Kunjudo / Kan Ken Koh / Breath, Sleep

Early in 2021 about when I reopened ORS I covered an interesting new incense Japan Incense had gotten in stock called Kan Ken Koh/Healing. This was an interesting charcoal-based mix of oils packaged in these neat little glass test tubes. As it turns out this incense is part of a series from which Japan Incense has turned up two new ones, Sleep and Breath. With a bit more data one can only come to the conclusion that these are really essential oil mixes rather than what you usually see in traditional Japanese sticks, and almost feel like they could have been targeted at a more new age or even co-op sort of audience. As such, they’re quite different than what you’d normally expect.

Breath lists magnolia kobus, eucalyptus oil, artemesia princeps and borneol as ingredients, with the eucalyptus being the focus. You absolutely get that eucalyptus leaf oil scent from this burn, in fact it’s a bit tea-like in a way and I’d assume the artmesia (mugwort) probably helps get it there as well, moving the overall aroma in an herbaceous direction. The borneol content seems rather small in comparison, hanging just onto the edges and the magnolia seems to be used more to ground this in a friendlier direction rather than being a feature on its own. It’s a neat stick overall because of its herbal qualities and quite natural smelling, definitely recommended for those who enjoy eucalyptus. That tree’s sort of slightly bitter and unique scent has really been given justice by this stick.

Sleep lists cedarwood, chamomile, thyme and hops, something of a very unusual mix I would guess; however, the link between chamomile tea and a bit of drowsiness seems fairly common in US herbal tea culture as well. Overall Sleep isn’t terribly different than Breath but where Breath seemed to have some high resolution oils in the mix, Sleep seems a bit more dialed back, perhaps intentionally. Cedarwood would actually not be the kind of aroma I’d imagine would help me sleep and it’s fairly strong here, but the rest of the herbs seem like they’re pulling it all a bit more in the right direction and it feels like that thyme and hops mix gives the edge of the scent a bit of luster it might otherwise be missing. But of the two in the series this feels less individual and realized than the others in the sense that the other two aromas really pop out at you while this one feels a bit more blended.

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Kunjudo (Awaji Island) / HA-KO / Paper Incense / No. 1 Spicy Jasmine, No. 2 Agarwood, No. 4 Sandalwood

Japan Incense sent over these three beautifully designed paper incense leaves to review. Honestly as soon as I looked at their delicate construction, I had some hesitance in even wanting to burn them, the art and aesthetics seem so perfect (I love the delicate notches and details on the leaves). Second, I am getting to be of the age that if I’m burning incense and something else happens, like I get a call from work or there’s some sort of minor crisis to resolve at my place, etc., I can immediately forget what I am burning and come back with it depleted. I only had one chance at these really, so I needed to be ready. It’s one thing when you lose a daily stick, no worries, but man when that happens and it’s a kyara or something, it can be highly disappointing to be distracted. So, gulp, I took photos and wrote all of this before even lit a tip. Keep in mind as well that I am not sure if this qualifies as a “sampler notes” but since they all appear to be part of a five leaf set, one does not really have the luxury to try more than one without spending a lot of money. To me this feels like something of an aesthetic or artistic treat but at a bit over $5 a leaf it is obviously luxury priced. And it was paper so I was like how fast are these gonna go up? Also, I believe these usually come with a felt mat to burn them on. I didn’t have one so used a bed of ash. It must be said that you want to keep your eye on these when they burn as even the slightest draft can move the leaf from incense to fire hazard.

