So I’ve been meaning to post… ORS has been largely quiet a lot later than I expected. My job has had a bit of a shift in direction that has been a lot more time consuming deeper into the year than I would expected and I know Stephen has also had some personal shifts. Second, we have both essentially gotten pretty lost in the Vedic Vaani catalog which for multiple reasons isn’t an easy place to just jump into reviews and so if we ever get down to sorting all that out it’s more likely to be next year. They sell 100s of incenses and it’s not always a consistent company but it has captured our attention due to its overall high quality. I would say I’d like to think we might see some reviews in coming months, but I am not entirely sure yet. The winds blow where they will…

So the major reason I’m dropping by is to post a gofund me link for Corey Topel. It is sad news and we wanted to show our support for him at this time. Keep in mind that if you can’t donate to the gofundme campaign, Corey is still selling incense and expects restocks soon, so buying from Absolute Bliss is another way to help him and his family through a difficult time.

Hope everyone is well and hope to be back as soon as the energy for writing comes back…

Fundraiser for my neighbor Oleg

Hi I’ve had a lot of offers from people over the years who have offered to contribute financially to ORS, but I generally do fine and have tried to keep the site commercial free as possible. However for those who wish to do so, I have set up a Gofundme campaign for my neighbor Oleg who has run into a bit of a hard time since November and could use the help. Aside from transfer fees and such, all of your contributions go straight to Oleg and should go a long way to help him get back on his feet again. More info at the campaign link! Thank you all!

Administrative Status Update

It’s been a bit quiet around here late, but that’s for a few reasons. First of all I’m in what is my peak work period. I write, in part, for a living and Feb to May or June is when I do most of this and unfortunately my team is about half new this year and so I’m having to train a lot, pick up a lot for management and there is really no energy left for ORS (it was kind of the same last year where I posted nearly every day for half the year starting in June). ORS is also working on a lot of stuff behind the scenes as well in terms of research and so forth, which we’re hoping will eventually beat fruit and it does mean there’s a pretty big pile forming up, but this will have to give birth once it can.

I did want to mention really quick that I am really pleased with Mermade’s Dragon Tears. This incense is described by Katlyn as “In my mind, what Dragon’s Blood should smell like…” and in many ways there is no more perfect description that this, because while actual Dragon’s Blood often seems to be prized more for its name, I’ve always been fairly disappointed in it as an aroma on its own. Mixed in with good frankincense and perhaps treated in a way that levels it up with more cinnamon spice pizazz? Sign me up! So don’t miss this little treat. Kat has been incredibly prolific this winter maybe more than I can keep up with at times and I’d describe her as “an artist in the zone” for sure (theres even a couple more things up since the last time I looked). Don’t forget to check out the resins and materials sections either as like I said as she curates some fine materials for sure.

Kunjudo (Awaji Island) / HA-KO / Paper Incense / No. 1 Spicy Jasmine, No. 2 Agarwood, No. 4 Sandalwood

Japan Incense sent over these three beautifully designed paper incense leaves to review. Honestly as soon as I looked at their delicate construction, I had some hesitance in even wanting to burn them, the art and aesthetics seem so perfect (I love the delicate notches and details on the leaves). Second, I am getting to be of the age that if I’m burning incense and something else happens, like I get a call from work or there’s some sort of minor crisis to resolve at my place, etc., I can immediately forget what I am burning and come back with it depleted. I only had one chance at these really, so I needed to be ready. It’s one thing when you lose a daily stick, no worries, but man when that happens and it’s a kyara or something, it can be highly disappointing to be distracted. So, gulp, I took photos and wrote all of this before even lit a tip. Keep in mind as well that I am not sure if this qualifies as a “sampler notes” but since they all appear to be part of a five leaf set, one does not really have the luxury to try more than one without spending a lot of money. To me this feels like something of an aesthetic or artistic treat but at a bit over $5 a leaf it is obviously luxury priced. And it was paper so I was like how fast are these gonna go up? Also, I believe these usually come with a felt mat to burn them on. I didn’t have one so used a bed of ash. It must be said that you want to keep your eye on these when they burn as even the slightest draft can move the leaf from incense to fire hazard.

So I went in order and started with the No. 1 Spicy Jasmine. My first reaction was both that it burned a little slower than I expected (it still goes pretty fast) and that the aroma was definitely modern. As the leaf widens it gets a bit more smoky as well, unsurprisingly. But overall the paper they used is obviously formulated to not have much in the way of off notes (although after burning all three you can definitely get the “paper note” as well). Now I’m not sure I got much of an actual jasmine note out of this, although it certainly had some mild spiciness around the edges, but it’s still interestingly floral in a sort of wet way, a scent I might associate more with a perfume than an incense. In fact without the binder of a stick, it’s almost a bit purer this way. Overall the scent actually reminded me a bit more of something like peaches, but it did have a few subnotes in the mix which made it interesting. It’s hard to say with one leaf if this is something I would burn a lot more of if I had multiple leaves but it was an interesting experience. And I would think this could appeal to a more modern audience.

