Nippon Kodo / Kohden (brief thoughts)

This isn’t going to be a review of the Kohden line exactly, but there are quite a few people who hit this blog searching on this new incense line so I thought I’d briefly go over the six aromas. This is particularly important in that this appears to be a somewhat overpriced line – not that the incenses aren’t good, they are, but because they all strike me as being sandalwood based incenses in an aloeswood price range.

Before that gets too confusing, I’ll bring up the first two aromas, Sweet Aloeswood and Spicy Aloeswood. Both these bring to mind Baieido’s Ensei line that also have similar incenses, but in that line, they both still strike me as aloeswood sticks and are priced accordingly. The two Kohden aloeswoods seem to be to be sandalwood incenses with aloeswood oils and thus don’t strike me as having the depth and richness of most aloeswood incenses. The Sweet Aloeswood is pretty smooth and does have a bit of spice but the sandalwood base is strong and gives it the aroma of a blend. The Spicy Aloeswood has a rich, spicy oil in front but has the same issues.

When moving to the other four incenses, the price is a little cheaper and the fact that aloeswood is not a concern makes it a little more comfortable to talk about them on their own merits. The Kohden Sandalwood is quite nice, very dry and smooth with a bit of a weird aromatic contour I can’t place with just a sampler. I do like the Kohden sandalwood base on most of these sticks, although it would not surprise me if the wood was intensified by essential oil.

Kohden Musk Note starts with the same base but adds a very alluring, sweltery musk and a bit of sweet and spice to the mix. I like my musks to be a little dangerous and dense and this comes only about half way there, but seems like it would be very user friendly to those who like the style.

Kohden’s most impressive incenses are probably the last two. The Japanese Mint really benefits from the smooth sandalwood base and seems a rather broadreaching mint in aroma with a cool peppermint background that the wood brings out. This may be the one I’d pick up first. The Kohden Star Anise shows equal balance, which is good because Anise always strikes me best as part of a blend and can be overwhelming at times.

In summary this seems like quite the user friendly line. The incenses may not be totally natural but at least there are no off hints like in some of NK’s cheaper lines. There’s kind of a smooth mellowness to all of them that I credit the base for, but one would have to be a sandalwood appreciator to get fully behind them. However, at prices like $16.50 and $18.50 (for 40 sticks) I find it hard to justify their purchase over other wood incenses in the same price range, so I’m not sure when I’ll visit these again.

1 Comment

  1. Megumi said,

    July 16, 2012 at 9:10 am

    In case future readers of your archives are curious …

    The aromatics you can’t place in the Sandalwood are ginger and mugwort, according to the Japanese NK website.

    For additional information, the Mint has nutmeg and camphor, the Star Anise has almond and jujube, the Musk has peony and pine bark.

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