July 28, 2022

Listening to Tennendo Renzan 連山

Qingyuan Weixin was a ninth century Tang Dynasty Chinese Zen master revered as the originator of three of the five original branches of Zen. One of his most well known teachings speaks to the interrelated nature of all things: “Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. when I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains and rivers once again as rivers.” In Tennendo Renzan 連山 (mountain range), we are treated to a journey through fragrance where a mountain is a mountain, then not a mountain, then a mountain again.

Tennendo describes Renzan as a "deep yet familiar scent that combines Aloeswood and Chinese medicine." A blend of Aloeswood, Sandalwood, cloves, cinnamon, and other classical Chinese spices, Renzan is a traditional blend that seeks the majestic strength found in the quiet stillness of the mountain that is not a mountain, yet a mountain still.

Renzan's stick note is restrained and refined. Like many Tennendo Aloeswoods, a musky animalistic top note that is sharp and zesty-sweet is the overwhelmingly predominate note. The dark brown stick is ridged and firm, with little hint of its other traditional ingredients or wood base. The stick is the mountain, monolithic in its presentation, with a sharp delightfully musky citrus-like sweetness that utterly dominates the unlit stick's presentation.

Once lit, Renzan expands its pallet immediately. A spicy sweetness builds as Renzan's cinnamon note makes its appearance, adding a sharp warmth. The creaminess of Sandalwood shyly peaks out, with a reserved light silky softness. Floral notes expand, at times adding a sweetness like lilac, at other times a green note almost like evergreen fir, sharp and tangy. The musky tones of the unlit stick reappear, but now restrained, lighter, with sweet hints of luxurious floral. Beneath it all, a subtle earthy Aloeswood grounds the various elements, providing a stable foundation. The mountain, no longer the monolithic mountain of the unlit stick, comes alive in a delightful dance of various individual tones that come and go, providing an interplay of notes that is soothing, relaxing, and grounding. A mountain no longer.

Then a stillness develops that is quite sublime. Richly, deeply, and with a feeling of quiet reverence, Renzan coalesces from its non-mountain individual elements to a fragrance that is soft, comfortable, and reassuring. A coolness develops, and with it a scene of pines upon the side of the mountain, the clouds painting the mountain peaks in various hues of blue, flowers swaying in the breeze in the valley beneath. The sum total of Renzan's elements become the mountain again, in a delightful amalgam of soft, sweet, rich, and floral tones that create a unified fragrance, marvelously open, surprisingly spacious, and reassuringly grounded.

Renzan's after-note is soft and sweetly floral. The musk tones remain in the background having softened considerably and shifted toward a beautiful floral presentation that is captivating. The warm sweetness of cinnamon remains as well, giving a fuller body to Renzan's floral semi-sweet tones. From a distance, a bitter earthy Aloeswood tone is more prevalent, whereas up close the floral sweetness take center stage. The view on the journey down the mountain is indeed different depending upon where we stand.

A traditional Aloeswood-Sandalwood blend, Tennendo Renzan is softly sweet, refreshingly musky, and at times beautifully floral. Ideal for those who prefer traditional fragrances, Renzan has an approachable nature, adding delightful complexity to the larger mix of harmonious notes with a superb and long lasting after-note. A fragrant mountain indeed.

Clouds above and river below,
flowers and pines sway in the breeze,
The mountain undisturbed.

Tennendo Renzan is available in the following sizes:
450-stick box