[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…