Best Incense – April 2008

[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above. I’ve also added a category for these posts which you can click on if you want to see them all.]

  1. Shoyeido / Premium / Myo-Ho – I’ve pulled out a couple comments from a different thread based on this incense: “I’d say that Myo-ho reminds me of a cross between Sho-kaku and Jinko Yomei. The top oil is so strong, by far one of the most intense, decadent, mirage-like perfumes I’ve encountered in incense. The kyara’s not as strong as it is in Sho-kaku, but it hums beautifully as a base behind this oil. Sho-kaku’s strength is definitely the wood scent, which is definitely electric at that quality, but Myo-ho is just as impressive at the perfume level. I’d say Kyukyodo Sho-Ran-Ko, Tennendo Kuukai and Yomei are the only incenses in its league with this sort of dreamtime-like depth to the oil. Some incenses smell good, others, like these, seem to almost have an effect on one’s consciousness.” And, I’ve been “marvelling at the ocean trench-like depth of the aroma, complex oil marrying complex wood and continually playing off of each other in what seems like infinitely variant ways.” Need I say more? One of the very best Japanese incenses on the US market and could become an addiction.
  2. Tennendo / Enkuu-Horizon – Another of the world’s most fantastic and multi-faceted aloeswood incenses, a marvel of sophistication and complexity.
  3. Kyukyodo / Sho Ran Ko – The ultimate mercuric incense, one of the most organic, astonishing, clever and vibrant scents available. The most truly “yellow” incense there is.
  4. Tennendo / Kuukai – I’m sort of surprised to find this one as high in this list as it is, but I’ve really started warming to this one lately. There’s something really subtle about the spice content to it, as if the wood part is the build up to the spice climax. Kind of like Tensei with a bit of oomph to it. And like all the best incenses, I’m constantly getting hints of this just from memory.
  5. Shoyeido / Floral World / Star / Violet – This has surpasses Kyukyodo Azusa as my top floral incense, the quality and complexity of the oil seems to be unparalleled. I’d love to see a 60 stick box of this a la Incense Road. Few nonaloeswood incenses have this sort of depth.
  6. Shoyeido / Premium / Ga-Ho – Ga-Ho appears to be the most premium Shoyeido aloeswood incense that does not contain kyara in it and coming after the line’s three kyara incenses it seems easily forgotten. Part of that is the ineffability of the scent. At first it hits you with it’s dry wood notes and hints of cumin or dill in the background, but with more use, the floral nature and massive complexity of the scent start to unfold, hinting that this is more than just a deluxe version of Misho, but something entirely of its own kin. I still feel like I haven’t come close to unfolding this scent and it continues to make me feel that the one-stick premium sampler isn’t enough to reveal just how truly great these incenses are.
  7. Shunkodo / Ranjatai – Regular readers will note a small consistency of opinion on this high end Shunkodo incense in that it improves with use and familiarity, opening up like the very best scents. It’s not as immediately apparent for some reason, maybe because it’s a skinny stick and thus doesn’t overwhelm one with aroma at first. The wood comes out right away, but all the little things are what makes this so impressive, qualities that seem like they’re shared between memory and scent. Over time this one is just getting better and better, a true hall of famer.
  8. Shoyeido / Premium / Misho – I am now fully stocked up on this wonderful favorite, almost the primary example of a green aloeswood. Lots of spice, almost masala-like in quality, overlays the medium quality aloeswood, making it easy to return to over and over. I am starting to notice, however, that in burning Ga-Ho, Misho and Kyoji-man that they all roughly hit the same spots and while they vary quite a bit in impact and scent that I wouldn’t recommend buying any two or more of the three at once. But they’re definitely all my sorts of scents.
  9. Shoyeido / Horin / Muro-machi – This one’s really sticking to the head a lot lately because of the really fabulous wood contour behind it. I’m hoping this is as much the oil as the wood, so this doesn’t follow the Premium prices up to the stratosphere with the May 1st increases.
  10. Shoyeido / Premium / Kyo-jiman – Probably more an early April favorite than a late one, it’s one I hope to stock in full later as it doesn’t seem to be an incense affected by the price increases, perhaps because aloeswood only plays a very small part. But this was probably the first Shoyeido I took to immediately and it has a minty freshness to it that is always quite pleasant.

