January is drawing to a close and it’s time for this month’s Top 10! If you were to drop by my office at the ORS Studios™ (I am the first door on the left past the ORS lab), you would likely encounter one of these fine scents wafting from my open door:
♦ Sho Ran Koh from Kyukyodo has long been my go-to scent for guests. After some time away from it, I recently rediscovered it, rekindling the love affair. While we hear of aloeswood frequently, this is an example of the incense actually smelling like aloe – that smooth rich scent in good unscented body lotions. Throw in wondrous spices and you have the elegant and sublime Sho Ran Koh. It’s cheaper than you think – you are just forced to buy a very large quantity at once, which will last you a good, long time. At only about a buck per 10.5″ (!) stick, you’ll see this is a cheaper incense to burn than, say, the next incense on our list:
♦ Nippon Kodo’s Bamboo Leaf is an entry in their Yume-no-Yume line and, if I didn’t know better, would assume was rather a part of Shoyeido’s Incense Road line. The marketing and packaging of these 2 lines seems quite similar (and trendy) and you pay for that. Bamboo Leaf can be had for about $6 for a pack, which includes beautiful graphics and a plastic tray which securely and individually holds each of the 12 sticks. But with sticks only 3.25″ long, this burn is more expensive per inch than Sho Ran Koh (!), yet another (unfortunate) similarity with the Incense Road line. Price not withstanding, Bamboo Leaf is an indulgent treat and if you are a fan of Shoyeido’s Incense Road Nan-Zan, then just imagine replacing Nan-Zan’s frankincense with green tea, keeping all the sweet underlying richness, and you have Bamboo Leaf. On the menu of Japanese incense, you’ll find this one under desserts!
♦ Pearl from Shroff has been arresting my attention of late. The champa brings something familiar and comfortable, yet with a perfume intertwined and pulsing that is new and always captivating to me. A prime example of why Shroff gets the hype they do around here. Extra cool point – the packaging seems to have a typo, with the incense being called “Peral” – an ominous sounding and entirely offbase A.K.A. if ever there was one.
♦ If you love sandalwood, then do yourself a favor and pick up a roll of Yumemachi by Kyukyodo. Everything these folks do is superlative and reasonably priced and Yumemachi is no exception. Super smooth slightly citrus sandalwood! You’ll be burning handfuls of this stuff before long 😀
♦ Reiryo-Koh from Kunmeido was part of my very first order of Japanese incense and has been a sentimental favorite ever since. It’s one of a handful of incenses that just nail the sweet spot – great spicy aroma with a low price that allows you to freely enjoy. I pack Reiryo-Koh with me whenever I travel and I burn it in my car overnight to scent it, no kidding!
♦ Koh En from Baieido is a classic. While certainly a luxury pleasure, sometimes you just have to allow yourself a few guilt-free sessions and enjoy. It’s a nice companion while reading, writing or otherwise sedately reposing – when your senses are quiet and aware and the many subtle layers of scent can roll by under your appreciative contemplation.
♦ Shoyeido’s Seifu is the slightly more premium of Shoyeido’s two Premium Daily Incenses. The darkly colored stick manages to approximate the deep watery-ness found in high-grade aloeswoods (Tennendo’s Enkuu comes to mind here) at a fraction of the price. A great incense to try if you’re new to Japanese incense or if you’re looking to start exploring finer (and more expensive) Japanese offerings.
♦ There is a tantalizing combination of powdery sweetness (almost talc-like) and woody spiciness to Tennendo’s Kuukai that is intoxicating. Your nose keeps jumping between the two, trying to latch on to one scent just as the other pulls your attention away. To be safe, you better just pick up the 10-roll box on this one 😀
♦ If you are a Tibetan-style fan, you owe it to yourself to try Nado Poizokhang Grade A. It is in the same vein as Tibetan Monastery Incense and equally as good. I actually have cravings for this one from time to time. I wrote comments recently on NP Grade A – rather than repeat myself, just take a look at the link here to the review & comments.
♦ If they’re good enough for the Dalai Lama, then you should certainly enjoy Bo-rim sticks from Korea (I still am unclear who the manufacturer is – ChuiWoon HyangDang or Sam-sung?) A dry, bitter-yet-smooth stick that evokes both burnt toast and burning leaves, I find the aroma both arresting, focusing and calming. I see Frank Lloyd Wright working on a new design at his drafting table with this burning in the background. If you haven’t tried a Korean incense, this is the top notch way to go. If I had it to do over again, I would take all the $ I spent on Bosen and other Korean incenses and just buy more Bo-rim!
Hope you enjoyed this month’s Top 10, and while I’m at it, a reminder: Have you subscribed to our RSS Feeds yet? Make sure you never miss a thing at ORS and have all new Entries and Comments delivered right to you!