So I went in order and started with the No. 1 Spicy Jasmine. My first reaction was both that it burned a little slower than I expected (it still goes pretty fast) and that the aroma was definitely modern. As the leaf widens it gets a bit more smoky as well, unsurprisingly. But overall the paper they used is obviously formulated to not have much in the way of off notes (although after burning all three you can definitely get the “paper note” as well). Now I’m not sure I got much of an actual jasmine note out of this, although it certainly had some mild spiciness around the edges, but it’s still interestingly floral in a sort of wet way, a scent I might associate more with a perfume than an incense. In fact without the binder of a stick, it’s almost a bit purer this way. Overall the scent actually reminded me a bit more of something like peaches, but it did have a few subnotes in the mix which made it interesting. It’s hard to say with one leaf if this is something I would burn a lot more of if I had multiple leaves but it was an interesting experience. And I would think this could appeal to a more modern audience.

The No. 2 Aloeswood is probably a bit more over to my personal tastes and while this obviously isn’t wood burning, the creators have gone some way into making something reminiscent of an aloeswood scent, a perfume that is modern but maybe reminiscent of something like the Xiang Do aloeswood. It is still essentially a perfume on paper. Perhaps in this sense, having a leaf burning with a woodier scent is a bit more on point, almost autumnal in a way. I found this one particularly cooling in a way I wouldn’t have expected. Almost moody in its profile.

The No. 4 Sandalwood is perhaps a bit closer to the scent you know and love than the previous two although it feels like it’s mixed in with some perfume aspects, but in a way I thought was quite complementary with the wood itself. It is almost like the intent was to bring the spicier aspects of the sandalwood to the fore and like the Aloeswood, I found this to be somewhat autumnal. I liked the somewhat fruity aspects mixed in as well, I though these were a lovely touch. it’s almost like there’s a strong touch of apricot in the mix.

So overall one must think of these as an aesthetic experience, with scents derived from quality perfumes rather than the usual incense experience. Obviously these are not incenses you are likely to use every day, but would be something for special occasions or a nice aesthetic touch to plans. It’s like you actually want to watch the pretty leaf burn rather than leaving it alone for the scent. So anyway much thanks to Japan Incense for the opportunity to experience this novel form of incense, I found it quite fascinating and certainly the leaves are beautiful indeed.

Kunjudo / Hogetsu

So in the wake of all of the discussion of the “decay” in the recipes of some Japanese incenses let’s talk about a really dependable one. I have actually sung the praises of this one for many years, most recently in my 14 One of a Kind Japanese Incenses article, which is one of the first things I wrote after being away for so long. I had been away for so long, in fact, that at the time I don’t believe Japan Incense were carrying this fine stick in its original form as Kunjudo Hogetsu. Back then, we knew this as an Encens du Monde import called Guiding Light and it is still much more expensive in this form than it is through Japan Incense. I’m sure this popped up at least once or twice in my top 10s back in the day. So the cool thing is everything I said in all of those articles still completely applies to current stock, it’s just that I had not put down a review of this great box on its own yet.

I’ve seen varying descriptions over the years. You can see the one that says 7 essentials and 8 wood powders at the above-linked Guiding Light review. This site also describes it as “A sophisticated blend including Agarwood, Sandalwood, Clove, Spikenard and Star Anise” (and here you can also see the level of mark up on this incense as it travels the world, it’s at least three times as expensive as the Japan Incense).

So one thing that’s probably worth clearing up right away is when you see a $70 incense with agarwood listed and a $20 incense with agarwood listed you’re going to think different things. This is really not an agarwood incense per se, not in the way we’ve described many this way on ORS. I still think that 7 essentials and 8 wood powders works best as a description mostly because the woodiness is unique in this incense, it has profiles well beyond just agarwood and sandalwood. In fact it’s one of the strongest things going for it because it makes it a stick with a completely different profile than you might be used to. I’ll requote my favorite line from my Guiding Light review, “The aroma is all about spicy wood and I get hints of old wooden chests, brown sugar, clove, high quality sandalwood, and leather.” I think over the years something like this is still close but there are so many ingredients involved that one’s impression evolves. The salty and tangy descripion from my 14 One of a Kind article is definitely on point, that could be about as generalist as I can provide. But it’s also fresh, uniquely woody, and just so sui generis one wonders why no other companies have an analog of it. For $20 it is a stupendously good incense, absolutely unequivocably recommended. And Japan Incense also has a short stick version now too! This is one I love so much I try to keep a back up of. It’s truly one of the best deals in Japanese incense.

