Report #2 On Newly Imported Incenses

Indeed the semi-wet masala line by Shroff are major slow burners. Last night the lion’s share of the incense sampling night was taken up by that line’s Jungle Prince. Jungle Prince is a lot like taking one of the Shroff florals and upgrading it to more of a durbar style. Again I’m probably going to have trouble describing many of these for a while, they’re all unique perfumes probably containing dozens of unknown elements for me. This one’s exotic and sweet, but very very nice, the best of the few I’ve sampled so far.

Tried the Shechen Red. I think it might be the first Nepalese incense I’ve tried that has a noticeable musk side to it. Seems like it will be a good one for sure and very affordable. Hard to explain though, kind of dry with some unique tones and the usual evergreen mix, just at a generally better level than most Nepalis.

I sampled two Purelands incenses and have to agree with commenters on here that they’re just beautifully done. The Rose and Saffron is to die for with a great rose oil, a higher than normal saffron presence for an incense and probably due to the combo something of a red, hot and spicy feel to it. This one took me back to my earliest incense days, utterly gorgeous in every way. I love how utterly fresh and potent these are.

The Rasa Leela – also gorgeous and was very reminiscent but not quite identical to the old Mystic Temple Reservoir of Pleasure stick for the common reason that it does have quite as much halmaddi as it use to. The halmaddi use to make the sticks a bit thicker and gooier. But everything else is the same, the stick color and general aroma, I’m really glad to have this mix of honey, cocoa and floral back, it’s just a great incense stick. Both of these are going on the Indian Hall of Fame list.

Finally I put a bit of Mermade’s Babylon on the vaporizer. I have to admit I’m really loving the vaporizer tool, I can get resin blend scent with a minimum of fuss. I think Ross reported on this one a while back but it was a nice combo of woods and resins, in fact I seem to remember something very myrrh-ish about this one. And I was surprised to find that it was really smoky on the vaporizer, perhaps the wood content?

Also burned a fragment of a stick not available in the US as I know of, in fact we’re generally pretty hesistant to review incenses that we can’t give you a source for, but I suppose referencing it here wouldn’t hurt, an incense called Khangdru that is distributed through Zambala, apparently incorrectly considered a Samye Monastery incense. It’s very unusual, I almost didn’t like it at first but it’s really grown on me, definitely a high end Tibetan with the usual ingredients but with something of an insular, woody and bizarre aroma to it. Not quite as challenging as, say, Dzongsar, but a little less friendly than the usuals.

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28 Comments

  1. greggking said,

    October 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I can answer finally as to why the Khangdru sold by Zambala is confused by some, even in China, as a Samye incense, after getting a box of same in a shipment of samples from China today. Much to my surprise, and dislike, the promised box of “Samye” was Khangdru with a Samye label on the righthand side of the front of the box. Wonder if the Monastery knows about this theft of name? I also would not put this at high end, perhaps at mid range at best, although the packaging was something other Tibetan incense makers could learn from, being in 2 tightly wrapped bundles, with a plastic divider between.

  2. Hamid said,

    July 19, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Our reaction to any given incense will of course always be individual for a number of reasons, just as it is to broccoli, May Blossom, or strong cheese.
    I like the Purelands Sandalwood a lot. It smells pretty authentic to me for the money.
    I am less keen on Tibetan Incenses per se and my sniffing gear is too
    unsophisticated to appreciate Japanese incense.So among Indian Incenses
    My own Sandalwood picks would be;

    Pure-Incense Connoissuer Sandalwood.
    Pure-Incense Black Sandalwood
    Jivada Sandalwood
    Purelands Sandalwood
    An extraordinary, and very expensive, Black Sandalwood from matchlessgifts ( the American one, not the Indian one with a similar name, although the latter has within in its range another stick which would qualify for my list of great incenses of the world ).
    which I would guess would be the nearest to burning the purest Sandalwood oil on a burner.

    • Claire said,

      July 19, 2009 at 2:16 am

      Hi Hamid,

      I agree that our reactions will always be individual and in a way that keeps incense sampling fun. I still find it interesting though to see someone-else’s list as over time it gives me a feel for that other person’s taste which means that I then have an idea whether I would like to try out an incense that they recommend. There’s never a guarantee that I’ll agree with them but it’s a good starting point and if we DO agree well then we can then enthuse together!

