September Top Ten (from Ross)

Somehow September is about to end and here is what I have been burning this month. This list is NOT arranged in any kind of order of wonderfulness as I have come to the conclusion that my favorite incense is the one burning at the moment.

As  the Fall season moves in, it seems more in line to shift towards woodier  and deeper scents. In fact, after attending a Koh Doh demonstration earlier in the month I have decided to save up for  a Six Countries Set and  go for “Maximum Aloeswood” 🙂 ! Getting a chance to try pure, high quality Aloeswood can change your outlook on incense.

Seikado: Solitude / Hitori-Shizuka – Sandalwood A really beautiful, Sandalwood based incense stick with Essential Oil notes that just works. Not overwhelming, fades from the room within an hour, truly pleasant  and very elegant aroma. Very nice late at night or while going to sleep. A real winner.

Yamada Matsu: Genmyo Kneaded Incense There are three of these and you can see my review here. To me, this one is the most refined with so many levels going at once, kind of makes you work to get it. These run around two dollars a pellet, which seems like a deal to me as each one can last hours. Deep, penetrating and with those sublime Kyara tones that just call out to you.

You will need to contact Japan Incense/Kohshi for prices. Made for heaters or Charcoals.

Mermade Magickal Arts: Deep Earth Premium Perfect for the season, deep, thoughtful, loads of wonderful aroma from many different resins and woods. The ageing process involved in the Kyphi style really lets all the different aspects conjoin into a wonderful harmony. Made for heaters or Charcoals.

Tenendo:  Enkuu This continues to be one of my favorites. It is a tremendous mix of very high grade Aloeswoods and spices, resins and herbs done in a very strong, almost bitter style. It might take you a number of sticks to get it but when it suddenly clicks it’s like heaven.

The quality is very high and for what one is getting the price is very fair. You can get this in a sampler from Essence of the Ages and try out a bunch of Tennendo’s high end line at the same time. Not to be missed and a true master piece of the art.

Baieido: Horyu koh Baieido’s  Jinkoya Sakube line, of which this is a part of,  is a commemorative tribute to their founder and has three different incenses. This is the middle one and is a wonderful Vietnamese Aloeswood blend. It is very “old Japan” in its style, just woods, a little resin and some spices and herbs. Very elegant and mellow with a touch of a sweet note, as compared to the other side of Vietnamese Aloeswoods which can get spicy/bitter. There are quite a few sticks in the box so it can last a long time.

Baieido: KoKonoe This is one of Baieido’s Premium Aloeswoods, the wood comes from Indonesia and has a very different quality to it then the  Vietnamese or Cambodians. I burn a lot of this as I find the scent to be very easy to deal with and mellow. It took me awhile to get this one, it is not as well thought of as some of the others in this line but it has its own unique character and presentation. A bit less dry then some of the others, yet not sweet, “Approachable” one might say.  It doesn’t hurt that the price is very good for a quality Aloeswood from a maker who is at the very top of their game.

Seijudo Kyara Seiran – Heavenly Orchardl Simply awesome. Kyara, Aloeswood and musk: with a soul deep quality all its own, this incense has it all. Not something you are going to be burning all the time, but for those times when you want something really special, it’s perfect. The scent will hang in the room for over an hour, as good quality Aloes are known to do, and really burning a full stick is almost too much. Not inexpensive but worth every penny. Not to be missed. Plus you got to love the name!

Pure_Incense: Connoisseur Agarwood This does not necessarily smell anything like a Japanese Aloeswood. OK, it’s not even close, yet it is a really, really wonderful stick of incense. A bit woodier and dryer then many of the Indian’s that I have encountered with a real live touch of Aloeswood in there dancing around all the other spices and oils. The quality and the way all the different scents work together is first class all the way. The Sandalwood in this line is also a favorite of mine. Probably the best oil based Sandalwood on the market.

Shoyeido: Kyoto Autumn Leaves In the under $10.00 level of Japanese incense Shoyeido has a lot of winners. Many of them are templates for their more expensive Premium line. The Kyoto Autumn Leaves is Sandalwood based with a spice mix that stops just short of becoming an Amber(like, say, Golden Pavilion, another winner). It is a bit dryer, less sweet yet still strong and something of a classic Japanese scent. Very nicely done and at a really great price. A whole lot of people around the world buy this incense and for good reason, it is a really good deal.

