Best Incense – February 2008

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

  1. Tennendo / Enkuu-Horizon – Enkuu-Horizon is the incense I’d probably burn most often would it grow on trees and there was no such thing as kyara. There are qualities in this incense that remind me of a good aged single malt, as if there was a maturation process involved. It’s dense, woody and extraordinarily complex.
  2. Mandala Trading / Tibetan Monastery Incense (third down) – This is one of the most addictive, consistently impressive Tibetan incenses and one I burn at least every other day. There’s something about the Mandala Trading incense that makes the incenses so potent and this one has a cinnamon/spice mixed with a more traditional herbal base that I just can’t get enough of. One of the best under $10 incenses you can buy.
  3. Kyukyodo / Sho Ran Ko – If I had an objective favorite incense it would be this one and as such it’s hard to knock it off the list even if in the last two months I’ve been conservative in reaching for one of these sticks. One of the finest aromatic experiences available.
  4. Shoyeido / Horin / Muro-Machi – Maybe it speaks for the whole Horin line, but I tend to hop favorites in every given month and could easily see any of the five on the list. Muro-machi’s the newest for me, it’s a caramel aloeswood that combined a rich sweetness with a very high quality of wood. I severely depleted my stock on this one this month.
  5. Shunkodo / Yoshino no haru – Even though many of the Shunkodo incenses don’t breach this top 10 list, I may burn them more than any other incense. The primary reason for this is just that each Shunkodo roll has 140-160 sticks and thus I feel like I can burn them without feeling like I’m running out. Yoshino no haru is similar to Kunmeido Asuka and Heian Koh in that it’s a green aloeswood with a very particular rich and fresh aroma. While this one isn’t perhaps quite as deluxe as the Kunmeidos, I also have a lot more of it and thus burn it fairly frequently.
  6. Shoyeido / Incense Road or Gourmet / Frankincense – I’m just about out of stock on this one so it may be a while before it hits this list again, but I’ve grown to adore this very rich and spicy stick. It’s of the kind (like Horin/Hori-kawa) that tends to even impress friends who don’t normally notice your incense.
  7. Mandala Trading / Himalayan Herbal Incense (second down) – I didn’t warm to this quite as fast as the Tibetan Monastery Blend but I’m starting to like this one almost as much. It makes me think spearmint candy cane. I had left this burning upstairs and ran out for a quick errand. When I came back the whole place was imbued with this fresh, minty, herbal scent.
  8. Shunkodo / Haru no Kaori – While I wouldn’t really put this rather inexpensive aloeswood incense in the same league as Kyukyodo’s Azusa, it’s a vaguely similarly styled incense, combining a floral top note with a slight and unobtrusive woody base. I kept coming back to this incense over and over during the month.
  9. Kunmeido / Reiryo Koh – Eventually I’ll get around to making a top 10 Incense under $10 list and if I do, this trusty classic will likely be in the top half. It’s one of the few non-aloeswood incenses that has an intense complexity to it. I assume the Reiryo root is part of the equation, although in more deluxe Kunmeido incenses you get that depth without the wild and initially intense spice note here. It starts off rough and challenging but really mellows out into a fine incense.
  10. Baieido / Tokusen Syukohkoku – Aromatic fatigue who nail just about anyone who burns more than a few sticks in a given night. I mention this because this deluxe Baieido stick is utterly awe inspiring if you’re coming into an incense burning session fresh. It’s partially the very high quality aloeswood but there’s also a very mild yet complex level of spice that can get lost if the nose is numb. One of the world’s great incenses.
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35 Comments

  1. Angry Pagan said,

    November 24, 2010 at 6:44 am

    [edited] Angry Pagan, I’m with you on your comment but I don’t think the February 2008 Top 10 list is the right thread for it.

  2. ibn said,

    March 27, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    thanks Mike.

  3. Mike said,

    March 27, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Probably the Minorien Sandalwood, but that’s partially because the old mountain sticks, while I like them, aren’t particular favorites (for this sort of thing I prefer the wood itself on a heater). Minorien’s version is a bit spicier and maybe a little closer to Indian sandalwoods.

  4. ibn said,

    March 27, 2008 at 10:09 am

    What are your current preferred sandalwood sticks Mike ?

