Song of India; Incense from India / India Temple; Damascus Cedar, Golden Sandalwood, Shimmer, Russian Rose

Incense from India may very well be the largest line of Indian incenses in the US market. Their website claims to have over 200 different fragrances. I first discovered this line of incenses in the mid 90s and while my tastes have changed quite a bit since then, many of my early favorites came from this line. To name a few that used to be at the top of my list but that I haven’t ordered since I started in on Japanese incense: Enchanted Garden (like Shrinivas Sugandhalaya’s Valley of Roses but much better), Golden Frankincense (resiny and peppery), Honey Dust (like Satya Natural) and Snow Apricot (a slightly fruity durbar). I’ve probably forgotten more scents from this line than I currently remember, but five came in as samplers a while back and I thought I’d log my impressions. But be assured that I don’t consider the incenses in question here among the line’s best by any means.

Incense from India, like just about all Indian incense, is very affordable and most if not all packages are well under $5, although the number of sticks per package may vary. One of the things I remember about the company is they sell bulk and it’s usually in that category where you can tell how deluxe a particular stick is, usually the durbars tend to be the high enders in this category (although, a charcoal dipped in white sandalwood oil, one of the few incenses that vein I’ve liked, was the highest at one point). The five incenses in question seem to all be masalas of a sort except for the first one, which is also a charcoal incense dipped in oil.

And as you can imagine, I don’t care too much for India Temple incense. It appears to be made by Song of India, and my sample came with the statement “Smells just like temples in India” which appears to fit the description. Well I’d like to hold out a bit better hope for how Indian temples smell. Like most charcoals, this is rather unpleasantly smoky, with an overwhelmingly spicy and floral oil that becomes cloying not soon after lighting. It’s difficult to tell what’s the oil and what’s the punk at times, all which mark a very low quality incense.

Damascus Cedar appears to be charcoal based on description, which would account for its off notes, but it appeared more like a masala to my eyes color wise. It struck a fairly decent balance between the superior Himalayan cedar trees and the ones that smell like pencil shavings. It’s fairly rich and dry, but like most charcoals and masalas the smoke makes it overwhelming at times, although at least in this case there’s no true bitter notes to exacerbate the aroma. From memory, I believe the line has better cedar incenses.

I do remember IfI’s Golden Sandalwood, after all it’s a slight variation on a classic masala blend (I seem to remember Blue Pearl having one similar, at least). While I tend to prefer oil heavy sandalwood durbars, it would be impossible to say Golden Sandalwood is unpleasant, rather it almost strikes me as the typical average Indian sandalwood, with many poorer and better on either side. Many of IfI’s incenses starting with Golden are often their best, but this wouldn’t be one of those. At least it has the buttery and spicy sandalwood smell, accentuated over the pure wood by other aromatics.

I don’t see Shimmer in the catalog anymore, maybe it was discontinued or perhaps it was pulled for its low quality. This is the sort of harsh and somewhat cheap or synthetic masala blend that while aiming for a sort of old school temple blend in style, ends up being something of a mess. I thought it was quite soapy and bitter overall, it’s hard to believe someone would burn this for pleasure.

Russian Rose is a masala and I have to come out in front saying I generally really dislike Indian rose masalas, in fact it wasn’t until I just tried Shoyeido/Royal/Rose that I actually found a rose I enjoyed, so I’m already fairly biased against this scent. Like most floral masalas the base tends to compromise the top notes and in this case that top note is a somewhat pungent rose oil that’s almost abrasive in its intensity. The overall aroma comes off like many commecial spray deoderizers, but at least it’s not as inferior as some I’ve tried.

Overall, the existence of this article is to note these in passing. While I’d love to enthuse over the better incenses in the Incense for India catalog, given that I’m finding most of my old Indian incenses sitting more in drawers than in holders, it’s hard to imagine when that would be. But I did want to make a point of this so that people aren’t necessarily turned off of the whole catalog by this unrepresentative handful.

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21 Comments

  1. Victoria said,

    January 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I was searching for what *is in* India Temple to see if it would fight off bugs. I too (like the first commenter) searched “Song of India”. I assumed that was the incense name. Now I know 🙂 I recently got “Blue Pearl Citronelle” for burning outside when I sit in the evening. I live in Florida and even in “cooler” temps I am a mosquito magnet. Well, I “burned through” that pretty quickly (liked that quite a bit obviously). I have some old (2 years) India Temple and Nag Champa. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the Nag Champa packaged well. The India Temple though, I did. So, I opened it up and *remembered* why I didn’t use it. There actually are a couple of non 5-star reviews on Amazon (perhaps written after this post). Your review sums up exactly how I feel though. I’m glad I’m not alone. Beautiful packaging though. Grin.

