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.

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28 Comments

  1. Janet said,

    April 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Esteban,
    could you shoot me an email? I had an off-list question but my computer’s down and your addy isn’t in my phone…

  2. Dave said,

    April 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Hi, I know this is an old thread but I’m going to comment because of my recent experience with Purelands incense. I don’t want to put a company down but I have to tell the truth as my nose tells it. I think the Purelands Bhakti Yoga Saffron and Rose have changed their recipe (Please change it back Purelands!!). I received some after it being out of stock for a while and the new batch were, as steve suggests, almost offensive and left me feeling pretty horrible. I also had to stop burning it half way and needed a few hours to air out the apartment. The thing is I still had some left over from a batch I bought about half a year ago and it smells completely different and really really nice. I bought it first because of Mike’s review and absolutely loved it. Since then I bought more of the Purelands incense and the whole range seems to have something which smells almost like metal filings or old gun powder (more like I’d imagine these things smelling because I don’t actually know) in the mix. I still think Mother’s Ganesh Nag Champa is absolutely gorgeous. I bought the whole range of these which are very good but I don’t want the others influencing my enjoyment of Ganesh because it really is unique so I threw the rest out (sorry I know thats probably sacreligious to you folk) so that I can completely enjoy the Ganesh as something completely unique. Steve, buy this! Also you can actually order from england right now if you want. They still have stock there. Just received another 10 boxes of this today and the smell is as good as I anticipated.

    • Steve said,

      April 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      Hey Dave! I am still waiting to try the Mother’s Ganesh and it sounds like you’re another true believer! I think it’ll be back in stock at EotA this summer, so I can wait till then – but I am certainly looking forward to it!

      I’ve given my opinion not too long ago on some of the Purelands offerings, and I don’t like to harp on the negative, but it is interesting to see that you share my sentiment, at least with the Saffron & Rose. I have since given all my Purelands stock away – there is just something in the core base they all share that…..

      Thanks for leaving comments on the individual review posts, Dave! That’s kinda how the blog was intended to work and it makes each review (and its collection of comments) a more valuable resource for folks looking up a particular incense. No “old threads” to worry about here!

      Hmmmm – think I’ll go light the grill for dinner and one of Mother’s other fine nag champas to cook by 😀

      • Dave said,

        April 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm

        Thanks Steve, and yes that Mother’s Incense is great with a grill of some kind. Went on holiday with my girlfriend a while back and we had barbeques every night in this amazing place in the mountains with Ganesh burning and some vino. Absolutely lovely. The thing is the experience with the Purelands saffron and rose incense has been a blessing really because I had decided to limit myself to a handful of what I considered my favorite incenses (actually mostly indian/ japanese/ tibetan from top 10 lists etc from this website) but when I was disappointed with the Purelands incense I decided to review some more rose incenses to replace the Purelands one and Anne ( I don’t know who she is) did a really comprehensive review of rose incenses. The long and short of it is I’ve been now introduced to non stick incenses and just received some of her top recommendation (Duggatal Oudh with Wardh Taifi) as well as some other types of pure resins and herbal mixes etc with charcoal and electric censers. Basically this is a whole new direction which I’m kind of excited about. I never saw this incense thing grabbing me so much! Thanks again for a great website

        • Steve said,

          April 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm

          Hey Dave! We’ve followed a similar trajectory with rose incense. I am no fan of any rose incense I’ve ever tried, and probably am not even a big fan of the real flower! But Anne (she joined ORS as a contributor/writer not too long ago) has a great breadth of experience and knowledge with rose incense, and bukhoors in particular. Like you, I tried something* from Anne, and it was the first rose-like incense I ever enjoyed. You may even see it in my next monthly Top 10 post! And yes, the burner is a new, fun world of experimentation with blends, powders and chips – quite addictive as you say! And to fuel the fire (burner), you owe it to yourself to look into Katlyn’s blends at Mermade Magickal Arts. She makes some brilliant concoctions and you can read any number of rave reviews here on ORS. Fortunately, the stuff isn’t too expensive 😀

          * Bukhoor Marwah, which may be found here:
          http://www.paradiseperfumes.com/bakhoors

          • Dave said,

            April 26, 2010 at 9:50 am

            Thanks for that Steve. Actually bought the censers and some high grade frankincense etc from Mermade Magickal Arts. I had e mailed Katlyn a few questions on which way to go and she was really generous and threw in a great amount of free samples too. I still have to write back and thank her. Haven’t tried any of it yet as just received it and working out how to use it properly etc before I burn anything. Opened a bottle of a mix they make and took a quick sniff though. Seems beautiful on first impressions so can’t wait to try it out properly. Also their whole presentation and packaging etc is really nice. The bottle had a wax sealed cork which is kind of cool. Thanks again for the recommendations and will check out paradise perfumes

          • Dave said,

            April 27, 2010 at 6:20 am

            Hi Steve, Thanks alot for the reply. I’ve actually bought the censers and some various incenses from Mermade Magickal Arts and just received them over the last few days. Katlyn was really generous with free samples and have to e mail her to say thanks. I had been e mailing them with a few questions. Just from opening the bottles though the incenses smell amazing and the presentation is really nice in little wax sealed bottle etc. Thanks alot for all of the recommendations by the way which I really appreciate and I will definitely check out the Bukhoor Marwah. Thanks again!! 