The No. 2 Aloeswood is probably a bit more over to my personal tastes and while this obviously isn’t wood burning, the creators have gone some way into making something reminiscent of an aloeswood scent, a perfume that is modern but maybe reminiscent of something like the Xiang Do aloeswood. It is still essentially a perfume on paper. Perhaps in this sense, having a leaf burning with a woodier scent is a bit more on point, almost autumnal in a way. I found this one particularly cooling in a way I wouldn’t have expected. Almost moody in its profile.

The No. 4 Sandalwood is perhaps a bit closer to the scent you know and love than the previous two although it feels like it’s mixed in with some perfume aspects, but in a way I thought was quite complementary with the wood itself. It is almost like the intent was to bring the spicier aspects of the sandalwood to the fore and like the Aloeswood, I found this to be somewhat autumnal. I liked the somewhat fruity aspects mixed in as well, I though these were a lovely touch. it’s almost like there’s a strong touch of apricot in the mix.

So overall one must think of these as an aesthetic experience, with scents derived from quality perfumes rather than the usual incense experience. Obviously these are not incenses you are likely to use every day, but would be something for special occasions or a nice aesthetic touch to plans. It’s like you actually want to watch the pretty leaf burn rather than leaving it alone for the scent. So anyway much thanks to Japan Incense for the opportunity to experience this novel form of incense, I found it quite fascinating and certainly the leaves are beautiful indeed.

Temple of Incense

As a kindness to Olfactory Rescue Service readers, Sam and Simi Aydee at Temple of Incense have provided a 10% off code! It is OLFACTORY. As we have stated in our reviews (which can be accessed either in our Reviews Index or by clicking on the Temple of Incense link on the left), we consider Temple of Incense one of the model western companies out there, with an absolutely astonishing and wide array of great incenses, well over 50 at this point. Their service and great energy is top notch. If you haven’t checked them out, now is a perfect time with the code.

News: Shroff Channabasappa, Vedic Vaani and others

So it appears there was some misunderstanding regarding the closure of Shroff Channabasappa and that the closure was actually temporary and COVID related (8 months). Ashok at Padma Store asked me to get out the message, but the company is very much alive, so we’re hoping to see more goodies from them. I have had a chance to check out the latest series of wet masalas through PS and they are all very good, maybe even a bit better than the final batch Essence of the Ages received before ending sales. So some very good news indeed! I am sure updated reviews on these will eventually show up here, although one might use previous reviews as a rough guide as you need to. Naturally these have all drifted a bit and one or two are actually completely different (the Saffron comes to mind), but we were not originally planning on reviewing these until the good news came across.

I accidentally ran across Vedic Vaani, which appears to be one of the largest Indian incense companies out there, based in Mumbai. They have an absolutely massive catalog of Indian incenses, they apparently ship to anywhere in the world in 3-5 business days, and for the most part it seems like with some exceptions, most of their incenses are minimum 100g boxes. They seem to range from something like $4-5 all the way to the high teens for 100g boxes, if you look in the masala range. I’m taking a quick test drive on some incenses to see if the service goes OK, so there may be hoards of things to discover in 2022 and after on the incense front here. But if you want to be a pioneer and check things out and then weigh in, you can do so here or when we get our VV review(s) up.

And I would be amiss not to mention some newer goodies we’re seeing at both our trusty stops at incense-traditions and Japan Incense. I will likely end up getting some reviews up eventually, but I really dug the Snow Mountain Gathers Incense, and the Sangdanli Temple Nunnery Incense and Sera Monastery seem quite nice as well on early takes. It’s worth noting that incense-traditions has opened up a whole new range of monastery loose incenses as well, and I of course grabbed the Wara Monastery. I seem to go through loose Tibetans much more slowly than other types, simply because they all seem like they’re better on charcoal than on a heater and I rarely use charcoals anymore, but would probably need to to fairly cover them. I still have old batches of the original Highland loose, an older Samye Monastery batch and a Medicine King or Mindroling one in a drawer somewhere. They tend to be dry but very aromatic.

Also worth popping over to check out Japan Incense’s New Products section. Notable are a couple more in the Kunjudo Kan Ken Koh series, this rather savory Koyasan Daishido Star Anise incense, both affordable and a bit different, and a trio of what appear to be new Baieido Ensei incenses. I either have some of these to review or they’re on the way. But there are a lot more goodies that have come in in recent months to try.