  5. Mike said,

    March 27, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Ibnfoobar –

    Very much agree with your post. I still have some old mountain sandalwood sticks I bought from Ecclecstacy early last year that I think are quite comparable to other sticks. Aloeswood, on the other hand, varies so much in quality that as I’ve explored and gotten used to various Shoyeido and Baieido blends, the more inexpensive Vietnamese sticks, including the Scented Mountain sticks, just don’t do it for me like they used to. But I’m glad to some extent that I worked my way up so I did have a chance to enjoy those before my bubble was popped. 🙂

    Mike

  6. Mike said,

    March 27, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Kohdude, Thanks for the description of the hakusui sticks, it is a surprise to hear it’s a green stick as I would have never expected that.

    I’m still up for some kind of trade at some point like you’ve suggested in past comments, but at the moment I don’t have the time and energy to devote to it. I also have a pretty large queue of incenses to evaluate at this point. I do very much appreciate your offer, but let me get back to you in a month or two, OK?

    Mike

  7. ibnfoobar said,

    March 27, 2008 at 7:04 am

    hi Mike, i agree with you about the difference between the top of the line premium Baieido and Shoyeido aloeswood sticks and house brand sticks offered by some other companies. The former really are multi-dimensional and demonstrate great sophistication and experience in the incense making arts. In comparison, the house brand aloeswood sticks tend to be flatter single-note incenses. They have their place too though and i burn them together with a good old mountain sandalwood stick for a more balanced experience. On the other hand, I would claim that the sandalwood stick situation is not so clear, with some great house brand old mountain sandalwood products being available from vendors.

  8. Kohdude said,

    March 26, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    kiI received the Baieido Hakusui sticks today. I have only burned a half stick of it so far.It is very dry with very light hints of floral. I do not get much spice or alot of sweetness from it. It has a very Chinese herbiness to it. I like it but it is far from a favorite of Baieido for me. It may have to be burned a few more times to get a true feel for this blend. It is complex and a little different than my usual taste.It has a fragrance of something that reminds me of very traditional Chinese / Japanese scent. I would like to send you a stick to get your opinion on this blend. You can put your info on my e-mail where to send it to.It is also a thicker type stick than usual sticks.It is thinner than Kai Un Koh and thicker than Baieido’s normal thickness.It is green in color,which I was surprised coming from Baieido. I feel it is worth having because of it being no longer avalible .I am unsure if I would buy it again even though I have only burned it once.I have a feeling this scent may grow on me after a few more experience.I am burning it again as I type this and I detect frankincense and and something evergreenish like probably Hinoki.I can feel how this could be a Shinto or Buddhist temple type of stick.Let me know a.s.a.p. about if you would like to have me send you a stick

  9. Mike said,

    March 20, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Never smelled pure ambergris. I do remember some company selling it in the US, but it maybe have been Capricorn’s Lair. I doubt you’ll find anything else quite as magical as aloeswood though.

    I’d like to try the Hakusui at some point – right now I’m not in a place to do trading, but that’s likely to change at some point in the future and will let you know. Thanks.

    Mike

  10. Kohdude said,

    March 19, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I was wondering if you have ever smelled pure Ambergris? I have read about it and wonder if I would like it. It is illegal in the U.S. I think.I have searched and found some in other countries but I do not know if the price is worth the smell,since I have not smelled it.I could not see it being able to surpass Aloeswood,even though it is different.I have heard it is usually very musky in fragrance with lite sweetness.I tend to enjoy more sweet and spicy with some dryness and sometimes a touch of bitterness, like high quality aloeswoods have.If you are interested I can trade you a stick or two of Baieido’s Hakusui if you would like to try it.I am excited to hear Japan Incense is going to have some new kyara sticks soon. Hopefully they won’t be $300 or more per box. Thank You Mike…..Kohdude

  11. Mike said,

    March 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Ross,

    If you do a search on this blog for Capricorn’s Lair, you’ll be able to find my opinions on them as well as links to other reader opinions. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see those before dealing with the company. I’d report that experience to the Better Business Bureau and your credit card company. Capricorn’s Lair are obstinately dishonest about the way they do business and I’d advise any MP readers to avoid doing business with them. I don’t think Jinkoh Juzan is even remotely in that price range, and for them to refuse a refund is beyond the pale, possibly the worst of several examples of the companies business practices.

    I’ll make it a point to say that the links to incense companies I have on the right are only those I’ve had positive experiences with.

