Nado Poizokhang / Grades A-C

Nado Poizokhang claims to be the the oldest and largest hand-made incense stick manufacturer in Bhutan. The company’s main incense, if you will, actually exists in seven different grades, from A to G. The ingredients in all of these incenses includes sandalwood, clove, red sandalwood, major cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and a dozen or so other herbs and spices. The difference among the grades appears to be the amount of juniper used, the amount increasing as the grade of incense gets lower.

The general Nado Poizokhang scent is like many Tibetan and Bhutanese incense sticks, it’s composed of so many different herbs and spices that it takes quite a while to get used to the scent and realize how complex the incense is. I have the same experience with almost all Tibetan blends that have a large list of ingredients, an initial feeling of disappointment and bewilderment, only to find as I get used to the scent that I was actually quite off in my initial assessment. In fact, all three of the grades in question have been getting quite a bit of “air time” lately, and the more I burn them, the more I enjoy them.

However, the quality level, at least between Nado Poizokhang Grade A and C is quite significant in that the amount of juniper used changes the color of the stick from a deep, almost cherry red color to a sort of pink-tinged beige. It begs the question of just how much difference there could be in scent among the lower grades from D to F, if the change is this significant in the higher grades. The consistency of the stick is sort of unusual as well in that they’re very strong and almost have a sort of plastic feel to them, which is a bit of a change considering how many broken pieces of various Tibetan sticks show up.

Grade A appears to be the only one to come in a sort of weird paper-ended bamboo tube, the others seem to come in boxes that differ mostly in the color or “wrappers” for the two lowest grades. Honestly I’d rather have them all in boxes, the tube can not be opened without it being opened permanently, with a hole in one of the ends. Like many multi-ingredient incenses, there’s a hell of a lot going on here, but initially one’s likely to get some berry hints and stronger tobacco/sage like characteristics. In fact it’s tribute to the blenders that it’s only with experience that one starts to notice the individual players in the orchestra, all sort of popping up in random variations as your stick burns. Of course, with Grade A these characteristics are the strongest. Grade B is still very close, but the presence of juniper mellows out the intensity some, and in Grade C it almost seems like the juniper presence is on an even par with the other ingredients. After burning A and B, I still get strong hints of it with C, but I do wonder how much presence the lower grades could possibly have.

Overall, like a lot of these central Asian incenses that use lots of ingredients, it takes a while to suss out the central scent and this sort of longevity is definitely a plus, one generally finds that you kind of grow with it and that the familiarity starts to make it a bit addictive. The prices are close to Tibetan premium prices (around the $20 mark and descending per grade), but honestly one should definitely start with A or B first in order to a get a grip on this company’s central scent (B being $5 less than A is probably the best bet). I might eventually find Grade C a decent substitute, it’s certainly pleasant, but the juniper kind of obscures some of the stronger more energetic herbs, making it a bit slower to “get.”

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16 Comments

  1. February 22, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    While I have only been sniffing incense for about six months, I have to admit that I like the Nado line far more than 99% of the other Tibetan/Himalayan incense I’ve been exploring.

    EoA is completely right in saying that they sell the stuff right from the monastery. I initially tried ordering from incenseguru and I was given the counterfeit stuff.(he ignored my emails for customer service so I’m not going back!)

    I did some internet sleuthing and found that the “nice” ladies over at Incensesales are the perpetrators of counterfeit Nado that they simply sell as ‘Bhutanese A’ and ‘Bhutanese B’. (I put nice in quotes because they seem too busy playing solitaire to run a business, they were extremely mean, then haughty, then just ignored me altogether as I tried to sign up as a wholesaler – don’t recommend them for anything! My plan had been to sign up as a customer and then let them know they could get real Bhutanese incense from the source but I never got that far.)

    That being said, while EoA says that the difference in grades is just the amount of Juniper, I’ve bought the entire spectrum of grades from Beth a couple times and have to say that I don’t think they ‘change the formula’ as much as when they run out to get ingredients, they have a simple budget for what they can get. Some days the cinnamon is cheap and some days it’s too costly to put more than a pinch in. I think it’s this way with all the ingredients because unlike other Himalayan incenses, I don’t think they’re just gathering this off the grounds of a monastery where they can control the quality of all the ingredients.

    I mention this because this years G is better than E or F in my opinion, it’s spicier and sweeter while both E and F suffer from so much juniper that they smell like a sauna.(But in a nice way.) The A smells a bit more like soap because I think clove was cheap this time so it gives off a strong clove scent that mixes in with the other ingredients to smell sort of like Irish Spring. Still, it’s one of my favorite incenses.

