[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above or the Top Ten Lists category on the left down the page a bit. Please also check the Reviews Index for longer reviews of all these]
I can’t really order my top ten nor necessarily even contain this list to a top ten this month, I think categorically I’m thinking of things in groups and such, making this sort of a top 8 to 12 kind of thing. There were too many strong contenders this month so this will be formatted a bit differently…
I know when I’m using a lot of daily incense that when I pop in even one stick of something premium that one usually goes right to the top. Indeed I’ve had my Kyukyodo Sho-Ran-Koh box out again now that Japan Incense seems to have some in stock, but it made me realize that comparatively I still have more left with a half box of this incense than most full boxes. Seriously is there any better deal in incense? It’s almost the equivalent of paying up front for four $40 boxes except that you’re also getting one of the best incenses in the market. This is seriously one of the most elegant, mysterious and mercuric concoctions ever to hit a censer, better than many kyara scents twice its price. It’s just a must in every way.
Similarly favorites Tennendo Enkuu and Shoyeido Ga-Ho and Shoyeido Nan-Kun all made runs in the last month and they’re always my favorites while burning. Enkuu’s another one of those aloeswood incenses that’ll make you forget about kyara, it’s just the go-to for those of us who like our woods dry, lacquer-like and changeable. You think of Nan-Kun as an aloeswood, but more and more I think of it as a spikenard incense because for that scent I think it’s the most elegant incense you can by, it’s almost like a spray of humid, musky, sweet air with a rich aloeswood burn lifting it all up into the stratosphere. Ga-Ho’s still one of my personal favorites as it’s like some bizarre green and black exotic flower, again with an aloeswood charriness that etches the surroundings. Both of these are so powerful and glorious that I literally can’t get enough.
The two newest Gyokushodo imports Samei-Koh and Umeshoin are also in heavy rotation although I find it hard to suggest one needs both as they’re so close in many ways. Like the high end Kunmeido incenses everything from Jinko Yomei on up seem to be variations on a theme, with a definitely spice and wood oil mixture that tends to refine itself as the scale and expense increases. Yomei is almost the basic level, somewhat floral, while Samei-Koh seems hotter and spicier and Umeshoin halves the oil content to share with a mellower wood and a cooler greenness. Needless to say my only issue with these is they’re so mellow, I’m often tempted to burn two sticks at once.
I’m still totally bowled over by how great the two Shroff mixes Amir and Shamama Gold are. When I first bought these I went for the 100g batches and all four are subdivided into quarters and I’m through or almost through the first quarter on both batches. The essential oil mixes here are the product of a very clever alchemist, one who has combined a number of very different perfumes to create a scent with different faces. I’m reminded of a pliable surface that surrounds shapes that push outward in variation in constant movement, from a glimpse it all seems to be one object but it’s impossible to capture the whole of it in one description. Often with both of these incenses I’m just amazed all over again as some new facet comes billowing out. There are really no other scents like these and you honestly wish Shroff had a full catalog of charcoals like this as they’re so very good.
Continuing the theme of dry and less accessible woods, I’ve not mentioned it often but I get a lot of mileage out of Minorien Aloeswood, Minorien Kyara, and Minorien Kyara Ryugen. Despite their very natural like scents I think there’s a density here that implies wood oils are part of the formula, but all of these never get too sweet and indeed the straight Aloeswood just has a rough, hoary sort of scent that always stands out of any pack with the Ryugen the most elegant of the three and the regular Kyara having characteristics of both.
I still can’t get enough of the Kunmeido Kyara Ten-Pyo, which overlays confectionary like chocolate and a heavier wood content over the signature Kunmeido green oil, it’s like the best of a bunch of worlds. It occured to me that it has completely supplanted both Asuka and Heian Koh for the month (which probably helped to slow down dwindling stock). Tenpyo is one I put away and then bring out and put away and bring out again, which I haven’t stopped doing since my roll arrived.
I also wanted to fit in here the two Shoyeido Premium Dailies, En Mei and Sei Fu, both of which I burn very frequently, enough that they should be on this list even though I look up and see we’re already talking 13-14. And also in the distinguished runner up category, any of the Mothers Nag Champas all of which give me that piney mattipal dose that I can’t get enough of. And so I better stop while I’m ahead.
What’s you top 10 or 5 or 2 or 1 this month?