November Top 10 (from Ross)

This is at least some of what I have been using this last month. The list is not arranged in any particular order as I have come to realize that for me it depends on what works in the moment.

Next months list will be very different, something along the line of a Top 20 or so  of the über Greats, plus maybe some mention of companies and products that deserve a look (well, sniff in our case)

1 Koh Shi Boku from Baieido:  This has tons of levels to it, but you need a clean environment and fresh nose( or at least I do) to really even start to get in tune with it. I fell in love with this at Lake Tahoe last month while burning this in a tent in a forest. This is all about the quality of the wood, in this case Kyara, that Baieido uses. The very minimal resin and spices are only there to showcase the Kyara.  There are sample packs and this is a good way to start.

2 Nefertum – A Premium Kyphi Resin Incense from Mermade Magickal:  This just came out and a full review is forth coming in a week or so. Very complex mixture of resins, herbs and spices. The aging process works wonders and produces a very multi layered experience. An electric heater on low is the best way to go. Really well done and as usual the quality of the ingredients shows up in the final product. There is a reason this style was so popular for so long in Egypt, Rome and the area, this is a great example.

3 Kurogata from Yamada Matsu: This is one of their kneaded incense balls made from Aloeswood and spices and, I am assuming, oils. The scent is very reminiscent of a high end Kyara blend, with, maybe, a touch of vanilla, very smooth and very long lasting. I would not say this is a traditional kneaded type scent, but it is for sure  a winner.

4 Benzoin from Fred Soll: I have been on Benzoin run of late and this really fits the picture. Deep, almost caramel scent without much in the way of florals and such and the stick lasts for around an hour. This is a great deal. We have a bunch of reviews coming on the Fred Soll line soon, he makes a great product and this is a fine example.

5 Jinko Yozei from Gyokushodo: There is a really nice sweet Aloeswood scent mixed in with low key oil and spice chords that hits a very elegant note. It took me a while to really get this one, Now it has become a “go to” stick for “Aloeswood moments”. I think this is the most recent addition to what has been brought into this country, great stuff.

6 Sho-Ran-Ko from Kyukyodo: A truly beautiful, long burning stick using high grade Aloeswood combined with a stunning combination of spices, herbs and oils. It is a very large bundle that can last for quite a while. A bit scares at the moment, let us hope that more is on the way. Really something worth saving up for. Can’t think of anything else really like this in the US, although they do make several grades above this one that are also wonderful. Hopefully, some day, someone will bring them in. Until then, this will make you happy.  🙂

7 Solitude / Hitori-Shizuka from Seikado: A Sandalwood blend with a beautiful oil/spice top note, like a light, very clean, floral perfume. Just smelling the bundle is a treat. A great way to scent the room and also something I enjoy as I drift off to sleep.

8 Saiun from Yamada Matsu: When I use this I am reminded of the scent of leather and pipe tobacco in a very classy library at a upscale Men’s Club. This is a very deep Aloeswood blend from one of the best companies in Japan. Check out Mikes write-up here. You will need to contact Japan Incense by email or phone to order. Rumor has it that a bigger selection will be coming in next year.

9 Kai Un Koh from Baieido:  Really one of the greatest deals in incense. Strong Aloeswood scent combined with a serious blast of herbs and spices. A classic and with good reason. Very grounding and centering. Not what one would call a light scent, in fact it is pretty bold, but once you get caught up in it there is no going back.

10 Sun Fire from Mermade Magickal: This is a reformulation of one of their standards that was good and is now great. The notes list Blood Orange as one of the ingredients, to me there is that oh so wonderful scent of Orange Flower. I have seen a number of people come through a room where this is burning and fall in love with it. Lots of smoke but the scent lasts long enough that you could burn it before people arrive.  Really nicely done and a very captivating scent.