    PS- Their morning and evening Riwo Sancho shouldn’t be missed!

  2. Terra Renee said,

    August 20, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I purchased Grade A Nado from Essence of the Ages and one from a seller on eBay. I know the E of A one is authentic for sure, not sure about the eBay one. The one from E of A is very dark, almost purple, while the one from eBay is the color of a medium dark cherry. I also have Grade B and C, and the eBay Grade A is nearly the same color as B. The eBay Nado came in a bamboo tube and had all the exact same markings and packaging as the E of A one, and it even smelled almost the same when burned. The E of A one smelled a tad stronger, but the one from eBay still smelled better than Grade B. I’m guessing the eBay one is either a very, very good counterfeit or simply an older/newer version, because I know the formula sometimes changes. Either way, both smell great, but beware the ones on eBay if you want to be guaranteed the real version.

  3. July 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I received a roll of short sticks of A grade today from EofA. This is my first time with this incense so I can’t compare it to previous burnings. The sticks are dark purple-grey, not quite black. The aroma is intense, complex, it certainly does smell wonderful and not at all like a sandalwood stick with some spice sprinkled over it. If there was a quality problem, you certainly can’t tell by this package.

  4. Gregg King said,

    October 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I would really just like to know how to tell the grades apart from the box colors. I know the top grade is the bamboo tube, however from there down it seems to depend upon the web site you are looking at. I am trying to identify some boxes I possess from past years and am suffering confusion. 1 site shows B as orange, C as yellow, and D as silver, while another shows bamboo as top, then followed by yellow, orange, and green. Is there a letter on the box somewhere that denotes the grade, as appears on some other brands?

    • Mike said,

      October 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

      Gregg, take a look at the series. The redder the actual incense stick is, the more juniper is probably being used. At least that’s how I tell my orange and yellow boxes apart. But the problem with this is Nado Poizokhang also seems to change their recipes, so you may be looking at different incenses.

      • Gregg King said,

        October 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm

        I also have another follow up question to this, Mike. As I was going through my boxes I ran across an old NP that was orange with a B on it but was in a cardboard tube with a steel cap on each end. Any idea of when they changed from tubes to boxes? I haven’t tried a piece from inside yet, but I don’t believe you could achieve a deeper shade of red and I’m hoping it has aged well!

        • Mike said,

          October 17, 2011 at 8:26 am

          Afraid not Gregg. There’s been a lot of confusion over Nado Poizokhang in terms of different incenses and packaging, it’s very hard to keep up with them.

  5. C.J. said,

    March 11, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I found the differences to be huge–I almost wonder if a mistake was made. This year’s “A” grade was red/pink and hardly any spice, almost all sandalwood. COMPLETELY Different from the heady power-spice blend I enjoyed last year.

    Let’s see…last year’s “A” came in the “Happiness” bamboo tube, this years in the “Nado Poizokhang” Bamboo tube. Last years color: A nice deep brown This years color: deep magenta-red.

    Last Years(2008) Grade “A”: Deep Spice–a lot going on, unique, awakening, attention-getting. Put your nose in the “Happiness” Grade “A” tube and WOW!!! This Years(2009) Grade “A”: Smells like pure sandalwood. Nice, but this can’t possibly contain even half of the ingredients listed on the EoA website. Nose in the tube=faint sandalwood. Really, this years Grade “A” tube is closer to this years green box. A HUGE Difference!

    Even this year’s “B”, while a bit weaker than last years, was closer to last year’s “A”! I am just worried that the wonderful unique spiciness is thing of the past, PLEASE NO! SAY IT AIN’T SO!

    I am worried–are these changes permanent?

    Happiness,
    CJ

    • Sam said,

      March 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm

      I love Nado Poizokhang… at least, I did. I have another tube of Happiness on the way… we’ll see if I like the “new” scent as much. I’d be sad if it really had gone downhill; this is an excellent incense maker, and quite socially responsible too from what I hear.

      What I would really love to see would be the famous original Mindrolling recipe by the great Nyingma Buddhist master Terdak Lingpa. That might help solve the mystery of why Nado Poizokhang, Shechen and Mindrolling Monastery itself all say their incenses are based on his formula, and yet they all smell different!