Kunjudo / Hachijuhachi-ya (Green Tea)

I do remember that there were green tea incenses in the Encens du Monde line or series, but I wasn’t ever sure if I was matching them up with this particular roll or if they were the same incenses etc., so I thought I would just do this separately without making any connections outside of it. I do get the impression that Kunjudo’s Hachijuhachi-ya is something of a modern Kunjudo standard and it is not a terribly complicated or multi-noted incense that I actually need to describe. It’s fairly typical of any wood-based, green tea themed incense as opposed to those in the Nippon Kodo stable or perhaps the one in Shoyeido’s Xiang-Do line that are more perfumed based and intense. You might think of this more as an every day incense with green tea being the dominant note, but with some woodiness still left in the base. Kunjudo have not put any “sugar” in this tea, so it shouldn’t be too overpower or cloying and the overall aroma is actually quite reminiscent of decent, dry green tea leaf you might find by opening up a tin. Personally every once in a while, I enjoy something like this just to mix things up and find this a pleasant enough occasional burn that is a valuable contrast to the more traditional scents.

Kunjudo / Juzan Daikunkoh

Honestly, one of the main reasons I am posting about Kunjudo’s Juzan Daikukunkoh right now is because it’s so long it really doesn’t fit anywhere comfortably and I’m getting tired of rounding corners and knocking it off the shelf most of my “to be reviewed” incenses sit on. There really aren’t too many longer incense sticks outside of more gimmicky ones. Also, I have reviewed two versions of this scent before, because even though it’s in a different box, it’s really the same incense as Les Encens du Monde’s Blissful Mountain, which also has a thinner stick version called Seeds of Transformation. Juzan Daikunkoh is a much more inexpensive alternative as it doesn’t have the (perhaps second) import markup that Blissful Mountain does. It’s honestly fairly strange that noone else does a lily oil in sandalwood base incense like this one, maybe the oil is too expensive, but it makes it something of a one of a kind. I honestly can’t really add much more to my previous reviews, this incense has remained remarkably static over the years and I feel like a long stick of it every once in a while is a bit of a refreshing change.

Kunjudo / Karin, Tokusen Karin Select, Karin Togetsu, Karin Kifune, Karin Hien, Karin Zuito

While this may look, at least in part, like a new review, it’s really something more of an update and correction all at once, an attempt to sort of set the record straight on Kunjudo’s main line which is available in the US through Japan Incense. Half of these incenses were originally introduced and reviewed as part of the Les Encens du Monde line, but either the regular Karin or the Tokusen Karen Select had been available in the US for quite some time. One of the issues I came across in cleaning up the old Encens du Monde reviews is that when I read my original Karin review it made me feel like maybe I had actually been reviewing the Tokusen Karin Select. When I restocked recently on both of those, I recognized the Select version but not so much Karin itself. This is part of the issue with reviews that have outlived my memory of them, I’m not always quite sure. But with the incenses in front of me, I think I can clear some of the issues up as well as reintroduce what I think are a number of excellent and affordable incenses that sit on both sides of the traditional and modern lines. And in most cases I’ve provided links to the original reviews if you would like to compare and contrast. But other than correcting errors, I believe most, if not all, of these incenses have survived with aromas intact over the intervening years.

So let’s start with Karin itself first. It’s an extremely inexpensive every day sandalwood based stick with a dark red color. You know it’s the regular Karin because it doesn’t have a more solid pink shade to it. Side by side the two incenses are very easy to pick out. The main ingredients listed are sandalwood and cinnamon, although one might sense there are some milder floral elements in the mix as well as it doesn’t lean overtly spicy. As Karin is said to mean “forest of flowers,” the mix of woods and slight floral elements does seem apropos. Overall, however, Karin is definitely something of a perfumed incense and like a lot of perfumed dailies there’s a chance that the oil mix can end up being cloying and this one sort of falls on the fence for me. But let’s face it, any incense that comes in this many sizes and is this well known as an incense is loved by many people and at least in a case like this you’re not taking much of a risk of trying a roll.

