Kunmeido have to be lauded for having such a distinctive incense catalog. Their inexpensive and aromatic Reiryo Koh is well known for its unique aroma (you really have to try it, I’m nowhere near being able to describe it) and there’s a note in this incense that follows many of the incenses up the line, from the aloeswood version of Reiryo Koh, on through brilliant and inexpensive blends Onkun Koh and Shoryu Koh, climbing up to what appear to be the two top lines currently available in the US, Heian Koh and Asuka.
Both of these incenses are too close in scent for me to usually be able to tell them apart. Given that Heian Koh is a thicker, square cut stick, it’s not hard to come to the opinion that it’s just a different form of Asuka. Heian Koh might be the cheaper of the two (you certainly can afford small boxes a lot more easily anyway), but it’s also the one I like the most. As a reference, I’ll mention the Shunkodo Yoshino No Haru blend, a green aloeswood stick with a very pungent, green and rich oil note that gets more delightful with every stick. Asuka and Heian Koh are like deluxe versions of this incense and everything I have just described is in play, except that the two Kunmeidos and especially Asuka seem to have a very subtle and sublime, almost spearmint like note that adds complexity to the scent. At times, there is no incense that better hits the spot than either of these two and my little kiri box of Heian Koh is becoming dangerously depleted.
Asuka seems to be the most premium of the two, with the oil note appearing, at times, to be a little more complex, something that will be lost immediately if you’re experiencing aromatic fatigue. Both incenses come in small, large and long stick box, but where you can pick up a small box of Heian Koh for under $30, you’d need to play at least twice that for the most inexpensive box of Asuka. At the same time you could likely approach the style by trying the abovementioned Yoshino No Haru (third to last) as a (very slightly) less premium version. I get the impression this sort of blend is a Japanese classic and the only aloeswood incense that has this intensity in the oil note is probably Jinko Yomei, a completely different scent. There will be at least one of these Kunmeidos on my monthly top ten lists for quite some time.