December 28, 2017

Listening to... Baieido Tobiume

To me, Baieido's Tobiume is magical. It's one of the first Baieido incenses I experienced, and still one of my very favorites. Meaning "flying plum tree", Baieido describes Tobiume as " innovative blend of Agarwood, Sandalwood, Clove and Cinnamon that pays honor to the traditional incense blends of Imperial Courts of old." When an incense is described as paying honor to Imperial Court recipes of old I know I'm in for a treat. I've always interpreted "flying plum tree" as the soft scent of blossoms on a cool spring breeze. So when it's cold and snowy, as it is now that winter has fallen in the Midwest, the memory of spring that Tobiume hints of is most welcome.

The stick note has an immediate cool sweet Borneol menthol overtone which dominates the experience of opening the box. After the initial coolness is bridged, a spicy woody note of Aloeswood comes through underneath providing a solid earthy foundation. Amid the iridescent white box with plum blossoms on stylized breezes and refined calligraphy hides a wonderful verse:

Waft me the plum blossoms' fragrance
When the East Wind blows.
Let not your master's absence
Consign the spring to oblivion.

This poem speaks eloquently to the power of Tobiume to transcend the seasons, especially in winter.

Once lit, the experience is magical. The key note is a soft spicy sweet fragrance with a slightly sour undertone that dominates the burn. More sweet then Kobunboku and less demanding, Tobiume has a refined elegance that is both approachable and complex. The wood notes are there, but hardly noticeable in that they merge with the main note to enhance the sweet/sour blend rather than standing apart from it.

What makes Tobiume magical is the depth of its fragrance. At the top of Tobiume's score is a cool sweet breeze like note that provides an expansive space for the key note below to be listened to. Unlike most fragrances in which the listener's space is filled with the fragrance, Tobiume transports the listener into the fragrance's space. The listening experience is one of being within the scent, experiencing it as though surrounded by a grove of plumb trees, the sweet smell of blossoms off in the distance. Tobiume is dimensional - the scent of plum blossoms arrive on a breeze as you sit and enjoy the experience. It's really amazing the way Tobiume envelopes you. All you need to do is close your eyes to see a canopy of plumb trees above you, blossoms gently dancing in the breeze, as the last snows of winter are overcome by spring.

The after note remains sweet with a whisper of Borneol chill, hinting of a taste of sweet coolness like the memory of blossoms on the wind. Tobiume's after note reminds me very much of having had a window open as spring buds flower off in the distance. What a glorious way to ensure spring is not consigned to oblivion!


Surrounded, I close my eyes.
Blossoms dance in the cool breeze.
Snow passes from my awareness like a faded memory.