March Top Ten (Ross)

These are not arranged in order of wonderfulness or anything like that, but they are pretty much what I have found myself gravitating to through out the last month or two. I use my electric warmer quite a lot and my choices reflect this. The warmer opens up many more possibilities and also works well if smoke is an issue.

1. Divine Lover by Nathaneil Musselman
A Kyphi blend of very high standards and a wonderful scent. My recent review of this is here. Kyphi is a very old scent from Eygpt and that area that has been around for at least 3000 years. There are many different formulas for it, this one apparently comes from some new archalogical insights Quite a lot of it burned every night as an offering to Ra. One can only imagine what a city like Luxor smelled like when this was happening, rumor has it that the air got pretty thick with the smoke ( better smelling then LA however)  🙂
2. Mermade Magickal Arts Aphrodesia
One of the best floral’s anywhere. You can see the write up here. High quality natural ingredients and a lot of attention to detail make for an incredible incense with none of the synthetic overtones that most florals seem to have. One of these incense triangles will nicely scent a room for quite awhile.
3. Shunkodo Yoshino no Haru
Perfect for the Spring. Spicy florals with Aloeswoods and a bit of camphor to give it a slight edge. This is compounded to invoke Cherry Blooms and it does the job, but not in the typical cloying sweet style. I pulled this out the other day and fell in love with it all over again. I use the thicker long stick which might put out more smoke and scent. It’s really a treat and the scent lingers nicely. Shunkodo is one of the best companies out there right now and Kotaro and Jay from Kohshi have done us all a great service by bringing the line into the US.
4. Daihatsu Sandalwood Sliced Chips
As far as I can tell, this is the best Sandalwood one can get here in the US. It has a superb aroma that gives one a whole new perspective on how Sandalwood is supposed to smell. A little goes a long way and by storing it in an air tight container it will last for a long time. This has pretty much become my reference point for how Sandalwood is really supposed to smell.
5. Baieido Byakudan-Kobunboku
This is easily one of the best deals in sandalwood sticks on the market. Baieido still uses Indian Sandalwood and it really shows. They make higher grades but for the money this is pretty hard to beat. So, yes, you can light up a bunch of sticks at one time and do up your whole environment. 😮 ) It’s very clean and very soothing, quite nice after work.
This is classic Baieido. A stunning mix of Aloeswoods, Sandalwoods and spices all balanced in harmony, yet each standing on its own. A pretty good trick and one that Baieido pulls off oh so well. I have the long stick, which goes for around fifty minuets or so. Its scent is extremely grounding and centering in nature. It also comes in many differnt sizes and price points.
7. Tennendo Enkuu – Horizon
There is nothing else that smells quite like this(at least that we can get here in the US, Shoyeido’s Nan-Kun used to be close but seems to have been reformulated of late.) A certain almost caramel/butterscotch note mixed in with a really nice Aloeswood. There is a really deep interplay of flavors though out the whole experience, it’s very captivating and to me, something very special.
8. Shunkohdo Kyara Seikan
This is basically Ranjatai with a supercharger bolted on. It is one of my absolute favorites and has done a lot of damage to my bank account. It is not that expensive but I like to burn a lot! The addition of the Kyara really makes it and it is not to be missed. The musk element in this stick is so captivating it can become very difficult too not just keep lighting more… You have been warned 🙂
9. Shoyeido FLORAL WORLD STAR     (bottom of page)
OK, this is sort of cheating as there are really three different scents in this set, but they are a really good mix that obviously is composed of very high quality ingredients. And yes, they also smell just ever so nice. Classic Shoyeido goodness here. The Jasmine and Violet sticks are a very good interpretation of the idea of the actual flowers and get the idea across while the sandalwood is just gorgeous.
10. Bosen Superior grade Vietnamese Hoi-An
I think this is a pretty good deal as far as Vietnamese woods go. It’s very much the straight up wood, hold the spice approach, and as such is rather refreshing and uncomplicated. Yet it also can really hold your attention and it perfect for meditation. It’s also at a fair price for something that will only continue to get more expensive and less available.