However, I might recommend starting with the Tokusen Karin Select. You’re not really putting all that much more money out for what strikes me as a much better stick. The Tokusen Karin blend may be the one I originally though of as just Karin way back in the day but the thing I always remember about it was its sort of amber-like candy sweetness. If you get a little lost in the mix with the regular Karin, the “excellent” version seems to present a lot of the same elements in a much more friendly fashion. The cinnamon seems a bit more pronounced now that it isn’t falling back into the oil so much and it feels like the wood has a more pronounced resolution as well. This is honestly a really good incense, especially for its entry price. It has a surprising amount of complexity and bouquet to it, a bit of saltiness and a nice gentle floral mix as well. It’s almost an essential as an under $10 roll. Oh and it has several sizes too.

The next four incenses leave this basic pink scent way behind and go through a number of permutations. For one thing I used to remember seeing daphne wood in the Tokusen Karin Select ingredient list and perhaps there still is a small amount but it is the one note listed for the green stick Karin Togetsu. I have not completely confirmed it but I believe Karin Togetsu is the same as the Les Encens du Monde Moonlight Night scent as they both share the daphne element and the olive green color stick. I’m not sure this shares any particularly profile with the Tokusen Karin Select. It certainly has something of a unique aroma on top of a sandalwood base that may be more of a subnote in the previous incense. This is definitely a more modern sort of floral blend, and as I mentioned in my EdM review it’s more akin to something in the Nippon Kodo line than most of the incenses that sit around it. I’ve always been a bit neutral about this one except for the fact that its central nature is really unlike any other incense. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled daphne in nature so I do like that this feels a bit different. However, there’s a bit of harshness to the burn, not enough you can’t overlook it but its certainly there.

Karin Kifune is imported through the Les Encens du Monde line as Royal Nave. Karin Kifune is really the first of three extremely wonderful incenses, especially now that you can buy a 90 stick box in the teens. I want to stress that even though these are largely oil-scented incenses there are still plenty of natural woods in the base and the creator of all three of these has made some really creative and wonderful scents with this trio. I used to be happy with all three of these at a more expensive Encens du Monde price so it makes them an extremely good deal for the money. Karin Kifune is probably what you’d call a sandalwood-based incense, but I think there’s enough hints of aloeswood and other ingredients to make it feel quite a but more deluxe. It has quite a bit of spice in the mix along with both of the base woods and a nice bit of saltiness. It is elegantly contoured in a way that is analagous to the way fine aloeswoods almost make you feel like you’re looking at the spiralling and patterning of the wood, and although it is relatively inexpensive it’s not unlike the feeling I get looking at and being around stained furniture. The only real difference from this review and my previous one as Royal Nave is this doesn’t feel quite as sweet. Which maybe puts its a little closer to the classic Kunjudo Hogetsu.

Karin Hien lies at the same price point as Karin Kifune, but I might like it even more. I believe it is marketed as Swallows in Flight in the Les Encens du Monde line. As I mentioned in my previous review, this is a very sweet incense, much sweeter than the Kifune. While Japan Incense moves the aloeswood to the front of the note list on the incense’s page, I would guess Karin Hien probably has a similiar mix of sandalwood and aloeswood hints as Karin Kifune does. It does introduce what I find is one of my favorite things about this incense and the next one, and that’s the sort of interesting nut or hazelnut aroma that’s in the oil mix, it’s something I absolutely love about it. Kunjudo are also really good at, if not making it super resolute, making an identifiable aloeswood note in terms of its more traditional woody but slightly bitter scent, so these also don’t feel like they’re the watered down sort of modern aloeswoods you might find in Nippon Kodo or midline Seijudo incenses. Like Karin Kifune this is a really good example of a modern meets traditional, with no small success. Its both confectionary, caramel-sweet and densely woody all at once.

