Mandala Trading Incense / Himalayan Herbal, Tibetan Monastery

I’m not sure if this company does more than two incenses (second and third on page), but if not, they definitely should. These are two of the finest incenses I’ve tried from Nepal and are becoming fast favorites. Both are rich, complex and affordable, and surprisingly have the ingredients written on the paper wrapping the incense inside the box.

The green box, Himalayan Herbal Incense consists of Ambergris (Sal Dhoop) 20%, Other Medicinal Herbs 25%, Natural Glue (Lac) 20%, Sandalwood 15%, Artemesia 10%, Red Sandalwood 5%, and Spices (Cloves, Nutmeg, Kusum Flower) 5%. It’s a close cousin to the Yog Sadhana I’ve discussed before and the cloves and nutmeg definitely seem stronger than the percentage, but unlike that stick it is not as thick or as smokey. The color of the stick is like the box, however there are threads of red through it that are likely at least the Red Sandalwood. It’s got a mellow spiciness while still having a bit of complexity that both help to make it a rather friendly Nepalese-Tibetan incense.

The best of the two is the red box, Tibetan Monastery Incense.  This consists of Juniper Berry (Sang) 25%, Natural Glue (Lac) 20%, Other Medicinal Herbs 15%, Cedarwood (Devdar) 15%, Agarwood 10%, Liquorice (Jethi Madhu) 5%, Harrow + Batrow 5%, Spices (Jaypatri, Cinnamon, Cardamom) 5%, and Rauwlfia Serpentina (Sarpaghanda) 5%. It’s the most complex of the two and while the Juniper berry content can be offputting to some western noses, the overall tang of it is both peppery and spicy, with a top note that is just brilliant and kind of tangy. It has that type of composition that sets off a number of aromas, with a very subtle agarwood backing. Start with this one first.

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23 Comments

  1. Selena said,

    February 27, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    On the second pic down it just says green and white fruits and a whole lot of other things but no ambergris, is this the green Incense you are refering to that has the Ambergris? I have found on this site so many other incenses with the Ambergris in them, I am so amazed, i have only known of the Nepal “Energy” incense and nothing else!

  2. Selena said,

    February 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Could you please tell me the name of the green box incense with the Ambergris in it, i am really searching for incenses made with this Ambergris as I tried the Energy incense in the Yellow box with Ambergris and spickenard in it and WOW! Intoxicatingly beautiful.

  3. Alan said,

    January 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I’m quite captivated by the scent and feel of the Himalayan Herbal.
    It’s the only green stick among the dozen-or-so Tibetan style incenses I have tried. Does anyone make a “high end” green Tibetan style?

  4. Jack said,

    August 28, 2013 at 2:37 am

    I have just purchased two boxes after finding a very good deal on them on ebay. I am used to Indian & Japanese incense and the TMI is the first Tibetan incense I have experienced and here are my first impressions.

    Woooaahh this is totally alien to my nose, I have never experienced anything so organic and earthy. It smells like peat and raw leather to my newbe nose.

    I swear I can also smell cumin which is the spice that gives off that BO smell but with coupled with a slight uplifting note. It is quite complex and you can tell the ingredients are pure as this smells like mother nature, no synthetics here. It’s not bad just very different, you would have to come to these with a open mind.

    I’m going to have to spend a lot more time burning these as they are just so new to my nose.

  5. Mike said,

    October 2, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I was a little worried about the Lucky brand based on the Green Tara set, but it does look like their various incenses run the gamut of quality. The one I’ve had out that I like a lot is called Windhorse. It’s one of at least five incenses created by Dr. Pasang Yonten and strikes a balance between a spicy/herbal combo like the Himalayan Herbal which a pronounced resin content. Very affordable and high quality.

    And yeah, these two are extremely amazing walking back into the room. It’s what really opened the Himalayan Herbal up for me. And in note of your metaphysical observations, I’d say that these do have about as much “juju” as you can get for an incense this inexpensive. Two of the best buys in incense right here. That sort of energy is generally very productive for meditation.

