Baieido / Ho Ryu, Kun Sho, Kokonoe

Ho Ryu Aloeswood from Thailand.

Very clean, smooth, wonderful.
Sharp, with some hints of sweetness. It’s the kind of scent that you just keep fanning towards your nose, trying to “get it”, knowing at the first taste that that is not going to happen for quite awhile, but there is just no stopping one from trying. People around you may start to wonder at your actions!
Slight hint of camphor in the burn ala Baieido and their very traditional take on incense. If it is not broken, don’t fix it! Its about the wood, actually all three of these are about the woods. Everything else in these sticks is there to enhance the wood and bring out the almost infinite nuances.
Very pleasant, lot of things going on within the smoke. Long, long learning curve here. Saw a site in Japan that listed this as “an experts only” level incense and while that is a bit stand offish, there is a lot truth to this. But it never hurts to start the educational process early!

Kun Sho “The Rising Scent” Cambodian Aloeswood

Camphor when opening the box, like almost all Baieido incenses that use Aloeswood.
Almost sweet at first, really pleasant, uplifting (thus, perhaps, the name).
The smell of the resins is at the fore front, very deep. Makes me think of exotic fruits in the jungles of Asia, but there is no fruit smell here, it’s just the image invoked. It is easy to picture sitting outdoors on a porch in Asia around sunrise watching the world come into being around you as the light levels increase. A certain, almost mist like, quality to the scent coming by now, again reminding me of morning time and a new day. You find yourself trying to follow the scent up higher to stay with it. This is not real “in your face” incense, rather, it is within your mind. There is at the same time, something completely satisfying and almost addictive about the scent. It puts you at ease and into an inward looking modality. Not melancholy, rather to see what new ideas might be being presented to you. It is a combination of so many of the aromatic qualities of fine Aloeswoods.
This is not your everyday incense, it takes some attention, some listening or tasting to even start to get it. Perhaps the necessity of owning a few moments out of the day for yourself to have the time to enjoy and understand the scent. The “Rising Scent” is a very good description. A master piece of the art, thank you Baieido!

Kokonoe Aloeswood and florals from Indonesia.

It is described as an expression of the Imperial Palace and the flower gardens within. The floral quality is really very slight (at least to me). It might be what gives this stick a softer, more approachable personality then the other two. It’s really nice. It’s also half the price so using a stick is just easier. It’s a smooth, middle ground sort of incense firmly rooted in the Aloeswood that must be the bulk of the stick. I find myself burning this more then the other two just because of these qualities. You can burn it and still do other stuff, not have to come to a complete stand still in a desperate desire to drink it all in. It is a great incense, and also a good place to start with Aloeswood and not break the bank.

Baieido seems to constantly be the place to get quality Aloeswood for a reasonable price. They tend to stick to a traditional set of formulas (at least what we see in this country, saw a box of what I think was Strawberry flavored Baieido incense at a Japanese site, but that for another story 🙂 ). They are very, very good at what they do, maybe the best. All these have certain similarities between them, There is a very strong smell of camphor when you open the box, which moves into the background when burning the sticks. There are some other spices involved. Maybe the smallest bit of clove and/or cassia. Again, there to enhance the wonderful wood aspects. These are great incenses. I do not really have the nose or words to do them true justice. It makes me feel humble just trying too. You can feel the tradition and depth of skill and learning of the people who make these within each stick. Overall they are works of art and not to be missed.

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27 Comments

  1. Jeff said,

    March 30, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Hey Ross, I was reading your above comments which are about 8 years old and comparing my present experience with what you wrote about the Kokonoe sticks. What immediately struck me about Kokonoe is the perfumed quality that reminds me so much of Indian sticks. Dark blue in color, the floral description remains first and foremost in my mind and immediately separates this from the other ‘wood’ aloes in Baieido’s lineup. The aloe fragrance is a sweeter, cooler one, and very different than any of the other Baieido aloes I’ve encountered. In fact, I detect a similarity with Ganesha’s gold Agarwood which I would assume is highly perfumed. This shouldn’t be taken as a negative as the fragrance is enchanting and floats lightly in the room. Lighting up a Syukohkoku stick, otoh, you are immediately informed of the wood in a very different and deep fragrance blend. Kokonoe is a more playful, less serious stick.

