Best Incense – November 2007

[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above]

  1. Kyukyodo / Sho Ran Ko – Sho-Ran-Ko gets the number one spot this month, although I haven’t been burning it quite as frequently as I did in October. There still feels like a level of ingredient use I’ve never seen surpassed and nearly every time I light a stick I’m stunned by the quality of scent, as if it continues to improvise. As the name Laughing Orchid implies it seems to combine a very exotic scene that almost swelters in the heat. World class.
  2. Bo Rim (Dan) Sticks (bottom of page) – I’ve nearly rocketed through a half a roll of this in a month’s time and it won’t be long before I have to restock. I love this stick for how different its scent is to the rest of this list, meaning it’s always a good one for a break in style. Tangy and rich, it’s a definite favorite.
  3. Minorien / Aloeswood (third down) – Heard from a friend this morning who appears to be enjoying this stick as much as I am. When I think of quality aloeswood, I think of an intense, resinous presence that makes your average sap or resin pale in comparison. Even the stick itself, with the light black flecks evinces a very high quality wood. In fact, this ruined nearly every pure aloeswood stick I owned due to its quality. It’s comparable to Shunkodo’s Ranjatai, below, except you don’t have to spend quite as much money for stock.
  4. Mandala Trading / Tibetan Monastery Incense (third down) – My Tibetan of choice, this long red stick has really given my Dhoop Factory favorites serious competition. It’s just so spicy, rich and complex with a combo of herbs that ranges from almost offputting to divine giving the overall scent so much play room. A great value for money, I tend to break the long sticks into 2 and sometimes 3 pieces.
  5. Shoyeido / Horin / Ten-Pyo – Candy kyara incense, these little Horin sticks are really hard to keep your hands off. Let’s put it this way, I’ve never checked out a kyara-present incense that wasn’t terrific just by the nature of that ingredient. It’s the best of a fabulous line.
  6. Shunkodo / Zuika (8th item down) – A very recent favorite that has me burning sometimes two sticks in a row or several in a night. Just so alluring and mysterious a blend with the type of subtlely a much smokier stick is missing. Checking out more Shunkodo incenses is about the highest priority for me at the moment.
  7. Shunkodo / Ranjatai (second to last on page) –Another extraordinary, high class, reisinous aloeswood stick and perhaps a little more refined than the Minorien aloeswood above. Pure class and expensive but well worth it.
  8. Tennendo / Frankincense (third and fourth items on page) –The best Frankincense resin aroma I’ve ever encountered in a stick. Compares to the pure resin, with only a hint of the binder. Hits the frank spot every time.
  9. Jinko Yomei (fifth down) – A very floral and unique aloeswood incense that improves with use. A rich and slightly resinous aroma that smells at least as good on the stick. I’ve never encountered a similar incense to this, it’s truly distinctive.
  10. Shoyeido / Horin / Gen-roku – I could have almost had this tied with Shoyeido / Premium / Misho as both are very similar, green aloeswoods that I’m growing very familiar with. Both incenses strike me as being excellent blends of wood with spice, penetrating and cleansing. However, like most of Shoyeido’s lines they’re comparatively more expensive to incense in the same quality range, meaning that, such as with Misho and I, you burn less as your stock dwindles to zero.


  1. Mike said,

    January 7, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Hi Steveski, hope you had a good new year. It’s interesting to read your comments upon revisiting the Minorien aloeswood because your thought processes remind me of my own when circling a scent I’m not totally comfortable with. For instance, there’s this tibetan stick Essence of the Ages do called White Pigeon, which was one I was and am still slightly uncomfortable with, despite what is obviously a very deep and rich aroma. There’s just something about the scent that bugs me. I’m never quite sure at first whether it’s just my western nose growing with it or if I just don’t like it. Fortunately with the White Pigeon, I think it’s more for the former – hopefully the MA works the same for you. – Mike

  2. Steveski said,

    January 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    OK, this is really weird. I thought I should burn another stick of this Minorien Aloeswood just to see if it’s really as bad as I thought it was before. I don’t know if it’s the head cold I’ve had recently or maybe just that this box has been sitting on my shelf, for the last 6 weeks or so, but this Minorien Aloeswood seems to have “aged”? or maybe mellowed or something. For some reason it’s not striking me as quite as bad as it was before. First of all, it does still have some of the weird wet gym socks scent, but it’s not nearly as predominant. For some reason, there is now a hint of cedar coming through that I did not detect previously, and the aloeswood scent is a bit more predominant. Still very “wet” but not nearly as bad now as I remember. We’ll see how this one ages 🙂

  3. Mike said,

    November 27, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Hi Steveski. Sorry you didn’t like the Minorien, but I’m glad you came over to say so as incense is definitely such a personal matter and variant opinions are very useful. By way of your opinion, for example, I’d recommend avoiding the Shunkodo Ranjatai, which is similar.

    The incenses you did name, however, are definitely both kyara incenses. While kyara is definitely a high grade of aloeswood, I’ve grown to think of high grade aloeswood and kyara as being very different and can easily imagine one might like one or the other or both. Myo-ho’s definitely an incredible incense, but very expensive. Kyara Kongo is indeed a nice and affordable incense, as is Kyara Taikan, both I’d find easy to recommend to someone wanting to check out kyara without spending a lot of money.

  4. steveski said,

    November 27, 2007 at 7:48 am

    based on your review and “top 10” ranking of the Minorien Aloeswood i decided to pick up a box and give it a try. you’re right when you say it’s *wet* … but to me this stuff stinks of rotten wet gym socks. either i don’t know aloeswood or i just don’t like this one, but wow this is the worst smelling thing i’ve ever burned, and i’ve tried a LOT of different aloeswoods. as a point of reference, my alltime favorite right now is the Shoyeido MYO-HO (Infinity) stick. another one i consider more of a nice “daily burn” is something like Nippon Kodo’s Kyara Kongo Selected Aloeswood.

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