Coming Soon / Some thoughts

As we start winding down in the last quarter of 2008, particularly as we get to the election, November and December holidays, reviews will get a bit sparser from me. Right now I’ve got a few things ready to go including my next write up of Shrinivas Sugandhalaya incenses (Aastha, Ajaro, Vishwa Shanti, Fantasy, Valley of Roses), Mentsi Khang Bhutanese (Mih), and Kunmeido Reiryo Koh, Reiryo Koh Aloeswood and Shoryu Koh. In the plans, provided I can find time (ha!), are a number of Direct Help Foundation incenses, five from Mystic Temple, Tibetan Yak, four from the Himalayan Herbal Centre, three from Stupa, two from Zongkar Choede, another five from Shrinivas, three low end Shunkodos (Chinsoku Koh, Shun Koh Sen and Houshou). And then, probably stretching into next year: lots of incenses from the venerable Shroff Channabasappa (these are really great btw), an unsual perfumed Tibetan incense (listed as Labrang on Essence, it’s actually something like Snowfield Chinese Herbal Incense from Labuleng called Zang), two incenses from Snow Land, five from Tashi Lhunpo, four Lama Chodpas from Nub Gon, eight Gyokushodos, Highland Powder, Kaqyupa Monastery’s Blue Sky, a few more clean ups from Nippon Kodo and another group of Encens du Monde sandalwoods.

A few quick notes on some of these. As I mentioned just a second ago, there’s something really fine about the Shroff C. incenses. They remind me of the scents I grew up with before a lot of the Indian majors seemed to go more synthetic or changed their recipes. Here the perfume are startlingly clear and very authentic. The Red Sandal, in particular, is really impressing, like a firey, cherry-laced sandalwood. Really fond of the Green Durbar too.

I’m quite psyched about the above mentioned Blue Sky incense, which seems to come from an Ayan Rinpoche recipe. It’s surprisingly premium for a South Indian Tibetan stick, with high quality woods, spices and an almost raisin-like central note.

I tried the Wabi Sabi Reiryo-Koh/Spikenard incense from Awaji Baikundo. I’m not quite sure what to make of it yet except it’s VERY reminiscent of Korean incenses with a tangy flavor. It is, however, unusual in a way I haven’t placed yet.

Quite liking the Snow Land Peace incense as well, which is listed on Essence in the various pages as Tibetan Peace (the box is fabulous with that almost psychedelic-like Tibetan artwork). It’s dry like the Medicine Kings but shot through with a number of unique spiced.

Over and out…

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3 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    October 27, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Rob, thanks a lot for the recommendations and comments. As someone who likes the smell of fresh flowers and bouquets I’m always tripped out over how much I usually dislike floral incense, so I’m really happy to be discovering some I think are great (bitterness and soapiness are always issues for me). And it’s good timing because I’ve finally gotten my taste for Indian incense back, now that I’m rediscovering old favorites for write up and realizing they just needed a year or two of rest after getting hit between the eyes with the Japanese high ends. The Shroffs really did rejuvenate my faith in the style. With all this talk about lesser quality ingredients, this company manages incredible perfumes in the durbar style with prices that top out just over $2 for 25g. That’s a far better deal than most Indian durbars, many of which are inferior.

    As far as Dzongsar goes, I think it really does have a negative curve to it. I think it’s a profound incense in terms of its ability to stir up one’s subconscious (which is something I prize highly and which led me to rate initial impressions so highly), but there’s really something about the overall aroma that seems to increase its difficulty of enjoyment with every stick. Part of that is it’s just so potent, even a one inch fragment will scent my place, so that I’ll go out, come back and the whole place smells like it. I’ve given the benefit of the doubt to incenses like this by calling them “difficult” hoping that by getting over the unfamiliarity I’d come to enjoy them, but over time the sweaty, funky qualities of some Tibetan herbs actually get worse, in the same way that being forced to hear music you initially dislike will continue to intensify your dislike. Unfortunately this seems to be the way Dzongsar is heading for most of us, which is a shame as its potency is definitely rare.

    I think Incense from India incorporate the Shanthimalai champas into their line. While I used to think the champa was tied with the Blue Box version, I used to adore that company’s Sai Flora variant, it’s one of several Incense from India incenses I want to revisit, probably next year some time.

  2. Rob M. said,

    October 27, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Hello Mike –

    Glad to hear that you are liking the Shroff incense. Yes, the Red Sandal is great and the Nargis is a very rich floral. I haven’t tried the Guggul but since this scent comes from the myrrh tree I can imagine what it is like. Il’ll try it on my next purchase. The Indian Flower is quite similar to Vinason’s Green Rose. Amber Rose and Sandal Flora are among my favourite floral incenses since the sweetness of the flowers of cut with the dryer base. You are quite right about the quality of the Satya product: it is simply not as good as it used to be. The Sai Baba Nag Champa used to be wonderful but I much prefer the Shanthimalai Nag Champa at present.
    Thanks to Ross for the information about the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The fragrances are lovely: I don’t think you can find better quality floral incense anywhere. The Royal Violet, Tsaritsa, Rose Geranium and Damascus Rose are top-notch with the floral oils merging into the resin bases very beautifully.
    Some incenses you may appreciate trying are:
    Puspa’s Green Mogra
    Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory’s Gateway of India
    Parekh’s Great Himalaya of India
    In addition I have recently purchased some wonderful incense from England called Pure-Incense. They have an on-line site and I think you would like a lot of their product (but not their Agarwood – not even close to the true scent).
    I continue to enjoy the Japanese scents you have recommended. Some of the cheaper scents such as Baieido’s Kobunboku and Kunjudo’s Karin are quite wonderful and worth many times their cost.
    The only scent I have not appreciated – at least yet – is Dzongsar. This is one raunchy fragrance! But I will give it another shot.
    Thanks again for your wonderful site.

    Best Wishes,

    Rob M.

  3. Mike said,

    October 23, 2008 at 9:22 am

    More thoughts:

    A second stick of the Wabi-Sabi was very promising. There’s a depth to it similar to the Jihi and it definitely has a very noticeable spikenard presence that can be surprising at times during the burn. Only the top 2 or 3 Koreans have this much depth.

    Burned another stick of the Shroff Red Sandal. It’s to die for. What a perfume! Even the florals seem to be great in this line, the Nargis is easily one of the most pleasant florals I’ve ever tried. The Guggul Bathi is very similar to Catholic/Eastern Orthodox resin blends.

    On the “whoops” side: Bhim Lama Green Champa. I will have to suffer to get a review out on this one, it could imply that adding perfume oils to Tibetan incenses is generally a very bad idea.

    I’m not really warming to the lion’s share of Mandala Art & Trading “thick sticks.” These are the ones with the boudha leaf motif. I did like the Green Tara (thanks Bernd!) but the others all seem to be missing punch and distinction. On the thin stick side, I quite liked the Guru Padmakara which adds a smooth sophistication to what is basically a very evergreen/campfire sort of incense.

    And in the “whoa!” category, the Mindroling Grade 3. While I can see why these are graded, each incense is so different from one another that it’s hard to think of one being worse than the other. And in this case I might like the Grade 3 the best, it has a herbal or raisin-like richness (similar to the above mentioned Blue Sky) that gives it more potency than either the grade 1 or 2. But more on those when I get to a review.


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