  6. Claire said,

    October 2, 2008 at 2:55 am

    Tibetan Monastery Incense – Mandala Trading Co.

    This was an interesting blend. I was sat quite close as I was burning this. The aroma didn’t strike me as very strong and what I was picking up was that same “sour” note / tang that I detected in the “Green Tara Gift Set” (by Lucky Tibetan Incense Company) only more subtle and the smoke didn’t irritate my eyes in the way that the “Green Tara” did.

    So to start with I didn’t think this was anything particularly special… but then I popped into the kitchen to get a hot drink to warm me up and as I stepped away from the burning stick a whole different aroma hit me! It was like quite an expensive perfume – an underlying earthy forest-like note topped off with florals. There seemed to be a mixture of florals but the note that was coming at me in wafts was violet, I think. This is quite odd as I don’t think there are any florals ingredients in it. (I’m beginning to wonder, actually, whether my nose comes from a different planet to everyone-else as I seem to have such a strange sense of smell!).

    I realised that this “expensive perfume” had pervaded most of the room in fact and that I had been totally missing it by sitting too close to the burning incense. So this incense taught me a valuable lesson.

    Himalayan Herbal – Mandala Trading Co.

    This one didn’t have the same sour under note / tang as the “Tibetan Monastery Incense” which I was pleased about. However, I didn’t really notice much aroma at all – even when I left the room and re-entered the aroma was only faint. I would describe it as mildly coconut crossed with warm oatmeal cookies and I’m guessing that it is the spices that are contributing that particular scent.

    This one seemed to have a (meta-) physical affect as I could feel a build up of energy around my heart chakra that got progressively bigger the more the incense burnt.

    So overall it is pleasant but I would have preferred a stronger aroma – I would rank the “Yog Sadhana” (unknown manufacturer) above this as that had a similar aroma to my nose but had the added benefits of a stronger aroma and an interesting psychological affect. I would also rank the “Tibetan Monastery Incense” above this one because of the exquisite perfume that comes through with that one.

  7. September 17, 2008 at 10:58 am

    […] Trading are the creators of two of the finest and most accessible Tibetan incenses on the market, their long stick Tibetan Monastery and Himalayan Herbal blends, the former an unparalleled spice blend, the latter a minty evergreen breeze. If you haven’t […]

  8. Steve said,

    April 15, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Damn – I knew my days were limited before I’d have to cave in and splurge on the Sho-kaku! I’m drooling! Just broke down today and ordered the Enkuu-Horizon but I see this doesn’t end ’til the last dollar’s spent 🙂

    Steve

  9. Mike said,

    April 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks Steve. My box of Relaxense unburned was completely odorless, so I must have gotten an old box. I do remember the not so straight sticks too. I’ll probably have to check it out again at some point.

    But yeah that’s really the joy of good incense, is the learning experience that goes along with continuing to get to know a scent. Like with music, sometimes the most obtuse and thorny items end up being the best ones in the long run. It’s a good reason I have Tennendo Enkuu-Horizon rated so highly, because I still feel after all this time that I’m still learning about it.

    A good friend of mine who is also into the incense thing experienced his first Sho-kaku recently. It’s an incense where you first yell a bunch of expletives about how incredible the incense is and then follow it up with another volley after you see the price on it. 😀