    Has Baieido’s formula changed with this particular stick? This is my first experience with it so can’t comment. But, I get such a different take on this than your usual, insightful, detailed description. And, I now see what you always referred to as ‘the learning curve’ when burning many higher priced woods.

    • Alan said,

      March 31, 2016 at 12:35 am

      I got Kokonoe (EOTA Dec.2014). It’s a very straightforward natural
      presentation of Indonesian wood. A tan stick, no colorants, minimally spiced. Your’s was dark blue?? That’s not a good sign….
      My Kunsho and Koh En (EOTA 2015) were also tan, like the Kokonoe.. All excellent.

      • Jeff said,

        March 31, 2016 at 10:09 am

        Alan,

        It’s actually more purple than blue, :-), very dark. Mine came in a box of 360 sticks, white in color with Kokonoe written in English on the bottom right hand corner.

        • Alan said,

          April 1, 2016 at 11:23 am

          It seems Baieido likes to use the word “Kokonoe” a lot which can cause confusion. The review above is for their premium incense.
          Mine was approximately a 60 stick roll in a wooden box for about $53 US.

          • Jeff said,

            April 1, 2016 at 8:07 pm

            After doing some checking, I see that there are different Kokonoe offerings. The premium stick is called Kokonoe Special and it comes in a wooden box. It is completely different than the one I bought, both in color and in price. Luckily, I can buy these at wholesale prices and the one I got was very inexpensive. Thanks for helping clarify this mystery for me.

  2. apsara said,

    September 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Ok, burning the Ryo Ho (again) right now, and I don’t smell the resin, not one bit. It’s interesting what is being said here, of course I do not have an expert nose, only one that suits me fine so far.

    It could be that I’m not a friend of the camphor / aloeswood combo, because many of the Baieido’s sting in my nose. But also, I don’t want to go looking for the resin when it comes to Aloeswood – I have no trouble finding it with other sticks and know exactly what it smells like, which is why I bought these Aloeswood incenses. With the number of Baieido’s that I tried, incl. Ko Shi Boku and Jinko Kokoh – the aloeswood is very elusive to me.
    And I still wonder if they have changed the recipe compared to a few years ago?

    • Mike said,

      September 12, 2011 at 10:42 am

      Those Baieido aloeswoods I don’t think have the “aloeswood char” sort of scent (I’m not sure how else to put this) that a lot of aloeswoods do, I think they’re far more subtle. Ryo Ho in particular is a thai aloeswood which isn’t an aloeswood that tends to show up in many other incenses and seems to have a much different character to it. It’s a character, in my opinion, that becomes clearer with use and to my nose just gives me a larger sense of how much aloeswood can vary in scent.

      But the thing is, I think if you compare the aloeswoods like ogurayama and hakusui to what’s commonly commercial available, you’ll find they’re much superior and actually quite free in their own right of that charry scent unless you’re using it straight on charcoal. Hakusui on a heater just doesn’t have that scent you’ll find in incenses, but what it does do, imo, is much more magical.

      We’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, Baieido traditional incenses are generally worth spending your time and patience on. I have much more respect for them now than I did with just a sample because these aloeswoods are full of elusive, mysterious subscents that just aren’t all that obvious until you work with them. Of course your mileage may vary, but that’s how I see it…

      • apsara said,

        September 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm

        Thanks for answering. I am getting a lesson from both you and David today, and I’ll bow down like before a Zen master. Because, you are right, I was not honoring these enough – by failing to approach these traditional sticks with the required patience.

        I was referring only to the sticks – I just love that pure Aloeswood smell, and was disappointed there was so little of it. Hence I did not even attempt to do justice to the complexity of these – I am probably not capable to do that anyway.

        It seems to be very personal also – some incenses the nose wants to turn towards, and inhale more, and deeper; and with others, I want to turn away from. My favorites are Infinity, Translucent Path and Enju, in that order, and that was from the first moment and has not changed so far.

