Top Ten, July 2011

I put these together based on what I have been most drawn to during the month, which tends to change to some degree as we progress through the year. I am really liking the incenses made by the smaller makers more and more. They can make small batches and take some chances that the larger companies will not. So you can find some really interesting offerings from them, plus many of them use “non-traditional” mixes or materials that produce some real winners. I am hoping to produce a listing of the “niche” or smaller makers, if you know of any that are not mentioned here at ORS, please let us know.

Baieido’s Kyara Kokoh: I actually hide the box of this from myself, so it will last longer 🙂

On a lot of different levels this is incense as art; it is also a masterpiece of its kind. You can see our reviews on it within the blog. It really is amazing. If you get the chance, just go for it. It is not going to get any cheaper. I do wonder why Baieido does not offer a sampler.

Tennendo”s Tensei: This is a really nice and also reasonably priced aloeswood blend. It is nicely balanced with a distinctive overall scent that somehow goes from a little spicy to smooth from moment to moment. I have been burning this a lot lately because, yes, it’s a great deal and also a wonderful backround scent in a room that can set up a nice focused environment.

Kyukyodo’s  Mukusa no Takimono: This is a set of five different mini sticks that mimic the scent of the classic five  kneaded incenses. They are distinctive, rich and very good. There is also some pretty serious Aloeswoods in these. Many people use them for the tea ceremony. I have heard that Kyukyodo is not making this set anymore and I do not see it in the current catalog, which means that this will be quite a limited time offering. Think of it as a real treat.

Kyukyodo’s Akikaze: This comes in a large wooden box, nestled inside is a stunning silk wrapped tube, done up like a scroll. This is sort of along the lines of Sho Ran Koh, but it is a lot more refined with the wood notes riding across the perfumes and a subtle musk note mixed in. Kyukyodo produces what are probably the best perfumed incenses going. There never seem to be any of the synthetic notes that most others have, which is most likely one of the reasons that they have a great reputation and are not inexpensive, but they are also worth it. Japan Incense might have a box or two of this and the Mukusa no Takimono above. But they go fast.

Kunmeido Reiryo koh (Aloeswood): The Aloeswood blend is a completely different animal from the Sandalwood take on this. It is a very rich woody scent with the distinctive greenish notes of fenugreek mixed in. There is a nice balance between the different layers going on and is great for meditation, it’s also nice to use at bedtime. A real winner at a good price.

Kunmeido Kyara Tenpyo or Asuka: These two are the Reiryo Koh style taken to the height of complexity and nuance. There is a real art in the mix of woods and spices and herbs that compose these two sticks.. The Kyara Tenpyo pulls out all the stops and every stick reveals new aspects, the Asuka is very similar, it might come down to personal preference and how much you like this style, not to mention your bank account J

Baieido’s Kokonoe koh (Jinkoya Sakubei Series): This is a very dry and rich Sandalwood blend done in a style from the eighteenth century. It is very different from any other sandalwood I can think of and is a nice change of pace. It has a lot of presence and at the same time can really set the mood. It is great for meditation or quite moments.

Mermade’s Sanctuary Loose Blend:  Hougary Frankincense and white Sage make for a wonderful Spring/Summer mix. It’s clean and does a great job of cleaning out a space on so many levels. A one ounce jar that can last for a while with all the best ingredients.

Fred Soll’s Amber Honey:  Fred Solls makes some great incense at a great price. I really like his Amber Honey; it has a wonderful balance to it where all the notes are in harmony with each other. It’s also not too sweet or cloying. It is one of the very few incenses anywhere to use ambergris. I noticed that Solls has cut his line back somewhat because of the halmaddi shortage, which in one way is kind of reassuring, he is holding true to a high quality standard. We can only hope that a new source makes it to his doors soon. He really is so very good at blending.

Blue Star Incense’s Lavender:  These are very inexpensive and they rock! The Lavender scent is beautiful, fresh, very much like breathing in a large gathering of fresh lavender flowers. The sticks are thick (think Tibetan) and really you don’t need to use an entire one (however, don’t let me hold you back). Also the Rose is very nice to. Good, real floral note incense, that uses real essential oils, is not easy to make; nor is it inexpensive to produce. William does an amazing job, don’t miss these.

