Large coils are both a convenient and inconvenient format for incense in my experience. They’re convenient in that if you want a scent to go for a long time, there really is no better format, most large coils claim to burn for 12-13 hours and often go longer. On the other hand because they’re so large they’re actually difficult to start in on, being quite the commitment, which is why it’s taken me a long time to get to a review of these two coils. The other yin/yang side of these coils is that they’re awfully easy to break, particularly in the wrong point early in the coil making the burning fairly problematic. On the other hand, it also means you don’t necessarily have to think of these as large coils and it’s easy to break off, long curved pieces that will only last for 30-60m. But anyone with a box is warned to be very careful in handling these. And you’ll also need a large coil burner, although I’ve found the same hook system used for Tibetan ropes works very nicely for large coils.
The two Baieido large coils in question here are both fairly unusual. The sandalwood blend Junenko is striking in that it’s a surprisingly low quality, every day incense from a company whose most affordable incenses are well known for their brilliance. As far as I know, at least in the US, this is the only traditional, green colored “every day” incense Baieido produces. And if the Junenko is surprising for its lower quality blending, the opposite could be true for the Premium Junenko, the only aloeswood/sandalwood large coil blend being exported to the US and as such the best large coil you can buy over here.
The Junenko itself came as a great surprise to me, because I’m used to Baieido being brilliant in just about every avenue they take. However, the Junenko scent is rough and slightly bitter in scent, far more similar to low quality mixed-down sandalwood incenses such as Kinjo-Koh, a couple of the most inexpensive Gyokushodos and others at the very low end of Japanese incense. That is, there’s really not much of a true sandalwood scent here given the incense is so leavened with filler and the only other truly noticeable facet is what seems like some sort of light oil or bitter/citrus/cinnamon mix in it as well, something also unusual for a Baieido traditional. I wonder to some extent if the entire format needs a stronger binder wood to keep the coil in place and that’s why I notice with this (and several of the Shoyeido large coils for that matter) that the scent is a bit harsh, and I truly felt an imbalance with this one that actually grew fairly uncomfortable as the coil burned.
However, these criticisms are completely erased for the splendid Premium Junenko coil which conforms more to the high standards Baieido is known for. This is the kind of scent you could spend 12 hours with, a very woody mix of sandalwood and aloeswood that keeps on giving. It has a pleasantly rough quality to the wood similar to Kai un Koh but is overall not as intense as that incense, bringing airier qualities to the fore, with a mix of qualities one might describe as honeycomb, cocoa, nut, leather, spice and caramel. In fact when trying to make notes for this scent, it almost seems like it shifts playfully around, teasing you with its various subtle notes, exhibiting some of the best qualities of an incense blend. It’s truly a scent that lives up to the standards set by the Kobunboku series all of which have you searching for ineffable, out of the line of scent qualities.
So overall lots of dualities in these two coils, one I wouldn’t easily recommend and another I’d definitely recommend. In terms of the range of two Baieido and six Shoyeido large coils I’d put the Shoyeidos right in the middle between these two, but until (and really if) we see more large coils in the US, the Premium Junenko is easily the best of the lot, pricy sure, but if one was to break down the 14 large coils you’d have probably 15-20 times that number in partially circular sticks, not a bad deal at all for a quality aloeswood blend.