Mandala Art & Incense have at least three incense ranges, two are identical in names and scents, but are basically stick and powder versions of the same line. The third is a thick stick line that comes in paper rolls decorated with a bodhileaf and an attached tag describing the incense. There are six incenses in this line and all six have one particular ingredient in common. It could be said that most of these incenses seem to have a base in common with each having a different ingredient riding on top, leaving many of the scents quite similar overall.
The odd thing about all of these incenses is that for how thick the sticks are (about a half inch in diameter), you would think that these would be profuse with smoke (think of the output of, say, Yog Sadhana). But the opposite is true, these in many ways are low smoke incenses with very mild aromas. They are so mellow that they’re fairly difficult to appraise. The aromas are completely natural with a base that tends to the evergreen and a top aroma that is extremely delicate and in some cases fleeting. In many ways there are really no other incenses like them, certainly I can’t remember too many smokeless or low smoke Tibetan incenses I’ve come across (only TDHF’s Ebionite really comes to mind). As a result they actually remind me a little of wood powders on a heater. The names of the incenses appear to come from Buddhist gods and goddesses, acting as the themes for each particular aroma.
Amitayu Buddha is a pine incense, but it’s quite a different pine than, say, the resinous backdrops of many Fred Soll incenses, the aroma being far more about the wood than the pitch. Like all the evergreen incenses in the line, the overall main ingredient seems somewhat submerged in the base, acting more as a note than a dominant theme. Also similar to the rest of the line, there’s a gentle sweetness to the scent that helps to balance out the base a little bit. In essence, it’s probably the mildest pine incense I’ve ever encountered and for the most part I missed the sharp pungency usually found with this evergreen variant.
Avalokistesvara is a eucalyptus incense, but again this is not a eucalyptus incense with a strong oil content by any means and is unlikely to clear your sinuses. Perhaps that’s to its strength as the result is a lot more gentle than you would expect with the characteristics of the tree leaf faint and not overwhelming. It’s actually slightly menthol-like in a way and overall this is one of the better in the line in terms of not having a base that clashes with the overall scent. Of course the result is low smoke and combined with its gentle nature it can be hard to pick up at times. But I found it fairly remarkable how restrained it is, given how eucalyptus can easily overwhelm any blend it’s a part of.
Green Tara is perhaps the line’s most successful incense, it could almost be the low smoke version of the Pilgrim incense that’s part of the same line with Yog Sadhana and Heritage. Green Tara is a sandalwood incense with a nice, fresh, slightly minty and, naturally, green scent. In some ways it’s the odd one out in the line, the least evergreen in nature with a slightly more apparent herbal content than the others. The mint has a very attractive spearmint-like flavor to it which is always fantastic when balanced like this (not as strong as the Mandala Trading Himalayan Herbal Incense, but in that direction). It’s a wonderfully sublime incense and of the six perhaps the smokiest by a slight margin.
Manjushree features vetivert, although it’s a somewhat mild vetivert and certainly not the earthy, herbal scent you’d expect. As such it leaves this incense without much of a personality, one not terribly different from the Amitayu Buddha or Avalokistesvara scents, where the mildness of the top ingredient lets the underlying woodiness through. The stick’s somewhat brick red in color and overall, similar to the pine, it doesn’t hit the notes like I’d expect. Due to the less smoke format it’s kind of tough to really get any herbal notes from the scent and the result is one of the more generic incenses in the line.
Namathosoey features myrrh which is kind of a natural for this format as it’s a large part of the above-mentioned, low smoke Ebionite. Like with the pine, the myrrh isn’t particularly resinous here, mostly what you get are i’s typical top notes without the underlying sweet resinous base. The myrrh in this case is mild enough where the wood competes a little too strongly, even clashing a little bit. But given the lack of smoke it never gets particularly harsh. Like most of the incenses it has a slight fleeting quality to the burn that’s the line’s biggest strength.
Samantahadra features juniper and thus seems the most inexpensive and woodiest of the bunch in terms of the scent. Like most incenses with juniper up top, the scent is campfire like and occasionally harsh, although like the rest of the less smoke line, it’s not an irritant. But perhaps as it’s the sixth incense in the line alphabetically it smelled a bit like the base alone in comparison to the others. What’s kind of impressive overall is the format, which helps to temper the harsher qualities, leaving the scent with a slight mintyness, a characteristic that about half of the line seems to exhibit.
In many ways the six incenses here are all so similar in base that they seem like variations on a theme rather than six separate personalities. Perhaps only the Green Tara bucks this trend, perhaps due to the sandalwood dominating the base, but also because it seems to have some minty spice to it that really bolsters its case. But the dominant theme here still seems to be a low smoke incense in a thick stick base and because of this style, it’s really impossible to tag any of these as completely unpleasant. A few of them lack a bit of personality overall, but in quiet moments one might be impressed by how quiet and restrained the aromas are, and given so many smokeless incenses rely on charcoal bases and less natural ingredients, it’s kind of impressive to see a line that does the same thing while remaining fairly untempered.