  6. January 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    […] you are a Tibetan-style fan, you owe it to yourself to try Nado Poizokhang Grade A.  It is in the same vein as Tibetan Monastery Incense and equally as good.  I actually have […]

  7. Steve said,

    January 18, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Enjoying a stick of the A grade this morning – it’s from stock I purchased a year or two ago and is brick red in color. Would hate to think they have changed the formulation. It is wonderfully rich – a sweet, spicy, savory aroma that only Tibetan Monastery Incense approximates in my opinion (many other Tibetans seem drier, smokier or more acrid to me) and, oddly, always registers as a carnivorous scent. Roasting a large piece of meat which has been heavily rubbed with seasonings – chili powder, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and more – over an open fire. Consequently, this and TMI are often burned in my kitchen, especially in the winter months, when I make a hearty meal of chili, roasts or Moroccan lamb tagines.

    Definitely in my top-10 Tibetans, if not top-5. This “style”, again, largely only includes TMI in my experience. I frequently have cravings for this “style”. The other note worthy “style” being the Holy Land/Nectar “style”. These 2 styles hold the top-5 slots in my favorite Tibetan incense roster.

  8. C.J. said,

    December 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Just got the newest (2009) N.P.’s from E of A. Gotta say…Grade “A” this year is quite a different color than last year’s stock. The scent is also different, not as heady, not as deep. There is a herbi-ness lacking. Like wine, perhaps this differs by year,m or due to the economy? Oddly enough, my box of “A” contained much redder incense, with a much more sandalwoody smell, as opposed to last year’s Dark Brown Festival of Scent. Gone was last year’s “Happiness” stark and rich herbal dark blend. The “B” Grade also was lighter colored (and redder) and smelled more sandalwoody than last year’s. Even the green box of “E” grade has a sandalwood base now.

    A Bad thing? No, still quite the pleasant smell….but one more big question mark about how much to buy in bulk. Grade “D” had a better herb content reminiscentof last year’s “A” and “B”, but grade “C” was almost pure Sandalwoody goodness (and light brown in color). HELP!!! Is the traditional Bhutanese Nado Poizhang trying to change for western noses? Is it the economy and/or availability of ingrediants? Whew. I don’t mind the changes…but can we get some clarity….can we go back and capture old scents?

    ~~C.J.

    • Mike said,

      January 4, 2010 at 10:24 am

      CJ, thanks a lot for chipping in and giving us your thoughts on various incenses. I have to admit Nado Poizokhang leaves me very confused. I’ve seen numerous internet reviews singing high praise to the sticks but as much as I like what I’ve tried I think only the Grade A even competes with the better Tibetans, so have always wondered if ingredients and formulae have changed over the years. Certainly they have in nearly every company.

      • Sam said,

        March 23, 2010 at 8:18 pm

        I got some Grade A from EoA just a few days ago, and it smells as good to me as it ever has – rich, spicy, complex. I have no idea what happened with the box CJ sampled, but mine smells just fantastic. My confidence in this brand is restored and I won’t hesitate to order more.

        I think this is simply a case of divergent tastes, Mike. You rave about Tibetan Medical College’s Holy Land, for example. I tried it and enjoyed it at first, but the more of it I burned, the more it smelled like the urine of frightened cats. I think I’ll have to stay away from heavy musk incenses in the future – aside from ethical concerns, the scent just gives me the creeps. I like Lotus Ground too, but I’m not crazy about it. Nado just has a comforting ginger snap aroma to it that I really enjoy.

        I also tried their pure Cinnamon Incense for the first time, and wow, was it ever worth it. Good cinnamon has a rich fruitiness to it that really comes out in this incense.

        • Mike said,

          March 24, 2010 at 7:25 am

          Sam, the whole subject of incense is about subjective tastes and the fact I run ORS only makes my opinions, perhaps, more public. But I do have a philosophy here, that it’s best to stick to the incenses at hand, by dragging a couple of my favorites into this Nado Poizokhang thread, you’re making an issue about my tastes (which is fine, but I probably would feel differently if it occured to one of my other readers or writers). I don’t consider my opinions or tastes to be better or worse than anyone else’s, but I do think it’s more constructive, if you felt the need to write a contrary opinion of Holy Land or Lotus Ground, to have done it in that thread and just made it about the incense.

          Thanks for the heads up on the Cinnamon, I’ve been curious about that one.

  9. Ed Powers said,

    June 3, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    The A grade of PN is the one that exemplifies what himalayan incenses should be…complicated, rich, intense and calming. Most of them wind up smelling like ganja or a campfire. A measure of the regard this brand receives (particularly the A grade in the bamboo tube) is the delight with which Tibetan Lamas and monastics receive it as a gift.


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