Baieido / Byakudan (Sandalwood) Kokoh, Jinko (Aloeswood) Kokoh

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.

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18 Comments

  1. Jas said,

    August 16, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Just wanted to say Baieido Sandalwood Chips are excellent for my daily mediation incense ….

    Yamadamatsu chips kizami tiny cuts are fabulous too …and thanks to wonderful sellers Jay and kotaro San… incense sticks so far cannot produce such divine smell …

  2. Tiger said,

    October 21, 2011 at 11:22 am

    This is a great review Mike,
    I do own boxes of both the BK and the JK. I do have to say that these both deserve my respect. You really have to listen to both to really understand what is going on here. And boy do they have a way of drawing you in.

    The BK is by far a great way to feel the sandalwood heartwood. To almost become one with it. I do have to say that Baieido’s masters made a very fine stick with this one.

    The JK is very soft, but so powerful at the same time. It pulls me in to another world, another time. The complexity of it is perfect. When ever I burn this one, I always forget what I am doing, where I am at, even who I am. You feel that you are the king of kings, as this one makes you feel you are among the elite.

    Again Mike great review!!

    Tiger

    • Mike said,

      October 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you Tiger! Yeah, these are really about as good as it gets in Japanese incense. After I wrote this I got to try the Kyara Kokoh which is truly, truly incredible. I couldn’t really afford it before, but the price increases have put this into an almost unattainable category.

      • Tiger said,

        October 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm

        I would love to try the Kyara Kokoh someday, as is would be the icing on the cake. But this is one that is out of my price range for now. Maybe someday when the economy gets better (ok IF it ever does), I might be in a better spot to be able to try this. I consider you one of the few lucky ones to have been able to try it. For the price of it, I have been able to try soooo many others, and have quite the collection going of Japanese incense. To me right now that is the better way to go for the price.

        Tiger

    • clairsight said,

      October 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      Biaeido makes some of the very best, I have been burning the Byakudan Kokoh a lot of late. I really enjoy how it is put togather.

  3. Bjorn said,

    May 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Hi,

    I love the Byakudan Kokoh I bought. Is there any where in Asia where you can buy dirctly the Kyara Kokoh? Must be some shop or anything, you must be able to buy it locally in Japan?

    Anyone have suggestions?

    Best regards,
    Bjorn

  4. Bjorn said,

    December 17, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Where in europe can i buy these incenses?

    Regards,
    Bjorn

    • Mike said,

      December 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

      Bjorn, you can find a number of different retailers under the Review your Incense Retailer thread which you can access on the top left. However, I’m not sure if any European companies import the Kokohs or not, although I have seen Kyara Kokoh under a different name in the Encense du Monde (now called Florisens) catalog, but I think it may be deleted (it was extremely expensive, at least double what it goes for in the US). However some of the US companies do ship overseas so you may have better luck there.

      • Bjorn said,

        December 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

        Thanks, perfect!

        • Dennis said,

          August 21, 2013 at 8:04 am

          Some incense can be obtained through Amazon, I bought; Super Premium Incense Series Based on Kyara, Aloeswood and Sandalwood #981 today, free shipping.

  5. Mike said,

    December 15, 2008 at 10:18 am

    BC, thanks for the heads up on Sarasoju and your comments on BK. I’ll be adding Sarasoju to my next incense purchase based on the comparison as Japanese sandalwoods don’t often get better than BK for me.

  6. December 15, 2008 at 10:13 am

    […] Baieido/Jinko Kokoh – Dense, sublime and elegant. Baieido Vietnamese aloeswood at its best. Not inexpensive, but worth it, especially if you love aloeswood. This is done in a very classic style and lets the wood speak for itself. It is so very captivating and deserves the attention! (Ross) […]

  7. Beavis Christ said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I’d like to add that if there is anyone who would like to have something VERY similar but at a fraction of the cost (also known as a “good deal”) I cannot stress Shunkodo’s Sarasoju highly enough.

  8. Beavis Christ said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I own the Byakudan Kokoh (after shelling out nearly $50 for an amount which weighs about the same as a pencil I feel justified in using the word OWN).

    People may be disappointed since the aroma is not at all intense like in the cheaper, often synthetic, oil-infused type (say…an Indian made). The fragrance doesn’t hit you over the head with a jackhammer. You will know you are burning a wood and not an oil. This is something natural, delicate, and fine drawing you in to “LISTEN” to the smell. A very Japanese quality.

    There is a remarkable purity and fineness about it which cuts through the air like a katana on fine silk. It stays in your nostrils.

    It has, I dare say, a personality. It is quiet, confident, and unique making it stand out even when compared to other fine sandalwoods like Shunkodo’s Sarasoju (which I also have and is very nice indeed) or one by Minorien.

    One day hopefully I will own a wood chip heater and will put raw Mysore sandalwood to compare.

  9. Mike said,

    October 15, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Hi Bernd, good to hear from you and sorry for losing this comment for a few days! I agree with everything you’re saying here. Particularly with sandalwood, it varies so much the comparisons are necessary. I think part of the confusion comes from Indian sandalwoods where the wood smell often comes partially from perfumes. You can get used to these and then when moving to Japanese sandalwoods, the aroma loses some of its intensity. I know for a while I was just trying to get that smell back. Byakudan Kokoh is amazing as it captures an almost perfume-like level of high quality sandalwood naturally.

    But yes, all in our mind basically…

  10. Bernd Sandner said,

    October 9, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Mike.

    I am sorry for not contributing more often! It is a busy time for me right now.

    The Byakudan Kokoh belongs to the innermost heart of my incense collection.
    The group of precious gems, wich I burn rarely, but with great enthusiasm.
    I will not make the attempt to give my impression of this scent
    I am shure, I cannot say anything, that would add to your description.
    Even this moment, while I am burning a stick, if something comes to my mind, it is not words. Well, it is a great scent of Byakudan.

    Interesting. Now, since I have smelled many different sandalwoods, it is possible
    for me to get an idea about how high the quality of this one is.
    If I did not know incenses well, it might be possible to say: this smells very good.
    But to get a more clear picture, it is necessary to compare.
    What do you think? Is it so?
    Where is the quality, if not in our mind?

    Hope you are well! Best!

    Bernd

  11. Mike said,

    October 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks Ross. I recognize Hakusui aloeswood based on a sample of the wood. It’s really phenomenal wood, spicy and rich as if it already came with cinnamon and clove. So I tend to recognize that particular wood when it shows up in Baieido products and sometimes even Ogurayama. I have no idea if it’s in the Kokohs though; if it is, it’s a particularly fine variant of it.

    One thing I have to credit Baieido for, they continually keep me grasping for the words to describe the directions their incenses take me in. It often makes me feel my old reviews are dated after a month or two.

  12. clairsight said,

    October 8, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Great review Mike.
    Doing the Biaeido stuff always makes me feel humble. The Aloe/Jinko in this line really does. Just going through the unwrapping procedure is like a ritual. But well worth it!
    It is really great incense, like going back in time to old Japan. Very clean, yet very, very muti layered. Dry, yet more then that. It is something I only burn on occasion, even less then the kyara’s its just something about it that makes it special. Seems pricy at first, but in comparison not really for what you get.

    I have given up trying to figure which Aloes go into what incense of Baieido’s, it got too distracting. I realized that I really do not have any proper education or training ( other then self taught ) I just go by how it smells to my nose. I would so love to spend a week, a month or whatever with someone who really knows the woods to get a handle on it, Prehaps someday …hope springs eternal! 🙂

    Ross


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