Notes on Incense 2

That seven roll Tennendo sampler Essence of the Ages is selling is extremely impressive. I mentioned the Kuukai yesterday but found the Tensei to be even better, an incredible aloeswood with a very smooth wood finish, just how I like them. The Renzan appears to be their version of Kyukyudo Shiun or Nippon Kodo’s Zuin, a dark, slightly cherry-scented sweet aloeswood, very nice.

Also still trying out the ropes. Part of it is getting used to the aroma of the rice paper which isn’t far from tobacco paper. The one I like the most so far, but which puts out smoke like a fire is the Aajudyo Dyupayan incense with the scary looking sky god on the front. They’re big ropes and smell like spiced up camphor wood, but burn almost like vanilla. Very different and very intuition stimulating.

I’m finding the savory, tangy nature that attracted me to the Chui Woon stick to be common to many of the Korean incenses. It almost seems as if several of them are graded so that the more inexpensive the incense the less panoramic the scent with Bo Rim being the most premium and then, ramping down, Ja Kum, Jing-Gwan, Chiu Woon, Dabo and Chung-Shim. I only sampled the last few of these very quickly but Dabo was almost so tangy it was tart (and losing the balance a little) and Chung-Shim was just a little too standard in the end, but the rest of these are all very nice. Unlike this group, there’s also Ilgakmun, which is a very complex and impressive woody incense, perhaps the closest to Japanese incense here and Seok-Hyang which is a very dry sandalwood heavy incense with a bit of pepper and spice to it.

I’ll also confirm Bernd’s comment from a prior thread that the Minorien Frankincense is extremely impressive. It actually reminded me of the Fred Soll sticks due to the very high resin content, but more so it reminded me of a spicier pontifical resin blend that you might find at a Catholic church. In fact I have a Matchless Gifts incense blend I’ve had forever called Kashmiri which this is very close to, the usual frankincense and benzoin combination except a little hotter via cinnamon or spice. Beautiful, impressive stuff with that very earthy feel the Minorien line has throughout. That quality may be why I like this line so much, it’s very different from all other companies.

What else? I mentioned Kunmeido Heian Koh yesterday. This strikes me, now that I’ve finished a stick, as being a bit overpriced in that for an aloeswood stick you don’t tend to get a lot of depth. It smells very similar to Shoyeido’s Kyo-Nishiki, which I’d have considered distinctive prior to this, but unfortunately (or at least so far) Heian Koh doesn’t strike me as justifying its cost. On the other hand it does strike me as a meditation or temple stick, so it may be more friendly for that purpose. I don’t like to pick on Kunmeido’s incenses though, especially as they have some of the best lower end sticks around like the Reiryo-koh, Onkun-koh and Shoryu-koh. Of course, I get the impression we haven’t seen half of this companies incenses yet, especially in the higher ranges.

Also lots of Tibetans. So many of the ones I’ve gotten are as mellow as the ropes are smoky. They’re all quite good, but I think my running favorite would be the Maya Devi Salvia Officinalis stick. As I’ve mentioned with the Dhoop Factory Ganden incense, there’s this wonderful sweet, sage related, grassy herb they use that I find really pleasant and this has it with a touch of citrus or something. Very clean and refreshing.

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4 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    January 16, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Right now I’ve got Ohjya Koh, Kyojiman, Shun-Yo and Misho which are most of the lower end and more affordable premium boxes. They’re definitely all very nice, no question (Misho and Kyojiman are both favorites), but when you compare anything more expensive and higher end I think you’re almost always getting a better bang for the buck somewhere else.

    Of course the exception to this “rule” is that the top three in Shoyeido’s premium line all have kyara in them and thus you really can’t compare these incenses to more than a few from other companies. Nippon Kodo has high end kyara incenses but few of them make it outside the country and year round, Kyara Taikan is really the top line and it’s much cheaper than any of the Shoyeidos although I assume it has a small percentage of kyara. Baieido’s Koh Shi Boku can be had for about $320 but you’re also getting more sticks than a comparable package from Shoyeido and not only that but Baieido’s stick might be a higher end kyara than Shoyeido use (of course the sticks are skinnier too). Other than Baieido’s hyper-premium Kyara Kokoh, easily the most expensive and premium incense I’ve seen for sale in the US and Minorien’s Kyara which isn’t in the same league as anything here, that’s about all the choice one has outside of Japan.

