Baieido / Kai Un Koh

I’ve been thinking of a couple ideas I’ll probably be working on soon for the site, the first a simple guide to introducing oneself to Japanese premium incense, the other a page that will introduce incenses that combine high quality with affordability. It’s pretty much a given that if you spend over $100 on a box of incense that you’re going to find something outstanding, but finding something affordable and outstanding is more difficult.

Baieido’s Kai Un Koh incense would (or will) definitely be on this list. For about $15, one can pick up a good 35 grams of this incense (I didn’t count the sticks, but it was approximately in the 50s), one I’d consider on par with incenses of a much higher cost, including some in Baieido’s own range. Kai Un Koh is unusual in that it’s one of the rare “square” cut Japanese incenses, meaning it’s a bit thicker than most. Many Baieido incenses, including their rather outstanding aloeswood lines, are very thin and mild in terms of aroma, Kai Un Koh is definitely more up front, in fact it might be the smokiest Baieido incense, although that’s not saying much.

The ingredients for this incense are sandalwood, Vietnamese aloeswood, borneol camphor, clove and other Chinese spices. The price is definitely on the high side for a sandalwood incense, but really the aloeswood content strikes me as being as up front as any ingredient and so I tend to think of it more as that type of blend. Baieido are probably the most successful company at doing woody incenses and Kai Un Koh is a triumph, it’s smooth, elegant and slightly spicy. The best metaphor I can use to describe this would be an elegantly designed office with wood panelling put up by a craftsman. It’s a perfectly balanced blend, the borneol just a touch, the clove complementing the wood. With Kai Un Koh, one can burn it without the feeling that one will need to throw down a big chunk to restock. And it’s also a perfect place to start in checking out aloeswood blends.

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8 Comments

  1. kimbola said,

    November 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

    I’m not a big fan of japan incense because of their absence to give me an experience, because they are so light in scent and in my livingroom the scent is hard to detect and disappears very quickly.
    But that is not the case with this one finaly i found a japanese incense i like , strong scent that lingers a long time. i love it.
    i also like the thicker sticks.

    if someone have sugestions for incense that is strong in scent like the Kai Un Koh i would love to hear about them

    kim

  2. KeesKoh said,

    March 24, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Kai Un Koh arrived today with many other Japanese goodies. At first I took the time only to look at the beautifull boxes, I bought about 30 different kinds and Brands, lots of them listed in the Japanese Hall of Fame.

    I agree it is realy special and stands out for what I did try out already.

    A pity I had to import it from the USA, as Japanese (the special ones) incense they can’t be bought in Holland.

    Onle red a small part of this great forum.

    Greatings from a long time Japanese incense collector.
    KeesKoh

  3. August 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

    [...] in the Baieido aloeswood ranges. Included in this same general category at the Baieido website is Kai Un Koh. Syukohkoku completes this fine trio, one that could be considered aloeswood spice blends, except [...]

  4. Steve said,

    April 4, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    “Kai Un Koh is a triumph, it’s smooth, elegant and slightly spicy. The best metaphor I can use to describe this would be an elegantly designed office with wood panelling put up by a craftsman. It’s a perfectly balanced blend, the borneol just a touch, the clove complementing the wood.”

    Another excellent suggestion and gifted description. The fiancee and I thoroughly enjoyed our 1st stick. A permanent addition to our burn list!

    Steve

  5. Mike said,

    April 4, 2008 at 8:32 am

    I’m considering writing a book, but I think to do it right I’d need better contacts in the Japanese industry to be sure I’m not making poor assumptions. I try to be really careful in making it clear that I have to guess quite a bit in my reviews.

    As far as evaluating the companies themselves, it’s something I’m considering for an article. I definitely don’t see any clear best company when it comes to incense, all of them have their strengths. Kyukyodo’s very close to the top, but I’m now learning (thanks Bernd!) that we only see a very small profile in the US at the moment. Shoyeido periodically really make me sit down and assess how very good they are over a wide range. Baieido’s incenses have such a quality of ingredients and aromatic depth than their blends really get better with time and I think in many ways they’re one of the most respected companys among enthusiasts because of this depth. And now all these new brands are coming through – Shunkodo making quality incense that’s even more affordable than many of their contemporaries. Tennendo’s surprising ability to create a really vibrant oil note in their incense. Kunmeido with their really distinctive spice notes that makes almost their entire line different than other companies. My respect for the creators of these incenses just continues to expand – some of the most incredible art on the planet.

    Feel free to pass that idea on the sampler to Beth at Essence. I think I’d be quite chuffed to see something like that. :)

    Hope you like Kai Un Koh as much as I do!

    Mike

  6. Steve said,

    April 4, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Would love to see a guide like you describe, Mike. Your “Hall of Fame” and “Incense Reviews Index” tools are very helpful in summarizing (and guiding further reading within) your blog. I imagine your proposed guide would be equally welcomed (hell, with your writing skill and experience, I could see you writing a book to meet this niche need). Commentary on each Japanese manufacturer in general would also be very interesting e.g. “If NK is the Ford of automobiles, Baieido is the Cadillac.” (don’t know if that’s true or not but just saying).

    You know (perhaps you don’t), your comments to date have probably saved many of us $100’s in hit-or-miss experimentation. With your connection with Essence of the Ages, I could even see them offering premium samplers based on your Top 10’s (they already break open some boxes to offer smaller quantities – why not tie in with one of the few (only?) trusted critics on the web?!

    Off to try Kai Un Koh…

    Steve


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