NOTE: I may be changing the format of this list next month as the WordPress tool for composing is making it very difficult to work with, the editing screens flip flopping back and forth from large to small with every move of the cursor.

31 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    May 21, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Mark, thanks for the article (and sorry for the delay, the spamcatcher nabbed your comments), I’ll have to post that on the main page.

    I did try Jinko Hoen, but felt a bit fatigued when I did, so want to comment after I get to it again. But given that I did really like it and really got what you said about old pages. It did seem pretty complex which is why I don’t have anything but a vague impression of it. Definitely check out Jinko Kojurin and Kojurin though, they’re splendid. Gyokushodo does some really nice work.

  2. Mark said,

    May 21, 2008 at 4:56 am

    Interesting:

    http://www.thinkgene.com/incense-is-psychoactive-scientists-identify-the-biology-behind-the-ceremony/

    Also, Mike did you sample the Hoen yet? Am really growing to love it.

  3. Mark said,

    May 20, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Mike, did you get a chance to sample the Hoen?

    Also just wanted to post a link to this:

    http://www.thinkgene.com/incense-is-psychoactive-scientists-identify-the-biology-behind-the-ceremony/

    Mark

  4. Mike said,

    May 15, 2008 at 6:01 am

    Mark, I didn’t get to the Hoen last night (now really looking forward to it after your description), but I did try Gyokushodo’s Kojurin and Jinko Kojurin and would have to agree that these incenses are definitely excellent, good quality for the price. Kojurin reminds me a little of Indian red amber sticks, the ones with the powdery sort of smell, very nice indeed, especially at its low cost. Jinko Kojurin was a lot like Shoyeido Haku-Un, except with maybe a little more aloeswood. That’s definitely an incense I liked so I warmed to it right away – benzoin, clove, sandalwood, maybe a little camphor too. I’ll have to dig out whether any more of these uncompanied incenses are actually Gyokushodo now. Will be back with Hoen thoughts later…

  5. Mark said,

    May 15, 2008 at 5:18 am

    These came yesterday. I like Keiunko, light balance of floral and wood. But I can see I’ll become a big fan of Hoen. It’s subtle but exceedingly complex to my nose, not entirely unlike Sho Ran Ko. Definitely a top note that is a mix of aloes and sandal that sort of twist around each other. But there’s a tapestry of undertones ranging from floral to spice that are fleeting and ever-changing. I think this a deja-vu (or maybe deja-senti?) blend as I keep getting Proustian glimmers of bakery, ginger, grandma’s cupboard, old book pages, etc. I’m getting the sense that Gyokushodo is entirely underrated. Am interested to hear what Mike and others think.

    Mark

  6. Mike said,

    May 14, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Hey Mark, I hope to be getting in the Hoen today myself. I’ve had the Keiunko for a while, it’s a mild but very nice, slightly green aloeswood blend, not quite as intense as Yomei in the oil, but it definitely has something of a unique character to it. – Mike

  7. Mark said,

    May 13, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Mike I have an order in for Jinko Hoen and Keiunko. Am really looking forward to these from Gyokushodo.

    Mark

  8. Mike said,

    May 10, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Hi Mark, glad to hear your thoughts and that you’re enjoying the incenses. Interesting to read your thoughts on taste and umami as well – so much to think about when listening. I’d also say based on your top 10 that Enkuu’s probably a safe purchase, but hopefully you’ll be able to find a sample. Great top 10 lists all around. I should also mention that the Gyokushodo Jinko Yomei has been on my incense stand a lot lately too, probably will be on my list later in May. There’s something amazing about that top oil note. Hope to be covering some of the company’s other incenses in the near future. – Mike

  9. Kohdude said,

    May 9, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    My top 10 this month would be these,but I am unsure of the order I would give them.