    – mike

  12. Ross said,

    March 19, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I am sending this as a heads up to those searching for Kyara deals. Be very careful of a site called Capricornslair.com.
    They are advertising Nippon Kodo Gokuhin Kyara for $128.65, which would be a great deal. However, what they are shipping is NK Jinkoh Juzan, which is not even close. They are also not willing to exchange or refund in any way what so ever.
    Bummer.

    On a positve note Japan Incense says they are getting some new kyara’s in during April.
    I think I will stick with those i know and who’es knowledge I can trust.

    Ross

  13. Mike said,

    March 19, 2008 at 8:14 am

    It was weird, I noticed the other day that there’s a significant difference between Gen-roku coils and sticks. I dunno if it was due to the age of one of them, but I hadn’t noticed a difference with Hori-kawa.

    But yeah I’m thinking of grabbing one of the bigger Misho rolls. Kyo-jiman too.

    May for tax returns! 🙂 – m

  14. clairsight said,

    March 18, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I actually got the 35 stick bundles of Misho and Shun-yo about a month ago. You can’t go wrong with these. Plus the price is bearable. I am also loving the Horin series, I am almost out of my two favorites, Muro-machi and Ten-pyo. I may have to break down and do both the 80 stick rolls AND the coils. But then again I will be running out of the Enkuu soon also. God, I hope the tax returns come soon :0 )

    See ya

  15. Mike said,

    March 18, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Kohdude – never tried the Hakusui sticks, just the wood itself. In stick form I can get the Hakusui fix through Tokusen Syukohkoku…

    Ross, thanks for the heads up on Jinko Kokoh, I know that’s one I’m likely to splurge for one of these days.

    As far as sandalwood goes, perhaps one of the “old mountain” sticks would be more to your liking. I think nearly every incense company has a version of it, the one that comes to mind is Tennendo’s Kohrokan Sandalwood. It basically smells just like high quality sandalwood without much of anything else. I do tend to like something with a bit more presence usually, which might be the fact I’ve gotten used to a lot of Indian sandalwoods and the Japanese purer ones seem mild in comparison. And although not pure Sandalwood, I’m surprisingly fond of the straight up Nippon Kodo Viva Sandalwood: http://www.essenceoftheages.com/nipponkodo/nk7.html
    which is amazingly good for the price.

    Glad you liked the Reiryo Koh, always nice to get something of that quality that you can also get good stock in easily.

    There really is something special about Shoyeido incense, I’m not sure if it’s the sort of spice they use or just the extra smooth finish on their lines, but more and more their blends stand out to me. I haven’t had much free incense money of late, but I’m eyeing a big bundle of Misho for the future….

    Best,

    Mike

  16. clairsight said,

    March 17, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Hey Mike
    Just got some Jinkoh Kokoh in. Have only burned one stick so am not yet quite sure how to describe it, other then maybe “meditative”, clean and really good in a very grounded sort of way. Pretty pricing also, but apparently they are using very high grade woods.
    Tokusen Syukokoko should arrive tomorrow. I am very much looking forward to this after your write up on it, will let you know.
    What do you like in Sandalwood? I like the “general” smell, but finding something that a sure fire winner seems to be a struggle for me. Some help and insight on this would be great.
    The Minorien Fu-in Sandalwood seems a bit over spicy to me. Not bad, just almost more spice then wood. The Baieido Byakudan(Sandalwood)Kobunboku is almost too ridged.
    Oh yes, the tip about the Reiryo Koh was great. Amazing, truly rocks and one would never guess the price at that quality. A real tribute to the maker/blender.He apparently has so much skill and finesse
    Speaking of the guys who are the master blenders, I heard tell that almost all of them are in awe of the gentleman who guides Shoyeido lines. He apparently has so much skill and finesse that he’s like a treasure.

    Hope you week is smooth.

    Ross

  17. Kohdude said,

    March 14, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Have you tried Baieido’s Hakusui sticks? I ordered a bundle and I wonder if it is nice like the other sticks made with Hakusui.Baieido is no longer bringing it in the U.S. That is why I bought some.I hope it is great like other Baieido stuff.David Oller said it is not as nice as other Hakusui stuff,but I bought it anyway.I would like your feedback on this incense,if you are able. Thank You……………..Kohdude

  18. Mike said,

    March 11, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Hey Bernd, thanks for your generous offer – I just sent you an e-mail.

    Very glad everyone seems to be liking the Enkuu!