    • Mike said,

      April 26, 2010 at 8:28 am

      Dave, I think you’re at least the second person I’ve counted who has noticed a change in the recipe for Saffron & Rose and it’s one of many reasons why I’m glad each incense review has a comments section. It’s definitely a shame given how good the original was.

      But keep in mind, we’ve got an Incense Trading Circle (see link on left) for incense people don’t want anymore!

      • Dave said,

        April 27, 2010 at 6:24 am

        Thanks Mike, I was having some trouble posting replies so some seem to have popped up twice. I will keep in mind the trading circle. The only thing is post and package to america for me can be quite expensive coming from europe so normally try and order quite a large amount if I’m ordering from over there. Thanks again

        • Mike said,

          April 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

          Dave, we do have some European readers that are part of the trading circle, so if you’re interested I’m sure we could work something out. Anyway it seems to be taking its time travelling at the moment, no doubt cuz it’s a huge box, but just drop your name on the trading page at any time if and when you’re ready.

          • Janet said,

            April 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

            I got it a couple of weeks ago and will be passing it along fairly quickly….if I’m not mistaken, it goes to Claire next and will be in that part of the world before too long.

          • Dave said,

            April 27, 2010 at 3:05 pm

            Thanks Mike, I;ll check it out. Nice concept !!

          • Malchus said,

            April 28, 2010 at 5:32 am

            How many europeans are currently in the line? Would it yet make sense to start a “European Box”?

  3. Steve said,

    February 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I ordered a large variety of Indian incense a few months ago and am slowly getting to know new (to me) manufacturers and blends. I have to say that, so far, my impression of Purelands is not very high. In all fairness, I will try to be more concrete with further comments on additional blends, but I can say this so far – it has been a long time since I got a headache from incense and could not tolerate letting a stick burn, but both Saffron & Rose and, tonight, Golden Champa, have done just that to me. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of rose incense, so we can partially chalk my veto on Saffron & Rose up to that. The Golden Champa hit me with a very hard perfume smell, quite artificial and abrasive, leaving the lining of my nose literally slightly burning. This is the reaction I get in Hallmark and Yankee Candles stores (which I no longer can go in). I wonder if anyone else has had a similar response?

    • janet said,

      February 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm

      To Hallmark and Yankee Candle stores (as well as Bath & Body Works)? Absolutely!!!
      But comparing them to the Golden Champa? Ouch – I really like it. You were talking about the NK Bamboo Leaf being a “dessert incense”, and that’s how this one is to me…sugary-sweet and sunny and almost edible….although I guess it doesn’t seem very champa-like.
      Have you tried the Shroff’s or Mother’s Shanti, yet?
      You will probably find the pure-incense version to be much the same as purelands, although not quite so sweet, to me….
      but those two are pretty different – I think the Shanti is my favorite of all, but I am super fond of that line, as I’ve mentioned many a time.

      • Steve said,

        February 3, 2010 at 6:19 pm

        Hey Janet! Still digesting everything, but my initial manufacturer ranking would be Shroff (best) – Pure Incense – Purelands (least favorite). Mother’s – not sure. Of course, I have only tried a very small sample of each of these manufacturers, so take my ranking with a grain of salt. Not to beat a dead horse, but I appreciate the difference between not preferring an incense and being assaulted by one, and in the case of the 2 Purelands I mentioned, I had to drop the dreaded “Yankee Candle” tag bomb on ’em! I have another 4 or 5 Purelands to try, so maybe I’ll find some keepers – but right now the brand has only managed to remind me of why I quit Indian incense a couple of years back.

        Of the Pure Incense varieties I’ve tried, they have been OK. They are all Conneisseur line and I need to try them again (at least I could let the sticks burn completely!), but I wasn’t initially floored by any of them. Will comment more on them in time.

        The Shroff’s, to me, are the only ones that have proven to be exceptional from the get-go. Now, I can say that Moonlight is intense and odd to me, and in fact I’m not sure I even like it, but I can still recognize it as a quality product (no headaches!) that I may just not prefer. Champa, Pearl and Jungle Prince were all brilliant at first burn.

        I bought most of the Mother’s line, too. Haven’t tried them much yet, though I did find them pleasant. If I recall, I didn’t notice a huge difference between the varieties, but it’s still early with them.

