Tennendo / Kuukai, Tensei, Shorin and Renzan

Tennendo is one of the several Japanese incense companies that has made new headway into the American markets via the great work being done at Scents of Japan (link to right). For so long, incense over here was dominated by Nippon Kodo, Shoyeido, Baieido, Kyukyodo and a few miscellaneous incenses, but now we’re starting to see just how great some of the other companies’ work is. Tennendo, in particular, is a company that’s likely to appeal greatly to the aloeswood lover and in some ways I’d as soon recommend that you check out one of the samplers provided by Essence of the Ages. While it might be easy to go for the inexpensive, $10.25 sampler of several rolls, I can imagine purchasers will immediately wish they’d gone for the seven roll sampler, almost all of which are very fine incenses that I haven’t been able to stop returning to. The good news, of course, is that rolls of all these incenses are relatively affordable, starting in the $20 range for Kuukai and descending as the quality and cost of ingredients do.

I reviewed the Tennendo Frankincense earlier among the seven rolls, but I’m also leaving off, for now, the Karafune and Kohrokan Sandalwood. The former’s a very nice low end, traditional spice and sandalwood blend, while the Sandalwood is very similar to most “old mountain” sticks and possibly redundant if you already have this kind of stick in stock. I’m thinking more and more that it might be useful to compare these styles across companies at some point to address the subtle and sometimes barely existent differences.

The remaining four rolls are all aloeswood incenses, although the low end Renzan is a bit more of a blend. Kuukai is the highest end aloeswood in this “rolls” sequence (So far Enkuu-Horizon is the highest end Tennendo incense in the US market). I’ve been trying to come up with a descriptor that sets Kuukai apart from Tensei, as Kuukai has an almost sandy or rough feel to it that indicates a number of other possible woods being combined with the aloeswood. The result is a very spicy, rich incense that seems to incorporate the fine aloeswood as part of a blend. Tensei, on the other hand, doesn’t have this sort of spicy “grit” to it, going for a very high quality wood blend that makes me think there must be some expensive oils in the incense as the top note of Tensei is to die for, very smooth, a tad floral and sweet. For me, both incenses are on par in terms of effect, with Tensei, of course, being the more affordable blend.

There’s a huge stylistic difference as we drop down to Shorin. Immediately clear is the lower level of aloeswood used in the stick, in fact the wood reminds me a lot of lower end, brandless aloeswood sticks or even the cultivated wood sticks at Sacred Mountain where there’s something of a bitter note to the wood. Fortunately with Shorin the bitter note has been balanced enough where it’s not terribly irritating, and besides a bit of bitter is not necessarily a bad thing. This is all wrapped up in a green stick with some of the same tendencies you see in other green sticks, more of a sharp, pungent sort of aroma. I’ve found when I’m in the mood to go through the whole range that this one breaks up the pattern a bit.

Renzan is a sweet, cherry-blossom like aloeswood in the same lineage as Kyukyodo Shiun or Nippon Kodo Zuiun, where the sticks are generally just a little bit thicker and the wood is mostly a note of complexity rather than a dominant feature. Renzan is probably very close to on par with Shuin and much better that Zuiun with an incredible sweet/wood combo that’s never cloying. In fact this style in general is a great, inexpensive blend to check out and something of an iconic style in its own right. It’s also very user friendly.

Overall, I get the impression that there’s a concentration on the quality of the oil note that Tennendo might be better at than anyone else, it’s something you immediately sense on all of these but the Shorin. For the aloeswood lover who really likes to see those big wood contours, most of these will be highly recommended, not to mention the fact that they’re relatively inexpensive for the quality you’re dealing with. And with the above-mentioned samplers, there’s really no reason to give them all a try.

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38 Comments

  1. August 3, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    [...] the Wonka factory is a metaphor for Tennendo.  And the illusive Golden Ticket represents Kuukai.  Charlie spent his last dime to get it, and you should too!  It even made my Top 10 in [...]

