[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above]
- Kyukyodo / Sho Ran Ko – Sho-Ran-Ko has emerged for me as the reigning best incense I’ve ever experienced. One would have to put out a considerable amount of money (and the price on this is considerable in its own right) to experience an incense with such high quality and aromatic depth. It’s an explosion of scent with an alluring and sultry top note, the spices constantly interacting with the very highly quality aloeswood base to make each and every stick a new experience, one that makes it very difficult to nail down a description. Last month I described that quality as “great jazz musicians jamming.” I wonder a little if this incense is sold in smaller quantities in Japan as even though you’re paying over a dollar a stick that adds up to quite a chunk at 150 sticks. But then you’d be missing out on the outstanding packaging and artwork.
- Bo Rim (Dan) Sticks (bottom of page) – Running through some pages of Mike’s Prattle is something of a saga in terms of trying to identify a mystery stick. While I’ve never figured out what that was, this Korean incense has a lot of similar qualities, namely a very tangy wood and spice that I’d best describe as addictive. Essence of the Ages sells this both in a wood container (which contains 40 sticks or so) and a much larger box and I’m thinking I need the box, even if you wish most incense came in the nice wooden containers. I’ll probably get to this one in a bit more detail later, but this is well worth it.
- Shunkodo / Ranjatai (second to last on page) – I rarely see Shunkodo incenses in the US market, so it’s nice Essence of the Ages is carrying several of their sticks. Ranjatai appears to be the most premium of their several lines and like most of their sticks comes with packagaging, one page of which has a photo of a couple rather impressive pieces of pure, heavily resinated aloeswood. I guess that’s the picture that will stick with me in thinking of this incense, which is a really deluxe aloeswood scent which at times will remind you of the pure wood. The company does claim that this incense has extraordinary depth and after a number of sticks, I’m starting to see why. A description of which will have to wait until I catch up. But so far I’ve never tried, even in a sample pack, an aloeswood incense with this type of wood presence.
- Shoyeido / Horin / Ten-Pyo – It took me a while to come around on this incense, which surprises me a little given the obvious kyara presence. At first, for about 5-10 sticks I got a much woodier aroma, an almost bitter tang to the wood, but since then I’d describe this as sweeter and even candy-like. It’s a really gorgeous incense that now makes me want to splurge for the coil version just to see the differences. It’s almost the perfect blend of an expensive traditional kyara incense with a modern sensibility.
- Shoyeido / Premium / Misho 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.” It’s mostly been dropping due to its cost and the fact I’m not burning it as frequently, not to say it’s wearing off on me at all. Although I more and more note its similarity with the Horin line Gen-roku (below).
- Kyukyodo / Azusa – From September, Azusa “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.” As I may have mentioned, despite that on the surface this is one incredible and distinctive incense, it doesn’t share the depth of some of its company’s other sticks, meaning I feel I’ve got the scent somewhat absorbed.
- Shoyeido / Horin / Gen-roku – One day I’ll end up writing rather enthusiastically about Shoyeido’s Horin line and probably would have by now except one of the five fragrances is becoming a distant memory. The third in the line, Gen-roku, as mentioned before, is a very green aloeswood incense with similarities to Misho, but with a slightly more modern edge. Both incenses strike me as being excellent blends of wood with spice, penetrating and cleansing.
- Joyoko Temple (second to last on page) – Hailed as a premium meditation blend, Joyoko Temple is a blend I expected to fall off this list after a month, but instead I’ve just grown to like it more and more. However inaccurately, I’m starting to see this as a more affordable alternate to the Sho-Ran-Ko and while this doesn’t have quite the premium essence of that incense, it does have a number of ingredients and a strong aloeswood presence that makes this similar in the way the ingredients interact. And since you can buy a roll of this for under $20, it’s easy to recommend as an affordable yet brilliant incense.
- Baieido / Kai Un Koh (bottom of page) – Becoming a Mikesprattle Top 10 standard. As I wrote earlier, “I tend to think of [Kai Un Koh] like some beautiful antique wood with finish, something you could lose yourself in.” One of the best price to quality ratios you can find in incense.
- Tennendo / Frankincense (third and fourth items on page) – I just reviewed this one before the weekend and don’t have much more to say than this is probably the best Frankincense resin aroma I’ve ever encountered in a stick.