Best Incense – July 2007

I’m going to start hopefully what will be a continual feature here, my top 10 favorite incenses. This will be my top 10 incenses that I’m familiar with, rather than those I’ve managed to like out of one stick in a sampler. This will mean a couple high end Shoyeidos, Myo-Ho and Go-Un, will not make the list yet even though I’d guess they will once I’m familiar with them. It also doesn’t count some of my favorites from the Incense from India/Incense Sampler line ( as I haven’t had any in personal stock for several years. 

  1. Shoyeido / Premium / Sho-Kaku – This is not only one of the most expensive incenses out there but it’s easily one of the best, a stick so expensive that I save it for special occasions. It’s made almost entirely from kyara and spices and is one of the most multi-faceted, rich blends you can ever imagine. It’s a stick I don’t even like leaving in a holder as it burns, feeling every released bit of smoke is a waste if I’m not around to experience it. It’s ancient, regal, aristocratic and almost seems like several incenses in one. If it were $5 a box I’d probably burn it until I was sick of it (if that’s even possible). The only incense, at the moment, that I’d be willing to give a 15 (Gnosis-style) to.
  2. Mystic Temple / White Frankincense – Until I started experimenting with Japanese incense this was my ultimate favorite, a rich, resinous “durbar” with Omani frankincense. The Rare Essence collection has a Frankincense Deluxe that is something of the model for the “frankincense champa” type of blend, White Frankincense is even better. This has the citrusy resin hints but also that bit of pepper and spice that the best frankincense usually has.
  3. Mystic Temple / Transcendence – Another old favorite, this is a durbar or champa blend that I occasionally run into as a perfume, although it’s evolved over the years and now seems muskier than ever. This is the type of champa that would impress just about anyone, rich, sweet, complex and incredible.
  4. Nippon Kodo / Kyara Taikan – Possibly the most affordable incense to have a noticeable note of kyara in it, this is a stick that gets better every time I burn it, an aloeswood blend with lovely complexity, sweet with the kyara more back in the mix so to speak. An incense whose traits change depending on your airspace. Strangely it felt like I didn’t appreciate it until I compared it to Kyara Kongo, also an excellent incense, but definitely not quite this deluxe.
  5. Shoyeido / Horin / Hori-kawa – While I’ll probably eventually highly rate the premium blend, Ten-Pyo, in this series (kyara again), the second in the five incense line is incredible in its own right, a spicy floral blend that has the perfect balance of cinnamon in it. Absolutely gorgeous stuff, amazingly a stand out in a stand out line.
  6. Shoyeido / Daily / Haku-un – The top incense in Shoyeido’s Daily line, Haku-un is a woody, musky blend whose value far outweights its affordable price. It’s got sandalwood, benzoin and possibly aloeswood (a hint) in it and it’s a total classic. Great value for the money.
  7. Scented Mountain / Agarwood Grade 1 (Highest Quality) – I’m kind of cheating here since I probably should stick to blends, but this extremely spicy aloeswood is my running favorite of all the affordable, pure-ish agars I’ve tried. I went through half of my first box in the first week, due to its addictiveness. There’s a high spice vibe to this one and to think it’s just the wood that brings this out is highly impressive.
  8. Shoyeido / Premium / Kyo-jiman – My favorite, so far, of the affordable half of Shoyeido’s premium line, this has an appealing sweetness and depth to it. I still don’t feel with most of Shoyeido’s premium lines that I’ve got the full experience as the more I spend time with them, the better it gets. The level of craft in this line is extremely high, and for under $10 you can find an 8 stick sampler pack to encourage you to greater numbers.
  9. Shoyeido / Horin / Gen-roku – The third of the Horin line and the first with aloeswood in it, this is a very mysterious, involuted stick, quite heavy on the wood. I find this one particularly impressive when I leave the room and come back to the coil, it has a density to it that is quite  impressive.
  10. Mystic Temple / Golden Champa – This one is likely to fall off the list, but the Mystic Temple version of the classic Sai Flora is usually not to everyone’s tastes as it has an earthy, almost garden-like hint to it that is a bit animal for some, but I find it only part of the overall scent of it which can be quite sweet and rich. Possibly the thickest durbar on the planet, this will scent a room up in a hurry.