  2. Alex said,

    February 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Just wanted to add that Tensei and Kuukai were two of my first incenses and they still remain two of my favorite. Real great stuff going on in both of them. I also really like the comment about them being masculine/feminine takes! Kuukai does seem to have a bit more spiciness going on, along with being a bit more of a woody blend. Tensei comes off to me as being very sweet and airy, and more of one-pitch incense than a blend.

    • janet said,

      February 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm

      I’ve been burning a lot of my Tennendos lately, and just realized that I really need a restock on several :-/

      • Alex said,

        February 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm

        I recently came to the same conclusion… Of all the stuff I’ve tried in the past few months (as I’ve been growing into Japanese incense), I think Tennendo as a company is my favorite.

        Have you tried their Johin Bronze?

        • janet said,

          February 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm

          I have, and like it quite a lot…it’s a lovely, rich wood, straightforward rather than an overt blend, spicy and lightly sweet.

          • Alex said,

            February 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

            Agreed, I’m a big fan. And I think it really fits with the rest of the stuff they do. My favorite types of incense are those that concentrate on the wood first and foremost, because there’s so much going on in a good wood in the first place that it almost seems a shame sometimes to overcrowd it with herbs, spice etc!

            • janet said,

              February 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm

              I also like the Silver, I don’t remember the Gold as well, but as I recall the Silver had a touch of dryness in the base that I really love in some lower-end Tennendos….I could be misremembering, though.

              • Alex said,

                February 23, 2010 at 7:59 pm

                I was actually just going to ask if you’d tried the Gold or Silver. I only purchased the Bronze, just because it said that it was a spicier aloeswood and because it was cheaper, but I was thinking about maybe getting one of the other two. The Silver and Gold are getting into the price range where I’d like to get my hands on a sample before buying.

                • janet said,

                  February 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm

                  Essence of Ages offers a sampler of those…

  3. January 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    [...] combination of powdery sweetness (almost talc-like) and woody spiciness to Tennendo’s Kuukai that is intoxicating. Your nose keeps jumping between the two, trying to latch on to one scent just [...]

  4. janet said,

    December 2, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I’m probably the only one lame enough to have actually bought the “Grade 2″ Scented Mountain, and I haven’t had the chance to try the top grade, I got it right at the beginning of my aloeswood explorations, which have only been going on for a little while now, both because of my interest in the cultivation of agarwood (I have a bitty bottle of the oil), and because I wanted to experience a range of straight-up woods….Steve, you articulated very well (as usual), and actually Pops was not too far off, either, from what I experienced – maybe not “skunky”, per se, but there was a bit of funky bitterness, to me, but my overall impression was also that it was very young, I guess the words that occured to me were “tangy” and “green fruity”, although I wasn’t happy with those. I gotta tell you, though, up close and personal, I didn’t care for it much….but I loved the way the fragrance filled the room, for me this was definitely a “distance incense”. I plan to get the top grade….one of these days.
    Just an aside – for the pure wood experience, I HIGHLY recommend Bosen! I’ve only tried one of their aloeswoods – a sort of middle of the line (although it’s hard to tell with them) one, Hoi-An Vietnamese, and it is gorgeous. Here you get that intensely woody thing, too, but there is no “newness” here, it has a much darker scent than the Scented Mountain, rich and a little dry….like the SM, though, there are no added spices or oils – just wood, with it’s own slight resinous quality – I love burning it as a reset when I’m in scent overload.

    • Mike said,

      December 3, 2009 at 9:00 am

      It IS hard to tell how the Bosen aloeswoods ramp up. I think that particularly becomes an issue with using words that really all say the same thing: Excellent, Superb, Connoissuer, Tokusen, Gokuhin, Extra Special, Super-Duper, whatever, in many of these cases even the bottom of the line incense still has one. Then you end up having to take the calculator out to figure it out which one really is best. Fortunately in Bosen’s case only the bottom one or two of each of its aloeswood lines is mediocre, the rest tend to be superb. I’m still amazed at how much I love their Tibetans too, I’m really getting a lot of mileage out of the Blessing sticks lately.