Some things to keep in mind about the state of incense at the moment. The actual availability of many of the raw ingredients( Aloewood/Sandalwood) is somewhat questionable right now. There are shortages of the higher quality woods and a lot of the blends we have gotten used to might be coming up for “reformulation” due to this. I think this is already happening within some of the major players. The price for the woods themselves is also very high right now and this will effect the street price and blends, probably sooner rather then later. Just something to keep in mind as you consider what to get during the coming months.



Simply Incense sale

A heads up for readers in the UK:

10% off  all products until midnight Sunday 29th March when voucher code: SIMNL09 is used at checkout

Mystic Temple / Green Floral Champa (Discontinued), Maharaj, Precious Forest (Discontinued), Sacred Woods (reformulated?)

Previous Mystic Temple reviews on ORS:

Golden Champa, Transcendence, Vanilla Amber Champa, Frankincense

[NOTE 10/8/21: Some incenses this line have been discontinued or may be reformulated or renamed.] This group of Mystic Temple scents contains two “classics” and two relatively new scents. I use the word classics in quotes because one of these two is an incense that I believe has lost its luster over the years; however, it’s still a decent incense, just not up to the fine standards of the other three here. All four of these sticks can be classified as durbars in the newer sense in that none seem to have large amounts of halmaddi in them, although three out of four could possibly be some of the better durbars in the modern age. In these latter cases it’s likely the perfume/oil art at work that makes them so successful.

Fortunately, in the case of Green Floral Champa, we’re speaking of an incense that manages to be roughly the same as it was ten years ago. It’s always been one of the thinner champas and probably never had much halmaddi to begin with, quite the contrary if it had there might have been a little more conflict. Green Floral Champa is basically one of the most distinctive durbars on the market. It combines evergreen-like notes with a huge wallop of camphor along with some very subtle and even barely tangible floral notes into an incense that is extremely potent and perhaps an acquired taste or at least one for occasional use. Those not into strong camphor notes could easily pass up on it, but for me it’s quite fantastic, penetrating and sharp, and unlike any other incense I own. And unlike many high end durbars where $1.50-$2 will only get you a few sticks, you can usually find about 15 in a similar package of this one. I’m actually a bit surprised I lived without it for so long.

Maharaj is basically one of those incenses that makes you wonder if your impressions are based on some sort of nostalgic memory impression you’ll never match or if it just isn’t the incense you remember. When I first bought a package of this when these incenses were a lot wetter, this was one of my favorites, it had a certain oil tone that leaned in the spicy, almost licorice like direction, but even back then it seemed to quickly lose much of that note. Now, even though it’s still something of  a spicy champa derivative, it’s a lot more typical, just a little bit better than a dozen or so hard to pin Shrinivas incenses.  Nowadays it’s a bit gummy and somewhat featureless or thin in the middle. It’s also a pretty common style, both Surya and Incense from India have slight variations on the theme.

Precious Forest is one of Mystic Temple’s more recent entries, although by that I mean it’s been around a few years. This is a real treat that ought to appeal to those who like their Indian sandalwood oil dark and rich. It’s quite similar to the White Frankincense incense I reviewed in the last Mystic Temple installment, a very thick, deluxe stick with a rich base and oil. While there are a lot of elements at play in this one, the stick is defined by the previously mentioned deep sandalwood contour, the similarity to the White Frankincense is that both are rich in their respective ingredients. It’s definitely an expensive durbar overall, but one I’ll eventually have to stock in larger quantities as it’s really one of India’s more impressive wood first incenses.

