Best Incense – July 2009 (Mike)

[For previous Top 10 lists, please click on the Incense Review Index tab above or the Top Ten Lists category on the left.]

  1. Shroff Chanabasappa / Wet Masala / Pearl – These top 10 lists get harder and harder every time to compile, I’ve gone from them being fairly distinct in previous months to the point now where there’s more like 15 or 20 of them all roughly all the same in preference, so the ordering here may be somewhat arbitrary. I’ve been absolutely loving the Shroff wet masala series. I’ve been planning on writing up a review so I’ve had the 6 boxes up front for weeks, and I just keep rotating among the 6. While I’ll have 2 on this list, you could almost count the other 4 on here as well. But Pearl’s probably my favorite and some of you may remember me talking about it in previous threads. It’s like an alternate version of the Mother’s Ganesh champa, with a potent lavender oil mixed in with other perfumes, perhaps a vanilla touch and much more. It’s one that strikes you immediately on opening the box and it burns so decadently I can’t get enough of it.
  2. Dzogchen Monastery / Lotus Ground Incense – Still one of the most elegent, restrained and majestic Tibetan incenses on the market, aromatic Buddhist arcana at its most kundalini-like.
  3. Pure Incense / Connoisseur / Blue Lotus – It’s actually a bit tough to choose from this line, just about every single one is a work of magnificence with the finest, most natural perfumes to ever bloom off an Indian stick, so like with the Shroffs above, I’ll pick two for this list and this is the first. I think this one’s particularly special because its aroma is so unique and so vastly different to most florals I’ve come across, and not only that but it’s terribly deep, a quality best seen by comparing it to the Absolute version, which amazing in its own right, misses some of the exotic top notes here. And hey, it has a resonantly blue feel to it as well, which is pretty rare for an incense.
  4. Purelands / Rose & Saffron – This one drips with aromatics, a deep crimson champa with enough rose oil to be noticeable backed with all kinds of unique and spicey champa and spice notes to it as well. It’s another one just gorgeous right out of the package. Like the Blue Lotus and the Pearl it has what I’d call a heady aromatic power, it just makes you swoon in its presence. Upon two sticks of this I bought a back up box to be sure I wouldn’t run out too fast.
  5. Seijudo / Shiragiku (White Crysanthemum) – I’d likely have a lot of the new Seijudo and Yamamatsu incenses on this list if I’d have had the time to burn them more, we’re very fortunate to have Ross reviewing these fabulous scents, all of which are world class and worthy of any top ten list. But I think this is a particularly special incense, as Ross and other readers have noted, this is one of the few aloeswood incenses on the market that evokes kyara without containing the ingredient. Like Shoyeido or Tennendo, Seijudo works largely with perfume oils, all of which are of decadent expense and unparalleled quality and this one is a real treat and a fabulous deal for its price. Not at all far from the line’s top two treats, both of which are superb but in kyara price ranges.
  6. Fred Soll / Joyous Rose – Soll named this one in tribute to his wife and it’s a fabulous tribute given it’s one of the finest incenses in an incredible, wide ranging line of treats. Unsurprisingly different to the many fabulous rose masala incenses having past this nose in the last month or two, it’s a cutting, powerful incense that manages to have massive impact as a whole while the gentle rose perfume kind of floats on top of all this activity. In fact you normally think of copal or frankincense incenses as room cleansers, but I think this one works just as well. I might have easily had Santa Fe Spice on this list or any of the Cedar combos of late, 10 being a very small number this month.
  7. Shroff Channabasappa / Wet Masala / Champa – It’s funny but the first time I tried this stick, it didn’t make much of an impact on me, but the second and thereafter I’ve started to think of this as the best Champa incense you can buy today, perhaps even superior to the amazing Bam Champa. For one thing, it really does have strong hints of the champas of yesteryear during the bouquet, without the whole thing really adding up to being a clone. It has a fabulous perfume oil to it and a tremendously friendly base without any of the off notes and harsh factors modern champas tend to come with. It’s just a multifaceted brilliant piece of work. I should also give heads up here to Jungle Prince, Musk Floral and Vanilla, all of which might have made this list at another time.
  8. Pure Incense / Connoisseur / Agarwood – With the preponderance of incredible Japanese aloeswood sticks, Indian incense has really had few agarwoods that even come close to Japanese mid ranges, but finally here’s one that does. Yes, this is essentially a very different style, less wood on a heater and more oud oil-oriented, with an earthy almost fecund odor to it. But its real strength and one that the Absolute version doesn’t quite bring to the plate, is a camphorous, resinous top note to it that’s just utterly divine. Again this is a tribute to the virtual strength of the Connoissuer line, which brings much more of a quality oil presence to the incense than most Indian incense lines. Heads up also to the Connoissuer Rose, the Connoissuer Parijata, and the Absolute Golden Champa, all of which really deserve to be here as well.
  9. N. M. (Nyimo) / Jewel of Ancient Incense – My continual thanks to friend and reader Pinjie who sent me a lot of this wonderful Tibetan scent (and several others), one that’s not currently available in the US right now. This is almost a cousin to the Highland incense I love so much, almost potently musky and woody, with all kinds of internal spice notes. It’s apparently a very old recipe; I went through nearly an entire box in a month, and have been trying to hold back on depleting my stock. At another time the Khangdru incense (and I believe what is often referred to as the Wrathful Red) would have been on here too as well as Mingdru and one or two of the Cloud of Compassion Temple scents.
  10. Incienso de Santa Fe / Red Cedar – I really dug Nancy’s review on this set because my first run through of the Incienso sampler made me aware of the difficulty of reviewing a line of what is basically 7 different scents that resemble each other very closely and I’m not sure I would have navigated that isssue as perfectly as she did. And then the comment thread continued and Terry pointed out the Red Cedar, so I went through the box again and fell in love with this particular scent, finding it perhaps the standout in the line. It’s really not at all like pencil cedar or Himalayan cedar, it has an almost thick quality to the scent, but it’s one I think I could find very addictive in time. And I can imagine with more use that I could start to distinguish each of the woods in this line. They do start to get under your skin.
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11 Comments