    • Victoria said,

      January 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      make that “last commenter”…oops

  2. CV_Worpress said,

    June 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I am grinning – I found the site searching for “Song of India”.

    Actually I have never used or smelled the Incense – only the hand lotion and oil, and I am truly enchanted by it as have been from the first slightest scent.

    Happy to have found your site!

    Deb

  3. August 31, 2009 at 10:29 am

    […] buy enough for a true review at least any time soon. Here’s the previous example of sampler notes on a few of their incenses and if you click on the Incense from India category on the left you can […]

  4. April 9, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    […] 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm (Incense, Incense from India, India) Incense from India 1 Incense from India […]

  5. March 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    […] 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm (Incense, Incense from India, India) My first review (or sampler notes) of Incense from India product wasn’t particularly flattering to the incenses, so I wanted to make my second installment […]

  6. Mike said,

    May 25, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for writing. If only all the prices were one too eh? 🙂 – Mike

  7. Anonymous said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:27 am

    there is a good many unbelievable almost free indian incenses, all with wonderful aromas. having favorites is like saying i love our middle son the best, when each one is so different, and in their own way a little different and unrefined. I tend to sympathetic to every leaf on every tree. India temple was one of my favorites when on the road working, an unmistakable scent, and a soul all its own. Sometimes a bit brash, but a little goes a long way, even the unburned scent is enough, what is it anyway, a mysterious thing….duh…..japanese incense may seem better during a certain period of time, but all is one, and alchemy is obviously beyond your base sense impulses. maybe you should take all your favorits and top 10’s and burn them all at the same time…mmmmm now that is good.

    • Robert Green said,

      October 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      This is a response to the critique of Song of Indias “India Temple Incense”. The first time I found this was in a store where I was actually looking for a very specific resin. I found this [India temple incense] with my nose and was enchanted by it instantly. I’m sure that this reviewer will instantly take me for someone who cannot find the qualities of a good kyara or other highbrow[read high dollar] scents favorable since I am drawn to what he describes as something obviously beneath his contempt, but It got a great review from the owner of the store, who just happened to be there that day. On my way out the door no less than three others just walking by me were captivated by the scent, and probaly ended up buying some themselves. To be honest when I first burned it I was shocked by the purity of the scent, I did not have to get in the smoke column but rather three feet away was good enough, still quite enchanting. Everyone I have shared this with has been entranced by it and not once have I heard a negative word about it, that is until I read this review here. All I can say is that I guess that we are dealing with one of two things here. Either you got some that was contaminated, packaged wrong or just a plain bad batch, the latter I doubt. The other idea I have, is that the reviewer is one of those people you hear about, the ones with no grasp on reality, the kind that will tell you that you are low class if you like a certain kind of cheap incense that his circles do not and therefore you are beneath him, that or he is one that has to be told what is good and what is bad, not realizing that most people that love incense [the standard odifacatuer, if you will] {I made up that word to classify the incense loving people of the world} when they read a critique of any particular scent, they do not want the reviewers take on it at least not foremost. What they want is a detailed description, the brand name, where it is made, the ingredients used, the reputation of the manufacturer, the yeild and the length of time it takes to burn. Secondarily they may want an individuals interpretation of the scent, for instance as to whether or not it is completely foul. Other than a few other personal preferences of what they want from reviewers, most odifacatuers knowing basically what they are looking for in a scent, like to make up their own mind as to how it smells to them. In this field I think that other than whether or not it is completely foul each scent refuses to be kept by just one persons tastes and therefore should not be described by it, oh sure you can say whether or not you liked it, but as for the specifics you should mostly keep those to yourself unless otherwise specifically asked about them. But well just like anything else in the world this is just another opinion, my take on it. I’m sure you’ve heard others opinions on this and in the spot you’re in will probably continue to do so. I truly hope you have your own individual tastes and have something that appeals to them on a regular basis, because without them all we have is hearsay>>

      • Mike said,

        October 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

        I’m the reviewer and I still stand by my opinion. But really, wow lol.