  5. Robert Green said,

    December 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    It’s me AGAIN, and well I just had a couple of things that I wanted to touch on. First I read that you said there is a manufacturer called sacred mountain that makes cultivated aloeswood incense. Is this another besides “Scented mountain” A misnomer or an intentional jab according to an opinion of their products. I’m not trying to be confrontational either, just asking a genuine question. Have you ever tried and or reviewed “scented monutains aloeswood incense? P.S. Every time I mark the notify me of follow up comments I still don’t get noitified. Any info on this? Have I aske this Before? Thanks for your time and attention. Sincerely Robert Green To be known from hereon as “Popsrobert” This is my internet name everywhere else so might as well use it here too.P.S. “Pops” is ok too:)

    • Steve said,

      December 1, 2009 at 6:52 pm

      Hey Robert – without having looked into prior reviews, I would bet that we’re talking about “Scented Mountain”. They produce “Cultivated Agarwood Products” and I could see how it would be easy to mistake “Scented” for “Sacred”. I’m sure no jab was intended. I have a box of their “Highest Quality” incense (I guess other grades are available) and I can attest to their product. The “Highest Quality” is some seriously nice stuff, comes in a nice wooden box, and is based on a “sustainable forest” mentality in Vietnam. I consider this a wonderful departure from other Tibetan and Japanese incenses and have it on my constant-stock list. If you haven’t tried it yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it! It’s all about the agarwood with no oils adulteration. Even my wife (bless her, but not an odifacateur) always comments favorably when I burn it…

      • Steve said,

        December 1, 2009 at 7:49 pm

        Sorry for the double post, but Robert inspired me to light a stick of agarwood incense from Scented Mountain. Absolutely phenomenal stuff and definitely in my all-time top 10 incenses. It’s a complete departure from anything in the Indian/Japanese/Tibetan realm that I’ve tried and I don’t have the scent vocabulary to describe it other than to say it must be a fairly straight agar wood offering – whatever that means! I don’t sense multi layers or anything – just an upfront constant wood fragrance that is almost green, bright, but not smokey and quite nice. I loooooove this stuff!

        • Mike said,

          December 1, 2009 at 7:59 pm

          Steve, I’ve always wondered if Scented Mountain has a lot of variation with their product. The first time I bought some sticks I loved it, was the basis for a review. The second time I bought the exact same product, I actually thought it was awful, like the wood got in the way or something, I even gave away the box after trying a couple sticks. I’ve since gotten a sample of the cone which I was going to talk about in one of the sampler notes posts (but I liked this even less) and a sample of the really high grade wood they did, which I thought was at least pleasant. But as much as I think we should support such a great operation and what they’re trying to do, I still think they’re a long way from say any of the Baieido or Shoyeido woods. But now you’re raving and I’m wondering if maybe I just got unlucky! Cuz sometimes you do need just the wood.

          • Steve said,

            December 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm

            Hey Mike! I have only purchased a single box, the “Highest Quality”, from EotA so I can’t speak to variation in the product (though I surely recognize it must exist). Without doubt, the woods we experience in the higher grade Baieido and Shoyeido incenses have a venerable presence that is commanding and ancient. My experience with my sole sample from Scented Mountain by no means conjures the impression of aged, dry, wonderous wood. I wish I had the vocabulary to describe it better, but I would almost say this incense seems “young” – in fact, if I was told this was actually the hoary stalks of a green plant, I would not be shocked. There is a aloe tone to the scent, though. I think the fact that my sample is so far removed from anything I’ve smelled before it impresses me. It’s definitely unique, and certainly pleasant (at least my box is!). But it does not have the depth or intrigue of ancient, wizened woods. Perhaps this uniqueness is what I find appetizing about it. I’m frustrated not having the terms to describe it better – burning aged and seasoned hickory or oak (i.e. Baieido and Shoyeido) on the fire is unforgettable, but green pine sizzling on the hearth can be nice too. But one can recognize the difference in “weight” or “stature” between the experiences. Scented Mountain is the green pine – but it is different than any other wood in the fire – so maybe that’s where I find its value. Does that make sense? We appreciate Indian incense, knowing there is not the venerable presence of kyara there. But it stands on its own merit and we appreciate it. I’m tempted to mention the merits of a great home-grilled hamburger knowing there is kobe beef out there. I think I’m rambling now, but in short, the Sacred Mountain doesn’t compete with the established great woods, but I dont know that it needs to or is trying to. It is a very nice, unique, offering!