    Baieido- Koh Shi Boku
    Baieido- Koh En
    Baieido- Tokusen Syukohkoku
    Baieido- Kai Un Koh
    Tennendo- Enkuu
    Shunkohdo- Ranjatai
    Kunmeido- Heian Koh
    Kyukyodo- Sho Ran Ko
    Shoyeido- Nan Kun
    Ecclecstacy Arts- Pure Vietnamese Aloeswood Grade A

  10. Mark said,

    May 9, 2008 at 4:17 am

    PS: Here’s my top 10 at the moment–will try and describe why when I find time:

    Shunkodo Ranjatai
    Shoyeido Misho
    Tennendo Kuukai
    Kyukyodo Sho Ran Ko (although I’m still learning to ‘get’ it)
    Jinko Yomei (3 stick a day habit–every night before bed)
    Tennendo Karafune Yuhin
    Kyukyodo Azusa
    Shoyeido Myo-ho (still ‘getting’ this one too)
    Shunkodo Yoshino No Haru
    Bayeido Kai un koh

  11. Mark said,

    May 9, 2008 at 4:02 am

    Thanks Kohdude, I’ll check it out. I’m a huge fan of Ranjatai but haven’t yet tried Seikan, Aioi no Matsu and Ryuen (on my list).

    I know that the Japanese refer to ‘listening’ to the incense, but I actually quite like Ross’ use of ‘taste’ as well. When burning a nice aloeswood, I often get a slight puckery, bitter sensation toward the back of the throat–very pleasant and not unlike a tannic Cahors or Corbieres. Maybe it is a tiny ingestion of the same compounds that comprise wood tannins. I often carry this ‘taste’ with me for a long time after the stick is gone, and it plays a big role in my ‘memory’ of the scent.

    Do you know that the Japanese refer to five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and ‘umami’. Umami is hard to define but it’s sort of an earthy deliciousness found in things such as mushroom, sea urchin, bonito, truffles, etc. In fact, MSG has a long history in Asian cooking to enhance and bring out the umami or what the Chinese call ‘xianwei’. I think umami applies to incense as well. Tennendo’s Kuukai is a good example. I find myself addicted to the not-so-subtle funk of it when I pop open the box, much like some of the French cheeses I love too much. I also think of umami when Ross (or was it Steve?) described a note in the Tibetan Monastery incense as having a barn-like quality.

    Well, just wanted to introduce myself and say thanks much to Mike for this wonderful forum and resource that I’ve been lurking on for a few weeks now. I’m sure I’ll get a box of Enkuu in the near future–especially with all the intriguing descriptions I’m reading here. I’ll have to wait until next month though since I too have dropped about $600-700 in the past few weeks on incense. When I ‘listen’ to incense, it says, “Spend all your money on more of me!!!!!” 🙂

    Peace,
    Mark

  12. Kohdude said,

    May 8, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Call Japan Incense for samples of what you would like. Enkuu is worth a $100 a box way more than Shoyeido is.Try Ranjatai also and see if they will sample the new Kyaras by Shunkohdo and Minorien if you are into high end stuff. Good luck….Kohdude

  13. Mike said,

    May 8, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I don’t think Tennendo export anything more deluxe than Enkuu, but given we’ve seen both Shunkohdo and Minorien higher ends come in recently, maybe it won’t be long before we see more. I’d agree that it would be hard to beat though, I think Enkuu is almost in a class of its own. I think to some extent kyara is often, but not always found in sweeter incenses. If you’re more a dry or spicy type I think it’s not hard to find non-kyaras you value almost as highly.