        • Robert Green said,

          November 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm

          Hello Mike, I have just re-read my post and I must say that I now seriously regret the personal indications and the statements that I expressed with regard to your opinion. Those statements could easily be calssified as offensive and insulting and have no place here on your blog. As such I would like to formally retract those words that were mean-spirited, spiteful and clearly unwarranted in your blog which clearly is otherwise free of such statements at least it was until now. I greatly appreciate your site and the venue that it has created for others like myself with a penchant for incense like some people have for say, wine, golf or even air! I want to make sure you understand that I truly meant no disrespect, I just sort of ran off at the[mouth] keyboard. In the future you can expect me to remain free of such mean spirited, unwelcome attitudes and personal references, as I clearly see that they do not belong here, and I will try to remain true to the spirit in which you founded this site. Thank you for all of your time and effort put towards this site, I will not take it for granted again! Sincerely, Robert Green

          • Mike said,

            November 17, 2009 at 8:50 am

            Hey Robert, thanks for posting this, I appreciate it. Water under the bridge…

  8. Mark said,

    May 22, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks Mike, I’ll definitely check those out.

  9. Mike said,

    May 21, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Mark, just tell the neighbors you’re in a jam band and they might even move. 😀

    If I was to pick out a champa at this point it would definitely be a Ramakrishnanda. I had to remind myself about the Shyam and realized there’s a couple new ones, Krishna and Radha in that line. My main question with this line is that since it’s a new one, I’m afraid the incenses’ best qualities will disappear quickly with age, although I haven’t noticed anything like that yet. If they don’t, I can imagine these at the pinnacle of the champa style.

    And Mark if you do like the Shyam, I’d recommend the Incense Works two Sandalwood incenses. One’s called Precious Sandalwood (in red box) and the other I think is something with deluxe in the title (in a green box).

  10. Mark said,

    May 21, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Sounds good! The only drawback is that I’m constantly afraid the neighbors will think I’ve started a hippie drum circle in the backyard 😉

    Mark

  11. Steve said,

    May 21, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I second that – thanks for the “outside burn” tip, Mark. I could see this being nice on the porch as I grill on summer evenings. May give it a try tonight as a matter of fact. Funny that has never occurred to me before!

    Steve

  12. Mark said,

    May 21, 2008 at 10:26 am

    In fact, Ramakrishnananda Narasingha Dev is sublime in the garden–especially after a rain. Thanks Mike for an earlier recommendation of this one. I also quite like Shyam for which your phrase ‘garden of black blossoms at midnight’ is also a propos. When my partner first got a whiff, he said that it reminded him of something pleasant but sinister–with sort of a haunted house vibe. Unbeknownst to him, the company’s description of Shyam is ‘Beautiful Dark One’.

  13. Mike said,

    May 21, 2008 at 9:38 am

    That’s a great tip Mark! Gives the strength of the aroma more space to dissipate. Maybe there’s hope for my champa drawer yet. 🙂

  14. Mark said,

    May 21, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Don’t know if you have much outdoor space, but I find I’m loving my champas, masalas, dhoops etc. outside now. The ‘finer’ stuff is for indoors, but the Indians carry far on a still evening, and I sense subtleties I hadn’t noticed before.

    Mark

  15. Mike said,

    May 21, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I’ve got a drawer full of Indian champas and such that I’ve barely touched since I started in on Japanese and Tibetan incenses. And it’s not that I don’t like them anymore as much as there’s so much I like better now. I might end up getting rid of most of the stock myself. But I hope to talk about them here before I do that, but that will likely happen over a larger period of time given how little I reach for them now.

  16. Steve said,

    May 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    If you have nothing nice to say 🙂

    My last purchase, before discovering Mike’s Prattle and Japanese incense, was an order of 23 packages of Incense of India, a brand that was new to me and I was anxious to investigate. Was largely disappointed in what seemed like cheap punks dipped in oil – and this was solely based on my then current Indian-incense-only context. Ironically, I didn’t mind Russian Rose in that it was not over-the-top floral and bright but actually had a lot of contributing smokiness/woodiness. But this is probably a case of generally hating Indian-rose offerings and trying to give credit to this at least having a bit of smoky punch behind it. Anyhoo, haven’t opened half of the packages to this day. In a strictly Indian context, I found them to smell “cheap”. With the discovery of Japanese incense, my remaining IofI stock will either find its way to the next fire in the ol’ fireplace next fall or Craig’s List 🙂

    Hope I don’t offend anyone with my opinions, but if you’re here, you probably have more discriminating taste 🙂 I admire your generosity here Mike for not pronouncing a firmer, harsher judgement that might easily be handed down…

    Steve


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