            Why do I mention BBQ or hamburgers in all my posts now??? :D

            • Steve said,

              December 1, 2009 at 9:27 pm

              Now I’m curious about sample variability! If you send me your address Mike, I’ll send you some sticks from my box of Scented Mountain. Would be very interested to hear your take on it!

              • Robert Green said,

                December 2, 2009 at 7:29 pm

                Well now gentlemen, It seems that I may have the pleasure of giving you some assistance for once. I have been buying and burning the Scented mountain top grade, and only the top grade for a few boxes no I must say, that the first box I got I was excited about getting being made by a company who seems to be very environmentally friendly. I think they have a very progressive attitude to a very prescious resource of the world. Again I was very excited to get my first box, having been relatively new to the world of aloeswood at the time it seemed like a great deal, the highest quality of their product for a very reasonable price. Then I burned the first stick,,,,,I was somewhat shocked when it first hit me. I would say the very first thought that came to mind was SKUNKY! I could also pull a semi strong pure aloeswood note out of it as well. It stayed in the room for a couple of hours after it waqs gone. I was not really excited anymore. But the story does not end there. A couple of weeks went by and I read a review {not her unfortunately I did not know you fine folks yet] about some different varieties of aloeswood incense and began to comprehend the actual scope or range if you will of aloeswood. I was intrigued by the description of “spicy aloeswood and bought some from a supplier that will remain nameless[because you all will laugh at me for being suckered into buying from them before I knew their reputation] and I finally got my order that included a fair variety of aloeswood samples. I tried some of the spicier scents and much to my surprise I found some of the same qualities in the S M[scented mountain] that were also present in the “spicy” aloeswoods from other Vietnam aloeswoods. I then over the next few days burned a few more sticks of S M and tried different applications like across the room in the other room and burned while I was out of the house and then came back in after a while to observe the results. What I found was interesting. Mainly I found that I was starting to really really like this stuff and it became almost simple to pull the pure aloeswood notes out right away and what I thought of as skunky before was now just spicy. Thes revelations came to me from boxes one and two. I also though tthat htis might just be a case of inconsistancy since I only bought one box at a time. Well now I am on box nine or ten and to tell my gods honest truth there is almost no difference if and detectable to me from box to boxand at this point I am with steve, this clearly has a lifetime post in my must not be without box of scents, and Mike I’m sure you’ll love this one right next to my supply of “Song of india” “India temple incense” HA HA HA right mike?{Please don’t judge S M just because I go slumming once in a while, OK?] It has really stood my test of time and I’m right there with steve again where he talks about it seeming like a wood only incense[maybe not his exact words but you get it right?} with no other additives. I honestly believe it is a high quality product and maybe it will always have a select group of people that will abstain from it, but if you are a aloeswood fan and you like to keep a full range of aloeswood products then this is a must have. After all it takes all kinds to make up a “Range” and something has to have a place at either end, even if it is somewhat,,,extreme. I strongly endorse S M and their top slot aloeswood sticks. I think it is about time that a complete study of their full line of products if for no other reason than My and Steves’ opinion.LOL. Sorry about that, what I actually meant to say was that for no other reason than the simple fact that the people at S M are trying to help protect a extremelyvital and valuable part of the incense world, as without aloeswood the world would be a much poorer place, at least for odifacatuers[Thats right steve I saw that you used my WORD!!! You have no idea the sensation that went through me when I saw that you actually used it in a public place seemingly without shame! You are going to have to put up with me for about forever now, After you used my word I feel really accepted nowLOL} OK I”ll shut up for now, besides I’m anxiious to see where this will go now. As always feel free to let me know what you think. SINCERELY, POPSROBERT

