Kyukyodo (Sho-Ran-Ko, Azusa)

This incense company has been around a little while, but doesn’t have the same sort of profile that Nippon Kodo, Shoyeido or Baieido has and it’s something of a shame because this company gives you some of the best value for money incense out there. For instance, their Shiun incense, a tart, cherry-like aloeswood is an extremely good buy, even when a company has to break down the 400 stick box into smaller bundles. Their two low line sandalwood incenses, Ikaruga and Shirohato, are both among the best in the “every day,” green, sandalwood style, both a bit richer than similar scents from NK, Kunmeido etc.

If Shiun points to how good a brand Kyukyodo is, the line’s top two incenses are the clinchers. While their aloeswood incense Ryuhinko actually sells more for a bundle, Azusa is a bit more expensive per stick. Described as the best floral incense in the world and not being the biggest floral fan myself, I still bought the praise immediately. This is an incredible, sweet, complex incense that is in a class of its own, very green, with a floral oil that is unparalleled. The kind of new incense you get that provokes a passionate response, it’s actually too bad they only seem to come in 40 stick rolls, as I can see wanting bulk of this.

But as impressive as Azusa is, the brand’s premium line, Sho Ran Ko or Laughing Orchids, is a truly astonishing incense, and yes you’d need to spend a bundle for a bundle, or, if you’re like me, ask for it for a gift. Everything from the presentation to the incense is amazing, the roll is housed in a rather large Pawlonia box, the label seeming to have gold flakes embedded in the paper. The roll of 150 sticks is gorgeously presented in a red roll with fabulous artwork, obviously no expense spared. The incense is almost beyond description, an aloeswood that strikes you as an almost perfectly balanced blend, and one that strikes me as yellow in an esoteric way, in the same way Shoyeido’s Misho struck me as green. Like Azusa, Sho Ran Ko has a dominant floral note, but it washes back into all sorts of various spices, occasionally the aloeswood comes out, a bit of clove and then a sandalwood presence that reminds me of the best chandan woods or saffron sandalwoods from Indian incense. Burning the first stick with company, I was repeatedly distracted by it.

I suspect both the Azusa and Sho Ran Ko will be in the top ten this month, they’re that good.

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7 Comments

  1. August 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

    [...] the time being this will be my last review of Kyukyodo incenses. The previous reviews can be found here and [...]

  2. January 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    [...] ♦ Sho Ran Koh from Kyukyodo has long been my go-to scent for guests.  After some time away from it, I recently rediscovered it, rekindling the love affair.  While we hear of aloeswood frequently, this is an example of the incense actually smelling like aloe – that smooth rich scent in good unscented body lotions.  Throw in wondrous spices and you have the elegant and sublime Sho Ran Koh.  It’s cheaper than you think – you are just forced to buy a very large quantity at once, which will last you a good, long time.  At only about a buck per 10.5″ (!) stick, you’ll see this is a cheaper incense to burn than, say, the next incense on our list: [...]

  3. Mike said,

    September 26, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Just to set the record straight, I’ve been told (Thanks Beth!) that Kyukyodo has a much larger incense line than what is currently exported to the US, although that may change in the near future. Rather exciting news if you ask me!

  4. Mike said,

    September 19, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Oh, OK I think I know which one you mean, I have a big yellow box of it. It’s kind of the standard in a way, so yeah I do like em, although in the same style I might like the Kyukyodo Ikaruga a bit more.

    And yeah, can’t compare everything to kyara, that way leads to no money. :)

  5. Monica said,

    September 14, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Mike, the Mainichi is made by Nippon Kodo. They consider it an everyday sandlewood incense. You can purchase it at other websites, but I like the long sticks version at Incense Guru. I think we have the same “palates” so I hope you like them. Of course they are not as good when you compare them to kyara.

  6. Mike said,

    September 14, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Hi Monica, thanks for the reccomendations – do you know what company does that Mainichi Byakukandoh? I used to order from the Incense Guru people years ago when they were called The Incense Sampler, but haven’t done so in many years. I remember they had the largest collection of Indian incenses under one name and had some real gems. I’ll definitely be checking into fourgates.com and I’ve been curious about the Rei-ryoko for a while (not to mention the rest of that company’s incenses).

  7. Monica said,

    September 13, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    I love Azusa and Sho Ran Ko too. Have you checked out Incense Guru? They have a nice white sandlewood called Mainichi Byakudandoh that I think you might like. Also, at Fourgates.com they have a nice selection of more meditation zen-like incense. The Rei-Ryoko is nice.


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