Sacred Woods is really no less impressive, although in this case I don’t get a woody vibe from it so much, rather it’s more akin to green, forest or celtic themed resin blends. As such it’s similar but superior to the Shrinivas Patchouli Forest blend, moving much more to the very fresh, slightly evergreen but mostly citrus-like realms of good frankincense and gums like mastic or even some copals. It’s topped off by a hard to place floral note that just perfects the perfume. Again, like Precious Forest, this is one of those packages where you only get a few thick sticks so it’s a good one to sample and then stock in bulk if you like it to reduce the cost per stick.

I wish I could recommend Maharaj, but certainly the other three are all among the more superior durbar or champa styles from India, in fact I found myself even more impressed by the latter two when pulling them out for review, the creators really pitched them perfectly. Champas may not be what they used to be but there are certainly a number of them as satisfying as ever.

Mermade Magickal Arts: Divine Lover, Golden Bough, Aphrodesia (from Ross)

Mermade seems to come up with additions to their lines at least two to three times a year, which makes things entertaining. Their products constantly feature very high quality ingredients blended together in a manner that lets one actually smell the components and at the same time you are able to enjoy the fusion of the conjoining of the scents.
From the Ancient Temples Line

Divine Lover is a Kyphi blend created by Nathaniel Musselman and sold by Mermade. I happen to know that he goes to incredible lengths to research and develop his offerings. He has a real talent and this particular one is a standout. The ingredients list for Divine Lover is pretty long and the production process looks to take around seven to eight months. All of which is as close to the original Egyptian temple methods as can be recreated from the writings at the Edfu Temple. This particular mixture does not use any fruit in the mix as most do. You can read more about this at Mermade’s.
The scent is very resin infused, balsamic to a degree, yet with a variety of herbal/spice notes also in the mix. It is extremely complex and deep. This is a strictly natural and ancient incense, it makes me wonder what it must have been like in the Egyptian cities at night when it was traditional to burn quite a lot of this. Burning this is like a trip back in time. Divine Lover comes a nice box with some good quality charcoals and foil squares. I highly recommend using an electric burner with this one. Even at very low settings you can smell the scent and it lasts for quite awhile. Very amazing stuff, not to be missed.
Golden Bough is another mixture for the heater or coals. A mix of resins and woods that to me, seem a very “classical” smell in nature. As soon as you smell it, it seems to remind you of many different incenses all wrapped into one experience. Lots of Oman frankincense, mastic, sandalwood and Juniper, plus balsam and labdanum. To me this is a very grounding and comfortable combination of scents and I find myself using it a lot. It’s also at a great price and a little goes a long ways.
Aphrodesia is from the Nature Spirits line of incense triangles (flat cones). This is one of the best rose scented incenses you can buy, really. Rose incense can be a very hard scent to do well. Generally you get the synthetics which sort of smell OK unburned but are terrible when lit ( I personally have never understood the reasoning here, but it seems to have become pretty prevalent amongst many makers), or you end up with something that is overpowering.
Aphrodesia on the other hand, uses very high quality woods and resins with a really good real live Turkish Rose Otto in just the right proportions to produce a scent that is really sensual and captivating. There is just enough rose and other EO’s and spices to get the idea across without over doing it. The scent, from one cone, lingers for about and hour, maybe two, which to me is just enough. I find it particularly nice to light the cone and come back in about 15 minutes, by then the room smells really great and the smoke has dissipated.

Mermade Arts is available from their website and also at Essence of the Ages.

Many of their presentations come in a sampler size.


Baieido / Jirushi / Zuikun, Tokko, Sutoko

Baieido’s granulated incenses come in two different lines: natural woods including one chipped sandalwood mixture (Byakudan) and two chipped aloeswoods called Jinko and Extra Jinko, and the three blends known as the Jirushis, a mixture of woods and spices that are both somewhat similar to their Kobunboku line sticks and a bit different in that most if not all of the blends, kick star anise up front in the scents.  Where Shoyeido granulated blends appear to have almost eye-watering levels of oils or perfumes in the blends, as always Baieido granulateds tend to work purely on the level of natural ingredients and are relatively much more serene.