    Do you remember where you got your Enkuu sample? Maybe you could point Mark in the right direction. I know at $2.50 a stick it’s probably difficult to give away free and it has a really gorgeous box, so it also might be worth checking with your stores to see if smaller quantities are available for sale.

  14. Mark said,

    May 8, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I haven’t found a place where I can get a sample of Enkuu without getting the whole box up front. I am keen to try it though–especially after reading Mike’s lovely descriptions of it.

  15. Kohdude said,

    May 8, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I have been burning Enkuu and it’s so delightful. I thank you for your input and reviews. I may have never tried it if you hadn’t given it such high praise. To me it has everything I like in Japanese incense, sweet,dry,light floral,light spice and resinousness. It makes me joyous like nothing I have ever burned.I have had alot of stuff more expensive that has not had this kind of psychoactive property to it. This is a truly remarkable incense. I smell this and I become blissful and almost to the point where I could go into laughter. Sorry McDonalds i’m loving this—Enkuu!!! Do you know if Tennendo makes anything higher end than this. I’m thinking they probably make some Kyaras. Even most incenses with Kyara don’t come up to this one. Kyara is great but I feel the blend is the most important element. Some Kyara sticks I have had aren’t that great because the blend is mediocre. Enkuu is one that comes up to Kyara blends and may have Kyara in it. There is something in this that is very powerful and transcendental. Thank you Tennendo!!! Thank you Mike………… Kohdude

  16. Mike said,

    May 6, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Good question Ross!

    It’s interesting to compare the woods that both Baieido and Shoyeido sell, I find them quite different. Shoyeido’s aloeswood (not kyara) seems to strike me more in terms of the classic smell, kind of roasted, dark, resiny; while Baieido’s four woods vary quite a bit in scent and none of them are all that aromatically similar to the Shoyeido woods. Hakusui in particular doesn’t remind me of aloeswood outside of Baieido yet I recognize it in the sticks that use it like Tokusen Syukohkoku. And on the heater it’s magic…

  17. Ross said,

    May 5, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    PS

    Who is the US rep for Kyukyodo?

  18. Ross said,

    May 5, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I have started to try and blend up some of my own incense of late. This has made me look at my collection in a differnt light and also at the companies and how they put their incenses togather. I think now that Baieido might well use the best woods, thier blends ( at least in the Aloeswoods Line ) really seem to feature the woods with only a minimal addition of spice’s and no or minimal oils ), were Shoyeido, Kyukyodo and Shukodo plus many others seem to use quite a lot of spice and oils to achive thier scents. One is not better then the others, just a differnt take on the idea. Its like comparing two great classical composers or the Stones to the Beatles. Theres really no comparison, there is just the essence of thier being and how it effects you.
    There seems, to me, to be so much going on at a very etheric level in many of the Baieido sticks that I can tell I am not getting yet, I know it’s there, but my nose has not arrived at those levels. Something to look forward to!

  19. Mike said,

    May 4, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Hi Kohdude. The Minorien Ryugen Kyara is very much like one of their products, so if you weren’t comfortable with anything else in the line, you may not like it. I think it’s very good, one of the driest kyaras on the US market and it strikes me as the logical high end of the whole line, it still has that dry and almost wild woodiness behind it. That’s always been Minorien’s strength for me, but I can see why some might not like their incenses. It’s also why I haven’t added their aloeswood to my Hall of Fame, less that I don’t think it deserves to be there and more because the scent wouldn’t universally be considered friendly among westerners. However I think the Ryugen’s likely to make it soon as it has a real resinous feel I like a lot.

    I agree on Kokonoe Koh, btw, I think that’s a fine roll for its price, which like you said is definitely a Baieido strength.

