Shroff Channabasappa / Mysore Sandal, Red Sandal, Sandal Flora, Singapore Loban, White Sandal

I’m not terribly fond of the Indian dry masala style. There are too many companies who, while often making great incenses in other styles, release scents I find almost difficult to believe anyone would enjoy. Particularly with florals and moderns, many dry masalas end up bitter, funky and weird smelling, speaking of inferior ingredients and off notes rather than pleasant aromas. Shroff Channabasappa are an Indian company that turn this tendency on its head by releasing an almost flawless array of dry masalas that are not only excellent but are as good or better than many wet masalas, champas and durbars. It’s not that dipped, perfumed incenses are necessarily a bad thing, it depends on what you’re dipping them in. And when it comes to pleasant, natural, oil blends there are few companies, if any better than this venerable line, with some of these recipes dating back a century. And not only are they one of the best Indian incense companies around, they’re incredibly affordable, with all 25g packets well under $5 and the 100g packets floating right around that number.

Currently there are as many as 20 different Shroff C. blends available in the US with more to be exported eventually (apparently they also have a durbar line, which is pretty exciting from my perspective). I’ll be splitting this group into four different articles. The current write up will cover (roughly) the sandalwoods, another most of the ambers, a third the florals, and finally what’s left. There really isn’t a single incense in this line I’d consider poor on its own merits, but when you compare them to the state of dry masalas in other companies, they’re basically way out in the lead. They might even make floral lovers out of the woodsperson, with some of the most striking and affordable perfumes to be found in incense.  But for now, it’s time to turn to the sandalwoods…

Mysore Sandal might be the standard sandalwood in the Shroff C. line. The White Sandal is possibly the purest but it’s quite a bit milder. However the Mysore is slightly unusual in that it’s a longer stick than most of the rest of the line. It’s a pretty heavy and somewhat dry sandalwood perfume style and has almost liquor-like tendencies with the aroma. The scent of sandalwood is typically strong for the style, like walking through a forest of ancient trees. What’s kind of odd about the stick is the slighter aromatics, part of which remind me of (dare I say it) peanut butter to some extent. Don’t take that to mean it’s dominant by any means, just that there’s a tint to the perfume that’s kind of unusual for the style. It’s unlikely you’ve tried a sandalwood quite like this one.

Red Sandal is one of the utter triumphs of the incense universe, literally one of the most addictive masalas ever created. It has a similar base sandalwood common to all of the Shroff C. sandals but adds a firey and floral perfume base to the top that is just incredibly bewitching in every way. I literally had trouble keeping my hands of the package for weeks after I received it and not long after went for a 100g batch of it to be sure I wouldn’t run out of this masterpiece too soon. Keep in mind, this isn’t a “red sandalwood” stick in terms of it being a different wood entirely, it’s a sandalwood stick that uses quite a bit of cinnamon and spice along with a neat but smaller floral presence. It’s unforgettable in every way, I can hardly recommend a better incense in this style than this one.

Sandal Flora might be the Red Sandal if you took out most (but not all) of the spice presence. If it wasn’t for the obvious sandalwood oil base Shroff C. uses for these, it could easily fit into the floral group. And like all of the florals this company uses, the perfumes are just gorgeous, never bitter, redolent of the flowers themselves and natural all through the burn. This one in particular definitely has rose on the top, but the type of rose oil that will redefine it for those burnt out on the cheaper synthetic oils often used to mimic this legendary flower. You might even think of this as a rosewood to some extent, although it’s quite a bit better than any incense in that style I can remember. Red Sandal lovers owe it to themselves to give this a try as an interesting variation on a theme.