As always granulated mixtures tend to be aromatically different depending on whether one burns the mixture directly on charcoal or various wood trails or uses a heater. For the purpose of these reviews I did the former method on a dar trail and used a Shoyeido incense heater for the latter.

Zuikun is the low end in the group and its mixture of sandalwood and various herbs gives the scent an almost Tibetan-like aroma with a combination of tangy and almost treacle-sweet flavors on top of the general wood base. Otherwise the scent is fairly similar to the lower end Baieido Kobunboku sticks with a very smooth contour that comes out a bit more on the heater. The same method brings out more than a hint of star anise as well as caramel and toffee-like characteristics. On a trail, naturally, the woods volatize at a quicker rate and the sandalwood is quite a bit more present early in the use. The star anise is still quite strong, with even more licorice-like aspects and even though it doesn’t say so in the ingredients, I noticed some resin bubbling on some of the woods that made me think there must be a small content of lower end aloeswood in the mix as well. There’s also a bit more clove and cinnamon and overall the charrier scent given by the trail was a bit more to my tastes than the slow emissions from the heater on this blend.

The Tokko drops the tangier, more overtly herbal notes from the Zuikun and ends up being fairly reminiscent of the Tokusen Kobunboku stick, in fact I’d guess the sandalwood and aloeswood proportions are probably fairly similar here. Even on the heater this has a more woodier presence and a greater level of that classic Baieido cinnamon and clove spice. Like the whole line and in particular this incense, the star anise adds a lot of pep to the mix and the scent is up to Baieido’s unusually high ingredient standards. Higher temperatures on the heater bring out the woods even more, as well as a slight, wet muskiness underneath. The incense is a bit more similar to Zuikun on a trail, but spicier, hoarier and richer with noticeable aloeswood content and quite a bit of borneol or camphor, the usual clove and star anise as well as a bit of hay, sweetgrass and herb. It’s a bit less similar to the Tokusen Kobunboku stick using this method and seems to benefit from the ingredients volatizing faster and more as a unit.

Sutoko is the high end incense of the three, and in some ways as similar to Kaden Kobunboku as Tokko was to the Tokusen. The aloeswood level is even more prominent and the scent is overall woodier and more contoured. Sutoko brings back a touch of the tangier aspects of the Zuikun, but overall this seems to be a bit less of a blend and more a combo of sandalwood and aloeswood aspects. On a heater there don’t seem to be as many extra ingredients to volatize faster and, indeed, on a trail the difference isn’t as pronounced as it is in the first two blends. The aloeswood seemed to be akin to the same type used in the regular Syukohkoku (which I think is Ogurayama) and on a trail it adds a more noticeable charry and resinous scent to the blend that aloeswood lovers should warm to pretty quickly.

By now, it should be pretty clear that Baieido is very highly regarded by the Olfactory Rescue Service team and these three blends will only add to that high opinion. They’re all somewhat familiar, but the addition of star anise and other herbs does indeed set these apart from being entirely redundant.

Scents of Earth website upgrade

Scents of Earth appears to have upgraded their website and expanded their product lines to include incenses from Minorien, Kunmeido and Baikundo, among others. The company also offers a fairly wide line of pure resins, herbs and essential oils. It also looks like they’ve managed to shorten what were originally and occasionally some extensive shipping times, nearly everything I looked at said “usually ships the next business day.”

Mother’s India Fragrances / Nagchampa / Ananda, Ganesh, Lakshmi (prev. Laxmi), Shanti, Vishnu

[Recipes may have changed and review may not be relevant anymore. Further research needed. Mike 6/17/21]

In nearly every article reviewing Indian durbars or champa incenses it’s virtually impossible not to mention that the style has undergone changes over the last decade or so due to the shorter supply of the resin halmaddi in these incenses. Nearly every company in existence has adjusted their recipes to some extent, although we’re largely left to guess over how it is they’ve done so. What we can generally tell is the soft, semi-wet durbars of yore have gotten drier over the years, the scents have often gotten just a little bit harsher and our expectations over reliving the old scents have diminished.

