Had my first hands on experience with the Shoyeido electric chip heater last night and am finding it well worth the expenditure. It’s really a work of art in its own right (I bought a green one which has a nice earthy color to it) and seems quite sturdy, but, of course, what it does to aromatic raw materials is a real draw, kind of like burning scented candles or heating essential oils but better. I christened my heater with a small piece of Baieido’s Hakusui aloeswood, which other than kyara, is their top aloeswood grade. Extraordinary, really, the resin without the wood notes gives a far purer experience, even straight aloeswood sticks don’t have the same sort of presence. I also tried a couple pieces of Shoyeido Himenoka Princess Fragrance, in-koh pressed incense designed for heating rather than burning and found the experience extremely sublime. The pieces in the bottom segment have not only a nice and woody vibe, but a strong bitter almond type of scent, really quite nice (and the presentation and shapes of the pieces is really impressive and gorgeously rendered). Then I tried a different style altogether, a Swiss Arabian bakhoor called Bait Al-Arab. A piece of this incense is about as big as self-igniting charcoal but fortunately small enough to sit comfortably in the metal bowl that came with the heater. One of the most floral things I’ve experiences, almost like a bouquet of rose and carnations in the room. The heater probably could have kept releasing the fragrance for hours. It’s a scent you don’t have to be an incense person to appreciate. I’m very much looking forward to experiencing everything from sticks to resins on this thing, it will be like starting from scratch in a way.
Tried a number of sticks last night as well, although at some point my nose gave up the ghost, so I couldn’t really tell on a number of Japanese sticks (except they’re all nice). High line Shunkodo Ranjatai was my first try and it’s a fabulous deluxe aloeswood incense, different but in the same realms as Kyukyodo Sho-Ran-Ko. Tennendo Frankincense uses a very intense, high quality Omani Frankincense that’s very close to burning resin (especially doing so on a makko trail), definitely not your garden variety Frankincense incense. Korean Bo Rim sticks are going to be a big favorite and probably a top 10 pick this month, they’re tangy and a great alternate to Japanese incense. The wooden container is really nice. Kyukyodo Ryuhinko is another of that company’s extremely distinctive incenses and probably beyond my ability to describe at the moment, it’s very dry, yet more complex than that sounds, with an incredible subtle back note that fatigue dropped after an inch or two.
The two Mandala Tibetan incenses were very impressive as well, called Tibetan Monastery Incense and Himalayan Herbal Incense. There’s something about the high quality tibetan stuff that really draws my intuitive attention, both of these were intense with quality aromatics. The HHI was actually similar to Yog Sadhana with the strong clove notes, but a mellower incense overall. The TMI has a hotter, reddish spicy vibe that was similar but equal in quality. These boxes are both long and huge, meaning that the 40 sticks could easily be broken down into 120 shorter ones. And unlike most incenses there’s a nice rendering of the ingredients involves and with both of these blends it often feels like they’re all clamoring for attention.
I’ll link to many of these when I absorb and consider them a little more, but everything can be found at Essence of the Ages (link on right) who just completely impressed me on every level with this order. I’m finding loads of “hits” from their recommendations and highly recommend the incense enthusiast establishing a relationship with the company as they’ll help you discover some things you might not have on your own.