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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Baieido to Shoyeido — The Way of Koh

Gifts of Japanese Koh on NYC Gift Style Blog Gave That
With the snow thickly blanketing everything outside it never fails to be spellbinding just how quiet and scentless it all becomes. When there is scent, a few whiffs of wood burning in someone's fireplace, pipe tobacco or a spicy cologne, it seems so amplified and almost surreal. It's during rare moments such as these that I think back to visiting Ögi Rodö's Sunkaraku teahouse to watch Koh-do, the traditional Japanese incense ceremony where one listens to each scent, and taking particular glee in picking through the boxes tucked around my desk. At the moment, a little classic and clean Mannenko is burning—the 10,000 year scent although I'm still learning how to listen.

Japanese incense (Koh) is one of those rare, as close as it gets to a time machine, sorts of gifts with one favorite, Baieido for instance, dating back to the Muromachi period (17th century). Beautifully packaged and literally lasting for ages, subtle yet growing better and better, these have been a go-to gift, especially for the candle and fume obsessed. Another takeaway from Sunkaraku, they don't even have to be burned to be enjoyed as Koh was used to perfume clothing, ground up and popped in sachets or sprinkled about to scent rooms and love letter paper. It makes an incredibly poetic party game too.

Three really, really beautiful versions here are by Baiedio, Shoyeido and Nippon Kodo Daigen-koh:

Shoyeido Autumn Leaves, (short sticks) this will probably be the be-all-end-all Koh scent personally. It is absolutely gorgeous, even more so when burned. It's name perfectly personifies it's scent, Autumn and crunchy falling leaves. The mood, the dryness, the everything. It's main notes are cinnamon and sandalwood although it's more of a nondescript scent in terms of how it's blended. Really beautiful.

Daigen-koh Rosewood. Definitely one of the more mysterious ones... even though it's called rosewood and is a sandalwood based spicy floral I've always thought of this as a little plumy and fruity. The sticks are even a very dark aubergine color. These have always felt the most decadent and special.

Baiedio Tokusen Kobunboku, (short sticks) is subtly more what many might consider feminine, warm and gentile. Very comforting, especially on cold nights with notes of sandalwood, Indonesian aloeswood, and a blend of Chinese herbs although there also seems a hint floral. If only my Memoirs of a Geisha perfume by fresh smelled more like this, it would have been downright dreamy.
Burning Japanese Koh IncenseJapanese Incense by Baieido | Gave That
 A cold night - sitting alone in my empty room 
 Filled only with incense smoke. 
Outside, a bamboo grove of a hundred trees; 
On the bed several volumes of poetry. 
The moon shines from the top of the window, 
And the entire neighbourhood is still except for the 
cry 
of insects. 
Looking at this scene, limitless emotion, 
But not one word. 
 —Ryokan 

Image: mam for Gave That

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