Karin Zuito is the Karin high end and man is it wonderful to see the classic Golden Waves at such a great price (Japan Incense seems to have set this one on sale right over the $15 mark). This was my second favorite of the entire Les Encense du Monde line after Guiding Light. For one thing, it’s unquestionably the most fully aloeswood of the whole line with any of hints of sandalwood more or less submerged if there at all. In fact it feels like the Karin version of it might be a little woodier than Golden Waves is, even the hazelnut note I can still detect in Karin Hien is much more on the outside here. And of course this one isn’t even as remotely sweet as the Hien, and although it doesn’t lose an oil-based mix that compliments the woodiness it remains a fairly dry stick. It would be a superb entry even if it was a 45 stick box at the $15 point. With twice as many sticks it’s something of a steal and recommended if you need a lower budget option. I try always to keep this one in stock.

Admin Notes

As of today (updated due to different information in comments) all incense reviews for Daihatsu and the Encens du Monde/Florisens range have been:

  • Edited to direct all links for available incenses to both Zen Minded (for EdM incenses) and Japan Incense (for equivalents from Japanese companies). A lot of the links in these reviews previously went to stores who are no longer in business or don’t carry the incense anymore.
  • Edited to severely overhaul the Encens du Monde and Florisens review line. This French company who contracts (or maybe contracted) with Japanese incense companies is really a lateral category that was introduced here in 2008-2009 due to Essence of Ages importing much of their line into the US. It was originally Encens du Monde and then Florisens was also adopted and there isn’t a terrible amount of continuity from one name to the other in particular because a lot of the incense lines were shifting around a lot. I couldn’t locate a website or any indication of current activity, so please feel free to let me know if you’re in France and know better.
  • Here’s what I do know and plan:
    • The lion’s share of the line is made by Kunjudo. Japan Incense now import Kunjudo incenses including several of the incenses that Encens du Monde did. My first plan, probably due by August, is to reconfigure the Karin line and another incense or few to a completely new review under Kunjudo. This will likely entail taking the Encens du Monde review that I edited today to restore links to Japan Incense and editing it one more time in order to add photos, missing incenses and so forth. I will still provide links to EdM incenses when they still exist.
    • For the rest of the reviews under Encens du Monde, they have all been updated to include links to currently available incenses wherever possible, usually at Zen Minded who were in stock on every incenses I added. In certain cases where a Kunjudo incense exists, I will be lifting those out of these other reviews and including them with the reconfigured and reissued Kunjudo article. I believe this will help to separate most of what is currently available from the historical information, which I will keep for reference. I may do the same for the two Koukandos later.
  • As such, there will not be a list of discontinued incenses like in the previous or future Admin Notes installments. None of the Daihatsu line has been discontinued from what I can tell, nor are any caveats known in terms of scent changes that I know of in either the Daihatsu or Kunjudo lines.
  • Edited to update categories on a number of reviews.
  • Occasional clean up, especially when reviews reference obsolete websites.

The work continues another day…

Oh and hey WordPress just informed me this is my 500th post. Landmarks and all that. 🙂

Kunjudo/Kan Ken Koh, Healing/Iyashi

This incense is a bit of an oddity all around. First of all it’s packaged in the type of box you hang on racks, something you don’t see too often outside of Shoyeido’s low end sticks. The box itself contains a corked glass vial with 30 thicker sticks that nests fairly cleverly in the box. Upon burning you realize from the whiter ash that this isn’t a traditional stick but obviously a modern form with the aroma based on oils. It’s almost like a less smoke incense, although it does some produce some. The aroma is actually quite nice and more traditional that you expect with the listed ingredients of agarwood and honey being the obvious highlights. This isn’t a case of your dry woody agarwood, but nor is it really like a sweeter traditional one either in that whatever oil mix Kunjudo went for actually has something of a genuine agarwood note. It’s quite beautiful actually although I do remain skeptical of any claims that this incense would actually heal anything on its own. I very much like the sweet honey note that wraps itself around the aloeswood, it’s something I haven’t really seen in any other incense.

