Baieido / Jirushi / Zuikun, Tokko, Sutoko

Baieido’s granulated incenses come in two different lines: natural woods including one chipped sandalwood mixture (Byakudan) and two chipped aloeswoods called Jinko and Extra Jinko, and the three blends known as the Jirushis, a mixture of woods and spices that are both somewhat similar to their Kobunboku line sticks and a bit different in that most if not all of the blends, kick star anise up front in the scents.  Where Shoyeido granulated blends appear to have almost eye-watering levels of oils or perfumes in the blends, as always Baieido granulateds tend to work purely on the level of natural ingredients and are relatively much more serene.

As always granulated mixtures tend to be aromatically different depending on whether one burns the mixture directly on charcoal or various wood trails or uses a heater. For the purpose of these reviews I did the former method on a dar trail and used a Shoyeido incense heater for the latter.

Zuikun is the low end in the group and its mixture of sandalwood and various herbs gives the scent an almost Tibetan-like aroma with a combination of tangy and almost treacle-sweet flavors on top of the general wood base. Otherwise the scent is fairly similar to the lower end Baieido Kobunboku sticks with a very smooth contour that comes out a bit more on the heater. The same method brings out more than a hint of star anise as well as caramel and toffee-like characteristics. On a trail, naturally, the woods volatize at a quicker rate and the sandalwood is quite a bit more present early in the use. The star anise is still quite strong, with even more licorice-like aspects and even though it doesn’t say so in the ingredients, I noticed some resin bubbling on some of the woods that made me think there must be a small content of lower end aloeswood in the mix as well. There’s also a bit more clove and cinnamon and overall the charrier scent given by the trail was a bit more to my tastes than the slow emissions from the heater on this blend.

The Tokko drops the tangier, more overtly herbal notes from the Zuikun and ends up being fairly reminiscent of the Tokusen Kobunboku stick, in fact I’d guess the sandalwood and aloeswood proportions are probably fairly similar here. Even on the heater this has a more woodier presence and a greater level of that classic Baieido cinnamon and clove spice. Like the whole line and in particular this incense, the star anise adds a lot of pep to the mix and the scent is up to Baieido’s unusually high ingredient standards. Higher temperatures on the heater bring out the woods even more, as well as a slight, wet muskiness underneath. The incense is a bit more similar to Zuikun on a trail, but spicier, hoarier and richer with noticeable aloeswood content and quite a bit of borneol or camphor, the usual clove and star anise as well as a bit of hay, sweetgrass and herb. It’s a bit less similar to the Tokusen Kobunboku stick using this method and seems to benefit from the ingredients volatizing faster and more as a unit.

Sutoko is the high end incense of the three, and in some ways as similar to Kaden Kobunboku as Tokko was to the Tokusen. The aloeswood level is even more prominent and the scent is overall woodier and more contoured. Sutoko brings back a touch of the tangier aspects of the Zuikun, but overall this seems to be a bit less of a blend and more a combo of sandalwood and aloeswood aspects. On a heater there don’t seem to be as many extra ingredients to volatize faster and, indeed, on a trail the difference isn’t as pronounced as it is in the first two blends. The aloeswood seemed to be akin to the same type used in the regular Syukohkoku (which I think is Ogurayama) and on a trail it adds a more noticeable charry and resinous scent to the blend that aloeswood lovers should warm to pretty quickly.

By now, it should be pretty clear that Baieido is very highly regarded by the Olfactory Rescue Service team and these three blends will only add to that high opinion. They’re all somewhat familiar, but the addition of star anise and other herbs does indeed set these apart from being entirely redundant. The best news here, as granulated blends can be really long lasting given how little you need for each use, is that you can get a 5g sampler each of all three for only $18.50 at Essence of the Ages, undoubtedly the best place to start if you haven’t explored these yet.


1 Comment

  1. Ross Urrere said,

    March 19, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for the review Mike, have been wondering about these for awhile, new “food” for the heater!
    Also about the reminder of EoA’s granulated incense samplers. This is a great resource for people. In fact it has always puzzled me as to why other shops do not do the same.

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