I’ve been thinking of a couple ideas I’ll probably be working on soon for the site, the first a simple guide to introducing oneself to Japanese premium incense, the other a page that will introduce incenses that combine high quality with affordability. It’s pretty much a given that if you spend over $100 on a box of incense that you’re going to find something outstanding, but finding something affordable and outstanding is more difficult.
Baieido’s Kai Un Koh incense would (or will) definitely be on this list. For about $15, one can pick up a good 35 grams of this incense (I didn’t count the sticks, but it was approximately in the 50s), one I’d consider on par with incenses of a much higher cost, including some in Baieido’s own range. Kai Un Koh is unusual in that it’s one of the rare “square” cut Japanese incenses, meaning it’s a bit thicker than most. Many Baieido incenses, including their rather outstanding aloeswood lines, are very thin and mild in terms of aroma, Kai Un Koh is definitely more up front, in fact it might be the smokiest Baieido incense, although that’s not saying much.
The ingredients for this incense are sandalwood, Vietnamese aloeswood, borneol camphor, clove and other Chinese spices. The price is definitely on the high side for a sandalwood incense, but really the aloeswood content strikes me as being as up front as any ingredient and so I tend to think of it more as that type of blend. Baieido are probably the most successful company at doing woody incenses and Kai Un Koh is a triumph, it’s smooth, elegant and slightly spicy. The best metaphor I can use to describe this would be an elegantly designed office with wood panelling put up by a craftsman. It’s a perfectly balanced blend, the borneol just a touch, the clove complementing the wood. With Kai Un Koh, one can burn it without the feeling that one will need to throw down a big chunk to restock. And it’s also a perfect place to start in checking out aloeswood blends.