      Is your list ranked in order of preference?

      In what way would you say that the Sandalwoods on your list differ from each other?

      Is the Pure-Incense Black Sandalwood their absolute one or do they have 2 different grades?

      Thanks!

      • Hamid said,

        July 19, 2009 at 2:38 am

        Yes they are a list graded in order of what I think are the best quality Claire. r at least the ones that most appeal to me.
        I would guess that they differ in the proportion of good quality Sandal oil used, and the overall mix. My no5 for example is a very thin stick of a base of ground sandalwood dipped in pure sandalwood oil. It would not be to everyones taste. It is almost turpentine- like in intensity.
        Pure-Incense do several Sandalwoods. The Black Sandalwood is one of their absolutes. Thy also do an extraordinary Connoissuer Sandalwood which is a very high quality sandalwood oil blended with ground vanilla pod as a base, as are most of their incenses. In addition they do a range of sandalwood blends, sandal and rose for example and sandal and lavender, and a very woody sandal and cedar, all excellent in my view.

        • Mike said,

          July 20, 2009 at 10:49 am

          Hamid, thanks for recommending the Soll Joyous Rose, it’s brilliant in every way, and probably one of the strongest incenses I’ve ever encountered. But it seems like high quality ingredients yet it still quite different to the Indian equivalents we’ve discussed. I’m not sure the Strawberry Fields was quite to my liking at least yet, so far I prefer the Strawberry Champa.

          Also based on your reccomendations I ordered a variety back from the online Krishna shop, where I found a certain lavender masala you recommended elsewhere. The sampler has about 16 different types and I’m hoping the pictures and descriptions are accurate as they all look quite good, handrolled and the like. I have no idea where they ship from (I just got Air Mail) but I should have em in hand in a week or two.

          • Hamid said,

            July 28, 2009 at 1:48 am

            I’ll be interested in your view Mike. If its the Radha-Madhava line I have only tried two of them. the Lavender which is excellent in my opinion, not as superlatively good as Pure-Incense Lavender And Sandalwood, but very good. The other Radha-Madhava stick I have tried is their White Rose which is disappointing, its not a bad stick of incense but I cant detect any rose, which is a bit of a draw-back in a rose incense I always think…( smiley )
            t the risk of becoming a bore, I would urge an investigation of the Jivada range. I ordered some more of their Hanuman Rose and its wonderful, a deep dark, sultry, rose with a touch of ( for some reason ) the ocean..

            • Mike said,

              July 28, 2009 at 10:05 am

              I very much plan to check out the Jivadas at some point, certainly all your recommendations have come up aces for me and are highly appreciated. It’s nice being able to enjoy Japanese, Indian, Tibetan and American incenses all virtually at the same level now, it honestly makes me appreciate all of them that much more.

              I ended up buying from the Krishna store because it was unusual that nearly all of the incense packages were huge 250g bundles, except for this sampler. The pictures of the incenses mostly looked durbar-ish in style so I figured why not give the sampler a shot, at about $22 something it’s 16 different incenses, 10 sticks a shot, so I even if I don’t like certain aromas, I won’t feel like I’ve overstocked. And if I really go for something, I’ll be able to stock big. 🙂