Mermade Magickal Arts / Kyphis, Incense Cakes; Espirit de la Nature / Giroflee Ordorante

It seems like with the new kyphi mechanism in play that there’s been a substantial creative outburst at Mermade in the winter months. Combine that with ORS being in something of a downtime, it can be really hard to keep up and deeply go into some of these new and wonderful scents that Katlyn has been whipping up in winter months, so I thought I’d do my best to try and do some sort of overview to catch up on some things. As I’ve mentioned before, the catalog window for a lot of Mermade goodies is short and often ORS reviews can shorten them a bit more, and even when I start a review page in draft, I have to keep tabs on what is still live or not by the time I’m ready to publish something. And this too, of course, goes for the Espirit de la Nature incenses that show up. It’s often like watching a car zip by.

So let’s start with the Mermade kyphis. I covered Kyphi #2, Goddess Temple, here. I believe the #3 was the green Emerald Temple variant and the #4 was the Amber Kyphi (pictured left), all of which are now gone, at least for the present. If you read the #2 review then you will realize these are largely intriguing variants of the same sort of kyphi base with a new front. All of them are wonderfully etched in detail and I’m just generally of the opinion that if you see a Mermade kyphi go up for a sale then it’s a good idea to start planning an order. The amber variant did not last long at all and it is a really wonderful incense, with the back half connected through this kyphi lineage and the front a wonderfully perfect amber scent, distinct and almost definitive. And I think the #5 variant here (coming soon, will link when live) will be Goddess Temple with Oud (pictured right). I just have a few early samples of this one from Katlyn’s last package but I might have to separate this one from the “usually special and magnificent” to the “particularly special and magnificent” category. I love the way the oud in this one sort of tinges and modifies the kyphi lineage of all these previous incenses. It does so in a way that might create the most significant change of this line of incense. It feels less like it has a new top note and more like the oud has just deeply infused itself into all aspects of the scent. When you think of kyphi as this sort of aged melange of ingredients that all add up to something like an aromatic vintage, the #5 seems to be a really cool leap sideways that might make you feel like you’re trying kyphi all over again.

Another project Katlyn is working on is “incense cakes.” There are three different ones that are all very recent, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, Rose of Isis and Dionysos. These are all essentially a mix of resins, woods, herbs and spices that are all formulated into small little discs with a stamp applied and mostly mixed in with another natural ingredient. The first blend is subtitled a Mesopotamian incense and includes cedar wood and essential oil; Suhul and Yemeni myrrh; Iranian galbanum; styrax – liquidambar; labdanum resin and absolute; black frankincense; and juniper herb and berries. Not sure if my botany is up to this guess and it’s not in the ingredients, but the cakes look mixed in with eucalyptus leaves or something visually similar. You can actually really suss out the specific ingredients in this mix and one thing I like about it is that a lot of these are not as common in available incenses so you really feel like the styrax and labdanum are quite forward here and the evergreens give it all a more herbal quality than a green one. It all adds up to a nicely mysterious mix that reveals a cool creative take on a regional scent.

Rose of Isis is a bit more straight forward a blend, with the rose and sandalwood mix out in front. The rose comes from three different absolutes, and the sandalwood is the quality Mysore, but in addition there’s Sahul myrrh, Saigon cinnamon, Hougary frankincense, and benzoin; the mix dusted with agarwood powder. I’ve long understood Katlyn to have a really deep connection with Isis energy and have experienced a number of her crafts in this vein both on and off the market to know she is a vessel for it. The rose here is lovely and powerful, redolent even in the fresh tin, in the way that a friendly rose absolute can lead to it being a bit like valentine’s day candy. But there’s not just that element, but a really genuine scent of the actual rose flower that is paired with that. As the heat continues the rose note will tend to fade into the background more, with the myrrh and cinnamon comng in louder towards the late heat. The sandalwood seems a bit milder than you might expect, mostly due to the powerful rose front, but it tends to tie everything together in the background.

Dionysos is something of an incense cake version of one of Katlyn’s older incenses with the same name. In fact this review is still probably fairly spot on in many ways and here you can get this almost vintage spirits sort of vibe just over the fresh cakes in the tin. Part of this I believe is the black currant bud absolute. As a kid who grew up in England in the 70s, black currant was almost ubiquitous in sweets and I loved it. Here it’s modified by some of the other ingredients into kyphi-like age, like a fine intoxicating spirit. There’s classic incense resins (undoubtedly part of what carries the currant), agarwood, juniper berries, sweet tobacco absolute, cassis (also black currant), galbanum and a pinch or two of sativa. I sort of roughly classify this kind of incense into Katlyn’s later summer blends, there’s this sort of feeling of heat and harvest at work, ripe berries, hay and herb. One you definitely would want to pull out at a party, an event much richer with the god of wine in attendance.

