Tennendo incenses are among the best price for the quality, perhaps throughout the line. For instance one can buy a roll of Renzan, an aloeswood blend, for about $6, perhaps one of the best deals in Japanese incense. Even the highest end stick in the same line, Kuukai, goes for just over $20 a roll, and it must be said that even at over $100, Tennendo’s magnificent Enkuu is a bargain for its quality. So it’s no particular surprise that the company’s lower end incenses are also rather good for their prices. The four incenses in question here include the two in the same range as Renzan and Kuukai that I hadn’t covered and two other lower end incenses that come in boxes, Scent of Kyoto and Yoshino Hills. It could be said that all four of these incenses represent Tennendo’s versions of four traditional scents. Scent of Kyoto is basically a cherry blossom incense. Yoshino Hills an every day sandalwood. Kohrokan Sandalwood aims for a more high end, old mountain level of quality pure sandalwood. And Karafune goes for a spice blend. All can be easily purchased for under $10.
Scent of Kyoto is actually a rather excellent cherry blossom incense, featuring Tennendo’s usual hallmarks of grace, freshness and gentility. The obvious comparison is to Shoyeido’s Kyo-Zakura, what could be considered the standard for this sort of incense, however there’s something even smoother about Tennendo’s version, something that resonates with the rest of the line. While a box of this, due to the increased number of sticks, is likely to cost you more than one unit of Renzan, it seems to be a good buy. While the Shoyeido Daily bases aren’t always perfect for me, I really like the base of Scent of Kyoto. It speaks to the silence surrounding an orchard of these trees on a beautiful spring day.
Yoshino Hills is Tennendo’s analog to Nippon Kodo’s big yellow box of sandalwood incense, the prevalent “every day” style that nearly every Japanese company has a version of. While I really do like NK’s version and prefer, overall, Kyukyodo’s many variations on this theme, there’s something a bit bitter at the edges of this one. Over time it’s possible I may come to see this as a plus, but at the moment, I tend to like the sweeter aftertastes with this style – the bitterness seems like it might be more of a binder issue.
Kohrokan Sandalwood appears to be the company’s pure/high quality sandalwood entry. Think Kyukyodo Yumemachi, Baieidio Byakudan Kobunboku, or Shunkodo Sarasoju as incenses with similar concentration on top quality sandalwood. Like most of these incenses there’s a tiny bit of spice here, not enough to resemble Minorien’s sandalwood, but a little in that direction. Like the Yoshino Hills this too has a bit of sharpness to it that makes me think it’s an intentional note I haven’t gotten quite used to.
Karafune is probably the most low end incense Tennendo exports here, a spicy blend that combines sandalwood, clove, cinnamon and fennel. It’s actually fairly similar to some of the lower end Baieido blends like Syukohkoku or the Kobunboko series in that it’s all about wood and spice. The closest analog is probably Shunkodo’s Chinsoku Koh, except that the ingredients that make up the mosaic that are these sticks are more consonant as a unity in Karafune. In fact where getting used to low end incenses often means one gets a bit bored with them, I’ve found with Karafune that it improves with use, particularly as one gets used to it as an overall scent. It’s definitely less a sandalwood blend than a spice blend and it’s got a nice light smoothness to it that speaks of restraint and taste. One could imagine such a scent browsing Zanzibar spice markets, in fact clove might be the top note here, if there is one.
Again, if you already have incenses that are similar to the various styles on display here there would really be no need to duplicate by adding a box of something various similar. Yet on the other hand, the Yoshino Hill and Karafune in particular would make excellent new entries into the style, although I must say that with the green everyday sandalwood, the NK version makes a good base for comparison, and with the old mountain style I’d say it’s almost about even among brands.