            • Mike said,

              July 29, 2009 at 8:04 am

              Hamid, I got in the samples last night. I’m not sure if they are the Radha-Madhavas, as all but the Nag Champa come in these sort of maroon on gold packets that say Gopala on the back and have a company name that starts with V. I did actually find the site originally by searching for Radha-Madhava, but I don’t think it’s them. I may have been having a bad night, but for a line of incense that claims fully natural ingredients, oils, herbs and woods, the three I tried had far more in common with what I think of as synthetic in that all but one of these samples smelled quite a bit like soap. They actually don’t come across as cheap incense and most of them are durbars of a sort (at least of the packages I opened, which was maybe half of the 16), but perhaps Shroff, Purelands, Pure Incense et al have set a standard these won’t live up to. I first tried the Lavender, which didn’t at all smell like any Lavender I could think of, it was more a muted fruity floral durbar with what seemed like cheap perfume or soap in the mix. Then I tried the Patchouli which was probably the best of the samples, at least in this case it didn’t seem to carry as much of the soapy nature, but again, this wasn’t very much like any patchouli i can think of, if anything it was slightly reminiscent of Shroff Parrot Green Durbar’s lesser notes. Third up, I gave a try for the Vrindan Chandan, which started out fairly promising but again had the type of soapy floral notes that really started to annoy me after a while. I opened a few others, the Frankincense, which looked like a dry masala and smelled more like a Loban, the Nag Champa which actually did manage to have some halmaddi notes in it which was curious, the White Rose which while it did seem to approximate the scent was also pretty soapy, I’m almost afraid to light one, and maybe one other I can’t remember. Again, I think we all have days where our incense smells not that it should, so I’m hoping it was one of those, but I’ll need a second try with them. If anything I’m sure I’ll eventually whip up reviews of these. But it does demonstrate one thing to me, even in a case where an incense series claims to be 100% natural, you can have synthetic-seeming notes and I don’t know if this is because they’re stretching the definition or just using low quality natural scents to create these incenses.

              • Hamid said,

                August 8, 2009 at 2:52 am

                I hope I didnt mislead you Mike. I think Gopala is the standard line carried by the Krisna stores. Nothing special, but they also carry a more recently launched line clearly marked Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, Red boxes with Sri Sri Radha-Madhava in yellow, and of those I have tried two, the lavender and white rose. The lavender of a good , if simple lavender without the complexity of the Shroff Pearl, but very good and excellent value. It is far less costly per stick than Pure Incense or Jivada. If Shroff did a simple lavender I would guess it would be a similar quality and price. The white rose as I mentioned is a nice stick, but doesnt smell to me of roses. I could send you some of the lavender if you would like, I have a huge box…

                • Mike said,

                  August 8, 2009 at 9:34 pm

                  Hamid, oh no I don’t feel misled at all. I’ve actually just gotten through sampling all 16 of the ones I got and certainly there are quite a few in there I do like and a couple that take me back to when I first tried Indian incense as a youth, so overall I think I’ve started to become quite happy with them, and even if I wasn’t, I knew I was taking a risk with the order. I’m thinking perhaps the US Krishna shop just doesn’t carry the SSR-M ones yet, but it’s hard to be sure. And I’d definitely be happy trying the lavender, you can get in touch with me by clicking on the About page and following the instructions from there. Appreciate the offer.

  3. Claire said,

    July 18, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Last one – from PURELANDS not Pure Incense as I have been stating (thanks go to Hamid for flagging that up!):

    6. Sandalwood – This one isn’t quite as smooth as the others as every waft or so I notice a smell like smouldering cardboard (although I may not pick this up if I sat a bit further away). Oddly I think I can also detect wafts of melted milk chocolate. In fairness, this makes a reasonable attempt at smelling like real sandalwood as opposed to what people have come think of as sandalwood from having smelled all those tubs of ‘Sandalwood’ talcum powder that they get every Christmas. Of course there are different grades of real Sandalwood and I’d say this makes a fairly close approximation to some ground WHITE sandalwood that I have for making my own incense, it’s just not quite as strong or quite as mellow. In conclusion there are much better Sandalwood incenses out there but there are also many worse. If I had to pick from this sort of price range, I’d choose this over a lower end Tibetan Sandalwood as those are much rougher.

    • Mike said,

      July 18, 2009 at 11:35 am

      Claire, once again thanks very much for sharing your comments and reviews of the incenses with us, they’re always good reading and it’s always great to get different perspectives. I’d say more, but I do plan on doing a full review of the Purelands line in the future, I may be a month or two off at this point, so I’ll save further thoughts on these incenses until then.

