May 12, 2018

Listening to Baieido Syukohkoku

Some incense have a distinct flavor based on the single pronounced tone that dominate their listening experience. Some have delightful surprises, changing from one listening to the next. Then there's those uncommon incenses that possess a special depth and uncompromising character. Baieido's Syukohkoku is one such incense, presenting a listening experience of tremendous breadth and rich texture.

An exquisite blend of luxurious Sandalwood, Vietnamese Aloeswood and traditional spices, Syukohkoku means "gathering of incense nations". This is a reference to the Silk Road which was forged to trade silk from China to the West, and in the process created a highway for incense ingredients to travel with Buddhism to China, and eventually Japan. In Syukohkoku, Baieido has created an incense that honors the journey of incense from distant lands to Japan's shores, enshrining this rich heritage in a finely crafted fragrance masterwork.

The stick note is delightfully subdued, presenting a wonderful woody flavor with the Vietnamese Aloeswood dominating the stage. There is a marvelously difficult to describe spiciness to the stick characteristic of Baieido's work that provides the background for the Aloeswood, giving the stick is slightly sweet and spicy note. Overall, the stick is delicious and presents an enchanting fragrance.

Once lit Syukohkoku's blending of Sandalwood and Aloeswood create a deep earthy texture, revealing a rich and luxurious breadth of fragrance. A superb Aloeswood note, slightly sweet and decadently earthy, remains Syukohkoku's key note. The quality of the Vietnamese Aloeswood clearly impresses itself upon the burning experience. Yet there is a underlying mellowness of Sandalwood that tempers the Aloeswood's earthy tendencies, giving the overall fragrance a superb blend of forceful and relaxed tones. The interplay between the two is as enchanting as is the dancing of the smoke wafting from the stick, leading one to drift off in relaxed thought. The spiciness experienced in the unlit stick remains, but well off in the distance, providing a hint of sweet and sour that occasionally peeks into the listener's experience and then just as quickly retreats to the background. A tinge of saltiness occasionally enters into the mix as well providing a perfect foil to the sweet and sour of the spices, adding complexity and depth to Syukohkoku's overall sumptuous fragrance.

Once consumed, Syukohkoku's earthy notes shift to a salty-sweet, slightly fruity-sour, after-tone that brings to mind a gourmet dark chocolate quality. The Aloeswood note remains dominant, but in adopting a more pronounced salty-sweet after-note, deepens to a sublime atmosphere that is relaxed and gentle, perfect for meditation and mindfulness work. The long lasting after-note that remains easily permeates the background, disappearing from awareness only to make itself known when one returns to the space.

Syukohkoku is without a doubt a Baieido creation, displaying the best characteristics of their nearly four centuries of creating exquisite incense. Like the Silk Road that inspires it, Syukohkoku provides a rich listening experience with abundant rewards.

Smoke drifting on the breeze
Fragrance fills the senses.
Relaxed mind at peace.

Baieido Syukohkoku