SAMPLER NOTES: Incense from India / Amber Musk, Indigo, Red Sandalwood, Sweet Patchouli

Those ordering from Incense Guru know that you’ll tend to get a few samples from the rest of the Incense from India line, which is nice when you consider they have over 200 scents in the line alone. With their incense, I tend to stick to their durbar incenses, but the samples are generally a nice way to find out about their masala and charcoals as well, and when I get them I like to log them here as it’s fairly unlikely I’ll buy enough for a true review at least any time soon. Here’s the previous example of sampler notes on a few of their incenses and if you click on the Incense from India category on the left you can find some true reviews of other scents in this line (and there will be more to come eventually). Anyway these are all nice scents, but considering a lot of what I’ve been reviewing India-wise, these aren’t really of comparative quality, so do keep that in mind. [NOTE 10/7/21: Just a note that these reviews may be obsolete as recipes have change drastically in Indian incense over the years and we have not been able to confirm where Incense Guru is on these scents. However, they all do still seem to be available and I have added direct links to the specific scents.]

Amber Musk, like all but the Indigo here, is something of a standard masala, in that it’s not uncommon to find similar incenses in other lines. Like it says on the label, it’s a combination of amber and musky herbal qualities and as such it is slightly reminiscent of similar Shroff efforts where the Amber has musky subtones. In this case it’s a much thinner stick, less aromatic and perfumed and not very distinctive, but it’s not unpleasant despite the relative high ratio of bamboo to incense product.

Indigo is really a weird name for a green color and greenish smelling incense stick, something of a friendlier and sweeter take on a patchouli type of incense. It’s also a dry masala with a thread of sweet citrus mixed in. At least in this case it’s difficult to draw comparison to incenses outside the line, but at the same time such a thin stick leaves little impression.

Red Sandalwood is a somewhat distilled and lightly perfumed approximation of the true red sandalwood giving the scent far more personality than the wood has on its own. The sweetness of the wood is enhanced and quite pleasant, with a slight spice in it that bears slight comparison to the Shroff Red Sandal without truly approaching that fine incense’s intense bouquet. A modest stick yes, but again there’s certainly finer work out there.

Finally, the Sweet Patchouli, a type of scent I also tend to find relatively common in Indian incense with a green color and strong hints of distilled patchouli leaf and a surprisingly appealing clay-like subscent that sets it apart from the types of patchoulis that work only with oil. It’s not an incense everyone’s likely to enjoy and it really doesn’t deliver as much on the sweet aspect as you’d think, but over the years I’ve found myself enjoying it. However, I’d say, for example, that the Triloka or Primo versions (both just called Patchouli) are a bit friendlier.

I’ll close this by saying that at one point I found some of these masalas a lot harsher than I do now, I’m not sure if that’s part of the way my room was ventilated at the time or that my nose has adjusted or if the masalas have improved in some way. They’re not on the same level as the Shroffs, Purelands, and Pure Incense masala styles, but really only fail in comparison, on their own they’re quite pleasant.


Fred Soll’s Part 2: Red Sandalwood with Special Herbs, Spicy Cinnamon Incense, Benzoin, Rosemary and Sage, Amber and Honey, New Mexico Sandalwood (Ross)

This is Part 2 of our Fred Soll’s reviews, there are at least three more coming. In a nutshell these are great incenses, done in his own style and using very good ingredients. The sticks seem to last for a minimum of an hour, sometimes more and are generally very strong so using a smaller amount becomes an option.

Red Sandalwood with Special Herbs: To me this has an almost classic Indian scent to it, the Sandalwood is in the background with an almost camphor and cinnamon and spice foreground. It is mellow, not overwhelming and is simply very pleasant. The perfect scent to have in the background for study or relaxation.

New Mexico Sandalwood: This one has more of a Sandalwood presence up front . However there is also a lot of depth in this stick, more so then just Sandalwood but the other spices and/or herbs involved are difficult to nail down. It is very relaxing and at the same time does a great job of pulling you in as you start to wonder what the other subtle scents really are. Fun!

