Notes on Incense

The fruits of the Essence of the Ages sale showed up last night, very fast especially for the time of the year, although I was in the middle of various errands (including getting the stuffing knocked out of me by my nephews), I had a chance to check out a few things and since I’m possibly the holidays away from more reviews (I’ll manage a top 10 in a week or so), I figured I’d mention a few things in brief.

I tried Baieido’s Tokusen Syokohkoku incense in a sampler a while back and while I remember it being great, my appreciation for it has been enhanced. I think it’s partially because I’ve been heating Baieido Hauksui aloeswood which is a real gourmet experience, and it’s the aloeswood used in the TS. You actually get this experience in the stick, although considerably spiced up and I’m hard pressed not to call this one of the world’s great incenses. Don’t settle with a sampler or roll on this one, even though the box is very pricy I get the impression I’ll be going through this fast. On the other hand, for the quality you’re getting I consider it a deal.

I’ve been wanting to do a write up on Shoyeido’s Horin series as I love most of them. Up to now I’ve been missing the Muromachi, which I liked but don’t remember rating over any of the others. I was surprised it never made a big impression on me because it’s very rich and almost like a caramel incense if you can imagine except with all sorts of wood aromas playing off of it. May take me a few to get used to it, so when I do I’ll write about one of the best incense lines out there. I usually have at least one in my changing top 10.

I burned about an inch of Kunmeido’s Heian Koh, which is a thick, square cut, green, higher end aloeswood. As I’d already tried the Asuka, it seemed a little like a variant version, but I’ll need a little more time to eke out the differences. Quite nice and very woody, I was reminded a little by one of Shoyeido’s Zen incenses in style (although which one I can’t remember) and it may have been this stick that reminded me a great deal of one of Shoyeido’s Daily incenses I recently called distinctive.

One of the best parts of the night was finally discovering what my mystery incense stick was. This was originally given to me as a sampler in an order from a company I had trouble with and I immediately fell in love with it. As it turns out it’s a Korean stick called Chui-Woon and fortunately for me it’s very affordable. In fact several of the Korean incenses I tried all share similar qualities which made me feel like my nose was probably going as it tends to with new hauls. But I was very pleased to finally figure this one out. I’ll be writing many of these up eventually, there’s really a wealth of Korean incense to discover.

I went for that sampler of seven Tennendo rolls all of which I think I’ll be very pleased with. The Frankincense I already know and love, but I tried the Kuukai as well which was very nice. Tennendo seems to differ quite a bit from other companies in the style of their incenses, I’m not sure I could describe it, but there’s a real spice presence at work and a lightness to the aromas.

The Tibetan incense Ribo Sangtsheo was created by Mandala Trading company like two of my favorite Tibetans, I could instantly tell when seeing the ingredients list on the inside wrapper. It makes me wonder what else they do. This is a thinner stick than the other two but still looks like a natural combo of various herbs, including 20% spikenard, which is always nice.

I also tried my first rope incense, which I believe was Naga Durva. I’m glad I picked one of the smaller ones as this is a very smoky sort of incense that reminds me of when I used to buy Indian incense powders. It burns pretty quickly and I’d say the smoke is too dense except I believe I’m probably just not used to the style yet. I was pleased with the free rope burner as well, it’s a lot more deluxe than it looked in the picture and I look forward to hanging a coil on it too.

Tried bits of a couple other Tibetans, and by the end of the night I realized there wasn’t anything I didn’t really like, which is always good. But it’s definitely that Tokusen Syukohkoku that will be on my mind for a while, along with Kunmeido Asuka.

I should also mention that Keigado’s Full Moon incense is a fantastic little, inexpensive daily incense – more amber than sandalwood, and definitely up there with Kyukyodo’s Shirohato and Ikaruga.

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