October Top 10

  1. Mother’s India Fragrances – Om Nag Champa  I don’t mean to take much attention away from all of the other excellent incenses in the Mother’s series, but there’s something about this one that’s hit a bullseye with me, to the point where I ran out my first 20 stick package of this about a month or so after I received it. However in stocking it deeper in the smaller packages, I noticed the batches were a little different and it’s something I’ve been wondering about in terms of aromatic differences as the Om I started with really is something of a triangular balancing act and the small package scent falls perhaps a little short. But generally speaking this works for me because I love an incense with a perfect cinnamon/cassia note and this one, at least in the big package has that to an almost addictive state.
  2. Shoyeido / Premium / Myo-Ho  I find this to be one of the greatest incenses period, definitely my favorite of the top 3 premiums and I love the effect it has on company when they first get the aroma. The liquerish sweetness and dark kyara and aloeswood notes mesh just about perfectly in this one.
  3. Baieido / Ogurayama Aloeswood  I still find this a natural miracle, it just never ceases to astound me that you can get this much aroma from a small piece of this wood. I mean you can literally get 3-4 hours of it when you get the right temperature and I spend most of it double taking, going yeah it really is that little chip doing that. I might actually slightly prefer the Hakusui in terms of its spiciness but I think the resin might actually be a bit more intense in the Ogurayama. Anyway this is about as close to incense nirvana as it gets for me.
  4. Fred Soll / Red Sandalwood  Like many Solls this does have the penchant to not stay lit, but that’s really its only weakness. Like Shroff’s Red Sandal, this is a spicier take on a sandalwood incense, showing a totally different facet of the wood due to the cinnamon-ish notes. With Soll’s version you get that combination mixed in with that southwestern woodsy/resiny vibe to great effect. It’s also one of the mellower Solls and seems to have less powerful oils than they usually do.
  5. Tennendo / Enkuu  This is always a perennial favorite in my book, in fact long time readers might know that this is one of the most common incenses in the top ten lists here. I think that’s largely because so many of the top end incenses have kyara and are thus very sweet, Enkuu is more at the apex of the drier spicy end, for its kind there are really few better incenses. And even after a year or two since I first tried it, I still find it strikingly original and only find it mildly comparative to other high end aloeswood/spikenard mixes.
  6. Fred Soll / Nag Champa with Amber and Vanilla  I don’t bring out the Soll champas very often as for a couple of years now they’ve shown nothing but delays in terms of restocking these scents, no doubt due to the usual shortages. But when I do I’m always completely bowled over by how great these are, particularly in the realms of the sugary sweet. This one’s about as rich and amazing as you can imagine, perhaps even too much so for a small room, but perfect for these late warm California summers outside where it can penetrate with even a small wind.
  7. Yamadamatsu / Kumoi Koh  Another absolute classic in my book, an oil and woods mix that is rich, spicy and animalistic, so strong that you can get an idea of its scent just from the fresh stick. It’s similar to one or two of the coils that haven’t been imported here yet that clearly use some ingredients you don’t usually find in incenses at this level of strength. Very exotic and heady.
  8. Kyukyodo / (several)  Clearly the top catalog whose entry to US shores seems to be problematic at the very least. Sure you can find Sho-Ran-Koh and Azusa these days, but there are just a good dozen incenses or so that just badly need to be imported that haven’t ever been over here, such as the incredible aloeswood Akikaze or even the stunning and much lower end Benizakura or one of the really great high quality sandalwood based incenses Gyokurankoh. Oh and RIP Shiun and Yumemachi, what a pair to be deleted!
  9. Nippon Kodo / Tokusen Kyara Taikan  Readers may not fully be aware that if you don’t count the regular Kyara Taikan or Kongo, which I don’t, this is actually the lowest incense on a scale that goes up to what seems like the world’s most expensive stick incense, the $2500 Gokujyo Kyara Fugaku. I think you’d only have to pay $120 something for the Tokusen Kyara Taikan, which is actually an excellent stick in that it drops some of the more perfumy sweet aspects of the straight Kyara Taikan for a more elegant result. It’s a shame these are so breakable and thin, but they do pack quite a wallop.
  10. Shroff / Akash Ganga  I’ve always found this an odd scent because it’s one if not the only incenses in the Dry Masala range that shares the yellow boxes with the Semi-Drys, and I can see why as it seems to fall somewhere in the middle. I find this a very unusual variant on the “desert flower” sort of scents in that it doesn’t have the heavy camphorous notes they usually have or the sort of sickly sweet perfumes. And as a result it strikes me as a very mysterious scent with a depth that continues to make me go through my supplies very fast.

As always feel free to share with us what amazed you this month!