Spicy Cinnamon Incense: The name really captures the scent profile here. This is way past any of the Japanese Cinnamon blends in strength. I am pretty sure there is ground Cinnamon spice as well as a very large amount of Cinnamon Essential Oil in this one which gives it the spicy aspect. There is also a very light burnt scent in the background, which might be the base or possible the stick. This one really reminds me of Cinnamon toast. If you are a cinnamon fan you should try this one.

Benzoin: This one is really interesting. It uses both the Siam and the Sumatra resins for a really nice effect.They tend to work in harmony here and balance each other.  It is a very rich, deep and smooth blend with what must be an huge amount of resins on the stick. When I first tried this it did not seem that great, however that was also after having gone through a lot of other incenses. When I tried it by itself, then all its really excellent qualities came out. If you like resins do not miss this one. Also this one seems to stand on its own, it is not in the Indian or Japanese or anyone else’s  camp. Think of it as independently wonderful!

Rosemary and Sage: This one is very different the ones above, The Rosemary adds an incredibly cooling and clearing aspect that is really nice, refreshing and when mixed with the Sage just wonderful. Perfect for a summer or spring day, it really reminds me of being out doors near Lake Tahoe. The stick is very sticky so I am assuming there are lots of Essential Oils involved here (you pretty much have to cut the package open to get a stick out). Also the are small bits of (I think) Sage on the outside of the stick for, sort of, flavor blasts. This is so nice its like scent therapy.

Amber and Honey: This uses real Ambergris in the mix as well as honey. I have to tell you up front I love Ambergris so I am not what one would call an impartial judge here. This is a very deep, complex, warm and almost hypnotic scent. I would not call this a day time incense,  it’s much more oriented towards the night. The impression I get from this one is of a very luxurious and perfume worn by a very confident woman. It demands to be noticed and will set the atmosphere in any room it is burned in. Ambergris has almost magical properties in the world of scent and perfumes that are very much sought after. It tends to amplify other scents and at the same time has amazing longevity and staying power in a blend.  In this case the amber note mixes with the honey for a really beautiful incense. The Ambergris is beach caste( meaning collected from beaches).

A note on the cones from Fred Solls:

I got the smaller cones, called Cone Cuties in both the Amber and Honey as well as the Spicy Cinnamon. I personally find them to have a better scent then the stick, less burning stick if you will 🙂  Soll ‘s makes two sizes of cones, The smaller Cone Cuties and the large size Cones. Cones produce a lot of smoke for a short period of time and are designed to scent a space in a hurry, they also travel very well, less breakage. I would love to see these blends done as extruded sticks in the Japanese style. I am sure it would smell quite wonderful, although given the amount of oils and resins involved it might not be possible. Enjoy


Best Incense – August 2009 (by Nancy)

1. Kunmeido / Goikuhin Daikunkoh – An amazing temple stick from Kunmeido. Extra thick, rich, and long-burning for meditation and large spaces. A fantastic fenugreek incense! Definitely a unique scent and one that you typically do not find in the retail incense market, with its glut of synthetic and floral offerings that come primarily from India (even though India is the largest producer of this spice and it is commonly used in curries). I was at first completely unfamiliar with this scent but it has definitely grown on me. Even my father-in-law, who doesn’t even like incense, appreciates this one. He made me order some for him the very first time he ever smelled it

2. Kunmeido / Reiryo Koh, “Temple of Eternal Peace” – A lower cost version of a fenugreek incense. I must admit that I didn’t really like this one at first. I think it was just too, well, foreign. Ever since the Goikuhin Daikunkoh, however, I have been revisiting this one with a renewed appreciation.