                • Steve said,

                  December 2, 2009 at 8:03 pm

                  You know, Robert, come to think of it I had a shaky 1st impression with Scented Mountain that shortly developed into great admiration like you mention. I don’t know if I would have come up with the word “skunky”, but I can’t think of the word I want and I can definitely see where you’re coming from with that description – there is a pungeancy there. I’m sending a sample to Mike and maybe he’ll share his thoughts on it with us.

                • Mike said,

                  December 3, 2009 at 8:51 am

                  Good to hear about your experiences on the Scented Mountain aloeswoods. I too really wish the company all the best, but also think it wouldn’t hurt to set those goals for quality aloeswood as high as possible (if I was to set one quality apart as to what makes great aloeswood great is a certain sense of ancient-ness, like the difference between looking at a digital watch and an antique grandfather clock). I do think also, however, that one of the best things about talking about incense is hopefully to learn from an outside perspective why they may like something I don’t, perhaps to see if I’m not coming at it from the right angle or something. Steve’s been around here for a while and we have similar tastes in incense so if he likes something I don’t, I’m definitely interested to hear why or adjust, like I said with Scented Mountain, initially I loved my first box, I mean I really did I burned it down in only a month or two. But then when I got the replacement box it was a totally different experience, and I thought it quite possible that an outfit like SM will definitely vary depending on what tree they’ve used. So it’s cool to defend anything you like, very useful, Song of India, Scented Mountain, but of course if someone’s going to defend Gonesh, they might as well bring some boxing gloves (grin) (I kid of course…sorta) – Mike

                  • Robert Green said,

                    December 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm

                    Wow, and to think that to date after all of the sticks and stuff i’ve burned, I’ve never burned any of their stuff that I can remember at least. Can you think of any of their prods that were well known enough that I may have inadvertantly tried without knowin so to speak? It must have something to do with instinct that Iv’e avoided them all of these years. Now that I really think about it the only place I ever burn my song of india is when I’m at work in my fabrication shop and it is out in a large warehouse. I suppose if I were to burn it in the house it could get ugly:) Different topic now. Are you the one and only staff member, or do you have a group of people that you work with, like I seem to see steve and janets name here alot and also are you the only one who writes the site reviews and top tens? Last question. I am starting to really get into your site, it’s kinda infectious for a guy like me anyway. I mean it’s having the same effect on me that a really nice and smooth sweet aloeswood might, I just keep coming back for more and more daily I am anxcoius to see the responses to the stuff I write and its’ there daily, much to my surprise, but again since I’m starting to write so many different things in different places, I find It hard to remember all the different places to look for responses to my words. Is there a way for me to find “My comments” easily? Some blogs have a thing that letts you pull all comments you made out from the rest of the others that you didn’t? If so I’m hoping you’ll tell me since I really like the conversations that I’m having here,It almost feels like HOME. Till next time, later.. Sincerely, Popsrobert P.S. What is the box marked URI for? Please explain slowly I’m technology ignorant sometimes:)

                    • Steve said,

                      December 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm

                      Robert – a quick note about keeping up with comments. I think the secret is to subscribe to the site’s “Comments RSS” feed. The link for this is the very last entry in the list on the left of this site. Mike recently posted about this here:

                      http://olfactoryrescueservice.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/comments-rss-feed/

                      You will also see my 2-cents techie comments. The RSS feeds for Comments and Entries are, in my opinion, the secret to staying on top of the constant stream of new information pouring into ORS via folks’ comments across multiple posts. Instead of looking for posts/comments, they will be presented to you automatically! No more need to explicitly ask to be notified of follow-up comments via email for a particular comment you leave somewhere!

