June Top 10 (Mike)

[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 reviews of some of these incenses]

Yamadamatsu Kumoi Koh – There are still lots of fabulous Yamadamatsu incenses that are likely on their way over the Pacific at some point and I think we’re practically bursting to talk about some of these, but of the ones that have made it, Kumoi Koh is probably my favorite, in fact it would be in the running for the top spot of the year. While we’ve discussed some of the company’s incenses in the past, this is really one of the first that gives an idea of what these creators can accomplish. It’s really hard to explain because while this does have a wood presence, there’s a spicy/musky oil on this one that is addictive and stupendous, in fact the first time I had a box of this, I spent maybe a day or two just burning stick after stick of this. It has a deep redolence that partakes of a wide palette of incense materials. This company is truly a marvel.

Tibetan Medical College Holy Land – This one may take a back seat for a few weeks but as soon as I get back into the box I tend to burn several sticks. I still think this has a depth and complexity that few Tibetan incenses really exhibit and I constantly marvel at what I might call its salty qualities. I think perhaps I have some childhood memories that this scent triggers, because I just find it endlessly fascinating.

Myrrh – Thanks to my cohort Anne, I’m in possession of some really quality myrrh. This is a resin that can vary so wildly in quality that I’ve smelled some really nasty stuff in the past, but this gorgeous pinkish/orange premium stuff is so fantastic you can actually smell it off the resin. I think in one of the Baieido ingredient pages it mentions that the really good stuff breaks up really sticky rather than crystalline, and this is indeed really sticky. I spent a few days after getting it heating little pieces. Now I’ve got to grind some of this and Mermade’s hougary together and see how that works out.

Mother’s India Fragrances/Agni Nagchampa – I’m picking just one of the dozen or so newest Mothers that could easily make this list, because really in the end what makes them so good is their bases, the top fragrances really just end up reacting off these in many different ways. And I’ve gotten my notes written up for this one. Perhaps in the spirit of Ross’s recent posts, this is the musk version of the series and it’s got that sweet, rich and decadent French musk sitting right on top of the usual spicy base. Anyway I couldn’t be more glad Mother’s decided to expand their original five because essentially this is now by far the best champa line on the market.

Gyokushodo/Saishuko – Like many of the Gyokushodo scents that can blow you away just with a sniff of the fresh box, the most premium in the latest line is perhaps the only one of them that has much of a fresh smell, you get the distinct impression these are definitely more in the raw materials area. Still this does have a lot of similarity with Saimei Koh, with that sort of orange spicy mix, although it’s now at a level where it’s more of a hint and mixed in with a real fresh scented aloeswood goodness.

Gyokushodo/Shunsui is the next step down and could be the most fascinating of all of them as it mixes in whelk operculum with the wood base. Perhaps by association or perhaps not, I was definitely reminded of the seaside with this one, although it also seems to have some muskier hints as well. Overall while it’s still fairly new to me and I’ve had to pass up on it for a week or so due to reviews stuff, it hints at a really impressive complexity that I’m looking forward to getting back to.

Mentsi Khang/Mih Bhutanese – Superficially this incense seems to have a lot in common with most of the Bhutanese makers, but the creators have seemed to make this with a bit of fire in the mix and for some reason it always stands out when I reach for the box. Very woody and although I’m not sure I could really explain the constituents it stands out intuitively to me as if it has some sort of mild psychoactive element to it, or I guess that would be my way of saying that it’s quite evocative in its own way.

Baieido Hakusui (or Ogurayama) Aloeswood – Either of these could almost be considered a top 10 incense experience perenially. Not only are chips of this astounding on a heater, but there’s a definitely aesthetic pleasure in both the packaging and the slices of wood.

Highland Incense (Sticks) – The close number 2 to Holy Land, there’s just a really wild and feral musky scent to this Tibetan classic that’s hard not to love.

Pure Incense / Absolute Kevda – In working on the next batch of PI reviews, this one stuck out pretty strong. It’s sort of a mix of woodies qualities and patchouli greenness, all merging together with a touch of floral. In the end I was thinking I’d probably dig more than a sample of it.

As always, feel free to share your own favorites of the last month in the comments section…


  1. greg said,

    September 30, 2010 at 7:41 am

    i definitely agree that “kumoi koh” from yamadamatsu is good. there is a noticeable oil presence (visually as well as aromatically) and when lit, the oiliness is noticeable in the volume of the aloeswood fragrance. it becomes so intense that “chocolate” overtones begin to assert themselves. unless the oils are of the highest quality, the addition of oils to incense can react in upleasant ways with the natural ingredients when burned. this is especially true when combining essential oils with frankincense and somewhat true when combining with processed woods. Kohshi in sf stocks this on their website, you must type in a search for “kumoi” and you will see it come up. this is probably the only store in north/central/south america that has so wide a selection of japanese incense and so genial a staff. i highly recommend them.