3. Awaji-Baikundo / Jihi – This incense is so good my husband has made me swear to get another roll of this one next time I place an order. What an awesome, original incense from one of Japan’s finest manufacturers. Hydrangea tea-based like the rest of their line with amber overtones. A fantastic incense to burn when you retire, guaranteed to promote a peaceful night’s sleep. So delicious it’s almost tangible.

4. Shoyeido / Miyako Gusa, “Botanica” an apt name for an incense that somehow manages to achieve a perfect balance between the floral and the fruity. If you like your incense light and sweet this is one of Shoyeido Best incense bargains. Check out Shino Nome too!

5. Shoyeido / Ohjya-koh, “Kings Aroma” – A fantastic regal incense from my favorite incense company. Heavy on the aloeswood and camphor. Very penetrating and meditative and an excellent introduction to the wonders of aloeswood without breaking the bank. One of the most affordable offerings from Shoyeido Premium Incense line, which tops out at $599 with Sho-kaku, “Translucent Path.”

6. Black copal – There are many, many different kinds of copal. Like frankincense, it is historically one of the most important incense materials of the ancient world. Just as frankincense literally translates as “true incense,” copal translates as simply “incense,” indicating stature as the pre-eminent materials of their kind. Black copal is burned in churches and is famous for its use on the Day of the Dead, helping the souls find there way back home. Among the different varieties, Black copal is considered to be the richest. If you like pure resins and single note incenses definitely check this out!

7. Shoyeido / Xiang-do Vanilla – A nice single not incense from Shoyeido’s Xiang-do line. All of the incenses in this line are short sticks, not even three inches, but pack a wallop of fragrance. Awesome packaging with reinforced sides and it’s own little burner tucked inside. Supremely portable and beautiful with glittering mica in every stick. The best vanilla incense I have ever smelled!

8. Kyukyodo / Yumemachi “City of Dreams” – I just keep coming back to this one. It is a blend of woods with an unusual citrusy note that I just can’t put my finger on. It’s so interesting how a smell can be both obvious and elusive. My best guess is that this is a yuzu, or bitter orange, incense. To be honest, however, I’m just not too sure. This is not a scent familiar to my western nose but either way it is awesome! If you like this one try Kyukyodo’s other fruity blend, Shiun, or “Purple Cloud,” which has a nice grape or cherry note.

9. Shoyeido / Magnifiscents Jewel Series, Emerald – I truly believe that Shoyeido has some of the best incense bargains around. There are five incenses in the Jewel Series, all named after healing stones. Emerald is a sort of an aloeswood blended with a nice oriental perfume. I’ve recently been revisiting this line, as well as the Angelic Series. though most of the incenses in these lines are sort of nondescript, there are some real gems in this line!

10. Keigado / East Temple – Do you like palo santo? This sacred wood is surely present in large quantities in this incense. Blended with sandalwood and paired with Keigado’s West Temple, these two incenses are like the perfect bookends to a lovely day. Two of the better temple incenses out there try East Temple to perk you up in the morning (as the sun rises in the east) and West Temple to soothe you to sleep (west for the setting sun).

Purelands / Bhakti Yoga / Golden Champa, Purelands Flower, Rasa Leela, Saffron and Rose, Sandalwood, Shanti

[EDIT: Since writing this review, there have been several comments noting the decline in quality of Purelands’ Saffron & Rose. After comparing an old box to a new box of Rasa Leela, I’ve decided to put this warning on this review as the following refers to the line’s old formulas. Since at least two of these incenses have drastically changed for the worse, I can’t recommend any of them anymore – buyer beware.]

The Bhakti Yoga series of incenses from Purelands is a fairly unusual one when you consider just how many various and different styles there are just within six incenses. You can break these down in half by categorizing the Rasa Leela, Saffron Rose and Shanti as durbars, but all three are quite different with the Rasa Leela dark and luxurious, the Saffron Rose red, firey, spicy and floral, and the Shanti perhaps the most traditional of the three. For the other three you have one fairly traditional incense with the Purelands Flower, a traditional but uncommonly potent and different kind of Sandalwood, and a Golden Champa that might have fit neatly into the Pure Incense range.

