Gonesh / Vanilla, Cinnamon, Raspberry

This is the first write up where I feel like I’m putting my boxing gloves on and getting ready to rumble. I picked up a package of Gonesh a year or so before starting the incense resource at Mike’s Prattle, when I’d walked into a local store one day and found myself a little weary at picking up another box of Nag Champa or another common Shrinivas scent, so even though I knew it would be trouble, I picked up this three in one package of the dreaded “charcoal dipped” style. When I first tried them, I wasn’t at all impressed, but it’s nothing like my post-Japanese incense nose, which actually prefers the smell of burning California forests to these scents.

There appears to be very little natural about these scents. One page has the claim that Gonesh incense has the “highest charcoal content of any brand on the market,” a statement that will make many of us scratch our heads over the idea that this might be a good thing. I’d argue that this, in part, is exactly what makes their incense so unpleasant. No matter what “high quality raw materials” they use, very little about any of these incenses strikes me as remotely natural, rather the aromas are more like air fresheners or other synthetic oils and perfumes. And this is why this is likely to be the last review an incense of this style here (no doubt I’ve broken one of my own rules already).

The Vanilla reminds me of the smell of extract in the bottle, but that’s only the top note, the rest of the oil is more in the hair or bottle spray mode. The charcoal’s probably the most hidden here, but don’t take that for invisibility, it’s still there with its characteristic abrasiveness. This may be a cleansing scent in its own way, but so is 2 oz of Listerine. In particular, the finish on this one was brutal. With all three of these, it took maybe a week in between for me to brave another light, just so I could finish my notes up. And in most cases the stick was put out after about 2-3 minutes when I started to feel like I was choking.

The Cinnamon has an oil like a cinnamon-flavored toothpick made out of nuclear material. The charcoal here is even more harsh. While it’s obviously more affordable than most cinnamon incenses, a comparison of this to, say, Baieido’s Koh is as one-sided as the Lakers playing your local high school team. I’d as soon have this scent coming from the bucket of hot water and cleaner I use to wash a car.

The Raspberry is the least unpleasant of the three. It reminds me of taking Raspberry Bubblicious gum, especially that gooey, aromatic center they have. The charcoal’s still harsh but it doesn’t conflict with the oil as badly as the Cinnamon. As the stick continued to burn the aroma turned more to something like raspberry cough syrup and the smoke got quite cloying. While the California fires at the moment probably have something to do with it as well, my eyes were starting to sting after a few minutes.

To say the least, the charcoal dipped incense stick kind of ruins the idea of incense for many people, it’s far more common than it deserves to be and belies the idea that there are really excellent incenses out there that have none of this sort of harshness or clouds of choking smoke. To say the least, these are among the most unpleasant scents I’ve ever tried, although to be fair they’re a little smoother than other charcoal lines (not counting, of course, some of the Baieido charcoals which are in a different league). I’d recommend not only avoiding this but the whole style in general.



  1. Mike said,

    July 14, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Agree on the Shiun, Rob. Thanks for the comments, Terry!

  2. Terry said,

    July 12, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Hi all,

    The only Japanese product that incorporates fragrance oils that I really appreciate are the Baieido Lisn – there are some real beauties in this line.

    Umm, Rob, I think you meant Shoyeido LISN.

    BTW Mike, thanks for this place from an incense user that goes way back…

  3. Rob M. said,

    July 11, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Mike –

    Kai Un Koh is a real beauty as well – and at a great price. Kyukyodo’s Shiun has to be one of the best bargains of all time – 400 sticks for under $80.00. That’s quite a deal! And I love the smell of aloewood. Years ago I used to get pieces of actual wood and put them on tinfoil at very low heat on the electric burner of my stove. The smell was just incredible and lasted for days and days. I understand that in certain temples or mosques in the East the walls are permeated with the scent of oud because they have been burning this type of incense for a long time.
    It is really great to have Ross’ reviews as well. The incense from both the Transfiguration Monastery and the Mermade Magikal Arts sound really intriguing. I will have to break down and buy an incense burner!
    I do hope you get a chance to enjoy the Shroff scents. The whole concept of Indian incense is a little different from Japanese: with the Japanese I can sit five to ten feet from the burning stick and enjoy the haunting fragrance but if I did this with most of the Indian I would be choking. I usually burn my agarbathis in the lower family room when I am planning to spend time in my living room which is one floor up.

    Best Wishes to both you and Ross,

    Rob M.

  4. Mike said,

    July 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Rob, thanks for the suggestions on the charcoal sticks, I’ve tried none of the ones you’ve mentioned and would be happy to find a few good ones. I did have one exception that the Incense from India line used to have (I think the last time I checked they’d stopped carrying it) called White Sandalwood. It was at the time one of the highest end Indian incenses I’d tried, with a really great, premium sandalwood oil. The sticks were very skinny which probably reduced the negatives of the charcoal quite a bit.

    Really want to check out the Shroff line too. I was really impressed with the Ramakrishnanda incenses when they came out, so if the Shroffs are remotely in the same ballpark, I’m going to have to give them a try.

    And yeah, I’m freaked over Kobunboku, it’s one of the few non-aloeswood incenses I continue to think about a lot, it’s just so good for the price. In fact I’m finding myself more and more inclined to Baieido sandalwood based incenses, there’s something really great about the quality of wood they use. It’s definitely one of the first incenses I think of in working on our “Starter Incense” project. It may very well be the best bargain for its price, although I’d have to say both Kai Un Koh and Kokonoe Koh are also incredible bargains.

  5. Rob M. said,

    July 11, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hey Mike –

    Granted the Gonesh sticks are pretty pathetic, particularly the ones you tested. However, there are a number of Indian sticks that are largely charcoal and have been dipped that are – in my opinion – excellent. Vinasson’s Green Rose, Padmini’s Gold Statue, Mysore Sugandhi’s Gateway to India are all very good. Many of the dubars or champas have also been dipped. This gives the incense maker a huge pallet from which to work; Indian incense is much more diverse than the traditional Japanese product.. I have not been particularly impressed with Japanese incense that has been dipped. I recently tried the new Nippon Kodo’s Mimosa and it was pretty bad – no mimosa smells like this! The only Japanese product that incorporates fragrance oils that I really appreciate are the Baieido Lisn – there are some real beauties in this line.
    While the Indians do not have the subtlety of the higher quality Japanese, they also have their own virtues: strength and vibrancy. I, too, have been entranced by the delicacy and depth of my Japanese choices, however since I have a number of Indian friends, the agarbathis are always present and make great gifts since they use these daily in their prayers.
    My current favourites include: Minorien’s Sandalwood and Aloewood, Tennendo’s Frankincense (there is none better), Encense du Monde’s Mont Fuji, Shroff’s Amber Rose and Red Sandal and Kyukyodo’s Shiun. Mike, I am glad to hear that you are a fan of Baieido’s Kobunboku. It has been a favourite of mine for many, many years. I think it is the best bargain in Japanese incense: a superb product at a cheap price. What more could one wish?
    Thanks for the excellent site; I am really enjoying a lot of your recommendations.

    Best Wishes,

    Rob M.

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