14 One of a Kind Japanese Incenses

This article was an idea to have a Top 10 of what I consider one of a kind Japanese incenses in the sense that the 9 incenses and one line (of 5 incenses) would all be scents I consider unique. I thought of this burning selection #2 today. This list is in absolutely no hierarchical order, I just went through and thought of incenses that are so singularly their own that there’s really no other incenses like them, no match in their own line or in other company’s lines. So it features both affordable and highly priced wonders. I didn’t really have time to go through and link to previous reviews to them at least yet (and not all of these have reviews, so there is a first time showing or two), but you can use the search engine to the left to find my years-old impressions of them and in certain cases I give my thoughts here of what I think of them now. Do you know any one of a kind Japanese incenses that aren’t on the list? Please feel free to share them in the comments and discuss!

  1. Kyukyodo/Sho-Ran-Koh (Laughing Orchid) While I largely wanted to avoid a great deal of aloeswood incenses, where either in line or out of line you can usually find something similar in style, I find Sho-Ran-Koh utterly unique in its mix between oils and woods. Like most Japanese incenses I think it has probably taken a minor hit from what it smelled like ten years ago, it’s either my nose or the blend isn’t quite as complicated anymore. But I do think it still really fits the Laughing Orchid name in that the scent has an incredible amount of movement in it and almost playful and joyful quality to it. There’s aloeswood certainly, but the creators of this incense have a completely unique mix of other ingredients on top that made this a one of a kind, there is no incense in its line or any other that quite capture what it does. Even the more premium Kyukyodos I believe are not quite as excellent as this one. It is truly one of the treasures of traditional incense, a prime expression of Japanese art.
    https://www.japanincense.com/ky-0005.html
  2. Kunjudo/Hogetsu What used to be Incense du Monde and then became Florisens I believe still markets this incense as Guiding Light, but the mark up as it sails around the world is quite substantial. I was pleased when Japan Incense began to import this on its own and for a $20 spot which makes it an excellent deal. This is described as a mix of woods and while there’s probably a bit of aloeswood in it, there’s really not enough to make this an aloeswood incense per se, but the blend of woods and oils here gives off an utterly unique, salty and tangy incense that has been a favorite of mine since I first tried it. The fact that it’s not really an aloeswood or a sandalwood incense and yet still remains high quality is very rare in Japanese incense and there’s absolutely nothing else that smells like this that I know of. And I nearly ran out of my Guiding Light box as I discovered it was imported so I can now happily stock this one deep.
    https://www.japanincense.com/kj-0032.html
  3. Tennendo/Propolis – This is a very special incense. It is a modern short-stick sort of deal and you have to spend into the mid 20s but you get a large amount of sticks with a scent that is unlike anything else in incense (I certainly can’t think of any other propolis stick incenses). It’s essentially the resin that bees bring back to build their hives and as such the properties of the wood resins change into a remarkable and rich scent that actually kind of hints at other wood resins while not being close enough to be duplicative. So it’s modern, deep and intense all at once and the aroma is powerful and fills the room really quickly.
    https://www.japanincense.com/tn-0035.html
  4. Shoyeido/Horin (the original line). While I’m technically cheating here given that the newest incense in this line, Shira-kawa, is essentially a variant of Hori-kawa, the five incenses, both stick and coil, in Shoyeido’s original Horin line are remarkable in that they start with vanilla and spice/amber blends but notably tackle a few rare modern aloeswoods of which there are really no other analogs in the field of incense. When I first started restocking, most of these were actually at the top of the list for me. You will find that through Amazon marketplace a lot of these are actually priced cheaper than the Shoyeido going price as well. I’m not sure what my favorite of the five are but I often feel it’s either Hori-kawa because I love the cinnamon in the mix or Muro-machi because it as a very nice caramel-aloeswood blend I’m not sure you can find anywhere else.
