Incense, incensed, no sense and the glory that is Baieido

Been mulling over the latest note from Ecclecstacy, a company that continues to baffle me. I posted about my experiences several weeks ago, particularly in regard to a mystery incense stick. After about two months of back and forth on this issue, culminating in my asking the company if I could send a sample back and where to. I was told I could send a sample but got no address. Asked again and nothing. Then finally, two and a half weeks after I sent that last note, I get a response from the company, asking why I haven’t sent anything yet, with the address embedded in a previous note as if it was there all along. Which, of course, it wasn’t. I’ve basically chosen just to let the matter drop, as the stick is definitely not Baieido, Shoyeido or Nippon Kodo, might be the Sho Ranko line from Kyukyodo and if it’s not, it’s probably some exclusive or rare item which would necessitate doing business again. Not going to happen no matter how great the incense is. I suppose I’ll trade the experience of that incense for the frustration and call it even.

Which at least in my part was discovering Essence of the Ages, who are absolutely fantastic to me. And with a new batch of goodies, I now can prattle on….

Baieido, Baieido, Baieido. I think for the incense connoissuer, this company could be the #1. Even down to their most inexpensive lines, there’s a complexity and depth to their scents that necessitate sampling far more than one stick. For example, the Tokusen Kobunboko line impresses me with its depth more every new stick and my rating of it goes up all the time. Its combination of sandalwood, aloeswood and various spices all mean that the blend reveals more of itself as you “listen” to it.

The company’s fine aloeswood line is almost on an entirely different level, and I’m not talking about their three “wood primary” sticks (Kyara Kokoh, Jinko Kokoh and Byukaden Kokoh) which are in their own price range, but the five sticks that make up their Aloeswood Sampler. My comments will be rough as I’ve only checked out a centimeter or two of each stick. The Kokonoe (Indonesian Aloeswood), the series most inexpensive incense, is dry and elegant, very woodsy and serene. Ho Ryu (Thai Aloeswood) is a bit spicier while just as elegant and the Kun Sho (Cambodian) was something of a new experience in terms of the style. All are amazingly deep, certainly more so than an inch might reveal.

The top two lines are utterly incredible and their price, compared to Shoyeido’s, is much better for a comparable product. The Koh En (Vietnamese Aloeswood) is the best non-kyara containing aloeswood incense I’ve ever experienced. I’ve raved on quite a bit about the Grade 1 of Scented Mountain’s cultivated aloeswood (also Vietnamese) and mention it due to the similarities in wood, but we’re talking the difference between a fine, aged red wine and maybe some $10 bottle from Trader Joes. While both have that almost cinnamon/clove like spice natural to the resin, the Koh En version is so much more refined and balanced, which, of course, may not be a fair comparison given that Koh En probably has some spices, but I’d bet money that we’re talking a much higher grade of aloeswood here. I only hope it won’t spoil the Scented Mountain blends for me!

And then, of course, Baieido’s Koh Shi Boku, the top of the line and one of two Baieido sticks with kyara. I’ve read discussions elsewhere on the differences between kyara “types” and while I’m hardly any expert, Baieido apparently only use the top grade green kyara and I noticed a slightly difference between the (green) kyara in this stick and the (black) kyara usually used in Shoyeido blends. There’s something about this stuff that just leaves me speechless and experiencing kyara with a much woodier background is quite different than the more spicy scent of Shoyeido’s top premium blends. While being substantially cheaper. I can only imagine how amazing the Kyara Kokoh must be as this is truly extraordinary. So from top to bottom, this line is highly recommended.

Another incense that might almost fit with the aloeswood lines, is Baiedo’s Kunsho Koh, which is the top of their Jinkoya Sakubei line. This is another stick that really doesn’t bowl you over at first, but continues to impress more and more with every stick. It’s quite dry in its own way with most of the depth almost fleeting on the smoke. While it doesn’t come very often in samplers (at least naturally, check your carrier for details), I have to admit being quite happy with having a large stock of something this fine quality, it makes me feel a little more free about burming them. And that’s really my favorite part of the whole Baieido experience, I feel like I grow with the scent and that the mystery isn’t over after a few wafts.

Finally, I also managed to grab a roll of Kai Un Koh, which is unusual for Baieido in that they are square rather than rounded sticks. I get the impression this style allows more smoke to be released, which is a fine thing given that this was a really incredible, rich, woodsy and aromatic blend, almost devilishly complex in its scent combo. In Gnosis terms I’d call this an instant 12, and given the stick’s affordability, this is what I call a very good deal. I only wish Baieido had more to check out, but (and I think I consider this fortunate) they’ve never moved into the modern/perfumed/stylistic blends that Nippon Kodo dominate and Shoyeido have also entered. Of course none of those could possibly compare to the above.

Anyway, that’s about enough for now, I’ll tackle some of the other scents later…


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