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.