Enjoy  – Ross



  1. David said,

    December 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I recently picked up a couple of Fred Soll scents (Benzoin, Dragon’s Blood, Sacred Myrrh, Ancient Blend Sweet Frankincense) and am rather disappointed. I’m burning a large cone of Ancient Blend Sweet Frankincense right now and the major tone is one of musk which I really detest. I had no idea that this would be the case. I was also not aware that these would be so seemingly less refined than say my beloved Shoyeido Southern Mountain Nan Zan (Frankincense). I gather that this can be attributed to the use of resins? I am also not that able to differentiate between the other types that I purchased. I think resininess of them overshadows their unique differences. I am hoping that they will grow on me. Any suggestions or comments?

  2. janet said,

    December 7, 2009 at 7:20 am

    It’s funny, because Hyofu was on Mike’s list last month, Saiun is on yours this month….and I got a one-stick taste of all three and immediately fell for the Shikun, which is the only one I have a box of right now (although I would like to get all three). I love Mike’s description of the “compression” of the woods, because I think that’s what grabbed me with the Shikun, a very intense woodiness, that seemed to have these incredible ribbons of light sweetness winding through. I look forward to making Shiun’s and Hyofu’s better acquaintance later!
    #4,5,6,7,9 & 10 are *all* incenses I really enjoy, and a couple that I love! Soll’s Benzoin is one-of-a-kind, and I find it really extends the palette of scents I can go to when I just gotta have a strong resin, in this case milder and sweeter than the others, totally rich and resinous without being overwhelming.
    I actually “smudged” my house with Kai Un Koh the other day, had to step outside, and when I came back in was totally blown away – I’ve been using it for quite some time, but never in that manner, and it really opened up some new nuances for me, some additional spiciness and a lacquery undertone that I had not really picked up on before, or maybe I just caught the interplay differently…..
    Last comment – I tried the Hitori-Shizuka at bedtime, as you suggested, and it was a perfect choice! Sometimes when I have chosen subtler or really complex scents to sleep to, I think I subconsciously “hold on” to the scent, and have trouble sleeping until the burn is done, so this was ideal. Potent and perfumey enough that it was just like a river of almost powdery scent that carried me right away! It has a good balance of sandalwood aroma to keep it from being too heavy, though.
    Oops, one more – I know Sun Fire has amber now – was that the only change? Can you describe the difference between the new and the old (which I still have most of a jar of)?

  3. clairsight said,

    December 6, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I hear through the grape vine that Japan Incense may be getting in some of the harder to find Kyukyodo’s soon. This is good as they are becoming hard to find.

    • Steve said,

      December 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

      Hey Ross – I know EotA is currently out of stock on much of the Kyukyodo inventory and I wondered if it was just a temporary order lag or a more concerning “drying up” from the source. Do you happen to know? The thought of Ikaruga, Azusa and Sho-ran-ko becoming scarce is concerning to me!

      • Steve said,

        December 6, 2009 at 11:33 pm

        Thanks Ross! Just dropped a note to Beth at EotA regarding her stock and whether or not we’d have easy access to Ikaruga, Azusa and Shoranko in the future. Will report back on her response. Not to be an alarmist, but I just submitted an order to load up on her remaining Kyukyodo stock of Yumemachi, Shiun and Shirohato…

        • janet said,

          December 7, 2009 at 6:54 am

          I asked the same question of her a couple of months ago….at that point, things weren’t looking really good for an iminent restock. I’ll be interested to see her response. For me, getting my hands on a roll of Ryuhinko was a bit of a Holy Grail kinda thing, since that was the only one I didn’t have, and I love the stuff. As of yet, I can’t develop much of a taste for Azusa….it’s just too too floral for me, masterful though it may be. So if you ever get truly desperate in the future, hit me up!

  4. Mike said,

    December 1, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Great list Ross, I’d say we share the same #1 this month, I may have to lock up that box soon before it vanishes. I tried the Yamadamatsu kneadeds too, they seem very nice, although I don’t think I’ve gotten the hang of them yet.

    It’s killing me to see Sho-Ran-Ko starting to disappear from catalogs, I’ve probably got half of one of those big rolls left and that’s a lot still, but I can’t imagine life without that one. It’s even better than one or two of the most expensive Kyukyodos imo. I wonder if Incense Guru still has any in stock or if that’s just an empty entry now.

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