Of course, what you can say about all these incenses is not only are they very affordable but they’re of an uncommonly high quality. In particular, the three durbars are reminiscent of the halmaddi rich variants far more common 10 years ago and in fact two of these incenses were like deja vu for me, one bringing back a scent I hadn’t seen sold in many years, and the other bringing back the most superb variant of what’s  a very common incense style. Like the incenses sold by Pure Incense, Shroff and Mother’s Fragrances, these are Indian incenses that improve with use, as you get used to the fine ingredients and their subtlties.

As previously mentioned, the Bhakti Yoga Golden Champa is quite similar to the Pure Incense absolute variant, both sparkle with what is likely some sort of perfume fixative and while both have slightly different directions for their aroma, they’re fairly hard to qualify as being champa incenses in a durbar style and are thus mostly describable by their perfume oils, which in both cases are floral, sweet, delicate and very exotic. Golden champas usually indicate the thickest sort of durbar incense as typified by Sai Flora, however the Bhakti Yoga variant is basically a high quality dry masala. Where the Sai Flora variant is almost overkill in its powerful and earthy scent, the Purelands version goes for an almost lotus-like and mellow variant, its loveliness floating on a friendly magnolia-like perfume that shimmers. The similarities between the Sai Flora and Bhakti Yoga style is what one might refer to as golden, it’s a sort of bright, slightly citrus but mostly sugary champa scent that is deeply resonant. In the Sai Flora direction in turns into an indole-heavy earthy resonance almost thick enough to bring tears to your eyes, in the Bhakti Yoga style it mostly balances out the oil and is judiciously used. Overall it’s a beautifully done variant and given its similarity to the Pure Incense version, its $3 a box price makes this the superior buy.

The Purelands Flower seems to be a variant a lot more common than I had originally thought being a very similar incense to the Mystic Temple Green Floral Champa. It’s a variant of a style I’ve seen referred to as Desert, Vrindavan (in the Krishna line) or Paradise Flower, but like the GFC, the Purelands version has a strain of camphor it in it. In fact where the GFC is perhaps drier with the camphor strain, the Bhakti Yoga Purelands Flower is almost slightly more menthol or eucalyptus-like and cooling which helps to give it its own personality. It’s undoubtedly a very green incense (and the only one of the six with this tendency) and also exhibits slight subtleties or mint and evergreen and like both it’s ultimately very fresh, but unlike both it’s not snappy or sharp.

The Rasa Leela durbar was a very welcome surprise to me. A decade ago or so, Mystic Temple sold an incense called Reservoir of Pleasure and in recent years the formula has changed to a completely different incense, leaving a slight hole where this scent is concerned. Fortunately the Rasa Leela brings back this dark and decadent scent that combines the durbar formula with honey, vanilla, raisins, chocolate and caramel all mixed into an unmistkably powerful and accessible incense with a late summer like feel to it. The stick itself is particularly thick and wet, speaking of what seems like an uncommonly high content of halmaddi in the mix for this incense age. A really gorgeous and classic incense this one.

My favorite in the group is the scintillating Saffron and Rose. If the Purelands Flower exhibits greener qualities and the Rasa Leela the dark and earthy shades of harvest and late summer, the Saffron Rose is firy red and full of heat, a spice content that burns off of a gorgeous central rose oil. The saffron content is perhaps exaggerated as the first ingredient in the incense name as there doesn’t appear to be any true saffron scent (not an uncommon when you think of what saffron is and how subtle a scent can be), instead the aromatics around the rose oil seem a bit spicy, and although the red makes you think of cinnamon, that’s not quite what the scent does. The combination, like it often is in red-colored durbars, leans a bit to the cherry side, but not enough to dominate, in fact the incense’s success lays largely on the fact that no matter what’s on top a distinct, beautiful rose tone is never lost in the burn. And as such it’s possibly the best red-toned durbar I’ve had the pleasure to try, not to mention being my favorite in a very strong group – I even ordered a second box not long after my first sample.

