Best Incense – August 2007

Previous Top Ten: http://mikesprattle.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/mikes-incense-sticks-top-10/

August 2007 – Top 10

  1. Shoyeido / Premium / Misho – I’m shifting my top 10 around a little this month as I think it might get a bit boring to do an “all time” list when my incense habits change more than my music ones. Misho was my favorite incense since the last update (I’ve bumped Sho-Kaku – and others – from the list as I didn’t burn any recently). While burning this it’s hard to imagine that there are five other premium incenses in the line that are more expensive and high quality, as this is every bit an incredible and formidable aloeswood blend, extremely heavy on the wood. In fact there’s not a stick in this line that doesn’t grow on you over time. It could be the green color to the stick, but that’s the color I associate with this scent, simply one of the most panoramic and intuition-heavy incenses I’ve ever encountered. The more I burn this one, the more I jones for it, I was actually kind of psyched that my 35 stick pack was actually 36. Don’t want to spend 100s of dollars for incense? Try this for an example of what the premium can do. And I have to mention, the picture of the box on the link doesn’t do it justice, the silk almost glows with presence and with the Shun-Yo box it’s the first place my eye drifts to in my incense stock.
  2. Baieido / Kai Un Koh (bottom of page) – If Misho was my best loved incense of the month, Kai Un Koh was the most burned, made in part partially by its affordability. In fact I can think of few incenses at this price this good. Baieido’s blends are just so woodsy and regal with a concentration on a somewhat bitter or tangy aloeswood that’s like a key to my lock. It’s the first bundle of 50 sticks that made me think about getting another one only a month or two later. It’s literally hard not to burn at least one stick a day. Both this and the Misho I tend to think of like some beautiful antique wood with finish, something you could lose yourself in.
  3. Dhoop Factory/Medicine Buddha (second to last on page) – My favorites from this line change daily, in fact there’s only one in the line I really don’t like, Lhasa, and I swear it’s probably because of asafoetida content (if you don’t know what this is, go to your local health food store, to the fresh herbs department and take a whiff. You’ll never forget it). The rest are heavenly and so fresh and herbal. I’ve mentioned their Agar 31 blend before, the Medicine Buddha is a stronger and more intense version of that, with a very tangy aloeswood and herb blend. I’m finding many of these blends are perfect to leave going as I drift off to sleep. To date, I’ve never tried a Tibetan/Nepalese stick that was even in the same league, despite continuing to look. Sauna, Alpine, Ganden and Lawudo could all be in this spot given the day.
  4. Shoyeido / Horin / Ten-Pyo – This was probably my biggest splurge item of all time, the Horin line’s top incense, made possibly by a healthy share of kyara. While I really doubt that this incense or any of the other Horins are quite as complex and impressive as the premium line, it is the most intricate of all the Horins with occasional anise and mint wafts, but mostly it’s like all high line aloeswood incenses, with the wood in front and everything else accentuating it. One day I hope to get this in coils as I can only imagine what a room might smell like after an hour of Ten-Pyo burning. And at least I feel I have a decent kyara stock now.
  5. Nippon Kodo/Yume-No Yume/Bamboo Leaf – This could be one of the most synthetic lines (given the strength of scent) I’ve talked about in my blog, but it’s one I’ve really warmed to. Probably as much a perfume as an incense in terms of its intensity, the blend of scents are pretty fabulous in the whole line, but this sweet patchouli-like green tea incense is my favorite. It has that tinge of the exotic and is a perfect stick to play off some of the other styles.
  6. Shoyeido / Premium / Shun-Yo – I started my journey into Shoyeido incenses with the Premium Sampler. I’ll say right off, that one stick of each of these isn’t really enough to truly appreciate the genius involved in the creation. Shun-Yo, like all of the others, just gets better with every stick. It presents a more masala-like blend, which means it has a hint of curry, and unlike Misho’s green tint, the yellowish color brings out a totally different, spicier vibe. It’s not as elegant as Misho, but almost as enjoyable, like most of the premiums, the aloeswood content is up front and extremly complex.
  7. Ramakrishnanda / Narasingha Dev – I’m not sure why I picked this one for this list, as it might not be my first or second favorite in the list, but in some ways it’s the most original. For one thing, it’s a Frankincense Champa, but not one of the citrusy/peppery ones found in other lines. Instead it’s more of a champa with the Frankincense becoming a note rather than the lead. There’s something sweet and gummy about the masala blend here and I find it quite sublime, enough to be reaching for it fairly often. Also, that it charts in a list of mostly Japanese sticks may or may not say something for it.
  8. Shoyeido / Horin / Hori-kawa – Turning out to be one of my favorite incenses, certainly a top five for the sandalwood based. 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.
  9. Baieido / Kokonoe (third item down) – These last two are my most recent purchases, both I’ve spend a lot of time in the last few days with. Kokonoe was purchased after sampling it in Baieido’s Aloeswood Sampler, a collection of five incenses that would stand with any others. Kokonoe is the least expensive in the line, created with Indonesian incense, but as formidable and complex as anything I’ve mentioned in this list. It’s a bit dry and tangy but full of depth with one of the best after scents of any incense. True, the other four in the line probably beat it, but to say so is to deflect deserved attention away from a great incense.
  10. Jinko Yomei (third item down) – One of the most premium incenses not linked to a company like Shoyeido, Baieido, Nippon Kodo or Kyukyodo, this is actually one of the few sticks that smells a little better fresh than it does when burning. I kept returning to the box for the combo of floral and woods, a scent that kept bringing back deja vu for me. I kind of doubt this incense will make it onto a list like this again, but I’ve spent a lot of time puzzling over the depth and it could be something I really grow with over time.
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