This incense company has been around a little while, but doesn’t have the same sort of profile that Nippon Kodo, Shoyeido or Baieido has and it’s something of a shame because this company gives you some of the best value for money incense out there. For instance, their Shiun incense, a tart, cherry-like aloeswood is an extremely good buy, even when a company has to break down the 400 stick box into smaller bundles. Their two low line sandalwood incenses, Ikaruga and Shirohato, are both among the best in the “every day,” green, sandalwood style, both a bit richer than similar scents from NK, Kunmeido etc.
If Shiun points to how good a brand Kyukyodo is, the line’s top two incenses are the clinchers. While their aloeswood incense Ryuhinko actually sells more for a bundle, Azusa is a bit more expensive per stick. Described as the best floral incense in the world and not being the biggest floral fan myself, I still bought the praise immediately. This is an incredible, sweet, complex incense that is in a class of its own, very green, with a floral oil that is unparalleled. The kind of new incense you get that provokes a passionate response, it’s actually too bad they only seem to come in 40 stick rolls, as I can see wanting bulk of this.
But as impressive as Azusa is, the brand’s premium line, Sho Ran Ko or Laughing Orchids, is a truly astonishing incense, and yes you’d need to spend a bundle for a bundle, or, if you’re like me, ask for it for a gift. Everything from the presentation to the incense is amazing, the roll is housed in a rather large Pawlonia box, the label seeming to have gold flakes embedded in the paper. The roll of 150 sticks is gorgeously presented in a red roll with fabulous artwork, obviously no expense spared. The incense is almost beyond description, an aloeswood that strikes you as an almost perfectly balanced blend, and one that strikes me as yellow in an esoteric way, in the same way Shoyeido’s Misho struck me as green. Like Azusa, Sho Ran Ko has a dominant floral note, but it washes back into all sorts of various spices, occasionally the aloeswood comes out, a bit of clove and then a sandalwood presence that reminds me of the best chandan woods or saffron sandalwoods from Indian incense. Burning the first stick with company, I was repeatedly distracted by it.
I suspect both the Azusa and Sho Ran Ko will be in the top ten this month, they’re that good.