  1. Orgoglio italianO said,

    March 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Is this the same Kumoi you reviewed ?

    Kumoi Koh?


  2. Scott said,

    January 17, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Hi! In the review mention is made of larger packets of the Mother’s Om Nag Champa, but I can only find the smaller packets, even on the company’s website; anyone have a source for the larger size Oms? Thanks!

    • glennjf said,

      January 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Hey Scott, I used google.com, I searched with… Mother’s India Fragrances, The first site google found has on offer 24 stick packets of Om, I don’t know of any larger amounts one can buy other than for a 24 stick packet.

  3. greg said,

    January 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    i just received a box (very large) of the akikaze and must say it doesn’t differ that much from the sho-ran-koh. plus you get about 40percent fewer sticks – for the money, i feel sho-ran-koh is by far the better buy.

  4. Mumon said,

    November 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I have this most amazing Indian incense that simply does not seem to be on your site. It was given to us by a minister of the government who was visiting at the time. It was some kind of sampler, and like Indian incenses (a) had a wood-stick bottom,. (b) had New-Agey names to each of the incenses, but (c) was totally high quality – I’m talking high quality blends of frankincense and aloeswood.

    Can I send a photo of it?

    • glennjf said,

      November 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      Have you uploaded photo to the internet already? If you have then it’s easy enough to cpoy/paste the URL of the image to a comment here.

      I just googled the following how to instructions, should work for you…

      Locate and view the photo at whereeverv it is you have it stored ie flickr, photobucket, imageshack etc.

      If you use Firefox – Open the image then right click on the opened image. From the menu that presents you need to click on “Copy image location” and then do “ctrl V” to paste the image location (URL) into your comment here. People can copy the url into their address bar and se the image when the page loads.

      If you use IE – Open the image then right click on the image, select “properties”. You get a popup – you have the link in the Address field – just copy it and paste it into your next comment here.

      • Mumon said,

        December 7, 2010 at 5:57 am

        Thanks; I know how to do it, I just wondered if the sight folks would do it.

        • glennjf said,

          December 7, 2010 at 6:39 am

          There’s no ability to put an image here for folks to see as such but URL links do the job in place of. I’m sure there’ll be people interested to see the incense, hear what you experienced from it.

          If you have it just post the photo’s URL to here and anything else that you care to share about the incense, the name of the company making it, it’s name, any of the ingredients and so on

  5. greg said,

    November 21, 2010 at 7:09 am

    google “rakuten.jp” and click on translate. you’ll get a poor english translation of all you seek.

  6. Clifford said,

    October 31, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    My favorites of the month:

    – Tibetan Medical College – Holy Land

    – Mandala Trading – Tibetan Monastery Incense

    – Mother’s India Incense – Nag Champa (I can’t seem to pick a favorite, I love them all so much! Om and Ganesh are definitely near the top, however.)

    – Shroff – Rose

  7. Janet said,

    October 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Yep, I love the Om….but I must say, I’m not sure anything is every going to top Ganesh for me. To me, though, they both hit the mark in a similar way, with Om doing the ambery/spicy thing and Ganesh the lavender thing…but they both seem to combine pretty magically with the base.
    Enkuu is the best stuff I’ve ever gotten a full box of…and I don’t regret it a bit!
    I’ve been a bit stuck on Tennendos lately, particularly the Karafune aloeswoods, which I’m liking more and more.

    Aren’t the Soll’s sandalwoods unavailable now? I have a package of each of his, but now I’ll probably go to burning partial sticks at a time in order to conserve. I remember Steve saying Solls were good cold-weather incenses, and I find that I am spending more time with them as the weather (finally) cools down. For me, Honey Amber is probably the perpetual favorite.

    • glennjf said,

      October 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm

      Hey Janet, thanks for mentioning Tennendo Enkuu again.

      It got me to thinking so I hauled out the remaining bit of sample stick I had and lit it and now I’m wondering how it is that I could have missed not being completely wrapped with it when first I lit it? I must have been experiencing scent fatigue back then. It’s now added to my ever growing list 🙂

  8. glennjf said,

    October 29, 2010 at 5:36 am

    I’m been burning Tibetan Medical College Holy Land regularly since receiving it.
    I find myself looking forward to smelling the unlit sticks then happily anticipating that first wiff of floral musky sweetness that’s released once it’s lit. After that I sort of float away somewhere amongst the rising wafts of smoke, lovely 🙂

  9. Petra said,

    October 29, 2010 at 1:50 am


    Is their website new?
    I must have googled Kyukyodo a hundred times and now suddenly this site appears before my eyes. Really nice looking too. But navigating Japanese websites is a killer, as always. I can’t even tell if they ship to anywhere in Japan or if they sell to retailers only.
    And now I want their origami paper too. They should just export incense AND paper. And everything else they make!

