Incense from India / Amber Resin, Sanctuary, Shanthi Sai Flora, Snow Apricot

Incense from India 1
Incense from India 2

Today’s group from Incense from India’s gigantic incense line is another quartet in the durbar or champa style. I’ll mention up front that in some or all of these cases the base of the incense lack the softer, wetter halmaddi content that they used to and that it affects each incense to a greater or lesser degree. But even with those changes there is still a quality perfume and spice mix at work on all of these incenses and that they still represent some of the better incenses in the style. Two of these on the bookends represent two strongly scented durbars well off the champa theme, while the other two are definitively in the Sai Flora style that one tends to find in Shah Agarbatti’s line such as the already mentioned Sai Flora, Sai Deep, Sai Leela and others.

Amber Resin is an incense I’ve encountered elsewhere via a different company and name, although I haven’t been able to remember either. I just spent some time going over Shroff’s very different line of ambers but in general Indian amber sticks often come in a few different variants. There’s a dry masala with a pinkish color that gives off something of a powdery variant (this is the Amber found in the Blue Pearl line and I believe Mystic Temple has a variant called Amber Essence). There’s the black, more oil-based stick I mentioned as Royal Amber in the last Shroff review. There’s one often called Amber Champa which is very similar to the Shrinivas/Satya T. T. Loban stick. And then there’s the variant found here which tends to be a lot heavier, a bit more sour and intense than the other blends. Why it’s called Resin I would assume refers to the density and the fact it gets more of its aroma from the base than the wax and other ingredients. However, the sour and rich scent really covers up the usual benzoin tendencies of the amber. There are hints of clay and toffee in the mix, but overall this is the sharpest amber available. I’ve found it to be a stick you only bring out so often, but perfect for the right mood. I dare say it’s something of a classic scent and certainly worth a look, but it could be an acquired taste.

Sanctuary is one of the Sai Flora variants I just mentioned, a very thick extremely aromatic stick that puts out a great deal of smoke like all its variants. The thing about both Sanctuary and the Shanti Sai Flora is that these both tend to be less earthy and a lot more sweeter. While most Golden Champas get their name from the color, Sanctuary remains a dark brown as if it’s mostly base rather than added powder. Mystic Temple’s Reservoir of Pleasure used to be much different ten years ago but now resembles  this stick to some extent. I’ve found this one in either form to be pretty popular among friends, it’s definitely fresh, intense and very friendly. It even has some hints of cola or sasparilla in the mix along with the sugar powder to make it seem a very Western sort of aroma.

Shanthi Sai Flora is even better. When this first popped up in the Incense from India catalog, it was at the same time as the red boxed Shantimalai Nag Champa started being imported and in fact there’s also a a Shanthi Nag Champa available as well. I’ve never seen a red box Shantimalai Sai Flora, but roughly remember both Nag Champas being similar and wondered if these two incenses come from a similar source. I’d particularly like to know because when you compare the Golden Champas of Blue Pearl, Mystic Temple and Incense of India along with Sai Flora and all its variants, the Shanti Sai Flora to my nose is the most pleasant of all of them, certainly the most accessible. It’s lost a bit in the interim due to some base changes that have tilted it a bit towards the harsh side, but with a stick as smoky and aromatic it’s not likely to impinge on one’s enjoyment. In fact it’s not far from Sanctuary, with a bit more sugar and spice to it, just a little more complicated. However it’s not far from it in price either and unless you buy in bulk both are likely to run you a 25 to 50 cents per stick. But they’re also not far from being worth that price as they’re two of the most premium Indian offerings.

Snow Apricot is one of Incense from India’s most popular and distinctive incenses. It’s a drier durbar with an almost unbearably potent fruity apricot oil on top. I don’t think there’s a variant of apricot called the Snow Apricot, but it did make me wonder as the scent here is much more powerful than your average garden apricot with a sourness that’s more in the peach direction. Of the four incenses here the alteration in base has probably affected this the most, or at least the perfume verges slightly synthetic at times (and the base is a little harsh), but on the other hand it’s a pretty accurate fruity incense that you’re not likely to find a duplicate of anywhere else.

In the end all four are probably worth checking out for the durbar hound even if I make the caveat that the Snow Apricot isn’t a personal favorite, nor what it used to be. I do, however, try to keep the former three in stock when I can and have no problems recommending any of them. Certainly if you like the huge, earthy Sai Flora, Sanctuary and the Shanthi version will certainly be up your alley.

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2 Comments

  1. zombiefilmfan said,

    September 29, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I received my shipment of incense and I finally got to try out Sanctuary and Shanthi Sai Flora. Wow, they are amazing. The sweetness of Sanctuary reminds me of my other favorite incense; Mother’s Fragrance’s Nag Champa incense, with a mix of Sai Flora (red gold foil pack) blended with it. It was heaven. Shanthi was great too. You were right about the suger and spice! Both will be on my rotation from now on.

  2. zombiefilmfan said,

    September 24, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I absolutely love Sai Flora (red gold foil pack). I just ordered Sanctuary, and Shanthi Sai Flora to try these out, since I enjoy the prior so much. I enjoy these fluxo floral types so much due to their complexity. Going off your review, I have no doubt I will love these too! Hopefully they are different just enough to add to my rotation.


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