Mermade Magickal Arts: Sacred Grove This contains an amazingly huge grouping for resins and woods, blended in such a way that they all get to come out and make and appearance. It is very deep, yet clean and centering with a long lasting scent that tends to ground the environment. I have found that it also appeals to people who do not normally notice incense. Wonderfully well made with the best of ingredients and great skill that does such a great job of getting you to that wooded calm space within. The name pretty much describes the scent.

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14 Comments

  1. Janet said,

    October 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I was just posting somewhere else today about all my confusion regarding the different Shoyeido dailies…
    one thing I forgot to mention there, but thought I would here since you mentioned Kin-kaku, is that I *did* shell out the 8.75 for the EduM Golden Pavilion – and I am glad I did! The short and long versions are different from each other, and although this one is clearly the same overall scent, it is much richer, fuller, and amber-y. Quite different, especially if you do a side-by-side comparison.
    Also, I agree about Spirit Temple for the same reasons. That and Pan’s Earth (because anything with patchouli, vetiver, and frankincense is gonna do it for me) might be my favorites, but I have to put a plug in for Sacred Grove as probably THE best evergreen, to me…ditto Mermaid Moon for “watery” scents, right down to the hint of seawater scent. Katlyn is an artist of mammoth talent!

    • Janet said,

      October 6, 2009 at 7:22 pm

      I probably could have been clearer…the Shoyeido Kin-kaku’s short and long versions are different from each other, and the EduM version is different from both and (I think) FAR superior, well worth the extra $$ for anyone who likes the Daily version(s).

      • Ross Urrere said,

        October 6, 2009 at 11:32 pm

        I too got the EduM version and I think you are right. I have not done a side by side yet by am going to follow your que and try it tomorrow. And yes, Katlyn really does have a great flair for scent and how to present it. An aromatic artist!
        Thanks for all the input Janet, it is really appreciated.
        -Ross

        • Janet said,

          October 7, 2009 at 6:46 am

          Thanks for your patience with my noob enthusiasm!

  2. Janet said,

    September 30, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for the great reviews!
    Being a sandalwood lover (since I am trying to forcibly keep myself away from the Aloeswood for now – although not entirely successfully), I have found a couple of sandalwoods that I really like, that have more of a oil blend/perfume on top of the wood, and the Hitori-Shizuka is one..to me, it almost has a bit of citrus tang to it, similar to Yumemachi. I also am liking the Tahodo Sekizen Koh, though that has a deeper perfume.

    I know you’ve featured several Mermades in the past – I can never figure out which is my all-time favorite. If you had to choose one of the cones, which would it be?

    • Mike said,

      September 30, 2009 at 10:47 am

      As far as aloeswood incense goes I think all the new Indian imports saved my pocketbook. Having so much more to choose from really takes the heat off of a dwindling aloeswood stock, which is good because once you get that bug it really never goes away. I tend to save high end kyaras and aloeswoods for get togethers now and literally will pass a stick around with guests – it’s always a treat to see people react to how amazing the stuff is.

      But even sandalwood’s starting to go through the roof now, for example I just noticed that the Daihatsu chip box is literally double in price what it was a year ago. So I think one of my checkboxes for 2010 will be stocking up there as well, as there’s really nothing like the real thing when it comes to sandalwood (also need to stock up on the Baieido Byakudan Kobunboku which is really the one relatively affordable sandalwood heavy stick that approaches a chip on a heater.

      • Janet said,

        September 30, 2009 at 10:57 am

        What do you think of the Shunkodo Sarasoju?
        I have found it to be different the Baiedo, in that it seems even less “augmented” to me…while the Byakudan Kobunboku has very subtle additions, there is definitely a Baieido signature there, for me – particularly when you compare them side-by-side.
        I love them both, as I also love the Minorien Sandalwood, which is so different.
        I haven’t seen much about the Shunkodo here, but I think it’s gorgeous. A very pure, clear sandalwood scent.
        I mention it because Japan Incense is running a special on a large box, which I just took advantage of!
        I’ve stayed mostly away from the Aloeswood because of money (though I have dipped into Kai Un Koh…the Kobunbokus…Minorien Aloeswood….ahem), but also because I wanted to fully get into the lower end stuff before jumping ahead and maybe affecting my appreciation of them.
        I do genuinely love Sandalwood on its own merits.

