon, camphor, and spices. The stick itself upon first lighting is more reminiscent of campfire than the other blends; Very woodsy, without a strong presence of other scents. It almost seems to be a smoky cedar, but as it burns the sandalwood comes through more strongly in the background. This incense is clearly suited to those who enjoy the smell of a wood burn more than sweet sandalwoods or florals. As a result, this scent does not have a strong presence in a room much longer than the burning time.

Hoyei-koh: Eternal Treasure

“One of Shoyeido’s oldest recipes, to nurture abundance and fortune.”

40 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are sandalwood, clove, cinnamon, and spices. This is what I would consider your basic incense. It’s smoke is balanced with a strong presence of cinnamon and sandalwood, counterbalancing each other to create that unique smell which I associate and name purely as “incense.” As it burns, the cinnamon really comes through as the strongest note, without that “mom’s making snickerdoodles” feeling. It strikes me as a great incense for housework, a true companion in solitude lending our daily work a subtle layer of significance and meaning.

Nokiba: Moss Garden

“Sandalwood, patchouli, and benzoin mix to create a light hearted mood.”

35 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are sandalwood, benzoin, patchouli, and spices. This is, by far, our best-selling Shoyeido blend. And why not? It’s scent is utterly enchanting, not unlike what I imagine an enchanted forest filled with night blooms might smell of at night. It’s scent is sweet without the sickly feeling of synthetic incenses; A great replacement for the blue-box nag champa addict. The scent is indescribable based on it’s contents, though it is closest to a musky, sweet sandalwood (Due almost certainly to the presence of patchouli.) with some hint of a mysterious floral in the background. If you try no other scent in this series, you must try Nokiba if for nothing but to wonder how they created such a stick without sneaking in any less-than-natural ingredients. It has a great presence in the room, and a long hang-time; My house often smells of Nokiba twelve to twenty-four hours later!

Kyo-nishiki: Autumn Leaves

“Created to inspire one’s inner spirit, a blend of sandalwood and cinnamon.”

35 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are sandalwood, cinnamon, patchouli, benzoin, and spices. This stick is a straight-up physical manifestation of fall. We’re talking hot chai lattes, decomposing leaves, and light sweaters. The spice aspect of this stick really comes through the sandalwood base, with a vanilla undertone that is so completely reminiscent of the last few months of the year. It smells almost like baking, if you’re looking for the “mom’s making snickerdoodles” feeling mentioned before. It is a great stick to burn for company, as it lends an air of sneaky warmth and coziness to a space that will encourage guests to an at-home comfort. It’s smell slowly tapers throughout the day, with evidence lingering in corners and small spaces a delightful amount of time.

Kin-kaku: Golden Pavilion

“A recipe of patchouli and cinnamon, to create a positive atmosphere.”

35 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are cinnamon, sandalwood, clove, patchouli, and spices. I would consider this incense to be a more elevated version of the Hoyei-koh incense. The presence of cinnamon is in the front, with a little bit of the enchanted sweetness behind Nokiba bringing up the background. It is truly a noble, zen-inducing incense, well suited for temples and sacred spaces. It invokes a feeling of harmony and serenity unmatched in the previous blends. This incense lives up to the seventh virtue of koh: When it is plentiful, one never tires of it. Daily use cannot diminish the presence of this incense, which we burn near-daily in The Sojourner.

Kyo-zakura: Cherry Blossoms

“Rhubarb, clove, and cinnamon merge to inspire awareness and regeneration.”

35 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are sandalwood, cinnamon, benzoin, clove, and spices, but you would swear there was cherry tree hiding somewhere in this box! There is a sweet, fruity and floral tone to this stick that is quite unlike it’s predecessors, and reminiscent of a tree in bloom. The wood in this stick is only a base, setting the stage for the other notes to intermingle. There is a truly resinous quality to this also, thanks to the benzoin, which has thus far been indistinguishable in the other blends. If you are looking for the smell of a cherry slush, you thankfully will not find it here. What you will find is the sweetness that scent memories are composed of, respectfully hearkening to a scent that truly exists only in it’s natural form.

Gozan: Five Hills

“A blend of clove and sandalwood promotes an air of calm and contemplation.”

35 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are sandalwood, patchouli, clove, and spices. The clove and benzoin really come through in this blend, whose presence during it’s burn time is really quite strong. As it burns, the sharpness of the resin dissipates into a sort of crisp herbiness, not unlike cardamom. This blend is serene like a rainy day, yet more internally energizing than the others in my point of view; As it hangs in the air, it seems to remind you of what you needed to do that day, and why you needed to do it. It is one of the more expensive in the series, reflecting the higher quality of ingredients contained in each stick.

Haku-un: White Cloud

“An earthy-sweet scent to help bring a moment of peace and solitude.”

35 sticks per bundle.

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The listed ingredients are benzoin, sandalwood, clove, camphor, and spices. This incense is the most expensive in the series, and rightfully so. The blend is so masterful that it is truly difficult to pinpoint one major scent. It is truly it’s own being. There is something very chai-like about how it hits your brain, the complementary nature of the clove and spices really coming through. Honestly, lighting up a stick of this incense is an event for me. It seems to change the longer you “listen” to it, the longer you experience it, and this continues even after a stick is long past burned. It is a true balance of wood, resin, and spice, and I cannot recommend it enough for someone who is truly interested in experiencing incense as an entity itself, rather as a background to other tasks. Meditation and contemplation are fine companions to this unique stick.

I’ve been enjoying incense for over seventeen years so take my word as you will, but there is no comparison to experiencing these scents for yourself. Every person, and every memory and experience unique to that person, will change the response to and enjoyment of every stick of incense. I hope you will come to know and enjoy Shoyeido and all of their fine products as much as I do!

Best smells and wishes,

Courtney


*”The Ten Virtues of Koh (As written in Japan thereabout the 16th century:)

It brings communication with the transcendent.

It refreshes mind and body.

It removes impurity.

It brings alertness.

It is a companion in solitude.

In the midst of busy affairs, it brings a moment of peace.

When it is plentiful, one never tires of it.

When there is little, still one is satisfied.

Age does not change it’s efficacy.

Used everyday, it does no harm.


 

 

 

 

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