    • glennjf said,

      October 29, 2010 at 3:23 am

      That’s their website alright, or maybe just..


      They’ve had a site for some time at least since I’ve been visiting herer but it seems Kyukyodo has only just overhauled it, beautiful wrapping on those incenses on the home page. Best of luck with the navigating!

  10. Ross said,

    October 29, 2010 at 12:16 am

    The Tokusen Kyara Taikan is really different then the Taikan or Kongo and the next one up (GOKUHIN KYARA TAIKAN) really starts to bring out the wood aspects.. NK is not something I would normally go for, but at these levels they become a whole new ball game.
    Enkuu, dry, dense and in general every bit as good as many kyara’s. Love the stuff. The Kyukyodo’s are so good, and such a pain to get a hold of!
    Great list Mike, I am using most of these myself this month.

    • apsara said,

      November 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      I take the Myo Ho anytime over the high end Nippon Kodo.
      Also: I have a tiny bit of Aloeswood oil. The oil is quite stinky. I brushed a minuscule amount on a lesser incense stick, but it did not smell like Aloeswood when burning. It still mystifies me, how these companies use oils. Nippon Kodo is too perfumy for my taste.

  11. Masha said,

    October 28, 2010 at 6:37 am

    I like Om even better than Ganesh, but I take the incense off the skewers and heat them gently on an incense stove, so the delicate florals are more apparent. Mother’s really knows how to make some phenomenal champs. Akash Ganga is a favorite, too, I’ve got about 5 Shroffs in my “never want to run out” cupboard. Good call on the Nippon Kodo, I got a box as a present and I’ve really enjoyed it. And why is Kyukyodo so unavailabe? Took me months to find a roll of Ikaruga (it’s fantastically skanky), and I paid a high price for it, too. So sad about Shiun…. Love the Shoyeido pick as well, one of the best incenses ever composed.

    • Mike said,

      October 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

      Kyukyodo seem to be resistant to selling over here for whatever reason. It’s really a shame, they’re definitely one of the top incense companies in my book. Maybe it’s not as important for them to have an overseas market as the company also has an entire paper industry along with the incense.

      • Ross Urrere said,

        October 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

        I think they have a big CITES concern.

    • Janet said,

      October 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      “fantastically skanky” :_D
      i wonder if i can find a way to casually drop that into a conversation sometime……?

      • Janet said,

        October 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

        oops, i don’t know what i did to my face, there.

  12. glennjf said,

    October 28, 2010 at 1:26 am

    I’ve been giving away sticks of the Om Nag Champa to folks who have made those ohhh ahhh noises as I’ve waved the unlit stick under their noses. I am making sure I still have some sticks left for me to burn.

    The Yamada Matsu Kumoi Koh … it’s as you say … “rich, spicy and animalistic”. I love regal look of the roll looks as it rests in its opened box with its sheening golden metallic look cardboard/paper surround. Definately an incense you can sniff and put the lid on again without lighting up, it’s simply that delicious though resistance is generally futile 😉

    The Kyukyodo Akikaze, Benizakura and Gyokurankoh… Is there any place online that’s showing images of these, the packaging for them I mean? I’ve tried translating into names into Japanese and searching with what’s translated for images of packaging but with no luck. Notably there’s plenty of results but I’m unable to figure out precisely what the incenses showing up in the search results are.

    RIP Shiun and Yumemachi, what a pair to be deleted!

    Ain’t it the truth! I’ve enjoyed these incenses recently and I’m flabbergasted they’ve been deleted.
    I remain hopeful that someone may eventually be able to let us know what they’ve been replaced with as that’s what’s been suggested to me. I’ve tried but I can’t manage to pin down any secondary/further confirmation about that though.

    ps Just lit a stick of the Yamada Matsu, it’s the risk you run once you lift the lid off the box!

    • Mike said,

      October 28, 2010 at 9:08 am

      Akikaze is the third and least expensive of the top three Kyukyodo scents so it comes in a very large pawlonia box with a beautifull ornate silk roll inside. Sho Ran Ko would be the #4, the first without a silk roll.

      Benizakura comes in the same sort of paper boxes that Ryuhinko or Azusa comes in except the “label” color is orange.

      Gyokurankoh comes in a long thin pawlonia box with a green colored label similar to Kunshikoh (purple label) or Kinbato (red label).

      • glennjf said,

        October 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm

        Great descriptions, they’ll be a huge help to me, thanks Mike.

        Incense wrapped in a silk roll in a pawlonia box, how elegant.

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