    Mike

  20. Kohdude said,

    May 3, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    I received my boxes of Enkuu,Ranjatai and Tokusen Syukokoku a few days ago. They are all so great and quite different from each other.I also received a sample of Baieido Kokonoe Koh and I had never tried it because I thought it may not be up to my Baieido standard. I was surprised how nice it is. I don’t know how they make such great blends and keep the prices so low. I find it to be there with Kaden Kobunboku and Kai Un Koh. The price is right for a every day stick. I still like Kai Un Koh the most in this price point,but Kokonoe Koh may have more complexity.I would like to compare all the Kokonoe Kohs and search the differances some day. For now the $12 roll selection is nice.I want to try these new Kyaras soon by Shunkohdo and Minorien. I am a little cautious of Minorien because the other selections by them are not thrilling to me at all.I received a free sample of Shorindo Chabana also ,and I will probably give it to some body. It is not my style of incense.It is too cheap floral smelling and not complex in its wood character.I guess they all can’t be winners. Thanks……….. Kohdude

  21. Mike said,

    April 30, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Ross, I’m not at all sure if the aromas change across the series or if the cones match the particular scent in the 60 stick boxes. I think the cone from the Star box is the Jasmine, so the Violet cone may be from one of the other boxes. I hope to eventually clear this up over time, as I’m sure I’ll end up checking the others eventually. My guess is that there’s very high definition oils in the Star box, almost like you can see a bouquet of flowers, so I’d bet the definition isn’t quite so clear at lower boxes.

    Thanks for bringing the Incense Making site to my attention, I’ll add it to the links.

  22. Ross said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    This site just came online.
    http://www.incensemaking.com/
    It is run by the guy who used to own Scents of Earth.
    It is amazingly detailed and informative as well as an obvious labor of love.

  23. Ross said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Hey Mike
    I am a little confused about the Violet. Is it different though out the different price ranges in the series? Shoyeido also offers it as cones and one can get just the Violet at a very low price. But yeah the pricing though out the series seems a little confusing.

  24. Mike said,

    April 28, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Bernd,

    I wanted to say more about your recent comments. First, I’d have to agree that sometimes our perceptions follow the same line as our expectations and that this can limit our incense experience to some extent. I addressed this in my Reviews Information page where I try and subvert my expectations by occasionally managing to evaluate a scent by forgetting what I started. I do this sometimes by lighting a stick and then getting busy doing something else, so that by the time I notice the scent again, my expectations have been (hopefully) temporarily put away. It only works occasionally though, but when it does it’s usually revelatory in a small way.

    I like your categories quite a bit. I think all of them seem to cover the very best of incense in that you start with incenses that invoke memories and then to a more composite/complex category and on to that very rare third category that I earlier called Jungian. I called it that mostly because incenses like this always strike me as invoking memories and images that I’d call prehistoric or ancient – old jungles, gigantic trees, etc. I’m reminded a little of the Australian “dreamtime” concept here.

    I think once we approach these regions they become difficult to talk about outside of symbols, often the language of the subconscious. At this point I experiment with kabbalist symbolism, but it’s another language altogether and it has a lot to do with the power of words.

    I’d also agree that there are some days where even your most favorite incense stick isn’t hitting the spot, although I must say there hasn’t been a day yet where I haven’t felt like lighting an entire bundle of Myo-Ho. We’re currently debating who is in charge of the relationship. 😀

    And I wanted to underline once again just how good the Floral World Star Violet really is, there’s a real complexity to the scent rarely found outside of aloeswood. I’m really wondering how good the Violet is in the lower end FW boxes.

    Hope everyone’s week is good and thanks to Julia for ideas on the stub problem.

    Mike

  25. Julia said,

    April 27, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Quick note about the “stubs” problem 😉

    I save my incense ash, keep it in a bowl, and burn the incense sticks standing upright. The ash is porous enough to allow the oxygen in, so that even the portion of the incense that’s below the surface will burn all the way down. (I HATE losing any of my incense, and resent losing any unburnt stubs!)