        • Mike said,

          September 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

          Sarasoju’s pretty good, a bit rough and ready for a sandalwood with an almost sawdusty kind of scent to it. So while it’s very good it doesn’t quite capture for me what I consider sandalwood’s best qualities which lie in the wood’s resin and I think of like crystals (a much lighter, ethereal sort of scent). You only tend to get that via chips on a heater and the rarest and best Baieidos like Byakudan Kokoh (to die for but expensive) and I rarely ever sense it in Indian masalas as if the heavy oil content blocks it out. I do plan on reviewing Sarasoju in the relatively near future along with the Shuhou and Matsuba Pine, I think those are the only 3 Shunkohdos we are reviewless on. Overall they’re just a fantastic company, up there with the best.

          It’s true however that Baieido Byakudan Kobunboku isn’t a pure sandalwood per se, but it does manage to convey the better aspects of the scent as nicely as any incense at that price range (I really think Baieido rules the market when it comes to entry level traditional blends). Kyukyodo Yumemachi you’d probably appreciate along with the others you listed as well.

          And yes, alas, the expense of aloeswood… You do have to put out good money to get the real thing, although I think scents like Shunkohdo Ranjatai and Tennendo Enkuu, while still breaking the $100 barrier can bring down a very fine thing, the Enkuu’s one of my all time favorites (I’d be hard pressed to name a better incense of any type) and the Ranjatai is an extremely good deal, although you’re paying quite a bit of money it’s a very large roll that lasts a long time (I’m still working on my first from maybe 2 years ago). Or if you need to go lower it doesn’t hurt to start at the Baieido lower ends like the Baieido Kokonoe Ross mentioned or the next one or two up the ladder. That whole series is excellent and increasingly so as you get more familiar with them (the #3 in that range is worth twice the price IMO). Of course taking time avoiding the aloeswood bug is probably a very wise thing. 🙂

          My favorite aloeswood revisit right now is the Kunmeido Asuka, it just has a very green oud oil in it that I can’t get enough of. An incredibly complex incense that I don’t bring up enough!

          • Janet said,

            September 30, 2009 at 11:32 am

            I *do* like the yumemachi…and the Tennendo Kohrokan – there are things I appreciate about all of them. My all time favorite is, however, the Baieido. It’s one of those scents that I forget about for awhile while I am exploring, and then come back and can’t believe that I haven’t been burning it all the time! Of course, a lot of times I’ll think that about whatever I am currently burning, if it’s a keeper 🙂

            I just got the EoE Shunkodo sampler (oh oh!), so I will finally get to try the Ranjatai that I have heard so much about.
            I did want to also mention that I looked for the Enkuu in sampler form, but and didn’t find it, so perhaps Beth has stopped offering that as a sampler?

            • Mike said,

              September 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

              I don’t think Enkuu was ever in a Tennendo sampler, not sure why though except that it would likely add significant cost to it (I think it breaks down to about $2.50 a stick) and is a bit longer than the usual stick at 9″, maybe too long for a tube but too short to break in two a la Sho Ran Koh. Enkuu’s generally a must if you go for woody, dry, and spikenard heavy.

              • Ross urrere said,

                September 30, 2009 at 1:43 pm

                My mistake, I thought it was. It might not hurt to ask either Kotaro at Kohshi or Beth at JI if they would sell a smaller amount. Off hand I can not think of anything else quite like it.
                -Ross

    • Ross urrere said,

      September 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm

      I would most likly go with Spirit Temple, love the Frankincense notes.

  3. Mike said,

    September 28, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I think the Connoisseur Agarwood is absolutely amazing and definitely agree that Japanese and Indian agarwoods are almost like two different styles, I’ve never smelled an Indian agarwood with the intense resiny notes you find in the high end Japanese sticks. But the Connoissuer is very woody nonetheless and complex at the same time. This one will be in my Pure Incense first installment coming soon…

    Cheers on keeping Enkuu alive, to this day one of my all time Top 10 incenses, it’s the type of scent that makes me feel like I don’t need to spend kyara range money on incense. For a while at least. 🙂

    • Ross urrere said,

      September 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      India has or had, as the case may be, lots of Aloeswood so I keep wondering why there does not seem to be the “killer” Aloeswood stick from India. I seem to remeber that one of our contributors (Maharani maybe) has said that cost is a real factor in incense sales in India. A serious amount of ALoeswood in a stick would increase the price a lot, this is obvious in the pricing of the Japanese sticks. Prehaps they are only done for custome orders or in very small amounts. Would love to know about this.
      -Ross


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