There are only four true sandalwoods in this line, so I’ve decided to throw Shroff C.’s Singapore Loban into the group, for no other particular reason than that Loban’s also tend to be fairly common in the Indian incense world. Loban is basically benzoin, although from many loban powders and sticks you’d hardly guess. Here it’s obvious, with a strong resinous benzoin presence that might even make Fred Soll proud. Benzoin can be a bit rough as a resin, so to speak, so your mileage will probably vary with what you think of the real deal, but there’s some sugary, spice backing, either as part of the oil or added to the base that helps to balance out the scent quite a bit. That is, where other lobans can be fairly harsh, Shroff C.’s version manages to avoid those notes. There’s even a touch of fruitiness in there, adding to its friendliness.

As mentioned before, the White Sandal is the mildest of the four sandalwood blends here and perhaps the purest. There isn’t a reduction in smoke content per se, but the aroma is definitely milder and airier than the others. Of course this does mean it lacks the heft and perhaps punch of the other sandalwoods, but at the same time I was quite amazed that even with a milder aroma, there were no off notes or bitterness to be associated with it. At times it even approaches the crystalline qualities of a slice of wood on a heater. The oil has some slight lemon, sugar and orange notes to it, but I suspect that’s the quality of the wood at concentrated quantities rather than any additives. It’s mildly reminiscent in its own way of Kyukyodo’s Yumemachi sandalwood.

Overall there’s not really any here that aren’t worth trying and certainly the Red Sandal and possibly the Sandal Flora are must tries. Even if you’ve tried plenty a sandalwood incense, if you haven’t checked out Shroff C., there’s an angle to the wood and a new facet to the perfume that will be enlightening to you. Next installment, I’ll likely cover the floral group: Amber Rose, Indian Flower, Jasmine 1940, Nargis 1931 amd Sugandhi Bathi, all of which are some of the best florals you can buy in incense.

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25 Comments

  1. Josh said,

    September 19, 2014 at 6:25 am

    I wonder if I got an off batch or older batch of the Red Sandal – it just smells like straight sandalwood oil to me. In contrast the Sandal Flora I got from a different vendor smells very floral – like rose mostly..

    • Mike said,

      September 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      It’s probably not an off batch, the recipe has probably changed. This review is probably years old and so it doesn’t surprise me too much. Shroff incenses definitely change over the years. It almost makes me feel like I’d have to do many of these reviews over again lol.

  2. June 14, 2013 at 11:05 am

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  7. glennjf said,

    November 15, 2010 at 12:35 am

    I laugh now when I think how adamant I was about not wanting to try Indian incenses again after my long ago teenage experiences burning them. I owe ORS and a particularly obliging ORS member my thanks for bringing that change into being.

    I was initally given some castoff White Sandal and more lately some of the Red Sandal. On both occasions my attraction to them was immediate, like a duck to water. I’ve gone ahead since and purchased also the Mysore Sandal and that too has found a permanent place on my list.

    Something particular was pointed out to me, about the White Sandal, a sort of soapy element in it that some people might find disconcerting initially. If this is you, stay with it you’ll find it’s well worth it.

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  12. Maharani said,

    October 10, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Last night I burned Shroff Red Sandal for the first time in nearly 3 months. I didnt like it much when I first bought it, as cinnamon is not my favorite, but have since tried many different Shroffs-and one Japanese incense, a Tennendo Aloeswood (Renzan). I now find it reminds me STRONGLY of the Tennendo-perhaps it is the cinnamon note-and I like it much better. The sandalwood evokes aloeswood to me, but there is also a cool bracing top note that reminds me somewhat of the Kewada by Shroff. Maybe its why a number of posters here have liked it-because of its resemblance to a Japanese style incense, which seem to be the generally preferred style. To me, this Shroff is most like a Japanese style incense-I know-based on a sample size of one-but now I have “placed’ it, I like it a lot more. Any thoughts on this from other posters here? Glad I gave it a second chance: it is most unusual for an Indian.