  1. Adi-Guru said,

    March 31, 2010 at 3:13 am

    I want to know if the sanskrit word “Aguru” refers to Agarwood?
    It is mentioned in the sanskrit Vedas in the most confidential texts on descriptions of Lord Krishna’s beautiful form and the different perfume scents anointing Him. According to descriptions in the Vedas the Earth steals the scent from Krishna’s clothes when He undresses and thus the scent is then distributed to all the flowers and trees of the world, thus they each manifest an aspect of the total scents sourced from His transcendental body.

    • Mike said,

      April 6, 2010 at 8:38 am

      Hello Adi-Guru, thanks for stopping by. I think you’re about right on aguru, although I think the sanskrit word comes from another language that did refer to agarwood. I looked up this info about a year ago so my memory is thin but I remember finding some Google scans of an etymology book that tracked down some of the meanings of aloeswood, agarwood and eaglewood, perhaps they’re still findable somewhere. Love the Vedas description, very beautiful.

  2. Adi-Guru said,

    March 31, 2010 at 3:06 am

    Hello Adi-Guru from Pure Incense here. Nice reviews I thought I loved incense a lot until I read this site!! You are right about Connoisseur Blue Lotus and Consr Agarwood. I want to introduce a new Agarwood incense but not yet.

  3. Maharani said,

    September 24, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I am very much struck by the great paucity of agarwood in Indian incense, despite its wonderful fragrance. While I know it has had a long history-it’s mentioned in the Arabian nights as lign aloes-it is only recently that I have even found an oodh incense in an Indian store. Since finding this site, it is clear it is a central ingredient in Japanese incense, but much less obvious, if not non existent, in Indians. Im wondering whether that is because India has so much sandalwood, which besides being the “in-house” scented wood, also had and has great religious significance. My mother for example, never deviates from sandalwood, as she uses it for puja. Any thoughts?

    • Mike said,

      September 24, 2009 at 9:04 am

      Two big differences come to mind. The first, agarwood comes from all over the Southeast Asian map including East India and the character of aloeswood from various country changes. I don’t think, historically, that Indian aloeswood tends to make it up the quality scale when it comes to use in Japanese incense, in fact I think only Vietnamese aloeswood is left when it comes to the (very) high end woods and kyara. Second, there’s also a tradition when it comes to aloeswood/oud oils that almost seems to exist separately from the woods used in koh ceremonies and such. Fine oud oils and fine high end woods both have amazing characters to them, but they manifest quite differently. Most Indian incense is based on oils, while there’s a great deal of aloeswood incense in Japan that doesn’t use oils at all. So Indian aloeswoods always have a scent that’s more reminiscent of decent but probably fairly lower end oud oils. So far I think the best example of that is in the Pure Incense Connoisseur Agarwood where you get those lovely camphor side notes and all sorts of woody complexity. However, I think even with moderately priced woods used in Japanese, while you might note the same type of camphorous side notes, the woodiness becomes pretty apparent at even lower ranges and becomes more pronounced when the expense is raised. And I think for aloeswood lovers it’s that tremendously evocative woody contour and distinct resin mix that makes those incenses so special. Of course the Japanese do use very high quality oud oils in some styles that do have similar scents (both Shoyeido and Seijudo come to mind), but I suspect they’d probably be totally different if there wasn’t SOME high quality wood in the mix.

      But I’ll leave one cryptic ray of hope, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of quality Indian aloeswood scents. 🙂

  4. Hamid said,

    July 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

    After burning a couple more sticks I have decided that, at the moment, ( to give myself wriggle-room ) of the New Shroffs ” Moonlight ” is my fave. It has a wonderful aroma like bread being baked and an orange blossom top note..

  5. Janet said,

    July 24, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I also got the incensio sampler, and really like the cedar, with the fir balsam another favorite.
    As for the Solls cedar combos, which do you like best?

    I’ve been pretty happy with the pure-incense Green Champa.

    I have to keep thanking all of you for the reviews and comments….it’s been invaluable.

    • Mike said,

      July 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks for saying so Janet. I’d recommend the Patchouli & Cedar and Frankincense & Cedar incenses easily, both are gorgeous. Although now I check apparently there’s a few more I haven’t tried yet, so will have to add those to my next order! – Mike

  6. Ross Urrere said,

    July 24, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Just placed my order for most of the Shroff’s wet’s last night. And the Incienso sampler and Pure Incense’s. Should be a well perfumed box!
    -Ross

    Hey Hamid, thanks for the tips and reviews. They have been quite helpful.

  7. Hamid said,

    July 24, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Yes , I am loving the Shroff wet masalas too in their yellow boxes. In addition to the ones you mention Mike, after a stick or three I have become very fond of Moonlight.

    • Mike said,

      July 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm

      I found it interested that the Akash Ganga also came in a yellow box, unlike any of the others in the original line, so I’m wondering if that’s another scent that belongs with the wet masalas. Looking at it, it’s certainly a close call either way.


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