While Mother’s India Fragrances (10/8/21 – Link goes directly to Mere Cie Deux now; however, there are no specific pages for each aroma) seem to have been around for a while (I remember the small packs of masala incenses they do which I found in stores years back), it’s only somewhat recently they’ve started exporting this five incense series of Nagchampa incenses. I’m unaware of whether they’ve undergone a change in formula or if they are completely new incenses, but they seem to use an ingredient either unheralded in Indian incense or just not included in the recipes, a tree resin known as mattipal. And in doing so they’ve created what is perhaps the finest short line in all of Indian incense today, making me wonder just what it is about mattipal that makes it so uncommon in durbars when it seems like the use of it might enhance the durbar industry in general and at least push it back in the direction that made it one of the most attractive and accessible styles of incense on the market.

Mother’s India Fragrances’ (Mother’s for short) five incenses are really variations on a theme. Although it’s difficult to confirm, the “standard” Nagchampa appears to be the Shanti, and the Laxmi is a mild version of the same formula. The Vishnu is similar and adds saffron to the mix, where both Ananda and Ganesh are a little more distinct in their differences, the former a blend, the latter using French Lavender oil. All five of these incenses are breathtakingly good, long burning and very high quality durbars. They’re perhaps slightly different than what you’ll remember from the halmaddi days, but at the same time they’re a lot closer in style to the originals than most other current durbar reformulations.

Ananda Nagchampa is  described as a blend of sweet floral and herbal fragrances. The base on this one as it is in all five of these combines the typical vanilla and sweet notes of most durbars with a slightly piney or evergreen note that is likely to come from the mattipal. The combination gives it a soft and mellow tone and in this case, the ingredients add up to a fairly intricate mix. Like the Vishnu Nagchampa, Ananda seems to strike a middle between the deluxe, sweet and perfumed concotion found in the Ganesh blend and the dry spicy and more typically standard nagchampa scent found in the Shanti blend. Like most of the incenses here there’s a very strong cassia or cinnamon aroma in the middle, but here there are fruitier hints such as strawberry and orange, mixed with what seem to be greener herbal notes. It’s possibly the most unusual incense of the five, the most complex, and the fragrance that takes one’s nose the longest to adjust to.

Ganesh Nagchamp is virtually one of the finest durbars to have been created by human hand, it’s a triumph of the incense making art. One has certain expectations going into an incense that is supposedly “crowned with French lavender oil,” but here the combination is far more than the sum of its parts. While one easily notices the lavender oil as part of the mix, it doesn’t seem typical either bearing witness to a finer quality or just the fact that its marriage with the mattipal base is one of alchemical genius. Although it, like the others in the line, has a strong note of cinnamon as well, the lavender moves it to the sweeter end of the line. It’s so rich, decadent and astonishingly good that even one stick will have one reeling in amazement that one could hit such a perfect match of ingredients. Every incense lover owes themselves a treat such as this.

Laxmi Nagchampa, as I mentioned above, is the line’s mild nagchampa and in many ways is somewhat redundant to the Shanti. For one thing, the line in itself (apart from, perhaps, the Ganesh) is fairly mild as it is, so the muting of the Shanti scents is rather soft, perhaps taking out more of the base and leaving the oils to do more of the work. The spices are quite a bit mellower here, but overall it’s difficult to guess what reformulation caused this one to be so gentle. In many ways you only need Laxmi or Shanti and I think more incense lovers will move to and approve of the latter’s richer scent.

Shanti Nagchampa itself is indeed the incense that smells the most like classic nag champa, although fortunately in this case something more like Bam Champa or the original halmaddi formulations of a decade ago. Perhaps this is the one that lets the mattipal speak the loudest as it seems to not only have the greater evergreen note but is redolent of cassia spice, adding up to a certain dryness that’s quite attractive. It certainly has me fairly nostalgic for the champa scents of old, that wet and intensely aromatic smell I remember from opening the old Satya blue box when it useds to be good.