        • Mike said,

          September 14, 2011 at 7:21 am

          Ha, I’m no Zen master, Apsara. 🙂 I mean naturally some incenses do things other incenses don’t, I think the key here is that this line of Baieido aloeswoods does things I don’t think any other line in incense does and that’s demonstrate the *range* of scents aloeswood, especially from different regions, can present. In particular I think Ho Ryu is very different from other aloeswoods, rounder, more polished and somewhat devious in its hidden complexity.

          Also, it might help to note that the incenses you named as your favorites are all perfume and/or oil heavy and thus more immediate. In the same way I think there’s difficulty adjusting to the smoke content between Indian and Japanese incense, I think there will also be difficulty adjusting to Japanese incense that doesn’t use perfumes or oils, the results are much quieter. This is why I think many of us here really admire Baieido, because they are one of the few lines that really repay a long working curve. There are scents in those incenses that would be drowned out by oils.

          • apsara said,

            September 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm

            So I’m the one who lacks subtlety – not the incense! This should have dawned on me; once I participated in a Kaiseki dinner in Japan, where the colors and heritage of the tiny ceramic bowls are as meaningful as the dozen different foods served in them, and everything has to match the state of the leaves outside the window – i.e. one cannot ‘get’ a Japanese tradition by being a rushed Westerner.

  3. September 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    […] Baieido / Kunsho – My recent musing is wondering whether Kunsho, the third most premium of five in Baieido’s Pawlonia box line, might be equal or better than the fourth, Koh En. As I get to know Baieido incense, more and more do I think you’re getting your best value for money from their products. I could see Kunsho at almost twice the price and still be worth it. Slightly cherry-esque with a very balanced and noble wood to it, this is truly impressive incense. […]

  4. August 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    […] Baieido / Kunsho – I think it dawns on anyone using any one of the five Baieido aloeswoods (in Pawlonia boxes) that the series is strong from top to bottom, but it really takes a good half a box to realize just how great they really are. I’d been a little late grabbing a Kunsho box, but so glad I did as every stick is an exercise in reflection. Sweet, deep, classy, refined, this one may be just as good as the next step up Koh En. Or at least I think so this week. […]

  5. April 15, 2009 at 11:57 am

    […] Baieido/Kun Sho – Any of Baieido’s five distinguished, pawlonia-boxed aloeswood blends could have easily been on a list such as this, but perhaps the middle incense, Kun Sho, could be the best deal for the price. Cambodian aloeswood with a cherry-like sweetness, this is smooth, elegant and startling in every moment of its burn. Definitely the sleeper hit in the whole line and a guaranteed conversation stopper. (Mike) […]

  6. ibn said,

    June 16, 2008 at 8:21 am

    ORS just fell right off the end of my hotlist.
    — ibnfoobar

  7. Mike said,

    June 16, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Well, this is pretty much what I expected and it’s not a surprise to confirm that I’d read your condescension correctly. I could explain what research I did before asking the question here, but you’ve already made your mind up that I was asking the readership to do my work for me. As to the latter paragraph, you’ll make up your own mind whether this site is useful or not and whether to hang around, but your points would have been better made without all the sarcasm and snide side comments.

  8. ibn said,

    June 15, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    mike, sorry if i seem condescending to you. i find it hard to take your interest in the etymology of the term eaglewood seriously when you can’t manage to spend a few minutes googling up useful references but instead write

    “I’m particularly curious as to where this comes from, as I’d like to track down the etymology for this use as far as I can. I realize it’s a long shot, but if ya know or know who might, please chip in!”

    If you are really interested, make an effort to do some simple research.

    I also find it increasingly hard to take you seriously as an incense reviewer.The quality of your work has suffered with the introduction of the new ORS and increased volume of reviews. More so than under your earlier MP guise, the reviews have become more prattle than substance. If you want to retain my interest and grow your readership i’d encourage you to lighten up a bit, be more thoughtfufl and try to add some original research (for example, in the origin of the term eaglewood).

  9. Mike said,

    June 15, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I’m ready to communicate when you are, either on or off the site. Off the site, you can reach me at my about page. 🙂

  10. ibn said,

    June 15, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    mike, now i’m trying *really* hard not to take you so literally !