Well, what more can you really say about a Sandalwood incense other than in how the scent is carried, which in this case is definitely from the potent and distinct oils being used. They’re so strong in this incense that the top note has a very luxurious, almost liqueur-like strength to it. It’s perhaps fortunate with this much oil that the best tendencies of the sandalwood come out, that deep wood resin/crystal like scent you tend to find in heating the best wood, although that’s certainly mixed in with the more common buttery wood hints and the aforementioned, intense oil. It’s quite a fine sandalwood masala really even if its a mix of the wood’s qualities, particularly so for the price.

Shanti is the Bhakti Yoga version of a very common incense, the Satya Natural of Shrinivas, the Honey Dust of Incense of India, and the Vanilla of Mystic Temple, however this version is more reminiscent of the style’s older formulations and thus is at least slightly superior to these analogs. I truly get a nice amount of halmaddi in the mix bringing its sweet, vanilla-honey mix much more to the fore and restoring the richness the incense style had lost in these other variants. The style’s a very friendly and accessible incense with a mix of these vanilla qualities with slight touches of what I would think is myrrh given a Ramakrishnanda variant of the scent that includes that ingredient in the recipe list. It’s really a time-honored scent that needs little introduction and surely any exploring champa lover should take the time to buy a box. You can often tell this style from the lavender colored bamboo end, a quality shared by all these variants.

Overall Purelands is another recently imported incense that shows another Indian company restoring the country’s fine incense tradition with the type of products many of us remember from when we were younger. There really isn’t a poor incense in the bunch and when you consider you can get the whole series for $18, it’s really a must purchase. One only hopes the Bhakti Yoga line gets an expansion at some point as I’d like to see what they do with a number of other aromas if the ingredients are this fine.

Baieido / Large Coils (Junenko, Premium Junenko)

Large coils are both a convenient and inconvenient format for incense in my experience. They’re convenient in that if you want a scent to go for a long time, there really is no better format, most large coils claim to burn for 12-13 hours and often go longer. On the other hand because they’re so large they’re actually difficult to start in on, being quite the commitment, which is why it’s taken me a long time to get to a review of these two coils. The other yin/yang side of these coils is that they’re awfully easy to break, particularly in the wrong point early in the coil making the burning fairly problematic. On the other hand, it also means you don’t necessarily have to think of these as large coils and it’s easy to break off, long curved pieces that will only last for 30-60m. But anyone with a box is warned to be very careful in handling these. And you’ll also need a large coil burner, although I’ve found the same hook system used for Tibetan ropes works very nicely for large coils.

The two Baieido large coils in question here are both fairly unusual. The sandalwood blend Junenko is striking in that it’s a surprisingly low quality, every day incense from a company whose most affordable incenses are well known for their brilliance. As far as I know, at least in the US, this is the only traditional, green colored “every day” incense Baieido produces. And if the Junenko is surprising for its lower quality blending, the opposite could be true for the Premium Junenko, the only aloeswood/sandalwood large coil blend being exported to the US and as such the best large coil you can buy over here.

The Junenko itself came as a great surprise to me, because I’m used to Baieido being brilliant in just about every avenue they take. However, the Junenko scent is rough and slightly bitter in scent, far more similar to low quality mixed-down sandalwood incenses such as Kinjo-Koh, a couple of the most inexpensive Gyokushodos and others at the very low end of Japanese incense. That is, there’s really not much of a true sandalwood scent here given the incense is so leavened with filler and the only other truly noticeable facet is what seems like some sort of light oil or bitter/citrus/cinnamon mix in it as well, something also unusual for a Baieido traditional. I wonder to some extent if the entire format needs a stronger binder wood to keep the coil in place and that’s why I notice with this (and several of the Shoyeido large coils for that matter) that the scent is a bit harsh, and I truly felt an imbalance with this one that actually grew fairly uncomfortable as the coil burned.