Vishnu Nagchampa is described as “accented with saffron and based on oriental notes.” The saffron note is quite light overall and gives the incense a slightly spicier scent. Like the Ananda it kind of sits between the Ganesh and Shanti in terms of sweetness and dryness although it’s probably a bit closer to the Shanti. It’s almost liquor like in a way, with hints of cognac, whisky or fine rum at times, probably due to the nature of the oil. Like Ananda it has a bit more of a learning curve but is ultimately no less fine than the rest of the incenses in the line.

The Ganesh is an absolute must try, and I’d probably suggest giving the Shanti a go around as a second pick, before moving on to the Ananda and Vishnu. Those that do love the line by this point should have no problem with Laxmi either and may indeed prefer its milder qualities. One does wonder however, with such a powerful incense line if Mother’s intends to expand and concoct more fragrances as they appear to be onto a good thing where mattipal is concerned. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a new durbar renaissance.

Baieido Koh En and Koh Shi Boku

[NOTE 7/2/21: Please note that in my experience the entire Baieido aloeswood line has changed in scent profile due to obvious natural ingredient changes and new sources for aloeswoods. – Mike]

Baieido has consistently made its name based on the outstanding quality of the woods that they use in their incense. This holds even more so in their “wooden box ” line up of high end Aloeswood and Kyara sticks. They also seem to keep their formulations a lot leaner in terms of what would seem to be in the mix. Whatever spices or herbs that are included are there to enhance the scent of the particular wood being showcased, rather then as stand out scents in the overall presentation. In the cases of Koh En and Koh Shi Boku this holds especially true.
Koh En means Garden Incense or Garden Scent and reflects the scents of summer blossoms( in an allegorical manner). This stick is based on Vietnamese Aloeswood and has all the notes that they are famous for. There is a certain dryness which is built upon many different layers of scent, much like poetry, at times almost bitter/ lean and at other times very full bodied. It is very prone to aromatic fatigue, so it’s not the type of incense that you want to casually light up after others. To really get the idea it needs to be on its own and like all the Baieido woods it will take many samplings to even start to get the nuances (this is a round about way of saying I am personally not there yet!) A large, but very pleasant learning curve.
Koh Shi Boku means Incense of Confucius or the Master and contains Kyara. Again, the amounts of spices and other additives are pretty minimal so what you are getting is an introduction to the real smell of Kyara minus all the perfumes, spices and herbs that you usually find in Kyara based incense. Don’t get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with other companies interpretation, it’s just a different style.
There is just a certain something about the Kyara that just pulls you in, in this stick. It’s almost sweet, but not quite, something that almost defies a clear cut description If scent could be considered hypnotic then this would be a pack leader. Koh Shi Boku is elegant, refined and oh so nice, the kind of scent that demands that you pay attention to draw out the last little details. As you use it you realize that you have concentrated all of your attention at that point between you nose and your eyes in an all out attempt to not miss anything because, well, your source is busy burning up and will not last forever 🙂 Unless, of course, you have really deep pockets.
Kyara is sort of the mystery wood, its more then just heavy resin content, or wood that sinks in water. The Incense Masters at Baieido tend to imply that it is a unique wood. You could, if really interested, go into the older messages at the Alice’s Restaurant Yahoo group and do a search. Lots of interesting and lively discussion on the subject.
These two incenses are not something I would recommend for the beginner, however, if you are interested in Aloeswood and Kyara and the differences that growing conditions can make on the scent of the woods and what they really smell like then by all means go for it. Also, many of the stores that sell them also have sampler packs and I would highly recommend starting there, its worth the money and is a real treat. Your nose, and quite possibly your heart or soul will thank you.