  10. Steve said,

    April 15, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Hey Mike – my box of Relaxense contains dark brown sticks, wonderfully twisted and bent as if thin branches pulled from a tree – organic. Not the ruler-straight sticks we usually see. The box has a nice aroma, though not as lush or strong as Tibetan Monastery. I would not describe it as moist, so it’s possible some drying/aging has occurred. But I hear you on freshness – I’ve gotten large orders of Indian sticks that ultimately smelled identical – I assumed they cross-contaminated over an extended period of time and I lost out on their nuances. I also agree that these blends (often with 31 spices) are not fairly judged on first experience – they do take time to fully “get”. As matter of point, I would rate Snow Lion higher today than I did when I made my comments on it yesterday. I also have a much higher regard for Himalayan Herbal (having sampled other varities) than I did on first burn a few days ago. It’s amazing how much of a difference my mood can make, too, on perception! One thing is clear to me, though – I like the punchiness in general that Tibetan incense offers – I’ve basically rated everything a 7 or above! I don’t get the impression of smell as a “fine art” that I do with the premium Japanese offerings – finely honed craft and brush strokes of fragrance. But the general drift of the Tibetan genre is definitely a personal favorite!

    Steve

  11. Mike said,

    April 15, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks Steve.

    I bought a wooden box of Relaxense at a nearby store almost a year ago. I was sort of lukewarm on it, but I did get the impression what I had was a very old box and the sticks looked very dry to me. I know it’s a difficult question, but how “fresh” does what you have look? Ocassionally I come across older packages of Tibetan incense that have lost almost all their aromatic punch, one sampler of 5 different packages all smelled totally identical and almost entirely like cheap cedarwood. I kinda liked Relaxense but wondered if a fresher batch might improve my opinion.

    I also think, particularly with Tibetan blends that have at least 15-20 ingedients that some incenses take me a long time to “get.” Perhaps it’s moving from sussing out ingredients rather than paying attention to the final “mix.” I think I explain this concept in the Nado Poizokhang review. Perhaps also that the subtlety can be a little harder to detect due to the higher quantity of smoke sticks like this put out.

    I’ve found that I tend to really like “sweetgrass” Tibetan incenses, Dhoop Factory Ganden was my first, but I also like the Maya Devi Salvia Officinalis where this is concerned (my experience with two others in this range were not quite as startling).

  12. Steve said,

    April 15, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Continuing through the Tibet/Nepal selections today. In general, there seems to be 2 camps – more pungent and spicy (like Tibetan Monastery) and drier, more woody and cooler (like Himalayan Herbal). Having now sampled a number of varieties, I now “get” Himalayan Herbal and give it a solid 10, along with Tibetan Monastery. These two offerings from Mandala remain at the top of the Tibetan heap. Nothing else gives quite the volume of presence or aroma – these guys put off some serious dense fog and flavor! Having said that, however, I still award a 9 or 9.5 to Everest Ritual Tibetan Incense and Relaxense. I commented on the former briefly above. Relaxense has a clear aloe or sandal wood note (nope – I’m still not good enough to identify which 😦 ) that is very enjoyable and brings a familiarity of some of the Japanese woody fragrances we enjoy. I will certainly stock Relaxense going forward, especially considering it’s available in a cool slide-top wood box! Another honorable mention is Essence of the Ages’ “house Tibetan” Ganesh Dhoop. Not unlike ERTI or Relaxense, it does have a sweet tang that I think might actually be apple-like. ERTI, Relaxense and EotA Ganesh Dhoop all seem more of the “Himalayan Herbal” camp. Have tried a few others, but find with the Tibet/Nepal fragrances the same difficulty with Indian nag champas – infinite variations with ultimately few stand-outs. Also tried White Pigeon Dhoop from EotA – smoky, dry, nicely spicy/pungent, but just can’t say it rises above the pack.

    I really have to hand it to Mike (or his nose!) for deciphering and distinguishing between so many scents – I realize now how important it is to have time off from evaluation and simply lighting and enjoying a stick for what it has to offer!

    Steve

  13. Mike said,

    April 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I’ve been meaning to check out Everest Ritual at some point, I may have forgotten in past orders because it might have been one that wasn’t on site yet (I know Beth has lots of incenses that aren’t on line yet). I think I might have been waiting to grab the whole Siddhartha gift pack at some point. But honestly, the only Tibetans I’ve tried that I’ve liked nearly as much as TMI and HHI (well, Ribo Sangtsheo is pretty nice too, same company) have been the Dhoop Factory scents. There’s lots of good scents, but few like those that I’d rate alongside Japanese incense.