  1. Robert Green said,

    December 3, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I think that sometimes there is a false sense of quality created when the manufacturer puts the price through the roof, and some to the freakin’ moon!!! I have tried as many aloeswood products as I can get my hands on and at this point in my incense career, thats a good many, both blends and straights, and I can tell you that there may be alot of “Kyara” in a particular stick hence the big price, but there are many blends and pure woods that I find easily as equally satisfying as far as a strong sweet aloeswood scent goes in a much more “economical” but not cheap product. I can honestly see myself easily spending one to two hundred dollars for a fair sized box of very high quality aloeswood incense, but when the price goes into the thousands, it then becomes ridiculous even to a seriously nutty incense nut like myself. I like sweet aloeswood more than spicy, but I have moods that accompany my burning tastes and that determines what i’m going to be burning at any one particular time, so there is room in my stash box for almost any incense made with aloeswood. However I understand that the main reason the price is so high is because the reputable manufacturers only buy their product legally harvested {see manufacturers website before buying their product[s’] and if they buy legally it will probably say so, and at all cost avoid any Mfr that is known for unscrupulous buying practices as this is our legacy to keep and not let some wood pirate destroy for a few bucks} and they also buy what they believe is the highest quality. Then to top it off they use a lot of it in their top end product. I feel that I have no place speaking as to how much they should use in their products as the amount of time[some of them centuries!!] and energy that they have spent creating what they think is the perfect product{which is typical of Japanese artisans}must be gargantuan! Another thing to consider is how much of their aloeswood has been thrown out for a product that does not pass muster, that is one dumpster I would not mind diving{and I have never done that type of thing in my life. As far as I’m concerned, once it is in the dumpster it stays there, that is except for cash!!!} I think there would be an interesting market created for them to sell the creations that don’t quite make their grade, but then I’m kinda nuts so don’t listen to me:). One brand in particular Tennendo, has a series of aloeswood, four of them that I find completely enthralling and none of them have an uber price they are the Shorin, Renzan, Tensei and Kuukai[not positive on the spellng but then I’m pretty close] I find that they all are wonderful ascending in quality and price together, but one roll starts at seven or so and the most expensive is about twenty, so they are all very economical. The Kuukai is my all time favorite blend at this point. They all have great aloeswood notes easily discovered within moments of lighting. So dream about the uber price stuff all you want, but thanks to the guys at Ecclcstacy arts everyone can try an enormous variety of aloeswood from The most basic cheapie to all but themost unbelieveably priced. The guy that runs it, David puts together very nice smaple set of almost evey aloeswood that he sells, he puts them in corrugated plastic board and makes custom professional labels for all of them that is if the Mfr. doesn’t already make their own samples and therefore makes it possible for everyone to get a chance to try some of the best of the best without having to break out the Ben Franklins, and that even better when you consider that just because a box costs four hundred & fifty dollars, it is never a guarantee that you will even like it a little! Here is a warning about ecclecstacy arts from repeat personal experience though, since their inventory is simply gigantic and their staff not, so If you have a choice buy from their eBay store. The reason for this is simple if it is on there they have it in stock and they ship it within a day{because of the neat little thing called feedback!!] If you buy from their web store, they take up to a month to ship something that they have in stock because they are always so very busy and there is no feedback rating at their store!! Also since their variety is bigger than any other store I have ever seen, and again, their crew I think is two people, they don’t always keep their stock indicators up to date. Dave is a really nice guy with great intentions, but I think he suffers from what many small business owners that have way more business and money than they need and I think the motivation bug is lagging a bit. The major problem I have with this again is their simply huge selection of not only aloeswoods but many many many others that you just can’t find anywhere else or at least no all in the same place and their prices are usually really good. so take that for what its worth. Knowing what I know, I am currently waiting for an order from them. They have some indonesian aloeswood coils that are mind blowing, well pretty good anyway. Later, Popsrobert