Shrinivas Sugandhalaya / Satya / Celestial, Midnight, Patchouli Forest, Sandalwood, Sunrise, Trishaa

[Most if not all incenses reviewed here were likely made in Mumbai by Nagarj Setty LLP. I can not confirm if the reviews of most if not all of these are still current, as Satya recipes have drastically changed over time. Consider these historical records from the period. – Mike 6/18/21]

Previous Shrinivas Sughandalay/Satya Sai Baba products reviewed at ORS:

Nag Champa, Super Hit, Satya Natural, Satya Nectar, Black Blossom
Beauty, Milan, Supreme
Aastha, Ajaro, Vishwa Shanti, Fantasy, Valley of the Roses
Hari Om, Rajdhani, Ratha Chakra, Sai Ram
Royal, Geet Govind, (T.T.) Loban, Shivshankar

The current batch represents the new product released by Shrinivas Sugandhalaya maybe within a year before Olfactory Rescue Service was born. All but Trishaa are packaged in boxes that are meant to evoke the classic blue box Nag Champa graphics, and if I remember correctly Sandalwood followed a little later than the others. Trishaa is packaged uniquely in two different formats, and the others are all available in 15g and 40g packages.

All represent the “post halmaddi age” reformulating of the champa style, but, unfortunately in a couple cases the incenses are fairly redundant. Like is often the case in Shrinivas’ 100g bulk packages, it can be difficult without visual cues to tell one incense from another in aroma. When I first ran into these incenses right after they came out, I had taken the inner packages of both Midnight and Sunrise out of their boxes and got confused as to which package went in which box. I apparently guessed right in the end, but I wasn’t sure of it until I got another sample of both. And, really, this is the case for Celestial, Midnight and Sunrise. All three are virtually the same incense, particularly once the perfume oil fades over time, and in my experience the oil fades pretty quickly indeed.

Celestial could introduce the base style, only vaguely similar to the wet, halmaddi champas of yesterday. Its got plenty of sandalwood and vanilla aroma and is dry and woody with hints of marshmallow. The perfume on top is very mild, maybe slightly floral, but for the most part fairly difficult to identify. Unfortunately the result is quite generic.

Midnight fares little better. The perfume is perhaps slightly stronger than it is on the Celestial and a bit more sultry. It seems to be going a bit for that slightly jasmine like nighttime/moon scent, but I fear in saying that that I’m reaching for a description because, again, the dominant tones come from the base: vanilla and sandalwood.

Patchouli Forest fares much better and is one of two in this batch that are quite good. Patchouli tends to scare many people off for fear of that oily, earthy smell often sussed out at Grateful Dead concerts, but the patchouli in this blend is a completely different thing. This incense has a very forest-like, crystalline, high altitude and fresh scent, reminiscent of the better aspects of the fresh herb and similar in ways to evergreen resins. Unlike several of the others in this series, the perfume oil actually competes with the vanilla and sandalwood base and makes a difference. I did notice, however, that since I bought the box a few years ago, the perfume has faded quite a bit and isn’t as strong as I remember. I reviewed a few Mystic Temple scents a while back that I’ve had for much longer where the fade hasn’t been nearly as severe. Satya product often seems to have a limited life span, which probably accounts for why I run across so many dried out husks in stores (a problem not as apparent with the on line suppliers).

Sandalwood (note: a different incense entirely to their Super Sandal) seems to have a different base than the others, unusual given how much sandalwood is in the base for Celestial, Midnight etc., and the stick is a bit darker in color. Strangely this strikes me as being a bit less sandalwood infused than some of the other incenses in this subline, instead it has more in common with some of Satya’s more common durbar incenses, almost like a typical, slightly sugary champa. The base and oil (which holds most of the sandalwood content) don’t exactly clash but they don’t complement each other either leaving the stick somewhat generic.

