My grandmother was a scratch baker, making pies, brownies and cookies that were amazing. She had written recipes. But these were starting points that decades of changes made from memory had long rendered irrelevant. Her chocolate chip cookies were legendary, and my cousins and I would often ask for the recipe. She would say "It's just the recipe from the chocolate chip bag!" and smile wryly. They were about as close to the bag recipe as fast food is to a gourmet dinner. It was her family secret, and she unfortunately never shared it as she passed unexpectedly. Thankfully, in the case of Kaden Kobunboku, Baieido's family secret has been shared, much to the delight of fans of Aloeswood incense.
Baieido describes Kaden as a "masterpiece carefully prepared by blending twenty kinds of natural fragrances, including increasingly rare Aloeswood and Sandalwood." Kaden means "old family secret" and features the Kobunboku formula with the addition of rich Tsukigase Aloeswood and additional spices. With so many richly fragrant ingredients, Kaden's secret is an example of a traditional incense that possesses many fragrant surprises.
The first of these surprises is immediately apparent in Kaden's stick note. Unlike many other fragrances in the Kobunboku line, the first note to surface is not the coolness of Borneol, but the rich semi-sweet bouquet of the secret twenty spices in the mix. Although Borneol is included, the stick is more earthy sweet with Clove, softly sweet with Star Anise, and sharply sweet with Cinnamon than other Kobunboku fragrances. There is a richness and earthiness that is complex, soft, and welcoming like that of an esteemed relative.
Once lit, the experience shifts from the stick's spicy sweet presentation to the fragrant warmth of Autumn in incense form. The earthiness of the stick strengthens, taking on a rich woody tone reminiscent of the forest with a thick carpet of fall leaves upon the ground. The sweetness of the unlit stick shifts to the sour bitterness of the Tsukigase Aloeswood, rich and earthy like aged wood upon moist earth.
There is a sharpness to Kaden's bitterness, like that of fresh ground coffee, that mingles with the semi-sweetness of clove, creating a delightful interplay of rich and earthy. The bitter woodiness highlights the interplay of Kaden's Aloeswood and ginger root, blending wood and spice notes together in sharpness with a sour hint. This is a warm incense, like sitting by a fire on a sharp fall evening. The long low note of Clove is stabilizing, contrasting Kaden's sharp woody bitterness with hints of soft earthy semi-sweetness.
Kaden's after-note is rich, spicy, and salty. The rich Tsukigase Alosewood is very noticeable in the space after the stick is consumed, its lingering presence softening over time from the sharpness of the burn in a way that is welcoming and relaxing. There is a subtle shift from the earthiness of the burn to a woodiness in the lingering fragrance that is pleasant and enjoyable to return to.
Masterfully combining twenty fragrant ingredients and two rare woods together is a wonderful family secret to have passed on to further generations of Aloeswood enthusiasts. Anyone who enjoys the bitter/sour side of fine Aloeswood - something becoming much more rare - will enjoy Baieido's family secret. Kaden won't replace my grandmother's chocolate chip cookies, but the experience is equally special.