    Mike

  19. Bernd Sandner said,

    March 11, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Dear Mike,
    in order to make shure, that this will be the post with most comments, I will add another one here.
    I have received the Enkuu-Horizon and I am very happy with it. In the complexity of changing tones and notes, it is quite similar to the Sho-Ran-Ko.
    You know, when I burn the Kyukyodo incenses sometimes I think of you.
    Send me your adress via e-mail, and I will send you some samples, that you cannot get in the USA.
    Especially Kyukyodo, but also some others.
    Greetings! Bernd

  20. Mike said,

    March 11, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Hey!

    “I keep burning Sho Ran Ko and it is weird . The fragrance seems to be different every time I burn it. One time I love it,one time not as much another something else. This brand is like nothing else, it is mysterious. ”

    These are all qualities that continue to make this incense very interesting and highly rated for me. Keep in mind, the incense means “Laughing Orchid,” and I thing the scent’s mercurial, ever changing quality really matches up nicely with this description as if the incense is just keeping its true nature right out of reach. It’s sort of a lighter incense than the others you’re talking about, I’m always reminded of that mirage like quality the horizon takes on on a hot summer day.

    Glad to hear you like the ones you did, I’m really 100% behind that Enkuu which just continually surprises and delights me. Not only would I mind seeing shorter sticks of it as well, but a bulk size. It’s just stupendously good.

    Keep in mind that Heian Koh is similar to Kunmeido Asuka, Heian Koh is sort of the thick stick version of that one, so if you want the scent in a “regular” stick form, Asuka is the one to go for. Shunkodo’s Yoshino No Haru is also very similar to both of these, if it’s slightly less deluxe it’s also a lot more affordable, like with the Ranjatai, you can get decent stock with it.

    Never tried the high end Nippon Kodos, apparently why you don’t see them as much is because the quantities exported here are small. I can imagine they must be fabulous.

    Mike

  21. Kohdude said,

    March 10, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I burned Heian Koh,Enkuu and Ranjatai and they all are magnificent.They are all not overly floral and over spicey.I liked Enkuu the most, but I have only burned it one time. The others only one time also.I put Enkuu 1 Heian Koh 2 and Ranjatai 3 in order of preferance. This could change when I burn them again , but probably only with Heian Koh and Ranjatai. Enkuu is very lovely and is my favorite of the 3. It is a box I desire to have.The spice of Ranjatai is almost candy like,very tastey. The fragrance Of Heian Koh is sweet,spicey,woody and gentle floral. It may have the most balance of the 3. I know where some tax return money may be going if I can wait that long. These 3 are for sure upper premiums. I was skeptical until I tried them and they are spectacular. The other samples of the lower end stuff are just that. I find these 3 in a league way above the other stuff these companies offer. As for Minorien, I tried all of their line and It is not something I would purchase. I hope Enkuu becomes avalible in 5 and half inch sticks soon.The Ranjatai is alot of sticks for $100. Even though they are the thinest stick I have ever encountered. They make my Koh En seem thick.Thank you for your input on these incenses.I would much appreciate more input on these 3, to have more insight.I keep burning Sho Ran Ko and it is weird . The fragrance seems to be different every time I burn it. One time I love it,one time not as much another something else. This brand is like nothing else, it is mysterious. None of the 3 new ones I mentioned seem be meditation type stuff like Baieido except maybe the Heian Koh,but that is alot of what I like about them. They are a new kind of freshness that is not attempting to be a copy of other brands stuff. These all seem worth the price they are because they are all under $2 a stick. A great deal when comparing to Shoyiedo Premiums or some of the Baieido Premiums. Have you tried Nippon Kodo Premiums in the palownia boxes? I have never heard any feed back on them. They seem to have stopped producing some of them. A couple years ago they made 4 different palownia boxed Kyara’s,from $150 to $500 a box. I am interested in trying their super premiums.I have tried the Kyara Kongo and Kyara Taikan and they were ok. They have taken the super premiums off their web site.They may just be doing a new packaging for them and that is why. I know that Shoyeido premiums years ago had palownia boxes and they switched to what they are now. Shoyeido packaging is the most beautiful I have seen. The price is surely reflected buy it.The bigger boxes of Shoyeido premiums are the way to go. The prices are about half on ones like Misho.I would rather get more incense in the non fancy big boxes ,than small amounts in silk packaging. Thank you for recommending the newer avalible brands. I don’t think I whould have tried them without reading your inputs and reviews.There are some new greats in the U.S. market now. Halleluyah!!!!! Thank You Mike……Kohdude

  22. Mike said,

    March 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Kohdude,

    I have tried the Kaden Kobunboku. Like yourself I have a very high opinion of Baieido incense. Just like incenses have certain personalities, I get that impression of the companies as well, and see all of the various Japanese companies as having a slice of the pie in different ways. Baieido’s strengths are numerous as far as this is concerned, excellent and premium materials and an uncanny ability to create almost perfect blends that (as you implied) often seem much more expensive than the price.

