Bosen / Dakini, Herbal Meditation, Pythoncidere, Shangrila and Zambhala Incenses

Amazon-distributed and Taiwan-originated company Bosen has had a number of their aloeswood incenses reviewed by Ross here and here. The company also has a number of different blended incenses, several of which are considered to be Tibetan incenses by the company. Blend and ingredient-wise these are similar to Tibetan incenses in many ways but the sticks’ unique densities and high levels of quality wood make them more like hybrids between the Tibetan style and Southeast Asian sandalwood and aloeswood sticks and as such are fairly original and certainly a lot higher quality than all but the most deluxe Chinese exported Tibetan blends. I’ll be breaking up the eight current blends into two groups, the five here that have unusual or Buddhism-related names and, later, three (Blessing, Refining and Purifying) that are basically verbs. The division is somewhat arbitrary however, as my experience is that there are similarities among all the incenses.

In fact the similarities among the incenses are worth discussing first as there is a a base that is roughly common to all of their Tibetan blends. The binder, Machilus Zuihensis Hayata Powder, appears to be 10% of each incense and is likely what gives each incense a slightly evergreen flavor. All of the incenses, except the Pythoncidere, have quantities of aloeswood and sandalwood in them, although in a couple of cases the aloeswood is called agalloch eaglewood, 15% each in the Shangrila and Zambhala blends. Aloeswood is surprisingly at its highest in the most inexpensive blend, the Herbal Meditation 20% and lowest at 10% in the Dakini. Except for the Pythoncidere again, white sandalwood varies from 10-15%. So as you can see there’s a good 40% or so of four of the incenses that are basically the same. All five of the incenses have a large, unidentified quantity of several Tibetan Dharma medicines and nectars (spelled amitas in Shangrila). From there each incense varies by note.

Dakini Incense is one of Bosen’s two “Top-Grade” incenses and contains small percentages of lubu, nard, safflower, and semen alpiniae katsumadai (I’m not asking either). It’s the densest and most complex of the five incenses here with a definite strain of spikenard in the mix and a very fruity, sweet smell as the top note. Like all of the incenses here, due to the above-mentioned commonalities, there’s a tangy mix of aloeswood, sandalwood and evergreen binder, but the large ingredients list gives the incense some latent heft to it that improves the incense with use. It’s not quite as immediate as the next two scents but definitely seems to be the most deluxe of the batch.

The company’s low end Herbal Meditation Incense is something of a revelation and is available in 11″ bulk thin sticks, 8″ thin sticks, and 8″ thicker sticks (an earlier search pulled up 18″ thin sticks and powder, but I didn’t find them this go around). The uncommon ingredients in this blend are a good 25% of zijin rattan and 25% of lysimachic foenum-graecum hance. It’s rare to find a company whose lowest end incense is one of their best, but I’ve found this incense to be extremely addictive. While not particularly resinous in quality, the aloeswood does come through and give it some character and the tangy herbal quality of the foenum-graecum balances out the sweetness nicely. The entirety has hints of apple tobacco and other herbal qualities along with the light evergreen touch. It’s extraordinarily pleasant and a great deal for the money, especially at its bulk price. However, it may be an even better incense in its thicker form, where the sweetness comes out a bit more and the impact becomes heavier. I’m not sure if this is because the ingredient to binder ratio is higher, but it’s certainly more aromatically redolent in this form.

Bosen’s Pythoncidere Incense is a virtual triumph of incense making and one of the finest blends you’ll ever try outside of the aloeswood and sandalwood worlds. The company says the “…formula contains heavier density of Phytocid, which will make you feel like in green shower when you use it.” I’m honestly not sure you can really create a better description than this, it’s what drew me in for the buy and I believe they absolutely succeeded with this blend, which starts with literally a 50% content of high-resin hinoki (cypress). The evergreen qualities are cranked up to a high without the harsh qualities usually brought with it and the green qualities verges verdant with an almost banana like quality in the mix as well as hops and a sweet candy-like note. It’s the kind of green almost approached in alpine-like incenses or even those green durbar variants in Indian incense, but none of those perfect the quality like this one does. It’s literally one of the best incenses you can buy for $10. I’m hoping Bosen add a bulk box for this one as soon as possible as I’m already rocketing through my first box.

Like Dakini, Shangrila Incense is labelled as top-grade Tibetan incense, although I don’t think it’s nearly as successful as the rest of the line. It’s distinguishing qualities are 15% safflower and 15% ganten khampa, but the overall aromatic flavor is one of woods and an almost candle/beeswax like overlay.  Like all the Bosen Tibetans it has a certain sweetness, but unlike the others it also has something of a drier touch to it. It’s possible there’s a learning curve at work here but initially I’m not as impressed with this one as I am with the other blends. Shangrila is also available in coils and powder, neither of which I’ve tried but it’s possible both formats might improve the quality due to different ingredient ratios.

Zambhala Incense is set apart by 15% karpura and 15% artemisia oligoarpa but is an intensely evergreen incense that resembles Pythoncidere without being nearly as successful. In this case it’s almost the most traditionally Tibetan of the line, resembling in some ways incenses like Dhoop Factory’s Alpine, but quite a bit more refined due to the aloeswood and sandalwood quantities. Given the price similarity to Pythoncidere, I wouldn’t recommend this one first but I’ve also noticed the subtleties of the aloeswood peeking through on this one, promising a learning curve that might make it more worthwhile than my initial impressions.