  4. Claire said,

    July 18, 2009 at 9:53 am

    And another Pure Incense…

    5. Flower – the raw sticks have a very sweet, tangy, exotic fruit aroma and this is strongly present when burning too. Once lit there is another aroma equally strong that I can only describe as being like the smell when my dad has a shave – a cross between an antiseptic like ‘Germolene’ and an aftershave balm. It’s really quite hard to describe. I would say that the background to this 2nd aroma is camphor (but I would never have got to that conclusion on my own, I can only detect it because of what Mike said elsewhere about this reminding him of Mystic Temple’s Green Floral Champa because of the presence of camphor). It’s just doesn’t strike hit you in the face though that it is camphor as it is so cleverly combined with other ingredients to make it smooth and fragrant rather than rough and pungent (which is how camphor is more commonly evident in lower end Tibetan incenses). Overall, it makes me think of fruit and something ‘green’ (limes with woodsy herbs and balsam) rather than flowers . As I said, hard to describe, but very pleasant.

  5. Claire said,

    July 18, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Another from Pure Incense…

    Shanti – I agree with Mike that this is similar to Satya Natural although I think it has the edge on that as it comes across as altogether smoother and mellower than the Satya Natural that I sampled (and at the time I liked the Natural the best out of all the Satya ones I tried as it was mellower and less synthetic smelling). When I say mellow, I don’t mean weak, by the way, as it is still strong if you stop and assess it… but that is the point, you don’t stop and consciously think about it, it just relaxes you so that you forget about everything. Lovely.

    • Hamid said,

      July 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

      Further proof that our appreciation of tastes and smells will always have a degree of subectivity to it.

      Shanti , Rasa Leela, and the other two are actually from Purelands btw, rather than Pure-Incense, although just to confuse matterseven more, Purelands carries some of the Pure-Incense range !

      • Claire said,

        July 18, 2009 at 9:56 am

        Hi Hamid – you’re absolutely right, I’ve just checked the boxes. How sweet of you to provide me with an excuse for my genuine confusion (and lack of observation, um, er). Thank you!

        • Hamid said,

          July 18, 2009 at 10:23 am

          Well it is confusing Claire ! ( I was well aquainted with Pure-Incense before Purelands came out, so didnt conflate the two ) Particularly as there is a degree of overlap, as I said Purelands carry some of the Pure-Incense range. In addition the Golden Nag Champa smells identical to my nose in both ranges…

          The difference becomes more obvious in quality ( and price ) with Pure-Incenses Connoisseur range. Good as the Purelands Range is, and it compares favourably with Pure-Incense’s Absolutes, Pure-Incenses Conns are in a league of their own imo. Lets just hope noone else brings out a range with Pure in the title..

  6. Claire said,

    July 18, 2009 at 5:49 am

    I bought the full Bhakti Yoga collection of incenses from Pure Incense this week as it was on offer at £6.50 incl free postage from http://www.purelands.co.uk/?page_id=3&category=4 (it seemed daft to buy just 2 for £4 when I could try all 6 for only £2.50 more). I’ve tried 3 if them so far but don’t find myself sharing the enthusiasm that others have for them for some reason:

    1. Rasa Leela – I have to agree with Mike’s description of “a mix of honey, cocoa and floral”. The cocoa come through very nicely but for me the honey is just too strong and tips me towards a headache. It gives it that ubiquitous Indian incense shop aroma, you know, the aroma that clings to your clothes after you have left the shop. Otherwise, this is quite pleasant.

    2. Rose and Saffron – I like the smell of the stick before it is lit but can’t warm to it when burning. The rose is just too sickly for me and the saffron smells like musty turmeric (which is often sold falsely as saffron due to it’s similar colour but MUCH lower price). To me, sweet and musty don’t go together – sorry. I think this may also have some honey in it has an underlying aroma similar to the Rasa Leela.

    3. Golden Nag Champa – well I can see how this gets the word Golden in it’s name. The incense actually glistens when you slide it out of the packet. I’m pretty certain that this has real benzoin in it and I’d hazard a guess at it being Sumatra benzoin as a) it as an animalistic under-note to it like Sumatra benzoin and b) it smells very similar to Sumatra benzoin that is burnt too hotly, i.e. vanilla-like but spoiled with an aroma akin to burning plastic. Fortunately this peculiar aroma comes across as sort of powdery here (whereas it assaults your throat and nasal passages and nearly knocks you over on your back when it is neat Sumatra benzoin that is burnt too hotly).

    The strength of the aroma of all 3 so far is quite impressive and it seems to linger (in the room and on your clothes) for quite some time after it has finished burning. I can’t say I noticed the smell of the stick itself burning either – they all extinguished themselves as soon as the incense ran out so that you didn’t get just the stick burning at the end.

