The Baieido catalog is not set up like those of other incense companies where lines of incense are ordered by quality from the expensive to the affordable. Not only that, but Baieido’s incenses are often higher quality than their corresponding prices, which might be as positive a comment as I could make for a company as a whole. You’re basically guaranteed good, natural incense from them and I get the impression that they rarely if ever use synthetics or nonnatural organics in their blends.
Baieido also know their aloeswood, perhaps better than any other company and they offer four kinds of aloeswood from inexpensive Indonesian Kokonoe No Kumo to Vietnamese Hakusui, as well as an entire Rikkoku set with six different aloeswoods. Hakusui aloeswood is about as fine a wood as you can imagine outside kyara, it’s warm, spicy and devoid of the off hints you’d find in lower quality wood. And in Baieido’s premium Tokusen Syukohkoku (second down), it’s the basis of one of the most incredible, well rounded incenses available.
If you’ve sampled enough incense, you’ve probably run across what would be called spice blends. When I think of these, particularly in terms of “hot and spicy,” you’re usually in the realms of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. These are difficult incenses to get right because the aromatics are always intense, sometimes too intense, so I find it difficult to find one with the right balance. While the ingredients list for this incense doesn’t include any of those spices overtly, relying more on the interplay among the aloeswood, sandalwood and “Chinese herbs and spices,” the stick definitely seems to have the perfect spice blend in front, one that interacts with the high quality wood.
While Tokusen Syukohkoku is certainly a premium incense and will have an associated start up cost (usually $84 for a 50 gram box, but some companies break the boxes down into starter rolls), you’re getting as much bang for the buck as you can possibly get for this sort of incense (130 sticks for $84 means you’re paying (very approx.) $o.75 a stick which is a tremendous deal for this sort of quality level. In fact with all the changes in aloeswood regs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the price come up a bit – and it would still be worth it.
I hesitate to come up with an all time top 10 incense list, given cost plays such an enormous factor in what’s good, but if I did, I’d be hard pressed not to have this one on the list. It’s that good, perhaps the perfect spicy incense.