Beautiful work basically, and given that Amazon fulfills this companies products, you can easily add a $10-$20 box to any other small order to get free shipping out of it (which also means that most of their aloeswood and sandalwood products get automatic free shipping as well). It should also be mentioned that the packaging of these incenses is world class with thick, high quality cardboard boxes, some padding for no breakage and silica gel to keep the incense dry. It’s all around top work from a great company who clearly make high standard product and get good ratings from buyers as well. ORS recommended to say the least.

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9 Comments

  1. Terra Renee said,

    April 21, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Pythoncidere is superb, but oddly, I like Zambhala much more. It’s tangier and has a Blessing-like scent to it and Blessing is my favorite by a wide margin.

  2. Josh said,

    September 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Very impressed with the Pythoncidere incense – rich herbal type aroma – loving this one..

    The Herbal Meditation Incense though – not impressed so far – maybe it is because I got the thin stick variety, but even when I broke a couple in half and lit 4 at once I was underwhelmed by the aroma, which was quite mild and sort of a muted and nondescript herbal aroma.. I could see this being good indeed for meditation in the sense that it would give a nice object to focus the mind on without creating all sorts of attachment to the pleasure of it like a higher end Japanese or Tibetan might do..

    To put the Herbal Meditation Incense in perspective – immediately afterward I lit a stick of EOTA’s $2.05 per package Nepalese “Hanuman Incense” and was immediately struck by the intense and poignant nature of that scent, which was also very herbal but way more intense and satisfying…

    EOTA describes their series of Nepalese incenses as the “best Nepal incense available!” and despite the low price this may be so..

  3. July 28, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Dakini is one of my favorite incenses – caramel sweetness with a vibrant orangey top note up front, buttery wood with just a hint of mineral bitterness that balances the sweetness behind. Very nicely done.

    Pythoncidere is not so sweet but just as rich, with the cypress poking its edge above the lush, nutty background. Usually I don’t like cypress that much, but this is an exception.

    Both have a certain refinement and ‘swankiness’ that is a bit unusual for Tibetan-style incenses. Having them on Amazon makes it easy to add a box to an order.

  4. kimbola said,

    August 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    finaly its available in europa just got 6 packs its all good

  5. kimbola said,

    November 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    i have been trying to get some but they dont ship to europe does anybody know how to get them in europe.

    • glennjf said,

      November 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      There are always forwarding services one can use in such instances. To buy from Amazon I’ve used hopshopgo.com just the once, but with complete success, whether they’ll forward incenses to Europe I do not know.
      I don’t know of any other forwarding agents based in the US maybe someone else can suggest others.

      Basically you signup online with the service and are given a US postal address by them. You then purchase or in the case of the service I used, you have them purchase for you, either way the items are sent to your agent supplied US address and from there the service takes over to on forward them to you, for a cost of course. Alternatively you might be able to ask a friend in the US to do the same. Best of luck with it.

  6. C.J. said,

    January 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I, too found these to be ~~~completely~~~ unique. Smoother than Indian and Chinese Tibetans, closer to Japanese style. No oils or synthetics pop out. Also, an incense _best burned low_, as the scent rises.

    “Herbal Meditation” is wonderful (I burn the large 8″ sticks). An obvious Aloeswood base, spicy with a hint of sweet–Attributable in part at least to fennel (Lysimachia foenum graecum) in the mix. A wonderful “home” scent for every day.

    “Dakini” is Sublime, Tremendously unique. A nutty, rich, almost coconut-ty sweetness. Again, I can smell the Agarwood in this although it is just a binding midnote here. This I think, is the “sweetest” incense of this line

    “Pythoncidere” comforting. Woody, dark and wet. Not a blatant, dry & obvious ceder, there is a tang to this–sweeter than say, hinoki cypress. ALmost a light leathery-woody blend.

    Also tried “Blessing” and “Refining”. “Refining” offers a unique blend of Agarwood & Styrax–I can pick up these primary scents carried among Ghanden, Sandalwood, et al listed in the ingredients. Be patient and let this scent rise.

    “Blessing” also contains obvious agarwood, mediated by the tang of spikenard and other ingredients. Obviously a quality product.

    Of the Aloeswoods (which I still insit on referring to as agarwood) I’ve so far tried only the “Superior Chin-Zhou Aloeswood”. GOOD STUFF. No blended spices–This is closest to the raw, unprocessed pieces of agarwood burned on charcoal or an open heater. Extremely pure, sharp and agar-tangy. EXCELLENT, and there are several more expensive levels for me to try yet.

    Bosen gets 2 thumbs up. Thus far it is all good. Remember folks–burn low, let the goodness rise 🙂

    Best 2 U,
    CJ 🙂

  7. Steve said,

    November 18, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    A recent Amazon order included Pythoncidere, Dakini and Herbal Meditation. The packaging, as stated above, is really first class.

    Am just now trying my first stick of Pythoncidere and it is very nice, especially for $10. I just wanted to say that there is something here in the same “zipcode” as a Korean incense I enjoy, Seok-Hyang (aka Sukhyang), which is made by the same folks who make Bo-Rim. Pythoncidere and Sukhyang have this note that reminds me of the sweet, smoky smell of burning slightly damp leaves on a brisk autumn afternoon. Whereas this is basically the only dimension with Sukhyang, Pythoncidere has additional layers including a savoriness that will be familiar to any fans of typical Tibetan-style incense. I just don’t yet have the vocabulary or experience to assign these scents their proper terms.

    I will weigh in on Dakini and Herbal Meditation (“fat” stick version) as I get to them.

    Thanks for the tip on Bosen, Mike and Ross!

  8. Masha said,

    May 31, 2009 at 8:09 am

    I really like the Pythoncidere, it’s completely unique, I have nothing like it in my collection at all.


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