There were also a couple new Encense du Monde incenses in the Mermade catalog of late but one blew out incredibly fast and the other might be gone by the time I get this incense live (3 left! Going, going..). This last one left (well they both were!), Giroflee Ordorante, is naturally up to Bonnie’s incredible talent, an incense that boasts a very involved ingredients list: “Matthiola longipeta ssp bicornis enfleuraged [night-scented stock] while still on the stem into benzoin, palo santo and tolu balsam resins, propolis, rose extract, palo santo wood, sandalwood, rosewood, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, patchouli. Bound with reduced organic honey. Powdered with monarde fistulosa- rose variety.” What I immediately notice with this Nerikoh style blend is the mintiness and balsamic qualities combined, but it’s sort of the layer a lot of complexity sits on, a complexity I am not sure I’d even have the time to get into before this very original blend disappears. I’m not even familiar with what appears to be the main note, the night-scented stock, so I can’t place it in the aroma exactly. So in many ways Giroflee Ordorante is certainly unlike any nerikoh style incense I’ve tried in a Japanese catalog, but it stretches the form in quite the innovative way. These little pellets pack both a massive and quiet aromatic punch with that almost trademark creative touch Bonnie has that feels like fractals disappearing into infinity.

And I’d be amiss to not mention that the latest batch of WildWood is in stock, and while I haven’t tried this latest one yet, it’s certainly in a lineage where I have loved every single one and it is something you’d have to consider a Mermade evergreen classic.

Hither & Yon

[Closing comments on this one. Hither & Yon finally got back to me, I ordered, they shipped right away!]

Does anyone know if this company is in action still? They seem to have updated stock recently, but I have written them three times over the last few months without reply, just trying to be sure they’re operating first. I’m interested in making an order as well as verifying their status as a source for Nepalese incenses, so it’s puzzling. They even have a contact form so you would think queries would not be lost in spam. Any help/ideas appreciated.

Temple of Incense vs Absolute Bliss

The following chart has been compiled to demonstrate the similarities between incense sold by Temple of Incense vs Absolute Bliss, in the sense that both, mostly, originate from the same Indian incense manufacturer. As Temple of Incense is in the UK and Absolute Bliss is in the USA it may save a purchaser money to go with who is closer. With that said, there are batch variations between the two although we believe the variance to be no greater than 5-10% for these incenses. We’re not interested so much in an incense where the dusting differs or there is some slight variation. For example, Niyama Sutra struck me as fresher than Dancing Sufi, while Extreme Sandalwood is a slightly superior stick to Natural Mysore Sandal. But the point is all of these are so close that it is essentially splitting hairs to speak of the differences. All incenses here were evaluated by both Stephen and I and discussed for some months before finishing this chart. There are two differences though, I have listed two Temple of Incenses that appear to be Madhavadas sourced and I have kept those in the chart out of interest. These are somewhat easily identifiable incenses usually due to their base and are perhaps the most commonly sourced Indian incense, so much that we do keep finding them in newer lines. For reviews of all of these incenses (including purchasing links), please use the Reviews Index on the left (many of these will be found under Happy Hari).

AmberKing of Amber
Bengal BeautyYama Sutra
Benzoin AbsoluteAsana Sutra
Dancing SufiNiyama Sutra
Delhi NightsPranayama Sutra
Dragons BloodRed Blood Dragon
FrankincenseKing Frankincense
Guava GuavaGuava
Jasmine BlossomVintage Jasmine
Kerala FlowerSamadhi Sutra
KrishnaKing of Vrindavan
Lavender SupremeVedic Lavender
Lotus FlowerQueen of Lotus
MyrrhKing Myrrh
Nag Champa GoldNag Champa Gold
OudhOudh Masala
Patchouli WoodsPatchouli Khus
Perky PanditPratyahara Sutra
Purple Rain(Madhavadas)
Rose Absolute(Madhavadas)
Sandalwood Extremesimilar to Natural Mysore Sandal
ShivFloating Lotus Flower

A New Year’s Gift from Padma Store

In our quest to find good incense at ORS, we have been patronizing a little shop in Germany that has a good back catalog of incense from Happy Hari, Shroff and others. Some of the things they carry are not available in North America currently, like Fiore D’Oriente. Ashok, the owner of the store, has offered a 10% ORS discount if you use the code “Shanti”.

I will point out that if you are not in Europe, the shipping can be too expensive to make a small order. If you want your order quickly, the shipping is around 50 euro for DHL. If you don’t mind it taking a longer time, the German post tends to prioritize local mail and international mail can take a long time. You can get away with a much cheaper shipping cost if you’re not in a hurry. Just send a note to Ashok with your order to let him know if you want the expensive shipping or the slow shipping.

In the next few months, I plan on trying to review Fiore D’Oriente and Rasbihari Lal & Sons as well as other manufacturers in the inventory.

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