    Favorite overall Japanese incense with price being no object? Hmm, tough question. I’d probably be satisfied with almost anything very high end, but the first one that comes to mind is Shoyeido’s Shokaku, a scent I’ve never had enough of in order to really get used to its complexity. But I’m sure Kyara Kokoh or other high end Baieido and Shoyeido incenses would make me quite happy as well.

    Under $20? Would have to be Baieido Kai Un Koh. In terms of bang for the buck, it’s hard to pick a better scent.

    mike

  23. Kohdude said,

    March 7, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    have you tried Baieido’s Kaden Kobunboku.I have found it to be an extraordinary inexpensive Vietnamese aloeswood incense. it reminds me of Tokusen Syukohkoku alot but at a third of the price.Kaden Kobunboku and Kai Un Koh smell as if they could be over $30 to $50 a roll ,but are both under $15.it is amazing how deeply relaxing and meditative some of Baieido’s incense is.I enjoy many other companies fragrances also, but Baieido’s Vietnamese incense’s are in a class by them self.they seem to bring you to a deeper tranquility.it is no wonder why they call them meditation incense.I look forward to your inexpensive reviews and ratings that you said you may do special reviews of.do you know of other highly meditative Japanese incense that is as powerful that is inexpensive. I am curious to try and find others that are as extraordinary in the same price range. I don’t know how Baieido does it,but just keep doing it. It is not incense ,it is Zencense.Thank you Baieido!!! I am still trying the premium Minorien’s ,Shunkodo,Tennendo,Kunmeido. it is taking me a while to try these samples because I have so many. they are nice stuff so far and different than some stuff I have tried by the big three companies Nippon Kodo ,Shoyeido and Baieido.I am going to try Enkuu soon. I hope to enjoy it like you have. you have given it such high marks.does it really come up to Baieido or Shoyeido’s premiums.I will have to find out. We have some similar tastes in incense ,so I figure I will enjoy it. out of all the new samples I have ,if there is only a couple I like alot I am still satisfied.I figured there will be at least three worth buying.great incense is worth it’s price if it is unique.price is no object except maybe Kyara Kohko.I don’t believe I would ever need a incense at that kind of price anyway. It appears you don’t have to spend more than $20 to get superb product even though you can and I have and I do because there are certain incense’s I enjoy so much I justify the price. They are still less expensive than alot of luxury items like wine,cigars and recreational drugs and they go alot farther. some boxes I have,I have had for a few years.Japanese incense is almost like collecting wine,except incense lasts longer and stretches farther.A $100 box could last over a year if you have a nice selection of brands.What is your favorite overall Japanese incense,if you had to pick one and price was no object? also favorite under $20 Japanese incense. Thank You…

  24. Mike said,

    March 6, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Thanks Ross. Definitely check out the Reiryo Koh if you haven’t, that’s probably going to end up being one of my favorite inexpensive incenses. – m

  25. Ross Urrere said,

    March 3, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Hi Mike:
    I wish I was as elegant with the written word as yourself, Bernard and Trygve but that does not seem to be my gift. Love the way you can discribe things.
    One of the greatest parts of the incense experience to me is the recall of the flavors hours or days later. Just today there was a moment when the smell of first Incense Road and then one of the Shoyedio kyaras somehow danced through my nose. Not a bad trick considering that there at least 8 monitors plus cpu’s and assorted support gear all blazing away in a rather small space (the basic world of computer support/IT).
    Also like you, I am liking finding less exspensive stuff that has a style/quality that can still can hold its own. Sure its not high end Aloewood/kyara but the search is fun and the discovery is like finding a rare coin in that drawer where you throw the pocket change. A rush to the center of the head!

    See ya

    Ross

    Ross

  26. Mike said,

    March 3, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Ross!