I notce in my internet searches that both Aloeswood and Sandalwood(in Japan) prices just went up somewhere between 20% to at least 30%. This, coupled with the decline of the dollar, means that incense prices are going to be going up, real soon. Sooo,  if there is something that you have been eyeballing for awhile you might want to go for it now, before the prices gets way worse or, heavens forbid we get formula changes to offset materials availability. That is the other thing going on, the woods are getting harder to source which also drives the prices up.



  1. October 17, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I guess it’s too late to try Blue Star; their webpage indicated that the “account is suspended”.

  2. harryb3 said,

    August 26, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Based on the review of the Blue Star Lavender I purchased this and some of the rose. First it took 18 days to travel to Maryland, which seems long but OK if the product survives. The product was well packaged and arrived in good shape.There were four partial sticks of samples included. I was looking forward to the fresh aroma of Jasmine, but to my great disappointment there was no aroma of Jasmine or any flower for that matter. Basically the aroma is the woods that are the base of the incense. OK if that is what one wants. The Rose was a little better I could at least detect the aroma of roses and it was very natural but very faint. The predominate aroma is of the wood base. I do not know if it was the long transit time or what but this incense was a disappointment. I would love to hear if others have tried any of these to see if it was due to being in my mailbox for two days. I would like to think that what appears to be a very nicely hand made product would be successful. If others have good results than I would suggest that anyone purchasing this do not let it be shipped through regular mail. Too slow and in the hot weather too much chance for it to “cook off” the essential oils, which is my guess as to what happened, but I do not really know. It may be that Blue Star is just too subtle for my taste.

    • Ross said,

      August 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

      I will pass your comments on to the maker. I ones I got were very floral. I do notice that “travel time” from Canada seems to be very slow, I actually get stuff in from Asia faster.

      • harry said,

        August 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm

        Thanks Ross! I am going to try them again tomorrow. It may be that my nose was just overwhelmed with a strong Indian incense that I burned just prior to trying the Blue Star. I want to try these again first thing with no prior aromas that may have lingered and messed up my sense of smell. More tomorrow……

        • harry said,

          August 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm

          Well tried them all again with the same results. I sure wish that the results were different.

    • Tina said,

      September 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm

      I also ordered Blue Star Lavender and Rose incenses. I could not detect any floral scents in the Lavender incense. It smelled like I was burning plain wood. The Rose was a little better but the smell was faint. I received my package in about a week. Like the previous poster, maybe I am just not accustomed to this type of incense.

      • clairsight said,

        September 5, 2011 at 5:51 pm

        Hello Tina
        I am passing on these comments to the maker. Not sure what is going on. The sticks I have are from the beginning of the year and still have the listed scent.

  3. Rami said,

    August 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I am interested in these smaller-time incense makers. If anyone knows anyone who would be willing to dropship some of these brands, I would be happy to talk to them.

    I manage, where we sell incense, and we would love to get some of these smaller brands.

  4. Ross said,

    August 2, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Meremade is one of my all time favorites, it dosent hurt that Katlyn is a real fanatic when it comes to quality materials. One of my dreams is to see her as a visiting artist at one of the Japanese makers factories.

  5. Lars Olav said,

    August 2, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Always interesting to read the top-ten list.
    In July I have only burnt Mermade, and my to-ten is as follow:

    Maydi Frankincense;
    Drier, richer, more balsamic and with a warmer citrus scent than Hougary. The best frank I have ever burned.

    Spirit Temple;
    What can I say? It’s chockfull of sandal and aloeswood, with a fresh camphor hint.

    Faery Call;
    Fresh floral, with herbal and woody undertones. Very playful.

    Sacred Grove;
    Amazing. Smells like a Norwegian forest in the summer heat.

    Pure luxury! Heavenly floral and erotic.

    Copal Blanco;
    Fresh pine scent, with just a hint citrus. I find it cooling now in the summer.

    Maydi and Hougary frankincense with sandal and aloeswood.
    Very classic.

    Very woodsy, but not warm, more neutral than Sacred Grove.

    Eastern Temple;
    Nice, warm, woody and spicy. Has a very formal feel to it.

    As Katlyn says, a light nepalese scent. Very nice jasmin and juniper scent.

    I have been on a month-long Mermade binge 🙂
    Currently awaiting some pure-incense, Baiedo and Holy Land.
    So we’ll see if something can suck me out of Mermade’s spell.

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