However, these criticisms are completely erased for the splendid Premium Junenko coil which conforms more to the high standards Baieido is known for. This is the kind of scent you could spend 12 hours with, a very woody mix of sandalwood and aloeswood that keeps on giving. It has a pleasantly rough quality to the wood similar to Kai un Koh but is overall not as intense as that incense, bringing airier qualities to the fore, with a mix of qualities one might describe as honeycomb, cocoa, nut, leather, spice and caramel. In fact when trying to make notes for this scent, it almost seems like it shifts playfully around, teasing you with its various subtle notes, exhibiting some of the best qualities of an incense blend. It’s truly a scent that lives up to the standards set by the Kobunboku series all of which have you searching for ineffable, out of the line of scent qualities.

So overall lots of dualities in these two coils, one I wouldn’t easily recommend and another I’d definitely recommend. In terms of the range of two Baieido and six Shoyeido large coils I’d put the Shoyeidos right in the middle between these two, but until (and really if) we see more large coils in the US, the Premium Junenko is easily the best of the lot, pricy sure, but if one was to break down the 14 large coils you’d have probably 15-20 times that number in partially circular sticks, not a bad deal at all for a quality aloeswood blend.

Baieido Aromachology Series (Ensei)

There are 4 different blends in Baieido’s Aromachology series, which were designed to be used at specific times of the day. The Cinnamon Clove is for the mornings, Sandalwood for afternoons and the two different Aloeswoods ( Spicy and Sweet ) for the evening hours. Of course you can mix and match them up any way you want but the series was designed around the particular effects of each bled and how they would effect your mental and emotional states.

These are not super powerful scents, but rather work on more subtle levels, one can use them near others without “blowing them away”. They do, however, make use of some of the very best woods that Baieido has to offer and are designed to burn for around 25 minutes. Just the ticket for the lunch time break or while getting ready to go to work in the morning, not to mention the post work day glass of Scotch  🙂

Cinnamon Clove: This is a very nice blend geared for mornings and aligned to help invigorate one for the day. It is not nearly as strong as say, the Koh blend, it is a much more gentle approach. Nice use of the two spices plus some other helpers.

Sandalwood: This uses a very good Byakudan or Old Mountain Sandalwood. It has a really clean and pretty straight forward approach. It is very obvious that this is high grade wood and it has a very relaxing yet focusing effect when burned. The quality of the wood is very apparent.

Sweet Aloeswood: Having gotten to sample the Ogurayama sticks recently (as well as the straight wood chips) I am pretty sure that that is what produces the Aloeswood notes in this blend. The sweet Vietnamese is very captivating and centering in nature, just the thing at the end of the day. This is really good with a lot of depth but also a fine focus on the wood. Again, great quality materials.

Spicy Aloeswood: I am pretty sure that these sticks are built around the Hakusui Vietnamese woods. Hakusui seems to be a sort of standard against which many other Aloeswoods are judged, it seems to hold its own. It has a very refined and distinctive flavor to it, again very captivating. There is more then enough in this blend to get the point across, a bit more depth then the Sweet Aloeswood above. I personally find myself bouncing back and forth between the two, but that could well be the state of mind I am in at the end of a given  day 🙂

I think these could work as a great place to start in on Japanese incenses, especially if you worried about getting overwhelmed. They also work well in smaller spaces and the amount of smoke produced is lowish(which is not to say smokeless). The two Aloeswoods are a wonderful way to experience what are pretty much the standards of the industry and might be the best deals if for no other reason then that they hold such a unique place in incense scents and are not(that I am aware of) available like this in any other sticks.