    Super glad you liked the Enkuu-Horizon. It reminds me of this quote from the Enfleurage aloeswood article you linked to above:

    “Deep, rich, earthy and personal, its sweet yet sharp balsamic woodiness will enter you through all of the your senses. Beyond a pleasant smell, a drop of agarwood will softly invade your lungs, your mind, your body and spirit, taking total possession of you. You will smell that drop all day, he won’t let you forget him, a constant reminder. The body heats, the heart expands, other scents retreat in the presence of oud. Oud is sexuality, passion, ecstasy and love. Oud is wild, he is primitive, he is the ancientness, holiness and sensuality of the world and all of its history.”

    I think the writer amazingly captures what it is that draws us to aloeswood. Particularly in an incense like Enkuu is the ancientness, that sense of the vast past, a sort of grandfather like aura to it. I think all great incense has an aroma that you’ll carry around with you long after you’re actually near any smoke. Many of the great scents I’ve discussed here, the ones that are totally striking follow me around for days, it’s as if they reach back to a dreamtime. And like you said there’s a complexity here that makes each experience that much different. You can’t say that about too many incenses.

    As far as the Shunkodos, I find these to be such trusty scents and I burn them all frequently, thanks to having such thick rolls of them. I reviewed Zuika earlier, but totally agree with your description. It almost perfectly balances wood and floral and is so light that you can almost get the impression it doesn’t have complexity but with frequent burning I found it to open up. Really amazing stuff.

    I’d definitely consider getting Yoshino No Haru in a long thicker cut stick, as that version would probably be as comparable to Kunmeido Heian Koh as the regular stick is to Kunmeido Asuka. All have what seems to be a signature high end, green aloeswood style with an incredibly addictive oil note that made me run down my stock on some of these in about a week. Having the scent in a thicker stick makes it even more powerful.

    The cassia in the Jinsoku does set it apart from other similar low end blends, there’s kind of a lightness to it I don’t sense when it’s replace for cinnamon, but that could be my imagination.

    Thanks for noting the Baikundo too, I’ve sort of instinctively stayed away from some of the less smoke blends, but if they’re as good as you say, I’ll have to give them a try.

    Sounds like you had a great trip, I hope to make a stop at the store next time I get to that area of SF. I occasionally go see concerts at the Palace of Fine Arts which is practically right up the street, there’s a really nice (Brazilian?) restaurant right around there as well.

    Mike

  27. Mike said,

    March 3, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Kohdude,
    Thanks for your comments. I find it a bit treacherous comparing various incenses. While Koh En and Koh Shi Boku are brilliant and costly aloeswood sticks and most likely have more expensive ingredients than the Kyukyodo Sho Ran Ko, it’s the true artisan-like nature of the Kyukyodo that impresses me, what is done with the ingredients at hand rather than just ranking them by expense. And I’d be hard pressed to find a better incense in terms of its creativity than this one.
    If we were to appraise incenses just by how costly they are, then it’s likely a top 10 list would be largely dominated by Baieido and Shoyeido as they’re mostly the companies involved in creating high end kyara and aloeswood incenses. And even beyond costs and given an unlimited bank account, I can imagine many of these would show up on my monthly top 10 lists. I do tend to fight against the urge to lean in this direction as I’d like my incense experience to be broad, diverse and encompass many styles. I’d hate to only be left with the taste for $300 aloeswood rolls.

    With that said, I do prefer the very woody ones myself. The Enkuu-Horizon, Shunkodo Ranjatai and the Aloeswood and Kyara from Minorien all strike me as being predominantly wood blends. I also get a definitive wood style with the Tennendo Tensei although some of this might be the wood oil. Most of the Ecclecstacy pure aloeswood sticks, to my nose, are all in a much more inexpensive category and I’d as soon buy some of the lower end Baieidos than those. Course if you like the Ecclecstacy sticks I’d try the premium end of the Sacred Mountain aloeswood line as well.