    If you don’t have enough incense ash to start with, you can buy some rice chaff ash from an incense supplier. It’s usually pretty cheap ($5 or $6) and this makes a good base in which to burn your incense. Because it’s very fluffy, again you don’t have any stub problem. (That’s the difficulty with burning your incense in or ond sand, say; it doesn’t breathe, so you have stubs galore.)

    I remember someone on the Alice’s Restaurant discussion list talking about “recycling” their ash, using extra ash to start new bowls, and so forth.

    If the ash begins to pick up an aroma, you can “burn” it in a hot oven for awhile (this removes the smell) and then sift it to get a nice even texture. IIRC, sometimes people even wash the ash and dry it. I’ve never gone that far, though!

  26. Mike said,

    April 26, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Hello,

    Kohdude – that a certain company might have more spots than another on any particular monthly Top 10 should not be taken as a statement on the supremacy of any particular company’s incense. Free boxes of Koh Shi Boku would likely have an immediate and appreciable affect on Baieido’s appearance in one of the top 10s, where, say, a free box of smokeless Black Coffee might not affect the list at all. In the end, what I consider the best of the best is in the Incense Hall of Fame. However – feel free to share your personal top 10 list here and let us know what’s impressing you of late.

    Ryan, very nice to hear from you and to hear your impressions on the incenses you’ve bought – they’re welcome any time. The more feedback available from people who know the incense, the more this improves as a resource and it’s just as interesting to know where I’m being disagreed with as well.

    I tried a stick of Nan-kun a while back, but I don’t remember it too much – it is high up on my purchase list as it won’t be too long before I start reviewing the Shoyeido Premiums (I’ll be starting with the green ones: Matsu-no-tomo, Kyo-jiman, Misho and Ga-ho.)

    For incense burning I tend to use very small burners arranged on a tray to catch the ash. I’ve been meaning to purchase a nicer wheel with multiple stick spots at some point, but it has never felt like an extreme priority – I think I like being able to set up a number of sticks at once and then choose at whim which one I want to light. For the most part I don’t tend to worry about the stubs, except for high end sticks. For those I have a small circular wooden burner that’s so old, most sticks almost stick to it at the very end, meaning I can usually burn something down all the way. Sometimes I’ll put stubs on my heater to check out scents that way as well.

    Bernd, what you wrote was really amazing and I’m still considering it for comment, so will be back with more within the next few days. I really like your rating scheme and the more I think of it the more I think it works rather nicely as a map. Your comments and Ross’s really add a lot of insight to what I find to be the most fascinating part of the high end experience, as Ross said the bridge to the subconscious. There’s something astonishing about the way the aromatics in the best aloeswood seem to work a kind of arcane archaeology on one’s earlier memories and in the case of Bernd’s third category, the very best incenses seem to reach into almost Jungian territory where this is concerned. More later!

    A couple quick notes: I’m really pleased with a couple new-for-me Shoyeido scents, the Heart En-Shin, a wonderful and affordable sandalwood blend, and their top line large coil Shira-giku. This latter one reminds me of Shunkohdo’s Yae No Hana with its purple color, but this is a little richer, more spice and less wood and floral. It seems almost tailor made for a long burn, and while the big coils bunch up too much during the last several coils, it’s not too difficult to break some of this down into smaller parts for later.

    Mike

  27. Ross said,

    April 26, 2008 at 12:56 am

    Hello Bernd:
    Like the thoughts.The section on how when lighting up a favorite and then realizing you are just not there that day, this really rings a bell for me. This happens all the time with me. Especially with the Kyara’s. Some days they just rock my world and some days I can’t tell and at that point I put it out to save for another day. Or as has been said before “Some days the Spirit is with you and some days not”. Incense can be tough to talk about or describe in a manner that gets the point across in some way that really makes sense. Possibly because to me, it seems to be an indicator of where you are mentally/spiritually are at right in that moment. Incense seems to be like a bridge onto ones subconscious mind.