  2. Kohdude said,

    February 15, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    how on your top ten list’s have you never had Baieido premium’s like Koh En or Koh Shi Boku they are sensational? they are pricey , but no more than Shoyeido premium’s, stick for stick and I find them somewhat higher end. have you tried ecclecstacy’s pure aloeswood highend stuff like the pv73 or the one in small red tubes with the open end on it. they are great and only about $10 to $12 a tube for ten to fifteen sticks. they are probably the best Vietnamese pure sticks on the market but I have only seen it at Ecclecstacy.if this stuff came from Japan it would be twice the price. I some times question some of your top ten selections,but some selections seem on point.I know you have tried Baieido premiums , but what is your reasoning for not giving them top ten recognition? is it that you have not burned much of it , I understand by the price? I still have not had a chance to experince Kyara Kokoh. I don’t know if incense is worth that price that Kyara Kokoh is. have you tried it? definately give Ecclecstacy a chance because they have stuff nobody else does. calling them is the best thing to do. David is a really nice guy and knows incense. they have sampled me almost anything I wanted to try and have been very generace when other place’s would only sample this or that kind of stuff. yes they do sometimes take a little while on orders but it has been well worth it. the selection is the best going and the prices are good. I look forward to your next review ,I am going to try Tennendo’s Enkuu-Horizon ,Shunkodo’s Ranjatai,Kunmeido’s Hein Koh and Minorien’s Fuuin Kyara.I pretty much only burn high end stuff and that is why I want to try these high end brand’s.I couldn’t see any of them surpassing Koh En or Koh Shi Boku but I would like to see if there is something out there as extraordinary,I doubt that there is but it is worth sampling different brand’s. thank you for your review’s on the newer availible high end brand’s . I am curious to see if they match up to the old standard’s like Baieido and Shoyeido. you seem to know your incense,so I look forward to future reviews. It is nice to come across someone who appreciates high end incense and not just another person I meet that feels Nag Champa is supreme and scoffs at the prices I will pay for incense. I guess it is like people who drink orange juice from concentrate and think it is good even though they have had fresh squeezed ,because they usually rationalize with price still knowing the fresh squeeze is more pleasing,but they are too cheap and they depribe them selve’s of the pleasure. I have found some people very much this way with incense. They love what I have burned but unwilling to not be cheap. I am not saying everyone should burn $100 incense but you can get great stuff under $20 like Baieido’s Kaiunko which I love. I am sure you would agree about this , with the regard to price. My favorite sandalwood is Shoyeido’s Kyo Nishiki and it is very inexpensive and it took me years of testing sandalwoods to conclude that.I find bang for your buck Ecclecstay’s pure aloeswood stuff would be hard to beat for pure aloeswood incense and I have tried many. A dollar a stick for that kind of quality is well worth it,being if it was Japanese it could be alot more money,and buying boxes of it makes it even less expensive. a lot of Japanese things are a prestige racket especially incense, but it is difficult to not acknowledge quality. it is the price that is questionable because they gear it toward wealthy people, just like overpriced wine. it’s trying to milk the wealthy with something that has been deemed prestigous and the product gets majorly marked up. most Japanese high end premium lines should be at least half their price, but alot of wealthy people believe if something is not pricey it is not that great, so the people buy into the scam.I worked in Beverly Hills so I know what I am talking about. you could mark up anything and tell them this is great and they would buy it because if it was expensive they would believe it must be great because it is expensive. so it just goes to show you price isn’t always a strong determiner even though some incense is magnificant that is pricey. it mostly is price gouging even though the ingredients are good, it is taking advantage of people if they are aware of it or not. keep it up with the reviews…. nice job!!!!!

  3. Mike said,

    January 25, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Out of curiosity, have you ever tried a pure aloeswood stick? While I can see your scent comparisons to some of the Shoyeido sticks if I stretch myself (more the Misho than Shokaku though), I’d suggest maybe the qualities you’re sensing might be more in the spice than the wood.

    I’d also probably put out anything with a fecal odor way before 30 minutes is up. 😀

  4. Anonymous said,

    January 24, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    To me, aloeswood smells like cumin or a bit like marijuana. Not for me.

    Yes, I’ve burned Shoyeido’s best (Misho, Translucent Path).

    I’ve smelled Oud and after nearly vomiting due to the initial fecal odor…after 30 min to 90 min it developed a wonderful forest-floor scent that gave me flashbacks of the woods as a child.

  5. August 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

    […] Best Incense – August 2007 Filed under: Incense — Mike @ 9:48 am Previous Top Ten: […]

  6. Mike said,

    July 24, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    The Haku-un is affordable especially for its quality, but yeah, I wish I had money to grab a full roll of the Sho-kaku, my experience has mostly been with the much smaller yet still rather pricey 8 stick sampler. I go through it in centimeter burns just to savor it. You feel every waft that goes in the wrong direction is money down the drain. 😀

  7. lapseofreason said,

    July 24, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Wow that Shoyeido is expensive. I bet it is amazing though. I wish I had that kind of money to drop on incense. Peace.


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