    But as usual your mileage may vary…

    Mike

  28. Ross Urrere said,

    March 2, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Hello Mike and list
    Went to Japan Incense. What a great and fun store. The owners (Kotaro and Jay) are the best. It reminded me of hanging out with artist/craftsmen frinds who end up showing you all their best and most wonderous creations.
    Walked out with lots and have not gotten to really study it all, however the Tennendo / Enkuu-Horizon is so so fine, your picture of it as fine single malt is pretty much on the money for a discription. Not only does it seem a bit different between each stick ( well, all three so far) but within each stick there are many suprises. Got to love this one.
    Also ended up with 3 more from Shunkohdo.
    Yoshino no haru, Zuika koh and Jinsoku Koh.
    Quick take on them is that they are all nice in their own way. Really light to medium degrees of floral(not at all heavy) with the Yoshino maybe the most, square cut stick here, big, bright green with the aloeswood right up front. the Zuika walks the edge, not sure how to classify it. There is some floral but it is very subtle, eligent,great aloeswood, blues and light greens here, aristocratic, really like this one. Jinsoku, very bright, lots of cassia for that bright hit. It’s also not very expensive, they are all a great deal and seem very different from the Baieido/Shoyeido “flavors”. The long sticks are on sale(apparently people here are not into the long sticks/long burn times.
    One last one, I asked Kotaro to recommend a floral type style and he handed me a stick of Baikundo Less Smoke Plum. I was not real sure until I caught the first taste. Amazing, you just know it is plum, that certain “plumish” overall fusion of sweet/tart/fresh and a bunch of other discriptors. I was somewhat shocked at how good it was. They gave me a sampler so I can taste the line, should be great fun.

    See you later, enjoy the sunshine.
    Ross

  29. Kohdude said,

    March 1, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    I bought samplers from Japan Incense of the one’s I wanted to trade you for ,like Shunkodo’s Ranjatai,Tennendo’s Enkuu,Minorien’s Kyara,Kunmeido’s Heian Ko and they sent me the Tennendo and Daihatsu stuff along with the whole line of Minorien ,as I guess a bonus.I have burned some Tennendo sticks and they are ok. I am going to try the Enkuu sparingly so I can get a full evaluation, since I only have one stick.I hope it is alot nicer than the Tennendo regular line because they are a little ordinary, even though they are different. I am so partial to Baieido that it is difficult to even find scents as pleasing as their’s by other companies. I do like Shoyeido and some Nippon Kodo. I am excited to try these new high end sticks.I hope to find something really terrific in all these samples.I prefer less floral and more wood and spice with touches of floral. I found Kyukyodo’s Sho Ran Ko slightly average smelling. It is balanced,but I would prefer more aloeswood in the mix.it is nice none the less.I mentioned it because you have gone on about it in many reviews.In my opinion it is no where near Baieido’s Koh En or Koh Shi Boku.I am going to give these newer brands a chance and allow my self to be open to some other companies producing extraordinary scents. Out of all the newer brands which one do you find to be the finest in woody qualities of the premiums.From what I’ve read it seens to be Shunkodo’s Ranjatai.I would enjoy some input about deep woody selections. most of my super woody stuff is pure Vietnamese premiums from Ecclecstacy. they seem to have the best selection I am aware of. The 1# Vietnamese pure they have is the finest I have experienced.no where else seems to have a great selection of pure aloeswood sticks or they are not as high end.the price on a box of 1# is around $100 and could be over $300 if it was from Japan.You get a lot of sticks and they are over 8 inches. Thank you……….. Kohdude

  30. Mike said,

    March 1, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Kohdude,
    I have tried the Daihatsu black boxes, in fact I’ll be writing those four up in the near future. The two you named are probably my favorites of the two. But yeah, they are not traditional, in fact most of the line seems to work with French perfume companies and the aromas tend to have that sort of intensity that makes me think these are not purely natural incenses but make use of perfume technology. Nevertheless I thought all four were nice, but amazingly in the line I think the cheapeest of the four (which I think is the Myo-jou) was the nicest. But more on those later.
    I love Tennendo incense, if you look in the Incense Reviews Tab you’ll find some reviews of their products. The Karafune might be the nicest of the lower end sandalwood and spice, every day blends I’ve tried although I’ve yet to really sit down and compare these across companies. I think you’re likely to enjoy the others in that sampler even more, incenses like Kuukai, Tensei and Renzan are all scents I’d highly recommend.