    On another note I just realized ( by burning both) that the Kyara – Aioi no Matsu from Shunkohdo, has a lot of similarities with Reiryo-Koh with Aloeswood from Kunmeido. Imagine the spice’s in the Reiryo-Koh with the Kyara’s deep woods scent. It is not like the Shoyeido take on Kyara, different company’s and styles. Its also about a third the price. I am wondering what the next two steps up in Shunkohdo’s kyara line up is like( which you can see here.

    http://64.233.179.104/translate_c?hl=en&u=http://www.kaori.co.jp/shunkohdo/shunkohdo3.htm&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dkaori.co.jp/shunkohdo%26num%3D20%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26hs%3DzWL%26sa%3DG

    Thank you all for your insights, it is great.

    Ross

  28. Bernd Sandner said,

    April 25, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    P.S.
    I forgot to say something.
    As you wrote, the floral world star violet is incredible. It has become one of my favorite incenses.
    Also the jasmin and the sandalwood of this star line is great.
    You know, again, the policy of Shoyeido, a truly great company, will not make it possible for me to get several incenses here in Germany. For example Lisn, 12 Months, Shino-nome, Miyako-gusa, and others.
    But maybe that is alright. All over the world you can get the same things, like food (Mc D.), furniture (Ikea), the same clothes, and so on. At least you cannot get the same incense everywhere.
    It is more adventurous, that way, and makes us want to visit Japan, to get lots of great incense.
    Best! Bernd

  29. Bernd Sandner said,

    April 25, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Dear Mike.
    You have been very busy writing new articles. For some reason I just today discovered all the new ones, as well as the many new comments. I was not looking closely enough.
    You know, the great problem of the human race sometimes is also my problem:
    believing what I “think”, not what I really experience. So I thought, I had read all the stuff already, which now I discover to be untrue.
    Concerning the rating of incense, I would like to share some of my thoughts. Please take into consideration my quite subjektive point of view.

    I find, there are three categories of incense:

    First, the incense, that reminds of something. Some smell of the past. Or some incident, connected with this smell. For example the perfume of my first girlfriend, or something like that. I think everyone knows that type. And many people do not know, that there can be much more to incense.
    These notions of liking and disliking are conditioned by past experiences.
    Maybe all liking and disliking is due to our past. Isn’t it?
    That’s why you sometimes speak about this magical incense stick of your past.
    So this type could be called memory related incense.

    Second, the incense, that has got complexity. Which seems to have many different smells and feelings within itself. Like the Sho-Ran-Ko, the Enkuu Horizon, the Shunkodo Ranjatai, or the Saigetsu-Clear Moon from Kyukyodo, and some others of course. These great incenses seem to reveal more and more, the longer you know them. Isn’t that incredible. You never know them completely. They seem to change like the adventurous life, but at the same time maintain some recognisable base.
    They are like true works of art!
    Of course, this needs not only the multitude of ingredients, but also the conciousness, that is able to realize, and to identify, or name the facettes of this multitude.

    Third, the incense, that causes an alteration of the mind.
    (Although this description might not be clear enough, since everything that happens could be called an alteration of the mind. If I smell the perfume of my old girlfriend, to use the picture above, my mind is also changed for some moment.)
    But I think of another kind of alteration, more like stepping outside from a smoke filled party room into the icecold night with fresh air and thousands of stars above. If you have been drunk before, you will suddenly become clear and sober.
    Sorry, I hope my words are comprehensible.
    This I discovered with the high end Premium Shoyeido Sticks Go-Un upwards. Maybe this is due to the Kyara. I don’ know.

    Of course, to have this division into three types is not completely correct, since many incenses belong to more than one of the categories.
    And when it comes to the rating, it will be even more difficult and personal.
    For example, I might like a stick of the first category, because I like the memory connected with the smell. That would be purely subjective.
    Or the other way around. There are great sticks, that contain some smell, appearing from time to time, that I do not like, but the overall effect would cause me to give it the highest rating. This happened to me with Sho-Ran-Ko and Go-Un, for example. The personal liking or disliking is not the ground of the evaluation any more. You could say, or,at least I for myself could say, that these incenses transcend the personal level of evaluation.