Nippon Kodo Kayuragi promotion

Kayuragi’s probably one of the better NK lines, they’re modern incenses in a fairly traditional style but they’re quite classy as well so I thought I’d bring this promotion to your attention. I’ve found the Pomegranate and Osmanthus to hit the spot at the right times and certainly there aren’t any other scents I can think of that are close in style.

Shroff Incense (Temporary Top 10 List)

Doing some organizing today and came up with a list of my favorite Shroffs at least for today. What’s yours (whether 1 or 2 or however many)?

  1. Pearl
  2. Red Sandal
  3. Amber Rose
  4. Champa
  5. Jasmine 1940
  6. Paneer
  7. Amber Boquet
  8. Moonlight
  9. Sandal Flora
  10. Green Durbar


Slowly working on a few things, but they’re coming together. Got a write up of two Baieido large coils in the works, slow going because I seem to find it hard to fit coils like this into my incense burning very often, but I did manage to burn off 3/4 of a Premium Junenko over the weekend when busy, thumbs up on this one, more details coming.

Also finally into my Purelands reviews, a few notes over a third of the way into the six scents. Mighty fine incenses these are and don’t want them to get lost in the Pure Incense flood of late especially when they’re not only comparable but slightly more affordable too.

Hope to roll out some Triloka reviews in September and we’ll be continuing the Fred Soll series through the end of the year (I think Ross has a group up next). I just got in a big batch of new Soll scents including a number of their Frankincense blends, but I think the one that really surprised me was the Happy Hemp which really doesn’t smell like your most recent Phish concert, but rather a slightly sagey and very pinon deep, green-ish incense. I also tried the Pure Incense Connoisseur Nepal Musk which reminded me a lot of the Blue Lotus, yet completely different, almost as if they share some similarities and then move in their own hue-like directions. I’ve tried the whole Connoisseur line except for the Frank, Jasmine and Sandalwood and have to say they all get big thumbs up from me, truly a line worthy of the name connoisseur.

Finally got to compare the Baieido Koh to the Sawayaka Kobunboku and indeed these two seem identical incenses to my nose as I thought I had read. This means my stock is fairly deep now, so I guess I’m glad I really love this stuff. I’ve also had the Tokusen Syokokkoku out again, right after finally getting to experience the long Hakusui roll, and for sure the former gets closer to the smell of the straight up Hakusui wood than its stick namesake. This wood just continues to amaze me and I really need to restock, it’s almost as if nature itself made a blend of its own right within the wood itself, deep, expansive and wonderfully spicy. If you ever wonder why a bunch of us aren’t quite so taken with the cultivated aloeswood, it may be due to this or the Ogurayama. As with many things quality reigns over quantity when it comes to aloeswood resin.

Also coming up eventually, a few more of the Nikhil mixed champas, a quartet more from Shrinivas, several Primo scents and depending on mood and whim some notes on a number of recently imported and often modern incenses from a number of smaller Japanese incense companies like Scents of Japan, Saraike Kunbutsudo, Shochikudo and others. And there’s a lot more really impressive scents on the ways to these shores too premature to announce at this point.

Dhoops / Sree Yadalam, Goloka (Discontinued), Padmini, Bic, Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory

While the word dhoop is sometimes used as a general name for incense, it seems to be most commonly reserved for a certain type of extruded, thick, bamboo-less, sandalwood-based and heavily perfumed incense that is one of the most inexpensive styles available. Many different companies from India produce incenses such as these and they’re often used to fragrance large areas given the profuse amount of smoke they produce. Unfortunately they’re also commonly created from very inexpensive ingredients and often contain bitter, sour or other off scents that bring the overall scent down a notch.

The following is a survey of a number of different available dhoops with a general assumption that the scents are very close and can be described as a group. Usually at core we have a certain inexpensive binder, a decent amount of cheaper sandalwood or other woods, and what often seems like an oil blend that one might generally think of as floral, but often contains ingredients that are woody or citrus-like as well.  As mentioned, the results are very inexpensive with boxes often around a dollar or two.