    Mike

  31. Kohdude said,

    February 29, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    have you tried the Daihatsu black box incenses like Myo-jyou or Kaizan. I bought a sampler of the whole series. they are all sandalwood blends that are sweet with something I am not identifing. different stuff I don’t know if I would purchase. they are very untraditional smelling to me. they may be a intended for the new modern taste of fragrance. the packaging even looks like the way companies are doing their new modern stuff. this stuff is o.k. ,and it’s inexpensive but I tend to be more attracted to other sandalwoods that are more traditional.the prices on these are low for what the packaging is ,which is nice.$5 to $10 a box. I also have bought a Tennendo sampler of 7 different sticks from Karafune up to Kuukai. What do you think of there line of product. I have only burned 1 stick and it was the Karafune. Thank You…….Kohdude

  32. Mike said,

    February 29, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Hi Ross,

    There really aren’t that many kyara incenses available in the US, so here’s kind of a rough rundown. Shoyeido has three incenses with kyaras that sit at the top of their Premium line. Increasing in quality those are Go-Un, Myo-Ho and Sho-kaku. All of them will cost you $259-$499 for a 35 stick box, but of course they’re all truly amazing incenses. There’s also some kyara in the Horin/Ten-Pyo which is quite a bit more affordable in comparison, so it tends to be the one I use the most.

    Baieido seem to have two Kyara incenses. I haven’t tried the Kyara Kokoh which is the most expensive incense exported to the US that I’m aware of. Their Koh Shi Boku also has kyara but is also in that Shoyeido sort of price range, but it’s also just as extraordinary.

    Nippon Kodo’s the one you have to watch out for, they will use the word kyara in some incenses that are much too affordable for it to be true. Their Kyara Kongo and Kyara Taikan incenses probably do have the ingredient but my nose hints that there may be some enhancement involved. They are very nice incenses though and do tend to satisfy the kyara itch on occasion. Nippon Kodo also have much higher premium kyara incenses but they don’t tend to make it to stores here before going out of stock fast. I’ve never tried these.

    And I think I mentioned the Minorien kyara in a recent post. It doesn’t have the very sweet qualities most of the high end sticks have but it’s great for what it is.

    I did eventually splurge for one of the Shoyeido ceramic heaters and found it well worth it. It’s really the best way to experience pure aloeswood. I adore the Baieido Hakusui aloeswood pieces – if you’ve tried their Tokusen Syukohkoku stick you’ll already have an idea what that’s like. If not that stick is well worth trying.

    Thanks for the info on the oud and the aloeswood article, look forward to diving in.

    Mike

  33. Ross Urrere said,

    February 28, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Hello Mike:
    I noticed in the post on Tennendo / Enkuu-Horizon, that you mentioned your desire for Kyara. What, at this point, are your favorits of this oh so wonderous, not to mention costly, substance?
    Since its payday I plan on making a run over to Japan Incense on Satuerday for an “in the store” experience. Am thinking about getting a wood chip heater as this might just be the most straight up way to use aloeswoods and kyara. Have you gotten one yet and if so can you share your findings? Read your write up from EOA , which is pretty much how I figured it was going to break down but the price on the way cool electric one is steep at the moment. Have you tried wood chips and if so any favs yet?
    Ordered some Oud(Aloeswood oil) today from here:
    http://www.enfleurage.com.
    The owner seems pretty hard core and dedicated to getting the best to be had. Travels the world and goes direct to the makers, pretty gutsy. She also writes a lot about Aloeswood. See the articles section here:
    http://www.enfleurage.com/aa-agarwood.html

    Have a great weekend and thanks for the ongoing reviews and feedback
    Ross

  34. Mike said,

    February 27, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Hi Ross, thanks for sharing the article. I’m a good 17 years since my last organic chemistry class, so I didn’t understand all of it, but found what I did understand quite interesting.

    As far as oud goes, I always understood it to be another name for aloeswood used more commonly in the Middle East. With that said I know Essence carries a line of Swiss Arabian incenses which some contain the oud ingredient, but I’m not quite sure that’s what you’re looking for. Other than that (check my reviews index for a review of Bait Al-Arab), I haven’t really experienced much else, although like yourself I’m interested in seeing what else is available, particularly in that the Swiss Arabian incenses are quite affordable and probably not what you’re looking for.

    Mike

  35. clairsight said,

    February 26, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Hey Mike
    Found this pretty interesting page on aloeswood. Somewhat heavy/deep chem terms however, towards the bottom they have some great info on what and why the trees from different countries smell different. Great fun to read and then light a stick and check out the results via your own nose.

    http://www.equitech.biz/equitech_Silviculture.asp?status=SubGroupData&SubMainId=7&SubGroupId=14&TypeTable=3

    Have you by chance tried oud? It gets even more pricey then much of the high end incense’s and I am looking for a recommondation of who to buy from. Any input would be great.

    thanks
    Ross


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