I'm going to have to admit that I'm a bit biased when it comes to Honoka. I tend to lean toward fragrances that have sweet Frankincense bases. But regardless of its lovely fragrance, my bias is because Honoka was the first Japanese incense I experienced, after which there was no turning back. Because of this, Shoyeido's Honoka has a fond place in my daily incense rotation. It was my gateway into Japanese incense, and still one of my favorites.
Shoyeido describes Honoka (which translates as Silhouette) as "a perfect blend for meditation or daily enjoyment, Honoka is a fine blend of Sandalwood, Frankincense, and herbs, specially formulated to produce less smoke." If you enjoy sweet Sandalwood, this is a great candidate for a daily fragrance, and wonderful indeed for meditation.
The stick note is exactly as expected - a soft honeyed mixture of Sandalwood and Frankincense tones. There is hint of cinnamon as well that complements the top notes, adding a whisper of spice to the sweetness. The fragrance that comes from the box is very comforting, reminding me of the feeling of entering a corner bakery full of fresh baked sweets.
Once lit, the consistency of Honoka continues, eliciting a soft, aromatic warmth. The sweetness of the Sandalwood-Frankincense combination experienced prior to burning is accentuated, filling the space quickly and gently. There is a creamy, almost vanilla, undertone that accentuates the memories of being near delightful baked goods alluded to previously. The overriding sense of the fragrance is one of warmth, as the aromatic Frankincense deepens and rises above the Sandalwood tones. Typical of Shoyeido's refined recipes, Honoka is content to exist within the space, never overpowering it. Part of Shoyeido's low-smoke line, Honoka indeed produces very little smoke, making it ideal for those who wish to experience fragrance in enclosed or small spaces or just reduce their exposure to environmental irritants. Yet the reduced smoke does not seem to hinder the fragrance, which strengthens over time despite the lack of smoke.
The after-note is no surprise, as Honoka again continues the same tones seen since the box was opened. The consistency of this fragrance is its strength. You know what you will get from beginning to end, making Honoka a familiar friend easily returned to. The complexity of the Sandalwood and Frankincense seems to deepen after the burn is complete, making the after-note quite exquisite, almost dry and powdery.
The beauty of Japanese incense is that it can produce such a variety of experiences. Some recipes delight in how they change and surprise throughout the experience, and even from experience to experience. Others like Honoka provide a wonderfully dependable experience from beginning to end, time after time, the reliability of which enhancing the relationship. With Honoka, the relationship is that of an old friend - reliable and long lasting, and one that I treasure.
An old friend, warmly greeted.
Just as when we first passed this gate.
Is it no wonder I've come to treasure your sweetness?