    I liked the Scented Mountain agarwood (I think #1 is their high grade) quite a bit when I first tried it, but it has a rough time holding up against Shoyeido and Baieido incenses. I think it might even vary in quality from box to box because I really enjoyed my first box of it and after I got the second, I was only 2 or 3 sticks in before I just gave the box away. I found it way too bitter. Either the boxes were substantially different or there was too much wood and not enough resin and the wood is starting to bother me with the more inexpensive aloeswoods.

    Look forward to hearing your comments on the rest of the bundles. – Mike

  14. Steve said,

    April 14, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Hey Mike! My first all-Tibetan/Nepalese order came today. Always on a search for something as impressive as the 2 offerings from Mandala Trading. Snow Lion is not, though it is quite nice – I describe it as Tibetan Monastery Incense dialed back to a 5 or 6 on the tang meter and more smoky than rich. I ordered this one for the very cool hinged and painted wood box 🙂 Scented Mountain’s Agarwood Incense (Grade 1) needs another sitting, but my initial impression was that it was a single-noted bitter and pungent burning wood or tea – not a personal favorite. Everest Ritual Tibetan Incense was a great surprise – almost identical in price and aroma as Tibetan Monastery Incense, but perhaps dialed back to an 8 or 9 on the tang and richness meter (unburnt, the box is nowhere near as formidable smelling as TMI). Would absolutely recommend ERTI, but if you like and burn TMI, it’s largely redundant.

    I have another 10 bundles to try – will let you know if any are new contenders for King of the (Himalayan) Mountain. I think Mandala is safe for now!

    Steve

  15. Mike said,

    April 3, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Glad the incense passed your fiancee’s test. Especially because it’s definitely terribly addicting. I think I’m halfway through my second box already and eyeing a third and I can’t say that about many boxes. Thankfully at least in this case the price is a relief.

    As for how I found the incense, I’ve actually gotten most of my Tibetan recommendations through Beth at Essence. In particular with incense, developing a relationship with the vendors really improves the experience and with both Essence and Japan Incense I know we’ve got quite a bit of traffic going both ways and I think this is a tribute to not only their great businesses but the fact that they’re incense lovers as well. In fact having not been able to afford any of my own orders the last few months, I’ve missed the back and forth and learning about more scents. Once these businesses get to know your tastes, you’ll not only have no money left but you’ll be thanking them too. 🙂

    I’d definitely check out my Dhoop Factory section in the Index for some more Tibetan recommendations. Most of their blends are great and I’ve only heard positive comments back from readers on them. They do make a sampler of all their blends that comes in a really neat paper box, definitely worth trying.

  16. Steve said,

    April 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    By the way, I notice Essence of the Ages has almost 100 varieties of Tibetan incense – how did you stumble upon Mandala’s? Just a lucky hit? I can see an upcoming Tibetan sampler order…

    Steve

  17. Steve said,

    April 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    ” I almost have a love/hate thing going with. It’s got an aroma that is almost sweaty, like maybe old clothes that have been sitting too long, while at the same time I’m starting to believe that this same herb adds a note of complexity that you actually begin to like over time. While it’s definitely a very small note in the MTM incense, it gives it a kind of wild and natural feel that sets it apart.”

    YES!!! EXACTLY!!!

    I swear the smell is addicting. It “registers” with you even when you have stepped away – like its permanently changed and increased your palette of smell awareness. I’m about to cook dinner and have another stick going and I’m in heaven. Now, the most important thing of all is that it has passed the fiance test with flying colors! She came downstairs and asked what I was burning – a question I get frequently as I am always trying new incense. She said it was like nothing I had burned before and that she really liked it!

    For kicks, I told her to smell the full box of unburnt sticks – “OH! That smells like ass!” 🙂

    She calls ’em like she sees ’em!