    • Mike said,

      October 12, 2009 at 11:29 am

      I actually think of the Red Sandal as a distinctly Indian scent, but I do think there’s quite a bit of spice in the Renzan to justify some similarity between the two, not to mention that some of those Tennendos also use quite a bit of oil in them as well. As a contrast something like the Baieido Koh doesn’t use a cinnamon oil but is still a strong cinnamon heavy incense and the qualities are different.

      • Maharani said,

        October 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm

        Thanks for your thoughts: I will continue my exploration of Japanese incenses…and order a 100 pack of the Shroff Red Sandal-the roll I have is almost gone!

  13. Hamid said,

    May 22, 2009 at 1:49 am

    My expolaration of , and love of, the Shroff line continues. As Mike has said, its easier to list the few that I am less fond of. In my case its the Green Darbar.
    The Mysore Sandal is becoming a real favourite. I am anticipating eagerly the consignment of unknown ( to me ) varities.

    • Mike said,

      May 26, 2009 at 9:22 am

      I was thinking of your post when I read Nancy’s Top 10 this morning. Shroff seems to be good enough to have something to appeal to everyone. I love the Green Durbar (and will talk about it in the next article), but in terms of the Shroffs I like the least I’d probably put the Dashanga powder, the Guggal Bathi and the Parrot Green Durbar at the bottom, all of which I guess I saved until last to talk about. Not that I’ve given up on any of them of course. I seriously can’t wait until the new batch either, my finger is poised on the trigger when that new e-mail comes in. 😀

  14. Hamid said,

    May 1, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Its a Sandal Flora day, the house is redolent with its soft but quietly assertive scent..

  15. Hamid said,

    April 29, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Quite so Mike, I have checking Beth’s site a couple of times a week, because I dont want to miss out !

  16. Mike said,

    April 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Hamid, the funny thing about Shroff is that when you start you get a favorite or two, but after using most of them, it probably gets easier talking about the 2 or 3 you don’t like as much as the other 15. Like you said elsewhere about the Amber Boquet, I’ve found that just spending time with one aroma during a day really enhances the experience. I’m working on another five right now and really digging the Green Durbar and noticing how different the Frank Incense becomes after you use it a while, it’s almost a floral in a way. I really can’t wait until Beth gets in the next batch.

  17. Hamid said,

    April 28, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Shroff…….You’re a wonder. I have become very fond of the Mysore Sandal as you say, its not like any other sandal I have experienced. To my nose, in the richness is an almost conifer-ish note. The Red Sandal too is gorgeous.

  18. Hamid said,

    March 1, 2009 at 3:49 am

    Another of the Shroff Amber sticks which has been giving me great pleasure is the Amber Bouquet. The whole house smells like an angel has popped in to make spicy cookies, rich, warm, and with notes of cinnamon and allspice.

  19. Mike said,

    March 1, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I’m starting to think Shroff makes some of the best florals on the planet. Over the last couple days I’ve had the Amber Rose out making notes and it just gets better with every stick, such a powerful, unique and quality perfume in it and it varies quite a bit from stick to stick which makes it endlessly fascinating. I agree on the Jasmine 1940, it is quite herby for a floral and not typical. But I think you can also say that about many of their scents, they’re all such unique takes on the familiar which I think is part of what makes this such a special line. I can’t wait to try more incenses from this company.

  20. Hamid said,

    February 28, 2009 at 3:32 am

    On closer aquaintance I have become fond of the Jasmine 1940, its a complex and herby little number. I think sometimes , talking of myself , I approach a incense with too rigid an expectation. This is a case in point. It to my nose bears little resemblance to the smell of Jasmine, except for the most fleeting of glimpses. When I approached it as it is to the nose , rather than as my head said it should be , I began to appreciate its qualities.

  21. Hamid said,

    February 17, 2009 at 1:42 am

    I look forward to part two. Amber Rose, Nargis 1931 and Sughandi have established themselves firmly in the upper echelons of my personal top of the pops. As yet I dont know what to make of the Jasmine 1940….It’s certainly interesting.


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