[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above or the Top Ten Lists category on the left.]
- Minorien / Fu-in Kyara Ryugen – Jin-koh means incense that sinks in water. That would make the kyara used here seem like an anchor dropped off a ship. There’s a density of scent here with a subconscious level of depth to it. This is an incense that demands one’s attention constantly during the burn. I’m thinking of the way snowflakes are all different, Ryugen constantly spins off different combinations and levels of the aroma, as if it was looking for the right buttons to press on your memory. Like some exotic night blooming flower only found in the most remote areas of the jungle, this is dark, beautiful and mysterious all at once.
- Shoyeido / Premium / Ga-Ho – This utterly fantastic scent that is the highest non-kyara incense in the Shoyeido Premium line takes quite a bit longer to adjust to than Sho-kaku, Ga-Ho and Go-un, but the more I burn it the more it’s hard not to see it in the same class. For one thing it’s the head of the Premium Greens, as I call them and in many ways there are similarities among the four, from Ga-Ho down to Matsu-no-tomo. But as good as the rest are, none of them have this hoary and powerful level of resin to it, matched with a latent floral oil and a more refined masala spice than even Misho. It’s like seeing an origami of a tree only to realize with a few folds, the origami turns into the whole forest.
- Shoyeido / Premium / Sho-kaku – It’s a tribute to this masterwork of incense that an inch or two of burning can chart it on my top 10. Few incenses are this startling and powerful, but few incenses are this expensive for the price. Is it worth it? Excruciatingly so. It’s the incense that tied anise and licorice aromas to kyara and led me to believe an incense could come really close to inducing ecstacy. The difference between the #1 and #3 this week is about $13 a stick (maybe $10 adjusting for length). But I bet it’s completely absent from this list next month. But if I was made of money…
- Shoyeido / Premium / Myo-Ho – I suspect the high charting on Shoyeido premiums this month has a lot to do with increased use, as I had an incense appreciative friend in town over the weekend and pulled out the big guns. This is like incense electricity to me. I think of it as taking the woody qualities of Sho-kaku, muting them to more of a background and creating a new and decadent oil on the top.
- Les Encens du Monde / Guiding Light (bottom of page) – Agarwood, 7 essential oils and 8 powdered woods go in to making this extraordinary temple/meditation incense, manufactured, I think, by Kunjudo. Like many scents this deluxe, the aromas seem fairly concentrated with as much oil as wood, but between all the aromatics there’s a beautiful spice to it. It does have a somewhat insular quality about it that implies a great deal of depth I’m not used to yet. And the best thing I can say at this point is that you can now buy this in the USA. More to report on this later this week…
- Tennendo / Enkuu-Horizon – Terribly trusty this one. Sometimes when I pull it out I think of a stick created like a mosaic, small three dimensional puzzle pieces that all contribute to such an intricate aroma. So dry and multifaceted and such a favorite I’m starting to stock ahead.
- Kunjudo / Karin (may also be Encens du Monde / Karin / Forest of Flowers) – One of the truly great inexpensive incenses, I’m still fairly surprised I discovered this so late in the game. It’s got everything: wood, amber hints, spice and floral, for a sweet and fairly complex aroma that is as quality as many incenses 2 or 3 times the price. Another similar incense, although maybe with more amber and wood hints would be Gyokushodo’s Kojurin. Karin may go down as one of my favorite inexpensive incenses, although some ingredients lists do have agarwood on it, which might explain something.
- Shoyeido / Premium Daily / Sei-Fu – When I first tried these as part of the Premium Sampler, perhaps my nose was so blunted by all the high enders that I barely noticed this one, which would have seriously been to my detriment. To be honest, while the Premium Daily incenses look like the bridge from the Daily to Premium lines, I’d say they overlap. Sei-Fu I’d probably put above Matsu-no-Tomo and Ohyja-Koh, just barely. While I do wonder if it’s traditional (I’ll elaborate more when I review these), it’s got a distinct aloeswood and spice note that I found addictive right out of the box. Could become a major favorite and its sister incense, En-Mei might have charted #11 or #12 on this list.
- Les Encens du Monde / Kunjudo / Karin / Golden Waves (Vagues Dorees) – I went over and took a look for this over at the EdM home site and couldn’t find it, making me think this and the Royal Nave aromas have either been deleted from the line or moved (there’s also a much more expensive Temple version of this incense). It’s a shame because in many ways this may be the most deluxe aroma in the EdM line other than the Prince of Awajii Kyara. It’s got an almost hazelnut quality overlying the agarwood and spices that gives it a sweet and richly decadent aroma to it. To be honest, having this in one of those small Karin boxes is kind of weird, you’d really expect something this good to be in Pawlonia.
- Baieido / Kobunboku – I’ve gotten in quite a bit of Baieido incense of late. I find many of their incenses to have the steepest learning curves in the business, which while making them a bit vague at first, means they’re likely to be favorites for a long time coming. I was really surprised, revisiting this one, that I actually preferred it to the Tokusen and Kaden versions. There’s something exceedingly fresh about this sandalwood and spice Plum Blossom incense that makes it, possibly, the best of its style and I was going back to this fairly often over the last week or so.
I could have almost done a Top 20 this time around, something probably obvious from the lack of certain perennials in the list.