August 15, 2020

Listening to Baieido Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh

My uncle was larger than life. Seemingly born 100 years out of date, he traveled the world to exotic places like he was a British subject during the Empire years. Everyone who knew him remembered him fondly, the stories of his travels enhancing his mystique. His is a legacy that will be very difficult to live up to, and one that people have described as a life well lived. Such is the case with our ancestors that come before us who do extra ordinary thing with their time on this earth.

In the case of Baieido, Kakuuemon Yamatoya was such a person. He became a wholesaler of medicinal herbs in Sakai City, and in 1657 renamed himself "Jinkoya Sakubei" specializing in selling incense ingredients and incense sticks. "Jinkoya" (Aloeswood trader) was a name specific to Sakai, and only medicinal wholesalers who specialized in incense were authorized to use this name. Baieido traces it linage to this founder of the company.

Baieido's Jinkoya Sakubei series is named in his honor and was first offered in 2007 on the 350th anniversary of the company. One of three fragrances in the Jinkoya Sakubei series, Baieido describes Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh is "a gem of natural fragrance." A calming incense that combines premium Indonesian Aloeswood, Indian sandalwood, and traditional natural ingredients, Horyu Koh as faithfully an interpretation as possible of Jinkoya Sakubei's original recipe by Maisachiro Nakata, chairman and master blender of Baieido. 

Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh's stick-note if magnificently complex. Topped with a strong camphor cool, rolling the stick between the fingers produces a warm, earthy, clove fragrance that is very traditional. But there are also notes that are slightly sweet and sour, riding above the earthiness like flowers in a spring garden growing above the ornamental grasses. Strong, dynamic, and energetic, Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh's stick is both traditional and light.

Upon burning, Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh is bitter and sour at the start, giving the impression of fall leaves upon the earth. As the stick warms, a semi-sweet caramel creamy note appears that is softly hypnotizing. A slight salty note every so often appears. 

Then something magical happens. A cool note develops and expands the camphor note as if in a transparent bubble that continues to grow and surround the inner fragrance as if being inside a snow globe of fragrance. Sour notes mix with the cool like an earthy sherbet - rich, cool and tart. This aspect of Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh is quite wonderful as it is easy to lose yourself in the experience. There is a warmth of spices up close within a cool exterior like entering the safety of a warm home from a evening's chill.

Rich and luxurious, Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh gives the engaging impression of a decadent experience that is always in motion. Dynamic, complex, changing, moving, the fragrance swirls like the cream atop mocha - semi-sweet creamy tones mixing with sharpness of the bitterness of the coffee beneath. Along side this, the smooth coolness tempers Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh's slightly bitter sharp warmth with touches of a spicy cinnamon note. The end result is a wonderfully calming feeling that is centering and relaxing.

Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh's after-note is light and soothing, with a powdery-creamy, dry semi-sweetness. An occasional slight citrus note is present, lending to the memory of the tartness of the burn. Jinkoya Sakubei Horyu Koh is there, but not there, the after-note nearly transparent and light like sunlight through wisps of smoke. The result is a fragrance that is welcoming and reassuring, and that provides an exceptionally enjoyable experience.

A flash of blue
amid the Oak's green
Summer Jay comes to call

Dedicated to my uncle, second father, and world traveler George M. Pollock.