    So now, after many complicated words, I don’t know anymore. Am I lost in my theories?
    Some days, I light a favorite stick, and after ten seconds I put it away again, because I can’t have it.
    Does this happen to you also!
    Now Mike, what do you think?
    As far as I know from your articles, I believe, you could be in line with my words.
    You just use different words. But if you feel different, or think that I am wrong, please tell me!

    Now I think of something else, that I also wanted to mention.
    Words.
    Words are powerful. It is a simple truth, not invented by me.
    Like, I read an interesting review, and start thinking, yes that incense is great. Then I get the incense, and, smelling it, I only look for the things, mentioned in the review. Forgetting my own power of discrimination.
    The problem with this is: Do I stick to my thoughts, or to my experience?
    What do you think? Is it a point or not?
    You know, I think this is most important, not believing, but seeing. Not even seeing, but being!
    But what do I know, my friend.
    Best to you from Bernd!

  30. Ryan said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Hey Mike. Finally going to write something after reading for about 3 months. I’ll try to be as concise as possible.

    Very rare to find incense reviews online..and those you supply are descriptive, insightful, and vivid ones. Since stumbling upon this blog, i’ve dropped 600+ bucks on incense!

    Some random comments:

    Tennendo – Kuukai is sublime. Sometimes.. a little TOO pungent i think.. sometime too perfumy.. but ALMOST always.. complex, floral and fantastic. And.. I too “smell” this one when it’s not burning, more so than I think any other incense.

    I’m enjoying Enkuu. However, I find myself favoring one I believe smells similar yet has something I can’t put my finger on that Enkuu doesn’t… Shoyeido’s Nan-Kun. What do you think of this one?

    Baieido – Kai Un Koh is seriously, the BEST deal going.. I keep coming back to this one. Truly refined and amazing for its price. I also like how it’s a square stick too! 🙂

    Tennendo – Renzan is also an amazing deal.. it reminds me a bit of Kuukai.. however, is not as sweet and flowery. Perhaps a tad more woody? I dunno what it is.

    I think I’m still trying to get used to Excellent Suykokoku (Baieido)..

    I have also been enjoying the Scented Mountain Grade A sticks. I think its abit less bitter than the Minorien Kyara..at about half the price.

    This is only a small sampling or the incenses I’ve purchased after reading your descriptions of them. I could really go on and on.. but I won’t.

    I will say thank you again, your blog is truly unique. One question I especially wanted to ask you when I had a chance is, what kind of incense burner do you use? Normal burners alway waste a nice little unburned chunk at the bottom. Yes, I’ll grab it later and burn it some other way.. but.. what do you usually do?

    What I’ve begun doing is turning rocks I have laying around the house into incense burners by drilling small, shallow holes in them and then putting those rocks in a censor of some type. In some cases, it’s been a challenge finding anything that will work on quartz though. Using these drilled rocks, the bit left-over after burning a stick is about a 2/3rds less. I know it’s not much waste as it is, but.. i just hate wasting any…

    Thanks for creating this website.. Finally, I want to say thanks to Kotaro of Japan Incense. He is truly a knowledgeable resource and a pleasure to speak to.

    Ryan

  31. Kohdude said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    I just ordered a box of Enku,Shunkohdo Ranjatai and Tokusen Syukokoku.I want to try the new Shunkohdo Kyara’s.I hope Japan Incense will sample me some. It would be great if they were in the league of other brands Kyara’s.I have burned all of my sample Enku. It may be my new favorite.How is Shoyeido taking so many top ten spots when Baieido is barely even getting in? What are you smelling that I am not? To me Baieido should have at least two or three spots monthly. I wonder if you don’t have much Baieido product or your bias to Shoyeido. Thank You… Kohdude


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