Wednesday, February 22, 2012

still-sound 43. Baika-ju

One of the first incenses to truly impress me was Baika-ju by Shoyeido.  Since a large box of it came with a very modest price tag I couldn't help but wonder if I would discover more spectacular sticks if I were willing to part with more money and broaden my search.  It's because of Baika-ju that I started collecting incense seriously.  I have found that there are certainly sticks that are more expensive but few that are more pleasing.

A sumi-e sketch of ume branches and blossoms decorate the top of the box. The label on the bottom says Baika-ju Plum Blossoms.  I assume Baika-ju is Japanese for plum blossom although I could be wrong.  I don't know of plum blossoms to have a scent at all.  I imagine that its name refers more to a poetic notion of early spring.

Baika-ju is a sandalwood based incense and as such bears the characteristic warmth and creaminess.  The scent oscillates between the oily sweetness of toasted coconut to the dryness of a tanned leather hyde. Maybe the ripe fruitiness of plum enters the picture but I suspect this happens more in my imagination.  The smoke dissipates and leaves a trace of powdery softness in the air perhaps referring to the feathery clusters of blossoms on an otherwise bare tree.

I told my friend Carlos about the wonders of Baika-ju and he popped over to OK on 3rd Street within minutes of my recommendation and bought himself a box.  He loves it so much that he burns sticks of it in his car when he drives to work or jiu jitsu practice.  It's a clever use of the car ashtray and lighter since he doesn't smoke.

No comments:

Post a Comment