    • clairsight said,

      October 2, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      Hey Greg
      They do it right and the Kumoi koh is a case in point. There are a couple of other sticks from YM that use these same notes and to me might even be better. But you will need to call JI to get them. The Phoenix series, stunning at the very least..

  2. Hamid said,

    July 2, 2010 at 7:20 am

    the address for the Ashram sandalwood sticks is;


  3. Hamid said,

    July 2, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Just squeaking into favourites for June…I have had a bit of a road to Damascus experience..I have fallen in love with a Japanese incense, Minorien Fu-In Sandalwood. Its a full-on pure sandalwood , the nearest comparison to an Indian sandalwood stick would be the Jivada sandal, but the Minorien is that bit cleaner and free of any other scents other than what it professes to be.
    Having said that I would once more give a bump to the Sandalwood sticks from the Hawaiian Ashram I have mentioned before. They lack the depth of the Minorien, but are very resonably priced and are an excellent every day sandalwood.

    • Mike said,

      July 6, 2010 at 8:04 am

      I have to say, I’m really psyched with the Yamadamatsu Karaku sandalwood myself lately. It really seemes like splitting hairs to discuss all the different Japanese sandalwoods, but after reading comments for a couple years it really does seem like everyone has their different favorites. Anyway i’d be curious to see what you think of the rest of the Minoriens Hamid. That’s one near perfect line up in my book.

      • Hamid said,

        July 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

        Having got my toe in the Japanese water so to speak Mike we will see where it leads..bankruptcy possibly..

  4. Petra said,

    July 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I have been reading your blog for some time, thanks for the reviews, they make it easier to choose from the numerous scents.
    Could you tell me from which site in the Netherlands the scents you talked about are available? Most incense is not imported to Europe anyways, so I am always happy to find new suppliers, especially for aloeswood sticks that I can not order from the US because of CITES.


    • Mike said,

      July 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

      Hi Petra thanks for dropping by. I’ll have to get back to you on the website. It’s funny I pulled it up the other day on Google, but was unable to do so today so I must have forgotten the right search words.

      • danothy said,

        July 7, 2010 at 3:27 am

        The Dutch site you’re talking about might be this:
        At first I was confused (and excited) because I thought it was a European source for Gyokushodo (of which there’s only one to my knowledge, in Italy), but I was reading it wrong. At any rate, I’m happy about Mother’s India too.

        • Petra said,

          July 7, 2010 at 6:42 am

          Thank you. Actually I read it wrong as well.

          But I do know an other source for some Gyokushodo incense in Austria, they carry Kojurin, Jinko Kojurin, Jinko Houen, Jinko Yomei and Jinko Yozei. But only in the small 20 stick packages and at a higher price than in the US. I have ordered there before, no problems and quick shipping.


          That is pretty strange about the Mother’s India fragrances, I remember they used to be widely available here a few years back. My sister used to burn them all the time, back then they had the most amazing rosewood scent. Now I am unable to find them any more, maybe the wholesaler who distributed them here is gone. Would be nice to have them back in stores though. At least Essence now has them.

        • Mike said,

          July 7, 2010 at 8:18 am

          Thanks for the assist, that’s indeed the one.

          And for anyone reading the thread does anyone know what the “note” is for the Atma Nagchampa? I think it’s telling to some extent that it’s very difficult to guess any of these without knowing.

  5. Hamid said,

    July 1, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Interesting Mike, that is one of the few Pure-Incense sticks I haven’t tried.

    My own incense of the month is one that is new to me, but not to the forum..Musk Champa by Shroff…quite gorgeous I think.

  6. Ross Urrere said,

    June 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    The Baieido single area woods seem to me to be pretty much the point at which others are held up to. They really are wonderful and each is very differnt. A real trwat on the heater.
    The Yamada Matsu’s aren prety wild, Kumoi Koh reminds me of a sort of entry point into their high ends, BIG aromatic experience 🙂 , in a way, almost Tibetan. Nice picks, and I am really looking forward to your upcoming reviews. -ROss

    • Mike said,

      July 1, 2010 at 9:57 am

      There are times I really think I could narrow a Desert Island pick down to a heater, quality aloeswood, sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh and copal blanco. I’m often reminded that even beloved recipes often cover up just how complex the aromas of nature are.

  7. Mike said,

    June 30, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    They’re only available in the Netherlands so far and I think the site (who kindly sent me samples for review) that carries them is still working on an English version so people can purchase via paypal. I hope to coordinate all that when the reviews drop.

  8. Janet said,

    June 30, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I adore Saishuko and Shunsui….the new offerings have moved Gyokushodo to the top of my pile as far as companies are concerned.
    Are the new Mothers available here?

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