    I did get the premium sampler from Shoyeido once which led me to grab 8 sticks of Sho-kaku. All three kyara incenses really blew me away and still do, however even though the quality of wood is close to tops, my appreciation doesn’t increase that much between these and the much more affordable Sho-Ran-Ko and Enkuu incenses. While I don’t think either has kyara, both strike me as far more complex than any of the Shoyeido incenses, but on the other hand I may only think that because I’ve spent time with them. Then again, I’ve burned as many Enkuu sticks as I have Sho-Kaku and find the former more complex. I find more and more that I get my kyara fix from the Horin/Ten-Pyo which evokes the same kyara aroma the Premium incenses have while being much cheaper.

    Eventually I’ll cover the Shoyeido Premium line here, but I definitely want to give them the time they deserve and the expense prevents me from making that a quick turn around. Shokaku is unquestionably brilliant, even if it does come with the same sort of mild guilt burning a $20 bill does. 🙂

    Mike

  2. Bernd Sandner said,

    January 16, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Mike! Thanks for the reply!

    Since you mentioned the Shoyeido high line. Their Ohjya-koh incense was responsible for my becoming an incense (almost)-addict. I bought it by chance, and was surprised that incense could be so special.
    Of course I had been burning incense before, indian and simple japanese, but I did not know about this kind of quality.
    You can imagine how surprised I was, when I realised that Ohjya-koh is only the beginning.
    With the top incenses, my only experience is with Go-un. I bought an 8 piece sampler. And I must confess, allthough Kyukyodo is my favourite company, this is something great. While with other incenses I feel like bathing in them, this one, the Go-un seems to change my condition of mind. Clear, unwavering, I do not know how to explain. I am anxious to try the Myo-ho and Sho-kaku, but unfortunatelly I am not exactly wealthy. But still, I will go for their 8 piece sampler soon.

    Bernd

  3. Mike said,

    January 16, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Hey Bernd!

    I like the Minorien Sandalwood a lot, it reminds me of Indian sticks/dhoops in Japanese stick form and thus sets itself apart from the many purer “old mountain” sandalwood sticks that are most common. So I guess that would make all four Minoriens successful to my nose, as I’m liking the kyara more with each burn. In many ways it’s just the distinctiveness of the line, smells you really can’t find elsewhere.

    I do want to reiterate with Enkuu-Horizon that the biggest similarity to Sho-Ran-Ko is in its complexity. It’s hard to describe but I just can’t see either incense as static, the high quality of wood combined with the various ingredients give them both a lot of play while burning. But where Sho-Ran-Ko is mellow and playful, Enkuu-Horizon is more likely to appeal to the heavy wood lover as it’s incredibly intense and powerful – I can imagine you’ll really like it. Anything like this, for me, impresses me more with each stick and at the moment I’d consider them my top two incenses (maybe because the high line Shoyeido prices make them difficult to keep in stock).

    I think of those three Tennendos via the English “medals:” Gold, Silver and Bronze. I like all three a lot – very high quality woods, although when it comes to complexity, only the Silver really rates due to the combination of two woods. I’d say both Kuukai and Tensei are at least as good as any of these.

    I’ll have to give the SRK/Ryuhinko combo burn a try!

    Best, Mike

  4. Bernd Sandner said,

    January 15, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Happy New Year Mike

    I am glad you also enjoy the Minorien Frankincense. I also think that this companies products are special.
    When I smell the open box of aloeswood or kyara, I feel like a little wood bug living inside a cabinet maker’s cupboard. Nothing artificial. All earth, wood, resin. The sandalwood, unfortunatelly I have not tried yet, but the next time I order in the US, it will be included.What do you think about their sandalwood?
    What I will also include in my next order is the Tennendo Enkuu Horizon, that you like so much. I am curious, since you compare it to Sho-Ran-Ko. I tried the Karafune Yuhin and Karafune Kahin, which I rank high, but burn quite rarely. Have you tried them yet?

    Greetings from Berlin! Bernd

    P.S. If you want to get an idea of what a “mixture between Sho-Ran-Ko and Ryuhinko” feels like, just burn them together. Try it. It works, although, of course it is not the same as burning the nameless stick, I have told you about. I am curious about your comment!


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