        All this rambling is pretty early in my learning curve for the new Indian incenses I purchased so I might change my tune down the road. One odd thing I did notice after trying all these new Indian manufacturers – I found a new appreciation for my little yellow box of Goloka Nag and my little blue box of Satya Nag! Restrained and flat in comparison, they were familiar, warm and bubble-gummy and I loved ’em – even if they only had .01% halmaddi content 😀

        • janet said,

          February 3, 2010 at 6:49 pm

          As far as the Mother’s go, I think (like with the pure-incense), there is a similarity of base that does limit the amount they vary from one another…which is why I’m a sucker for the line…I lovelovelove the base.
          I probably should have qualified my enthusiasm just a bit – Ananda’s top note is a little strange to me, and I haven’t tried the Laxmi (Shanti lite).
          But the others….
          well, if you wind up not liking the Ganesh, Esteban, you will be a true ORS maverick!
          ::grin::

          • Steve said,

            February 3, 2010 at 7:19 pm

            OMG – I’d rather spend the night in Yankee Candle than burn Ganesh!!!

            😀

            But seriously, it’s funny you mention Ganesh – that’s the one I’ve heard the most about, and what I wanted most to try – and is the only one in the line that is out of stock at EotA until summer, so it’s the only one I can’t try! I definitely plan on picking some up when it’s back in…

          • Mike said,

            February 4, 2010 at 8:29 am

            I think the Mothers quintet is somewhat in a league of their own due to the use of mattipal resin, I’d guess that’s what gives them all a sort of unique rich/evergreen/spice to the base. I even asked when I first reviewed them, how come no other incense companies seem to be using this stuff? Anyway I burn these all the time, in fact they now sit usually in my “current” box, so they’re always at hand. I’m stocked super deep on them (cheers Janet!) and they never cease to amaze me in how good they are.

  4. Maharani said,

    September 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    The Purelands saffron rose is indeed delectable! The saffron is stronger than in the Pure Incense saffron incense, which I really like, as I love saffron, and have been anticipating trying out some saffron incenses for awhile. The rose balances it well. I don’t specifically detect cherry, but the incense does have a sweet “red” tone, as opposed to the dryer red of, say, Shroff Red Sandal. I also detect coriander, almost a garam masala like note-not at all disharmonious however-and perhaps necessary as a strong base to balance out the saffron and rose-it all adds up to a very rich, interesting, and beguiling incense. Of the 2 saffron incenses I have tried, this one would be my pick.

  5. Maharani said,

    August 29, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Thanks for the great review! I have been thinking of ordering the saffron/rose in particular and now I will go ahead and do it, as well as others.

    I have a question-how much does knowing what the names of these incenses mean, affect your perception? For example, Rasaleela is the dancing that is part of the festivities for Krishna’s birthday. He is a blue-skinned, “dark” god, which may be what the incense maker was trying to suggest. Durbar incenses call up much history when I see them, because of their origins in courtly ceremonial.

    • Hamid said,

      August 29, 2009 at 8:35 am

      I am not sure why particular incenses are so named, when It is not a matter of their ingredients, as it is in Saffron Rose. With the incenses like Rasa Leela I think its more a question of particular moods and devotional intention. Both Purelands and Pure-Incense are owned and managed by Krisna devotees.

    • Mike said,

      August 31, 2009 at 8:20 am

      Good question. Perhaps they do on a subtle level. Obviously my understanding of the Hindu pantheon is fairly general, so I don’t always put together the name when I burn the incense, and I take it as my primary objective here to describe the incense from a western perspective (and I think to some extent I’d probably lose a great deal of interest in reviewing incense if I started to get encyclopedic and digressive about the names, which can be looked up on Google). But if I do know what is behind the name that does sometimes change things subjectively, at least it certainly does when the name is something more familiar to me. For example, there’s a series of Nu Essence resins, a few of which Ross reviewed, which comes from an occult or mystical path that I’m much more familiar with and in those cases I’d say the names are very influential on my perception.

      • Maharani said,

        September 4, 2009 at 8:48 pm

        Ive ordered the saffron/rose and am looking forward to trying the combination of two such luxurious scents!

  6. Hamid said,

    August 29, 2009 at 2:14 am

    When my daughter was learning the cello Ross, her cello teacher would always remark that her cello smelt strongly of incense, fortunately she liked it !

    Thanks for your characteristically detailed and thorough review Mike. I love the Rasa Leela, but agree that Saffron Rose is also superb.

  7. Ross Urrere said,

    August 28, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Tried out the Sandalwood last night as well as the Rasa Leela. The Sandalwood is probably the best to me of the Indians i have tried. They really went all out on the oils they used. The Rasa Leela is very strong and not much is needed, very deep scent, not like anything else I have tried. These are for sure first rate products.
    The only problem I have with the Indian’s is that the scent is, or can be, so long lived. To me the Japanese styled sticks, while potentially strong amongst themselves have nowhere near the endurance of the Indian’s. I am actually thinking about getting an ozone generator for my room just so i can enjoy the Indians and not have to fight my way through them for the next day or two. Of course, from what I’ve heard from Mike as too how much Indian incense has been used around his furniture over the years I am thinking we could grind up the couch and probably get some very high quality sticks out of it 🙂


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