Sunrise, as alluded to previously, is one of the three here that includes a pale and barely present perfume on top of the vanilla/sandalwood like base. If Midnight was slightly sultry with a hint of jasmine, Sunrise is brighter with touches of orange, although in many cases good sandalwood can emit such an aroma due to the resin. Overall it’s hard to see a reason for the existence of this incense, it’s certainly OK, but doesn’t do much more than another dozen similar Satya products.

Trishaa, on the other hand, is something of a triumph for Satya and one of their better incenses. I started thinking of this as spikenard champa after I first bought it based on its similarities to a spikenard resin blend a friend had sent me, it has the same caramel, sweet and slightly musky and herbal tones I associate with this fabulous ingredient. It’s also interesting that not only is it packaged differently than the preceding incenses but it’s a lot more strongly fragranced. If there was a downside it’s that the perfumes Satya use, in general, can verge in a slightly synthetic direction, but I don’t think in this case that distracts to strongly from a nicely pitched incense, sweet and spicy and perfect for a durbar.

So overall, I can recommend the Patchouli Forest and Trishaa which are not only the best in the batch but probably among the top 10 of all Satya products. However, it’s hard to find a rationale for the rest of this line, at the very least the perfumes were never strong enough to linger for long, reducing the half life of these products to about two years max (and this is probably true for Patchouli Forest as well). No really unpleasant scents here, but certainly lengthening the list of Satya’s duller formulas.

Kaqyudpa Monastery/Drikung Charitable Society – Red Crystal & Dhundup Wangyal – New Red Crystal

In reviewing Blue Sky a few weeks ago, I’d thought it might be Drikung Charitable Society’s only incense, only to realize that they were responsible for the plentiful and abundant Red Crystal incense, something of a mainstay of your local new age or yoga supply store. I’d take it some of this is the price difference, with a big box of Red Crystal costing you about a third a box of Blue Sky. The other element is there’s been some confusing copyright or claims staking surrounding Red Crystal, giving way to a new and completely different incense formulated by one Dhundup Wangyal called New Red Crystal. And of course there’s the Boudha line, all of which are roughly similar in style and use the same graphics boxes and sometimes even text as Red Crystal and kin.

Red Crystal itself is something of a budget classic among Tibetan style incenses. It’s one of those worth growing into, I remember thinking its tobacco and alkaline hints were quite offputting at first, until I’d gone through about half a box and it got under my skin. For one thing, whatever’s red about this incense is more in name, although the sandalwood colored stick does have a very slight tint in that direction. Sandalwood is the operative ingredient here, and not only does the incense smell of a decent quantity but the quality is quite good as well. It’s a very thick stick, nearly a club, and it has a very subtle and slightly dangerous level of spice in it that ranges from the abovementioned tobacco and sage to light hints of cinnamon. It’s a subscent that really starts to impress after a while, the incense’s cooling qualities and fresh sandalwood winning you over after a while. It’s one Tibetan style incense in the lower ends perhaps worth shelling out for in a shop, although one’s nose will take a bit of time adjusting to it.

New Red Crystal (drop down one item on the above link) isn’t nearly as distinctive and the comparison is fairly unflattering given the stick is obviously more in the evergreen/filler wood direction. Fortunately it goes for a Dhoop Factory/Alpine like scent with it, meaning you do get a bit of harsh wood as a backdrop but also the same woods’ better, high altitude freshness and slight resinous qualities as well. Strangely it also smells a bit like Drikung’s above-mentioned Blue Sky with hints of raisins, berries and a dash of cinnamon. I can imagine liking this one more after getting used to it as well, provided one’s own catalog isn’t full of incenses similar to this.

I’ll likely be referring to these later when I tackle the trio of Boudha incenses, which are all in the same regions as these two, using similar packaging but managing to be their own animal(s) too. Red Crystal’s kind of a classic in its own way, well worth a sample at the least. New isn’t always better, as they say, but lovers of woody and fresh high Himalayans might want to give it a whirl as well.

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