  7. Hamid said,

    July 12, 2009 at 3:16 am

    So glad that Purelands and Pure-Incense are giving pleasure. I think they deserve to be widely appreciated. At the risk of banging on, I would recommend a look at the Jivada range too, avalable online. Their Hanuman Rose is way up there in the top five of my Rose picks.
    Which would be;
    1)Pure-Incense Conn.
    2) Jivada Hanuman Rose
    3) Soll’s Joyous Rose
    4) Purelands Saffron and Rose
    5) Pure- Incense Absolute.

    • Mike said,

      July 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

      I’ll definitely have to look into the Jivada, Hamid, your recommendations have all been fantastic! I just got in Joyous Rose, but haven’t managed to try it yet.

  8. Hamid said,

    June 16, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Glad you like the Purelands you have tried Mike, as you know I am a big fan. I would also urge ( your schedule must look a little crowded ! ) an investigation of the Pure-Incense line. Another Brit based company am very keen on is Jivada, I dont think Beth is stocking them, but they post all over the world.
    I am getting familiar with the Mermade incenses, very nice work it is too..
    And awaiting with keen anticipation my order of the new Shroffs from EOTA…

    • Mike said,

      June 16, 2009 at 6:02 am

      Was a really great call on the Purelands! I’ve got some samples of the Pure-Incense line in stock, but the only one I’ve tried so far is their aloeswood (not the connoisseur, the more inexpensive one) and it was indeed quite nice.

      The latest Shroff batch is pretty great and like I expected I’m finding I enjoy them more with my second stick. There are some real gems in there (the Paneer and Natural come to mind right away, as do most of their semi-wets.) The only ones I’m not totally sure about yet are the masala base incenses which are definitely all potent floral charcoals. Most of them are quite good, but there are one or two where the charcoal scent bleeds through a bit too much as they often do in this style. I think the one I like the most so far is the Lilac in that group.

      • Masha said,

        June 16, 2009 at 10:45 pm

        I agree, the Paneer and Natural (the only two of the new ones I bought, actually!) are fantastic. They are very true to their names. I also bought a fresh bag of the Dashanga powder, and wow, is it potent! Really nice, though, as it’s smokeless.

  9. Mark said,

    June 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks Mike–will definitely try that one.

  10. Mark said,

    June 14, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Hi Mike, here’s a completely extraneous question for you. Do any of the Shroffs or other Indians you’ve sampled/reviewed as of late invoke Kyukodo Azusa to you at all? Would love to find one that is in the same vein, but perhaps with more oomph (not to mention cheaper) for outdoor/garden use.

    Mark

    • Mike said,

      June 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Mark,. I’m afraid not, not even close. There are lots of new florals in the latest Shroff batch, but all of them in the dry masala group are basically charcoals (and most like variants on Sugandhi Bathi) and all of them in the semi-wets are Shroff’s unusual take on the durbar style. The Maromas I’ve tried so far all also seem to be charcoal-type incenses, like the Shroffs well done for the style. It’s nothing like Azusa but I think the Purelands Saffron & Rose is pretty amazing though, certainly worth a try for an outdoor situation.

      • Mark said,

        July 11, 2009 at 9:02 am

        Mike, I just tried the Purelands Saffron and Rose last night in the garden. Absolutely gorgeous! This is a very complex one with not just the rose and saffron but also a top note of lychee and some cassia bark that gives a peppery, sage-like quality. The saffron is brilliant and imparts an umami ‘aftertaste’ effect. I haven’t traditionally been a fan of rose incenses either, but I’ve evidently been trying the wrong ones.

        Mark

        • Mike said,

          July 13, 2009 at 8:24 am

          Nice call on the top notes Mark, I too noticed the peppery quality with it as well. I ordered a secondary box of this one even without finishing up the first one, I liked it so much. Like yourself I feel like I’ve been trying the wrong rose incenses too, between this one and Pure Incense Connoisseur Rose, I’m now feeling like I finally hit bullseye. The Connoissuer is so potent you can just put a stick in a burner without lighting it and it will scent about a 5 foot radius.


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