  11. Mike said,

    June 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks Ross, appreciate it.

    Ibn, I think the idea that one needs to “free yourself from the need to ‘get’ them” to truly appreciate a certain incense to be a fairly condescending remark that makes the implication that I’m somehow wanting in my approach. Apologies if you didn’t mean it this way, but all I was going for was a suggestion to look at them a different way. After all if you don’t need words, you don’t really need my help do you? Ditto with your earlier comment about the Eaglewood article. While I appreciate the advice, saying “found with Google” these days can be read in a way that gives me greater confidence in assuming what your intent was here. Somehow I doubt the Buddha was this acerbic.

  12. ibn said,

    June 15, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    mike, i’ll try not to take you too “literally” in the future !

  13. Steve said,

    June 15, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Ross – that’s an interesting consideration – the “masters” if not the actual incense producers reading your comments. I’m glad you decided to just have fun and write what you experience. I’ve found your words very helpful. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong here! You know, I still have those worries when I leave comments here. You and Mike seem so knowledgeable and eloquent – “the fragrance opens like a lone orchid, laughing, and seeking solace in the depths of midnight” and I can only come up with – “smells good, like Count Chocula cereal” 🙂

    P.S. the orchid-midnight thing not an actual quote 😀

    Steve

  14. clairsight said,

    June 14, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    When i was setting up the review I was starting to get a little twicthy about the whole thing, way too many perfect pictures (images of Kodo masters in Japan reading the thing and rolling off their mats laughing 🙂 ). Then I just decided to go with whatever came through and from that point on it became fun. Plus after breathing a lot of Aloeswood I tend to get a bit rambling.

    Mike: I am tracking down the Eagleswood paper through the UC Berkeley library system. Let you know when I get it.

    Ross

  15. Mike said,

    June 14, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    There were quotes around getting, ibn. Think you took what I meant a bit too literally.

  16. ibn said,

    June 13, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Mike wrote: “Personally I think a key in “getting” aloeswood incenses is to find out where that resin note is. It’s harder to find in Baieido’s incenses”

    Baieido premiums are in some ways like a zen koan. They reveal themselves clearly only after you free yourself from the need to ‘get’ them. Listen quietly, Koh En particularly so.

  17. clairsight said,

    June 11, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Good choice Mark. You can’t go wrong with this one. But I am warning you now to start making space for at least one of the others 🙂

    I love these because they really are all about the wood. There just those times when that is all I want, just the straight up, real deal without all the oils.
    Of course there are other days when its a different scent that does the job. That’s one of the great things about incense now. There’s all kinds at many different price points for many different needs and moods. There are a lot of times that I have found myself look at web pages or in a store and thinking “Well it costs more so its got to be better”. Bernd said it so well in one of his comments in here, thats its about the smell, not the cost. Yes cost can make a difference because of the nature of the raw materials, but at the same time some of my favorites are under $20, some around $10. It is about where one is at in the moment, not what others are saying is the best. Glad the notes helped out, enjoy.
    Ross

  18. Mark said,

    June 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks Ross, I enjoyed reading your impressions of these. You know how to turn a phrase! Will be putting Kokonoe on my buy-next list.

    Mark

  19. Mike said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:52 am

    What a fantastic job capturing so many of these fleeting and ineffable qualities in these incenses Ross. Because you’re absolutely right on the leaning curves on these incenses, particularly the Ho Ryu, which may be one of the most veiled and difficult to get aromas out there. To hear that the company has labeled it “for experts” is really no surprise, I honestly like the more inexpensive Kokonoe more. But with all of these and including the top 2, Koh En and Koh Shi Boku, they’ll give you enough room to work with for years. I know I really want a box of the Kun Sho, just to remember it again post sampler, but I remember it being great. But that’s another quality of these sticks, they kind of grow with you and thus never seem like static aromas. I remember thinking of Koh En as having a sort of cherry like aroma but when I bought a box, it didn’t seem that way anymore. Personally I think a key in “getting” aloeswood incenses is to find out where that resin note is. It’s harder to find in Baieido’s incenses, I think, because the woods they use are often more floral and gentle than other companies and since the stick is so thin it’s not immediately obvious.


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