Tibetan Medical College / Holy Land Long Stick/Grade 2

In many ways I met my perfect incense match with Tibetan Medical College’s Holy Land, one of the world’s most potent and incredible scents. I reported on this incense and Nectar recently and it sold out at the United States’ only distributor, Essence of the Ages, soon after, leaving me looking at about 16 or 17 sticks in my box, wondering when we’d get to see it again. It apparently wasn’t too long as it appears to be in stock again, but along with the restocking came some news, the listed “long stick” version of Holy Land wasn’t actually just a longer stick, but a different incense. It’s now listed as the Grade 2 version of Holy Land, which seems quite accurate to my nose, except for that part where we mentally think, “Oh, it’s a lower grade, so it probably won’t be that great.”

I was actually considering Nectar as the “Grade 2” for quite a while, but this long stick incense actually shows that to be more of a sideways step. Even with the typical Tibetan Medical College scent mixed in, Nectar’s a bit more floral and even berry-like at times. The Grade 2 itself, which comes in a cellophane wrapper and is quite a bit of incense, 40 sticks well over a foot in length, is unquestionably a variant of Holy Land. Essence is describing this as an incense with slightly lesser grade materials, and while that’s undoubtedly true, there’s something about the way this stick has been reformulated that will make you realize the brilliance of this college when it comes to making incense. Because they create a Grade 2 like everyone should. Yes the ingredients aren’t quite as deluxe, but rather than make what’s basically a “lesser” version of the original, the ingredient tweaking also makes it different enough so the quality drop necessitates an incense with a (slightly) new face.

With Holy Land at about $25 a box and the Grade 2 at about $30, there’s no question which one should be your first purchase, even if you are getting much more incense for your money with Grade 2, which not only has more, longer sticks but is also noticeably thicker. What you’re losing is some of the depth. In my Holy Land review I mentioned a floral thread. In the Grade 2 this thread, which provides a lot of the latent richness and depth to it, is missing. But strangely enough, this absence of depth gives the Grade 2 a strange, smooth polish to it. You get the wood and extracts aroma that reminds me of a bowl of pistachios, but without the more expensive ingredients that mostly work as an afterthought, qualities you’re more likely to pick up with experience than right away. The Grade 2 almost diverts your attention from what is missing (assuming, like me, you’re coming from the grade 1). This is really an excellent quality for a long stick incense, which is often formulated for lengthy meditation periods. I noticed similar qualities in Shoyeido’s Zen series, scent formulations that hold the question in your mind rather than give you an answer. You end up finding over time that this really is Holy Land reformulated for a long session.

By all means, do try the standard Holy Land first, it’s an incense you don’t want to miss. And if you really fall for it like I did, I think you’ll find Grade 2 to be a really neat way of expanding your Holy Land experience, as the extremely long stick gives you that time period to drift away and rediscover repeatedly. It’s a surprisingly elegant incense, like meditating on a paradox. The only shame here is that TMC don’t have 12 other incenses I have yet to discover.

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7 Comments

  1. Terra Renee said,

    August 5, 2015 at 5:25 am

    This stick is finally back in stock after years! Man, am I going to HOARD these monster sticks! I still have 8 of my super old sticks left, and now, now at last, I can burn them! At least, until I get my order of new Holy Land Grade 2, when I’ll see if it’s as good as the old version.

    • Mike said,

      August 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      New Grade 2 stock smells no different to me than the old stock, so all is good on this one.

      • Terra Renee said,

        August 7, 2015 at 1:49 pm

        Great! I ordered two rolls of Grade 2 and one roll of regular Holy Land. So glad to know they still smell great.

      • Gregg said,

        August 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

        I just got my rolls of Holy Land Grade 2 today, and agree 100% that it has not suffered in quality at all over the years that it hasn’t been available here. Honestly, to me, after 5 minutes of burning it seems hard to distinguish #1 from the Grade 2 and feel that considering the price, buying 1 roll of Grade 2 gives you the same coverage as 2 boxes of #1. Doing the math, I see myself headed back for more today before EoA runs out again for 5 years 🙂 I don’t know if Beth can confirm this or not, but my thought, considering the packaging, etc., is that the Grade 2 stick is designed for in country (Tibet) use only at the monastery, probably for worshippers to place in front of the Buddha, hence the large, many hour size designed for a large area. This is opposed to #1, which seems to be designed with export in mind, smaller area coverage, but to my nose, no real difference in quality/formula as is noticeable with the Nectar.

        • Mike said,

          August 20, 2015 at 1:34 pm

          Gregg, I’d agree, #2 and #1 were always pretty close anyway but they do seem to be close to identical at this point. When lots of good incenses disappear over time, it’s nice to see TMC keeping these going. Still some of the best incense in the world IMO.

          • Terra Renee said,

            September 9, 2015 at 3:21 pm

            Got my order of Grade 2 awhile ago. I ordered 3 rolls. Already I’ve plowed through what was left of my old roll and have used almost half of one of the new rolls. It truly smells amazing. I don’t know if I just don’t have the advanced olfactory senses to notice it, but I burned Holy Land Grade 1 after burning Grade 2, and noticed only a slight difference. Grade 1 seems a bit stronger, but that’s it. Grade 2, imo, is the best buy. If you have a more sensitive nose and can notice more differences, then I’m sure grade 1 is the best buy, but for me, it’s always going to be Grade 2 (until it goes out of stock again).

            Also got a single roll of Lotus Ground. It was very expensive, but WOW! Those bright red sticks are long and last forever. They also smell great. Still, not as good as Holy Land. If anything, the prices should be switched. Lotus Ground should be the cheaper one and Holy Land the more expensive. Of course, I’m not complaining since Holy Land is my favorite and the cheap price makes it more accessible.

  2. Mike said,

    November 4, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Wanted to add another comment about how much I’m loving this version of Holy Land. The thicker stick and longer length really enhance the general experience and I’m finding the more I use it the more the Grade 1 and 2 are converging. If you love Holy Land as much as I do I’d say this is a must buy.


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