                      Give it a try and you’ll discover the full breadth of commentary and conversation occurring on ORS, without any need to seek it out manually. If you have any questions or techie issues, I bet enough of us have figured it out to help you do so, too!

                    • Steve said,

                      December 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm

                      Oops – meant to also mention that I’m not aware of how to easily find all of your own posts. I know this would be helpful, but unless I’m missing something, we don’t have that ability. Maybe Mike or others have figured out a way to do that?

                    • Mike said,

                      December 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm

                      The only way I know to get a feed on just your comments would be to start a WordPress account. I’ve forgotten how to do that but you probably can find instructions from the WordPress.com home page. Once you get an account you can follow any blog you want and then you also get a link which will take you to your comments no matter where you post then on WordPress blogs.

                      You can find staff information by clicking on the About Olfactory Rescue Service on the left, that will give you a better idea about us. I started talking about incense under my own personal blog and it grew big enough that I spun it off to this site. That’s when I met Ross who joined and christened the site and who also writes some of the posts (he’ll indicate when it’s him in the subject line). We also have or had a thirdd writer, Nancy, who is taking a sabbatical now, so she’s been scarce for a while. Steve’s also a moderator, which helps a lot now that we’re getting more and more traffic.

  6. Maharani said,

    August 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I am very impressed with Tennendo Renzan, the first Japanese aloeswood blend I have tried. It is much dryer than the Indian incenses I am familiar with, while still being sweet, and surprisingly fragrant for such a thin stick. I could not really detect the cherry blossom note, but I did pick up clove and cinnamon. Sandalwood was less obvious. The various elements were fused into an interesting whole, and it seemed very “precise”, in contrast to the Indians. I thought it had a rather masculine profile. I would probably burn it for meditation or yoga. It seemed somewhat familiar, perhaps because I may have smelled Japanese incense somewhere or other.

    • Robert Green said,

      December 2, 2009 at 7:47 pm

      I, for the record, would like to say that that was an identical opinion to mine as far as renzan goes, a very accurate assesment if I do say so myself.[but then again thats just me taking.] I very very much like all four of the aloeswood blends in this line, articulate and precise is the Japanese way, and the Indian way is just pure power and grace, picture a basket with a flower eruption coming out and never stopping!! Other than that I really heartily agreed with what you said here. Sincerely, Popsrobert!!!

      • Mike said,

        December 3, 2009 at 8:56 am

        Renzan really is an amazing incense, I just had some sticks out recently. I only recently started to notice that the stick has a slight olive green like tint to it. Few incense sticks at its price are as solid as it is.

        • Janet said,

          December 3, 2009 at 9:28 am

          I’ve been really liking the Kuukai lately….it DOES have more of a woody feel to it than the Tensei – I know what you mean by the gritty feel, although I don’t think that detracts from its overall smoothness and balance….I also really like the camphor wallop it packs!

          • Mike said,

            December 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

            Kuukai’s fabulous and yeah I think you got what I meant about gritty. I find Tensei fairly similar so wanted to differentiate them and the way I do that Is that Tensei strikes me as being like a very smooth wood finish sort of scent while Kuukai has the extra spice that sort of takes the wood away from being so, I dunno, planar. But they’re both stalwarts. I still can’t figure out why I can’t get into the Shorin though, to this day I find it a little too bitter or something.

            • Janet said,

              December 3, 2009 at 9:50 am

              Although they aren’t the same scent, by any means, and much as I dislike characterizing things like this, for some reason Tensei and Kuukai seem almost like “masculine” and “feminine” versions of a similar incense.

              • Mike said,

                December 3, 2009 at 9:55 am

                Cool idea! What’s amazing to me is they seem to get a pretty high class aloweswood oil in them while keeping the price down to around $20 a roll. To get that sort of level in a Shoyeido incense, I think you’d have to pay twice or three times that amount.