    Steve

  18. Mike said,

    April 3, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Steve,

    Glad your order arrived and that you’re enjoying what you’ve tried so far. Definitely makes sense to burn from inexpensive to premium.

    I’m over the moon with that Tibetan Monastery Incense (I’m sure you’d like the Himalayan Herbal made by the same company too – think spearmint rather than cinnamon). I did want to expand on what you said about some of the funkier notes, I think that’s very true. The thing I’ve noticed about Tibetan incense, particularly the really good stuff that Essence sells, is that at first there are a lot of notes that can be very offputting to the Western nose. There’s a particular herb I’ve never been able to place that’s not only in this incense but in Essence’s White Pigeon blend that I almost have a love/hate thing going with. It’s got an aroma that is almost sweaty, like maybe old clothes that have been sitting too long, while at the same time I’m starting to believe that this same herb adds a note of complexity that you actually begin to like over time. While it’s definitely a very small note in the MTM incense, it gives it a kind of wild and natural feel that sets it apart.

    And that deja vu triggering is definitely one of the best parts of the incense experience. It’s amazing these scents can reach so far down in one’s subsconscious.

    Definitely have Reiryo Koh up for a review, although I haven’t gotten there yet mostly because it’s got a bit of complexity I haven’t fully absorbed yet. At first that spicy, penetrating top note is really noticeable but I’ve found the more I burn it the more it becomes more of the background and that’s where I really start to notice how brilliant this blend is, particularly for the price.

    Agree on the packaging. If I remember your order right, you bought the Sho-Ran-Ko. Not only is it an amazing incense, but the packaging is to die for. I love the Pawlonia boxes, I have a separate area I keep them all together in.

    Mike

  19. Steve said,

    April 3, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Hey, Mike! My 1st order of Japanese incense arrived today from Essence of the Ages. I’m more excited than a kid at Christmas – and the Japanese manufacturers do such a fine job at wrapping and presentation that it really adds to your expectations for a fine experience. I have to admit I’m still intimidated by the price tag on some of these, so I’m starting with the least expensive ones. I have 10 varieties in total to try – perhaps 1 or 2 per day and I can avoid fragrance fatigue/confusion.

    I immediately burned a 1/4 stick of the Mandala Tibetan Monastery and enjoyed it immensely. Your description of it was quite accurate, and it was nice that Mandala listed the ingredients – too bad not everyone does. It’s funny that some of the adjectives I came up with don’t sound very complimentary (including sweet horse barn and funky B.O.) but spicy and pepper apply as well and the whole really works. I’ve just recently had this experience where an incense triggers deja vu, and this is one of those. Wish I could describe better what’s going on, but my guess is there are many different spices burning and some mimic smells from, in my case, summers as a child on a trip to a historic site or perhaps a farm. It will be on my daily burn cycle.

    I’m currently burning Kunmeido Reiryo koh and am again enjoying it a great deal. I don’t think you’ve done a specific review for it, otherwise I would have left comments there. A nice sandalwood with a piercing top note that is spicy, but not overwhelming. Glad I tried it!

    Some of this packaging is just too nice to break open!

    Steve

  20. Mike said,

    December 25, 2007 at 1:48 am

    Hi Joe, glad you liked the Medicine Buddha. I’m really high on the Mandala Trading Tibetan Monastery incense, it’s spicy and powerful. Ganden’s definitely mellower and kind of grassy and sweet, very relaxing. I’d go with the former first but you might like both. Happy holidays! – mike

  21. Joe said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Hey Mike, I bought Medicine Buddha after it appeared on your top ten list and I really enjoy it. Now I want to try other incense from Nepal or Tibet and I was wondering whether you think I should get Ganden or Tibetan Monestary incense.
    Thanks,
    Joe

    • Alan said,

      January 31, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      I’m quite captivated by the scent and feel of the Himalayan Herbal.
      It’s the only green stick among the dozen-or-so Tibetan style incenses I have tried. Does anyone make a “high end” green Tibetan style?


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