Baieido’s Kyara Kokoh, per inch, may be the most expensive incense available in the United States market. For $575, one can buy 20 3 1/2 sticks (which I’ve just noticed are about half an inch longer than the other two Kokohs) of this fabled scent, a price that will defer purchase for most buyers, including myself. To this day, I occasionally eye this set and if it wasn’t for samples of the 350th Baieido Anniversary box, a set whose incenses, compared with those in the header, are fairly close in style to the Kokohs, I may be even further along to the eventual purchase of this mythical scent.
Overall, though, I didn’t want to hold up an article on this one set, given how excellent these other two incenses are. Basically the Kokoh series (particularly if you were to add to these Baieido’s five Pawlonia-boxed aloeswoods) is sort of the natural, non-oil/perfumed analog to the Shoyeido Premium line. There’s no question that these incenses use the absolute finest ingredients available, so fine that their presence is likely to surprise even the most travelled incense appreciator. But given the ingredient cost and mark up for the US market, it puts the Kokohs in a very expensive category, with Byakudan at $40 for 20 3″ sticks and Jinko at $70 for the same number. Indeed the Kokohs are very expensive incenses. They’re also very fine ones.
Byakudan Kokoh might be the best sandalwood-based incense available on the market (particularly now the 350th Anniversary Sandalwood is unavailable). The very base is one of the finest, natural oil-rich heartwood sandalwoods, with that almost crystalline richness to the wood resins, a quality I think of as golden. Like all the Kokohs there appears to be a number of spices blended in, all of which seem to be at their apex of quality and all of them present to contour and draw attention to the quality of the wood. Overall there’s a vibrancy and freshness to this incense that draws you in, but there’s also a multi-layered complexity to the scent that will have you curious to return. And it only hints at the aloeswood version…
Jinko Kokoh is truly one of the finest incenses available anywhere, an expansive scent that is a testament to the skill of Baieido’s craftsmen. Even more than the Byakudan Kokoh, the Jinko is an extraordinarily complex incense that manages to be involved and deep while maintaining quite a light tone. It’s lightness reminds me of a bubbling drink such as cider or even cola with an almost revelatory central note of borneol through the middle. In fact, if the idea of camphor puts you off, this would be the scent to show you just how good it can be as part of an incense. Overall Jinko Kokoh has an almost mirage-like quality to it, with the aloeswood of a quality that only kyara could beat and a competition of other high quality additions that give it an exquisite richness. Some potent cinnamon and a caramel side notes only accentuate the brilliance of this short thick stick. It’s truly an incense to treasure.
Just in writing that last paragraph, it makes me want to try the Kyara Kokoh pretty bad, although it’ll have to wait for a more stable economy at this point. As someone who often prefers that less-sweet high end aloeswood to kyara, I’m probably in a good position to resist the temptation, particularly with some spare Jinko Kokohs still available at hand. But as with the Shoyeido premiums, while it’s easy to notice the high prices, it’s definitely a debate over their worth as there are few people who won’t be impressed by the adept work at hand here.