Best Incense – September 2007

  1. Shoyeido / Premium / Misho – I almost bumped this one from the #1 spot this month – as the incense stock grows, more competition to choose from. Although I’m still a bit fuzzy thinking about this, for me a truly great, premium incense is one that interacts with one’s memory and imagination, it literally reminds one of earlier times, in fact this sort of connection is often part of esoteric work, creating an environment that helps inspire one to get certain results. Misho is still the primary example of an incense that does this to me every time, it reminds me of a lot of earlier trans-consciousness experiences, fires off endorphins, releases serotonin, and brings greater depth to the experience (and I mean all this metaphorically, not literally).  As I wrote in August, “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. “
  2. Kyukyodo / Sho Ran Ko (appears to be the best price) – While the #3 below, Azusa, is in some ways the more immediate and compelling incense, Sho Ran Ko, being Kyukyodo’s most premium scent, has a depth one can only associate with expensive aloeswood incenses, in fact it took me to my third stick to realize just how much aloeswood dominates the scent – in a previous post I thought of it more as a blend. In part it’s because this has quite a bit of floral punch of its own, a sultry, almost musky oil note that interacts with the aloeswood like great jazz musicians jamming. It’s as if in listening to this, one realizes it hasn’t shown all its chops yet and in many ways that’s about the highest praise I can give to an incense (and it does, every stick makes me appreciate it more). It’s a lot of money to put down at once, but at 150 long sticks or so, it’s likely to last a long while with a little self discipline. As it’s new for me, it’s hard not to go for it every time.
  3. Kyukyodo / Azusa – A friend of mine was over the other night and after about an inch of the stick he started saying that it reminded him of something and at the same moment it hit me what it was as well, the now discontinued Mermaid Magickal Arts Dream Snake blend, which was an old resin incense with some slightly psychoactive ingredients in it, but one esoterically intended to trigger higher dreaming. I’m not sure which part of the blend reminded me of the Azusa, but this long and rather thin floral incense stick, as I’ve enthused about in recent posts, is a truly individual and unique blend like no other, reminding me more of a natural floral smell than a 1000 jasmine and rose sticks. It’s got an alluring sweetness to it that reminds me of some of the sweet green patchouli masalas, but this is far more refined and tantalizing. For a stick this thin, it’s surprisingly smoky, but in this case you want every bit of it. And I believe this to be one of the best “good value for the money” incenses out there.
  4. Dhoop Factory / Ganden – I’ve got a big box of almost every line the Dhoop Factory carries and I can’t resist burning at least one stick every night before going to sleep. Tibetan incenses are teaming with medicinal descriptions of what various blends do and while I’m sure none of them would pass muster in American medical journals, I do feel a lot more relaxed buring this one, Lawudo, Abhisek, Agar 31 or Medicine Buddha sticks, while the two foresty blends Sauna Sticks and Alpine are way too invigorating to do the same to, while being perfect for an early morning weekend wake up call. Ganden, if I have this right, is a certain monastery around which grows an herb also called Ganden that has some very sage-like characteristics, while not being quite as intense as most smudging or cooking sage is. It gives the incense a kind of light and almost anxiety reducing aroma and I really can’t get enough of it.
  5. Yog-Sadhana – This one is fast becoming a big favorite, as I mentioned in a recent blog entry. I take the long sticks and break them in half as this is a very intense blend of clove-like spices and resin hints that penetrates your environment in several seconds. It’s really unlike any other incense that I can name in that the clove and nutmeg spices are way out in front. It also seems to have a regenerative effect on the environment, as if it acts as a purifier as well, something surprising for as smoky as a stick as this one is.
  6. Baieido / Kai Un Koh (bottom of page) – Like Azusa, I think it’s probable that a lot of my “best incenses” are those that are great while still remaining very affordable, meaning I can freely burn them without that pang of guilt one might get burning high end aloeswood incenses. Kai Un Koh is the classic example of being an incense much more quality than the price denotes and while I didn’t burn as many in the last month as I did previously, it’s mostly because I’ll be needing a restock. As I wrote last month, “… this … I tend to think of like some beautiful antique wood with finish, something you could lose yourself in.”
  7. Nippon Kodo / Yume-No-Yume / Various – Because of the utterly atrocious “visual” editing tool on wordpress, I can’t cut and paste or drag a paragraph to a different spot without it ending up in the middle of my first paragraph, and I was hoping to do so with the Yume-No-Yume Bamboo Leaf from last month, which still remains my favorite in the line, but since I couldn’t I figure I’d just mention the whole line, which I hope to go into a bit more detail on later now that I’ve sampled all the varieties. I’m really impressed with the scents in this line, particularly as for an incense I might call partially synthetic (after all, it would have to be more of a perfumery art to have the scent this strong on the fresh stick), it trumps other NK lines that are similar like Fragrance Memories or what I’ve tried of their “No.” series. Some new scents I was really impressed with was the super fruity Fiddlehead Fern, which is the first incense with a heavy berry note that didn’t strike me as being off in some way; the Camellia/Musk blend of Whooping Crane, a bit mellower than most of the line; and the very different and unusual Horse Tail Plant. Any of these could be on this list next month.
  8. Joyoko Temple (second to last on page) – Don’t think I’ve mentioned this long stick yet, I’ve been meaning to write on some new things but haven’t found the time yet and this one feels like it’s gone ahead in the final innings so to speak. Hailed as a premium meditation blend, I’d still peg this as a rather aloeswood-heavy stick, although it’s a good case of a number of ingredients working together. When I first tried Sho-Ran-Ko, I noticed some similarities between that and Joyoko, mostly in the way that there seems to be a lot going on. Of course Joyoko isn’t really quite that premium, and doesn’t have that heady floral intensity, but it does have a very nice interaction between wood and spice, in fact I wonder if this stick is too nice to not be distracted by it during meditation.
  9. Shoyeido / Horin / Gen-roku – I’ll be changing my mind routinely on what my favorite Horin incense of the month is and Gen-roku is this month’s choice (by a hair over Ten-Pyo), mostly because I now have a box in stick and in some ways I think stick is preferable to coils with this scent, it’s just a little more open ended and a bit closer to Misho (like this one it’s a very “green” aloeswood). In fact this reminds me a lot of that incense, although it’s not quite as premium. But after seeing one of these almost three inch sticks, it’s hard to believe they put off as rich a scent as this one does. In many ways it’s also a good bang for the buck at its price range, being favorably comparable to other aloeswoods in the same price range.
  10. Baieido / Kokonoe (third item down) – I recently restocked the second incense in Baieido’s premium line, the Thai Ho-Ryu aloeswood and while I wouldn’t complain about it in the slightest, I still think I like Kokonoe a little better due to its spicier nature. As I wrote last month, “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.”

1 Comment

  1. October 15, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    […] Mike put an intriguing blog post on Best Incense – September 2007Here’s a quick excerptHailed as a premium meditation blend, I’d still peg this as a rather aloeswood-heavy stick, although it’sa good case of a number of ingredients working together. When I first tried Sho-Ran-Ko, I noticed some similarities between that … […]

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