    https://www.shoyeido.com/category/horin-incense-coils
  5. Minorien/Kyara Ryugen – Unless you’re looking at one of the really high end purer kyara woods like Baieido Kyara Kokoh, for me Ryugen is the singular and most impressive kyara blend ever made and one of my all time favorite incenses. I don’t think I can match my original review of it, so I’ll point you there. Most kyaras are amazing enough to have very complex personalities but often that complexity actually creates similarities, where in this case there’s an oil mix with the woods that just gives off this unique mystical nightshade sort of ambiance that has as much vibe as good taste.
    https://www.japanincense.com/mn-0020.html
  6. Shoyeido/Premium/Nan-Kun I was glad this incense survived the recent cuts as it’s the one incense where spikenard is a really powerful presence, something you don’t see as much anywhere else. It’s also, of course, a pretty expensive and premium aloeswood incense at the same time, but rather than going for the hoary antique side of things the woodiness presents a balancing act with sweetness in an analogous way to the great Kunmeido Asuka stick while ending up in a completely different area. I actually like this one in tandem with Ga-Ho, as for years I’ve always rotated them in sequence due to how different there are, but it also ends up reminding me that this is really the rarer of the two sticks.
    https://www.shoyeido.com/category/southern-wind
  7. Shoyeido/Xiang-Di/Forest Popular incense companies Shoyeido and Nippon Kodo churn out modern sticks almost as fast as you can keep up with them and many of them are so geared to specific scents that they can often just be aromatically monochromatic and at worse bitter or synthetic smelling. This little gem has always been a favorite to me as its crystal freshness doesn’t have any off notes and captures the fresh feel of a walk through an evergreen forest with a candy touch. It’s no secret I love green incenses whether it’s the Kunmeido’s or Mermade Magical Arts but this presents the scent in a completely different venue and actually succeeds for its build.
    https://www.shoyeido.com/product/xiang-do-forest/xiang-do-incense
  8. Minorien/Kagiku (Chrysanthemum)  I’m not a huge floral fan so my eyes tend to zoom by them in catalogs and it probably zoomed right by this one at some point without noticing that it’s also an aloeswood incense. Also something of a modern scent due to the short, thicker stick, the combination of floral and wood here is something I’ve seen before (probably, I can’t think of any off hand) but certainly not as a Chrysanthemun scent. A sample of this one won me over almost instantly.
    https://www.japanincense.com/mn-0060.html
  9. Kyukyodo/Azusa  Another Kyukyodo gem and perhaps the world’s greatest floral or at least jasmine. Powdery, sweet, not bitter in the slightest with a distinctly pretty scent, I have kept this in stock since I first purchased it. However, I do miss the slim long stick boxes.
    https://www.japanincense.com/ky-0053.html
  10. Japan Incense/Theology/Eucalyptus You can tell by the box and the little inserts inside that this is a Minorien incense marketed for the USA’s finest source of Japanese incense, Japan Incense. Many incenses like this are likely targeted for people who visit off the streets and gravitate to more familiar scents and as everyone in California knows eucalyptus trees are ubiquitous in a way that incenses of that scent really aren’t. I was surprised by this one in a way I wasn’t quite by the Myrrh and Sage in the same line, but still I’m always impressed by Minorien and how brilliant they are, I think maybe four of my favorite incenses are made by this company. This has a nicely polished Eucalptus sense with a bit of richness to it that I was surprised to find and now that it’s in rotation, it’s actually easy to see how different it is from anything else I own.
    https://www.japanincense.com/ji-0002.html

July Top Ten

So really I burn a lot more then just these but ya got ta draw the line somewhere 🙂

Yamadamatsu Kouboku Senshu Sandalwood: This is straight up high-grade sandalwood and not much else. I think it is one of the very best sandalwood scents one can get, assuming, of course, that you are not interested in a sandalwood blend. Japanincense.com sells this, sometimes it comes in a box by itself and sometimes they stock it in a three-way combo pack with an aloeswood as well as a kyara blend. To me the other two are a bit much, but I know many people who would be very happy with them.