                • Robert Green said,

                  December 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm

                  Man do I know what you mean about that comparison to shoyeido. Although I’ve had their premium sampler and the five clouds was the absolute best out of that series, yes even better than “translucent path” I dunno mayhap I got ahold of a bad stick or something. I have only bouht one fo the premium sampler packs though, and to date the only shoyeido product that I keep coming back to is the “Hoyei Koh” I find that most of the others i’ve tried in the sampler are all sort of made by a guy with a sense of smell that is a polar opposite from mine. It could be thoughthat I just have not put enough effort into trying them out, but I don’t usually have trouble finding scents that I do like! Also I think Janets Masculine Feminine analogy of tensei and kuukai were right on the money, I was lookingfor a way to classify it and thats it, at least to me! Thanks Janet! Hey janet what in the scent of kuukai says Camphor to you. I’m not being critical, I just don’t know what the scent is like can you describe it to me? I like to learn which notes are which scents, I think that is the next level or plane of incense appreciation I need to learn. I know which scents I like, and If I learn which ingredients make what smell characteristics I can more easily pick out new scents that appeal to me. I think my individual ingredient repitoire at this point consists of aloeswood, sandalwood cinnamon and cloves. Pretty sad huh? The deal is I never really thought about it before now I just bought whatever had the coolest package if you can believe that, at least when it came to Indian incense. Thats it for now, can’t wait for your responses. Sincerely, Popsrobert!!

                  • Janet said,

                    December 3, 2009 at 7:10 pm

                    Hey, Popsrobert…
                    With the Kuukai, sniff the tube when you open it, or even the unlit stick – it’s strong enough with this one, you shoukd be able to pick it up. Think of “mentholated” products, that cooling, sharp smell…or eucalyptus – are you familiar with that? Mothballs are made with camphor, but I only use that comparison as a last resort! It’s very pungent and fresh, and is a note I adore.

                    • Mike said,

                      December 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

                      Janet, it’s funny but I never noticed camphor until you said something and then it struck me as totally obvious – great call! Of course it’s definitely the better borneol being used. It really sings on the outside.

                  • Mike said,

                    December 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

                    I think when it comes to the premium aloeswoods, you have to deal with the variables that they’re really expensive vs the fact that they often take a long time to appreciate fully. I started with the Shoyeido Premium sampler too at one point, but my understanding of the incenses didn’t occur until much later and with some of them, I still feel like I’m on a learning curve. Particularly with Sho-kaku which has an almost ridiculous density to it; I also don’t think of it as the best of the line, in fact I’d probably say the #4 is my personal favorite or maybe the #2 very close. And I’d put the #3 after all of these and the #5. But I also think Misho which is the #6 is a fantastic, amazing incense as well as the #8 Kyo-jiman. They all really do have strong personalities of their own once you get to know them.

                    The other thing to keep in mind about samplers is they often vary in quality quite a bit depending on how long they’ve been around. With Shoyeido as well, there was an ingredient change somewhere in the mix where the premiums that were more wood based, got more oil based. However both do use a lot of oils and so I’d suspect an old sampler might lose its punch at some point.

                    But overall I do think it comes down to repetition and when the incenses are as expensive as they are you do end up gravitating elsewhere. For example, as deluxe and amazing as Shoyeido incense is, all of the Baieido traditionals are made without oils as far as I know, just the pure natural ingredients and except for a few really deluxe incenses, I think most of their product is still quite inexpensive and your learning curve may even be longer with them.

  7. April 15, 2009 at 11:58 am

    [...] Tennendo/Tensei – A pungent blend of aloeswood and amber. Sweet and heavy, stimulating and intense. This incense lingers on, sometimes for days, developing into the resinous suggestion of aroma. A penetrating formula that awakens both the senses and the mind. (Nancy) [...]

  8. March 26, 2008 at 9:05 am

    [...] If Enkuu is notable due to its high resin content and the series that includes Kuukai, Tensei et al. is notable due to the quality of oil notes in the incense, the Karafune series (I’m using [...]


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