Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Kneaded Incense – Japanese Nerikoh

Pine and Sandalwood Nerikoh - 03/2017

Nerikoh is a traditional incense that was once very popular amongst the nobility and upper class in ancient Japan. It is often used in tea ceremonies and the nature of the scent I find to complement puerh tea very well especially with reference to the age woodier tones. The old ways of making nerikoh relies on basic rudimentary tools that acts to preserve the intrinsic qualities within the natural ingredients. It is a craft that requires much effort and patience. Nerikoh consists of diverse blends aimed at drawing out the power of raw natural materials that include aromatic woods, resins, herbs, dried fruits, etc. These ingredients are grinded and pounded into a paste with the addition of raw honey. Depending on the recipe the resulting paste can require years of storage to allow for the development of ripe and mature aromas.

Pine and sandalwood is a classic combination. This batch of nerikoh incense combines wood material from an age log of red pine with wild Australian sandalwood. Age pine possesses sweeter, deeper and more spicy notes with the added benefit of allowing the harsher turpentine components of the resin to evaporate and diminish. The advantage to making your own incense is being able to ensure the quality of the natural materials used and that no chemical additives are added. This is especially important for nerikoh that is intended for long term ageing as one bad ingredient that rots and mold will contaminate and lay waste to the entire batch. A good batch of nerikoh can mature into a highly prized treasure to captivate the senses and nourish our inner spirit.

Using the mortar and pestle to work the wood into a doughy paste is hard work and it has become less frequent to see this effort being made. The heavy pounding helps to breakdown and bruise the wood, forcing the honey deep within. This lays the foundation for the subsequent curing of the incense paste in storage.

Dark forest honey has complex characteristics and active enzymes that is ideal for making Japanese Nerikoh.

For future enjoyment and appreciation.


  1. Interesting post. I made kneaded Egyptian incense back in my days as a young nun. I still have a large jar of it. I don't remember all of the ingredients, but they included frankincense, myrrh, raisins and white wine.

    1. Enjoy! I find that good incense can really open a part of my mind in a way that is very spiritual.