Baieido Byakudan (Sandalwood) Kobunboku: Recently got a new box of this and was very happy with it. I think it is one of the best sandalwood “woody blend” style sticks around, along with Shunkohdo’s. They are both relying on the wood and not oils, which makes for a very different experience.

Seijudo Kyara Seiran: All of the three kyara blends from Seijudo are very good and really it probably comes down to which day as to which one I like the most. These are loaded with the scents of kyara, musk and a number of other “secret ingredients” that make for  real show stoppers. I can think of at least three to four times where I have lit one of these for someone and literally watched them lock up in amazement, me being one of them.

Shunkohdo Ranjatai: Shunkohdo tends to make pretty traditional scents, when I light a stick of this I always get a sense of going back to a different era, it is sort of like instant time travel to Old Japan. It is very elegant and at the same time primeval with the scent of the musk wrapped around a very good aloeswood. As an added attraction there are a lot of sticks in the box. This is on many of our Top 10’s with good reason.

Daihatsu Chips or Slices: So if you really want to smell sandalwood and you have some sort of incense heater or even good quality Japanese coals, this is it. It does not get any better that I have found. I like the slices, if for no other reason that they look cool. Shunkohdo also makes these and they are very similar in scent.  Given the increase in sandalwood prices as well as it continuing decline in availability these are a great thing to have and hold onto.

Kunmeido Kyara Tenpyo: This is a beautiful kyara blend that is ultra refined and more or less the top of Kunmeido’s line. The woods really stand out with just a faint hint of the Reiryo Koh scent in the backround. It is very uplifting and refreshing and also makes for an interesting choice for meditation, especially during Summer. Not as expensive as the Seijudo’s and also probably not as much kyara.

Kunlha’s Lotus Pema & Loong Po: One of our readers wrote in about these (thanks IO) and I ordered a bunch recently. So far I have found myself using the Loong Po and Lotus Pema quite a lot. The sticks are much thinner then the standard Tibetan style and there are around 20 per box. They seem to be made without any animal ingredients (not 100% sure about this) but do use what seems to be very good quality materials. They may also be formulated with a more “Western” audience in mind. The Lotus Pema has a very nice clean juniper scent to it and is quite uplifting. The Loong Po has a subtle green herbal scent with a very light but noticeable clean floral/perfume-ish top note riding over the whole thing. This is a pretty unique combination (at least to me) and one that works for my nose. Both of these sticks have enough complexity to keep them interesting although they are lacking in the funk factor.

Mermade Magickal Frankincense: Mermade has a great line up of frankincense’s at the moment, and they are all different smelling. I am particularly fond of the Superior Hougary and the Black Frankincense, their lemon lime and orange smells are truly wonderful . At Christmas we burn frankincense for the 24 hours before Midnight Mass, I really am looking forward to this one.

Fred Soll’s Honey Amber: I do not know of another stick quite like this one. It is a great blend of scents that just work well together with a very deep and almost hypnotic scent quality that does a great job at scenting a room.  Great stuff at a good price.

Baieido Sawayka Kobunboku: I love cinnamon and this has lots. This is really good in the morning when getting up and getting it together enough to make it out the door to work. It also gives an interesting scent to ones clothing and/or hair. I got both this and the Koh at the same time and at this point am not to sure if they are the same thing, I am leaning towards two different mix’s but could be wrong. Maybe David Oller will chime in with some insight 🙂

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