In the last couple weeks I’ve covered some of the best Tibetan incenses available, now it’s time to move over to the other end of the spectrum. In fact and in part, the incenses here had a delaying effect on my exploration into Tibetan incense as a group of several incenses I bought at a nearby store that did little to impress. All five of these incenses come in a “gift pack” which is basically a cardboard box that packages the five boxes. This article was updated on September 22, 2008 to amend the company name to Lucky Tibetan Incense Co.
The main issue with all five of these incenses is that there’s too great a commonality among them. It gives the, perhaps incorrect, impression that all five incenses share the same base and vary in terms of essential oils or some other ingredient that strikes me as “flavoring” of a sort. While I do get the impression that it’s possible I might have picked up a box that has aged to its detriment, the fact that several of these leave a grey-bluish ash gives me the impression these incenses are comprised mostly of cheaper woods with small fractions of other ingredients to distinguish them. Some of the incenses are colored as well, Kailash blue, Kalachakra red and Green Tara being self evident. In fact the incenses that give off the blueish ash happen to be these three colored sticks and they all happen to be the incenses in the “gift pack” that are the most inferior.
Green Tara, where the gift pack gets its name, is one of the incenses that seems to be a wood base with slight flavoring and perhaps even essential oils. The base seems heavily cedarwood and not particularly high quality, with light sandalwood or sandalwood oil content. The main difference between this and the other incenses other than the green color are hints of patchouli in the front. Overall, it lacks character and has a bit of unwelcome bitterness to the burn.
Kailash is blue and presents many of the same issues with the least amount of post-wood aromatics in the group. It also has a cedarwood or similar base and presents a very dull aroma. It’s possible the oils or other aromatics had volatized from this incense during the aging, to give it the benefit of the doubt, but even were that true it should leave more of a trace than my stick has. I can’t remember seeing a Tibetan stick that had a natural color like this, so I would think there would have to be additives of a kind. There may be a bit of resin in there somewhere, but overall I had the impression that this wasn’t much more than a cedarwood “blank.” To be honest I found the almost dozen-item long ingredients list to be surprising and difficult to believe (for instance there’s not even a hint of saffron that I can tell).
Kalachakra, while similar to the previous sticks, seems to have a slight bit of character to it. There’s, perhaps, some red sandalwood involved here that makes the the wood base differ slightly. But like Green Tara, it’s a bit bitter on the edges and seems to have very little aromatic impact over the central wood.
Mila is the first of the two tan sticks in the gift package and I believe the ash was a closer to the white/light grey you tend to get with most sticks. This is probably because the base seems to be more of a combination of sandalwood and benzoin and as such it’s slightly improved over the others. Unfortunately (and perhaps due to age) Mila’s an incredibly brittle stick, my box ended up being a container of various inch-long pieces. But at least in this case there’s some spice to liven up the aroma. And strangely enough, this appears to be the most expensive, singly, of the five incenses here.
Paljor Healing is probably the line’s incense the most akin to the typical Agar 31 blends, although I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking there’s too much agar here (aquilaria does seem to be an ingredient). It’s a bit too similar to Mila overall, but with a slight tangy background reminiscent of the general “healing incense” style which helps to make it marginally the most interest here. And it doesn’t appear to be quite as brittle.
Overall, the Paljor incenses easily fall into the 5% of Tibetan incenses at the bottom of the heap. They lack distinction and seem to go for cheaper materials, all of which make their incenses at worst a chore to burn and at best a generic experience.