February 2011 Top Ten

This is, more or less, what I have been using this last month. It is winter so I find I turn towards some of the heavier scents. I also just got around to ordering some of the new Indian incenses that have come on the market but it was a late order so they didn’t make this list.

Onkun Koh by Kunmeido: I have had this for awhile; it got buried and then resurfaced recently. It has a deep, somewhat bitter, yet also smooth scent to it with a touch of green notes. There are lots of Chinese herbs and spices floating across a nice woody base. It’s not very expensive, lasts quite awhile and delivers a pretty well balanced ride.

Tokusen Syukohkoku by Baieido: Subtle, complex and a long learning curve make this a great incense. It also happens to use some of the best Aloeswood around. This is something that could easily be overwhelmed if not burned first. There are an infinite number of layers within  this blend, I consider it one of Baieido’s best.

Ranjatai by Shunkohdo: Deep musk mixed with a superb Aloeswood, this is one of my all time favorites, it is also(considering what you are getting) a very good deal. The bundle should last quite awhile, even with “excessive use”. It has made a lot of Top Tens for a good reason.

Sarasoju by Shunkohdo: This is a very good straight up sandalwood, with a minimum of additives. It delivers a very nice Sandalwood scent that is neither sweet,  wet or dry, just, you know, Sandalwood. Great stuff from a very traditional maker.

Kyara Seiran by Seijudo: On a Japanese site that I have seen, this is appears to have both green and purple Kyara plus musk, how can you not like it? But really it’s just stunning; it is also quit strong and potent with a huge amount of depth and complexity. It has all the interesting Kyara notes that twist and turn between bitter and sweet with the musk and spice notes somehow interwoven throughout the mix. I notice that Essence of the Ages has sampler sets from this company.

Tensei by Tennendo: This is another that I rediscovered. Tennendo makes some of the best incense around and this is one of their Aloeswoods blends. It smooth with a nice touch of herbs across a good grade of woods. It is not sweet nor is it bitter, yet at different times it just brushes those notes. Elegant.

Kyara Coils by Yamada Matsu: These are available from Kohshi and they are stunning. If you are similar with Shoyeido’s Tenpyo, they are along the same lines but this is much, much more. I am pretty sure these are using wood instead of perfumes/oils to achieve the scent, it is very deep, smooth and full of that Kyara scent that also has a touch of musk. Not inexpensive, but worth it.

EverGreen Forest & Sacred Grove by Mermade: These two are the deep evergreen, cedar and aromatic woods duo. They are the perfect scents if one has been indoors for too long. These are some of the greenest scents I know of and I use them a lot. They have both been reviewed and talked about here and are simply great. Katlyn goes to great lenths to use the best materials around and it show.

Dragons Blood by Blue Star Incense: Blue Star Incense makes some really nice blends at an incredible price, especially given that he is using natural ingredients plus real essential oils. This one uses a good helping of Dragons Blood resin to produce a very grounded and soothing scent with a nicely done woody base. It’s relaxing, smells great and does a great job of scenting a room at a insanely low price. He also puts samples in with orders. A winner.



  1. Josh said,

    September 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t know how the Tennendo “Tensei” I have could be described as anything other than very sweet – I can’t smell anything but the sweet powdery top note.. Maybe they are using more oil and less wood nowadays? Would that save them money?

    • clairsight said,

      September 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Hello Josh
      I recently got in a new roll of the Tensei. The last time I had any was for the review. On this one there is, indeed, the powdery top, but I am also picking up frankincense as well as camphor and a hint of some spice notes. I am also sure that there are a bunch of other notes going on but they are not anything I recognize. do not think Tennendo uses very much oil as they are also one of the better suppliers of incense materials to many of the other houses and they also IMO seem to be pretty true to tradition in their blends. I am also finding myself going through this roll pretty fast and will be reordering soon.
      Of course there is a big difference now in the woods being used as they become scarcer and more pricy and at the same time incense makers try and keep their prices where they were.

    • Mike said,

      September 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      Good question. I don’t even remember Tensei being sweet or powdery. Time does march on!

  2. Misa Yamamoto said,

    October 12, 2011 at 9:38 am

    this blog is great!
    It is my first time to write a comment.
    I am glad you know Yamadasan because it is one of my favorites.
    MY comapany started a fragrrance department and we have really rare incenses, so I will write when I have time.
    We plan to make a site or ship straight from Japanetc., also essential oils of Koyamaki, umbrella wood tree.

    Besides Yamadasa, Minorien is great for expressing the wood fragrance and very natural. The president is nice and loves jinkoh and sandalwood. There are 2 other minor companies that are mainly dealing with temples. Temples and monks get the best incenses.
    I also tried incenses made specially for a temple in the Kantoh region, but we cannot export it with the temple name so they agreed to change the label. It is really great mysore sandalwood, and the aloeswood type has a little hint of light cinamon, great for meditation.

    There is also the sweet tea incense. Sweet tea is something like stevia, a very sweet plant by itself and is offered on Buddha’s birthday.

    OK I will read this slowly, so many entries! really nice work.

    If you have any questions that I can answer please feel free.

    M Yamamoto

    PS Our parent company Hokuto Group is on Alibaba.

    • Mike said,

      October 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

      Hi thanks for dropping by and posting with all this great information. In fact one of the issues we’ll be discussing at some point is the mail order interface between here and Japan, so it’s of interest you’d be setting up a mail order site. There are still so many incenses that are not exported here that we like to learn everything we can. – Best, Mike

  3. apsara said,

    September 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I just got the two samplers of Shunkohdo, it is great that these are available at Essence of the Ages. I liked them all – Shunkohdo is herewith new favorite incense company of mine, and their Ranjatai is now in my personal top five.

  4. Tio said,

    April 8, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Onkun Koh’s bitter note makes it a fascinating companion scent. Try it with a floral like Haru No Kaori or something bright-scented like Yumemachi.

  5. Laurie said,

    March 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I actually find Onkun Koh (and Kunmeido’s style in general) to make me think of spring and thunderstorms. I think it’s that green note. Spring’s already started here in NC so I’ve been burning it a lot too. 😀

  6. Masha said,

    March 1, 2011 at 3:12 am

    I agree, Katlyn goes the extra mile to obtain the best materials, and it really shows in her incense. Also agree with Tennendo, I have a lot of their work in my collection!

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