Sree Yadalam Dhoop Industries’ Sree Sai Dha Sangam Dhoop Stick is an example that falls, perhaps, at the more synthetic end of the equation. The ingredients remain as explained in the previous paragraph, however in this case the perfume is a little too strong. Like many dhoops the oil smells like a mix of woody, citrus and floral elements with a subscent that reminds me of candle wax or the scent associated with a box of crayons. It seems to my nose that the elements one would associate with sandalwood are perhaps approximated rather than provided by the ingredient itself, leaving the experience fairly unsatisfactory. However, this is still certainly well within the standard characteristics of a dhoop.

Goloka Dhoop is probably a little friendlier and slightly richer in sandalwood content, but other than these differences, the dhoop scent is relatively similar. The slightly bitter or sour elements of the previous dhoop’s perfume oil are absent here, but the candlewax-like subscents are still quite present. Goloka Prayer is something of an alternative to the dhoop featuring a very strong resin content replacing much of the wood, perhaps guggal or frankincense in the mix, and the results are closer to certain Tibetan incenses. Of all the dhoops in the list this is perhaps the least traditional, although the resin doesn’t completely cover up the nature of the wood and oil mix commonly found in dhoops. Interesting, but ultimately its basis relies on fairly inferior and cheap ingredients.

Padmini Dhoop is a thinner stick compared to the previous three with a slightly more brick red hue. It’s also fairly removed from the synthetic-seeming and more bitter oils found in the Yadalam and Goloka version, with a bit more of a floral slant, which helps to free up the wood scents a little more. It’s also missing the more candlewax-like elements but perhaps trades these for a bit more in the way of cheaper binder or wood filler. Again, it should be reminded that these are all shades of a degree and that this remains quite close to the standard scent.

Bic Sandalwood Dhoop is relatively more pleasant with the dhoop scent moving to the woodier side of the equation with the lack of the “floral” perfumes associated with the others. It has hints of much more quality sandalwood, with touches of the better crystalline heartwood-like scents mixed in with the more buttery and sawdust like inexpensive outer wood. After the heavier perfumes of the previous four this one came as something of a relief. [NOTE 10/7/21: An incense in this name still seems to be on the market but I can’t confirm if it’s the same or different from what I reviewed originally and I can’t confirm a source at this time.]

Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory’s Chandan Dhoop is easily one of the more commonly found sandalwood dhoops and is both thicker and shorter than the previous  versions, almost like wood cylinders. Compared to the Bic, the sandalwood seems very mixed down with cheaper woods and I’ve often gotten a more bitter woody scent from these, which tend to be a bit smoky and harsh. Of course given their thickness, they’re probably better relegated for large room use than personal.

Similarly, Mysore Sugandhi’s Laxmi Dhoop should also be used for a larger room as it’s one of the most intensely smoky incenses you’ll find in any style, perhaps the closest an incense will come to setting off your smoke alarm. But unlike the Chandan Dhoop, the Laxmi seems to be of an uncommonly high quality. For one thing it’s not hardened like the others, with a size and consistency like a several inch long cylinder of play-doh. I find this so smoky that I’m more apt to pull inch-long pinches off a log than to burn a full one. The color is of a dark brown and while it has similar characteristics to the candlewax/crayon like scent of the dhoops early in this article, the mixture of herbs and oils seem to be at an uncommonly high level for a dhoop, which perhaps makes this one the most removed from the traditional style. And it’s also fairly easy to recommend in that I can think of no other incense like it, truly a one of a kind experience.

There are lots of other dhoops out there, but you find pretty quick that after sampling a few of them a certain amount of repetition sets in. Certainly the two I’d pick in this batch would be the sandalwood goodness of the Bic and the original and unusual quality found in the Laxmi dhoops, both of which, while you may not burn them often, will stretch the diversity of one’s collection of scents and do so without breaking the bank.

« Older entries