Best Incense – December 2007

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

  1. Kyukyodo / Sho Ran Ko – I’ve been finding it almost impossible to bump this from the number one slot for the last few months, it’s truly the most complex and playful incense on the market with an aroma that never seems to become static and predictable. A true work of art that gets it right on every level.
  2. Bo Rim (Dan) Sticks (bottom of page) – The most premium of Korean incenses and very addictive, these are rich and tangy sticks that contrast nicely with other aromas. Although if you’re new to Korean incense it might be worth starting out less premium and working up from there, before this one trumps em all.
  3. Baieido / Tokusen Syukohkoku – I just read somewhere that Syukohkoku, as a reference to the Silk Road, means “gathering of incense nations.” This deluxe, spicy, high quality aloeswood incense is a triumph and something I’ve burned quite a bit over the holidays. Hakusui goodness.
  4. Mandala Trading / Tibetan Monastery Incense (third down) – Absolutely one of my all time favorite Tibetan incenses, this spicy, woody stick has, if only temporarily, become the choice of the last burn of the night. Despite how spicy this is, I find it quite relaxing and introspective and it’s not only accessible but has a few layers of complexity that evince a careful composition.
  5. Tennendo / Enkuu-Horizon – Tennendo make a lot of great aloeswood incense sticks, but this rich, indulgent, powerful long stick appears to be one of their top lines. I won’t say more as I want to review this one soon. It’s one of the few incenses with the complexity level of Sho-Ran-Ko.
  6. Tennendo / Kuukai – On the home page of Essence of the Ages, at least for December, is a seven roll sampler that includes this as the top line. I can’t recommend that sampler enough as an introduction to a number of different aloeswood and sandalwood styles, most of which I had a hard time keeping off this list. Kuukai’s the most premium in this sampler, an incense I like more every time I burn a stick, it’s very woody and spicy enough to make it rich. Another in a series I hope to getting back to sooner rather than later.
  7. Kunmeido / Asuka – The most deluxe of the Kunmeido incenses I’ve seen so far, this appears to be the culmination of a rather distinctive line, due, I believe, to a certain root they use in most of their incenses. This is a very green aloeswood that has a top minty note that is quite refreshing. Not far from their Heian-Koh, which is a thicker stick.
  8. Shoyeido / Horin / Ten-Pyo – I could just as easily include the whole Horin line on my top 10 list as an entry, as I frequently burn all five of them. This is the top line, kyara-infused stick and it’s always a delightful incense. If it was less expensive due to the ingredients I’d probably have it higher on this list.
  9. Baieido / Kai un Koh (bottom of page) – One of the best incenses you can buy for the money, this will periodically come back to this list depending on how frequently I burn it. This incense demonstrates to my nose why Baieido is one of the great incense companies. Plonk $15 down for a roll and see if you don’t agree.
  10. Minorien / Frankincense – One of the only stick incenses that captures the essence of a Catholic frankincense-based blend. Spicy, resiny and just a little raw like the whole Minorien line.


  1. Mike said,

    January 7, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Hi Dee, I hear ya. Sho Ran Ko is just a constantly surprising and nonstatic incense and part of the joy of the roll is how much there is of it. I’d be hard pressed to find another incense of its quality as affordable per inch as it is. I know I’ll be planning for a restock long before I run out. – Mike

  2. Dee said,

    January 3, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I’ve been enjoying the Sho Ran Ko lately as well.. In addition to all the aspects you bring up – with so many sticks in the pack, it’s not too long before the price gets forgotten and I don’t feel guilty burning it regularly.. it just keeps lasting and lasting..

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