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.

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.



  1. Janet said,

    September 10, 2009 at 4:55 am

    Out of all the patchoulis that you’ve tried, which would be your most highly recommended?

    • Mike said,

      September 14, 2009 at 8:12 am

      That’s a tough question, patchouli comes in so many shapes and sizes it would be hard to pick one. Last night I was writing up notes for Triloka Patchouli, I think that one, for the sort of typical green patchouli that gets a bit of sweetness in with the clay and earth-like leaf, is really nice. And I like most of the Soll patchoulis for getting the “patchouli oil” scent right without the off notes cheaper oils have. And the Essence Maya rope really gets it right for something more straight to the herb. I used to be pretty fond of the Shrinivas Patchouli Forest as well, although recent Shroff, Pure Incense, and Purelands imports have kind of knocked the whole company down for me, but I thought it got something crystally, evergreen and fresh that most other patchoulis don’t. In Japanese incense I think Shoyeido En-mei gets the notes right. I also like the Patchouli Champas you find in, say, Mystic Temple, lines as well. I’m pretty easy to please with greener sorts of incenses.

      • Janet said,

        September 14, 2009 at 8:27 am

        I noticed you had a patchouli from the Krishna Store in the Hall of Fame? How would that rate alongside the rest?
        I poked around a bit, found more than one Krishna Store….would that be the one that sells a bulk patchouli stick, I think 250 for 15 dollars or something?
        Thanks for the info above…….

        • Mike said,

          September 14, 2009 at 9:29 am

          Forgot about that one and I just added to the list. It’s not terribly different from the Parrot Green Durbar Shroff do in some ways but it’s a lot friendlier, and kind of rich and sweet, a really nice stick. Perhaps ironically I wouldn’t pick it out as a patchouli incense per se, in fact there’s quite a few of those Krishna incenses that don’t match up with their aromas so much, but as such there are quite a few that are almost accidentally excellent. As to buying it, it’s a bit of a risk. I do believe it is the same one as the store that sells the big 250 bundles or it is if at the top left, you can see a sampler of all their incenses. I highly recommend going that way first, I mean I’m not even sure I need 250g of even some of my favorites with all the good incenses out there, but I’d be close to buying 100g if they provided a package of that size.

      • Janet said,

        September 18, 2009 at 8:00 am

        I just tried the Triloka Premium patchouli, and really liked it – I think it is my favorite of the “green” Indian sticks that I have tried.
        I’m also very into the Soll and pure variants, for different reasons, and have posted elsewhere how great I think the Maya rope is. All of these seem to do patchouli really well, in very different ways.
        Aside from the En-Mei, I have found a few other Japanese incenses that seem to have a good patchouli note….1000 Years of Wisdom, Go-Zan, and Ranshuko Temple come to mind…..
        the general not-greatness of NK lower-ends aside, I *do* think the Sagano patchouli is worth trying, it is a bit rough around the edges and isn’t super nuanced or anything, but it does do a nice, strong patchouli scent, slightly sweet and spicy….maybe because patchouli is not a super expensive oil, relatively speaking, it keeps the cost of the sticks low while avoiding heavy synthetics, I don’t know.
        Also, in a different vein, I tried a couple of sticks that are essential oil-based – Auroshikha’s Natural Essential Oil line and NKs Herb & Earth. They were both decent and different from the rest –
        with the Auroshikha, they really captured the earth/clay undertone – which is present in the essential oil as well as the herb – it’s sweetened a bit, and pretty mild – it’s a nice fragrance if you like the oil. The Herb & Earth has a strong, dark oil scent that is very much like the one in the Solls….but it is not a particularly strong incense, because it is soooo thin – which I think was the intent, as they also talk about how it is low smoke, but it is only that in comparison with a regular-width stick.

        I’m reeeallly looking forward to the Shroff version.
        Okay, shutting up now 🙂

        • Mike said,

          September 22, 2009 at 11:01 am

          Janet, thanks for your thoughts on patchouli incenses, some interesting ideas to try in the future. I’m actually wondering if the green patchoulis are sourced from one place in India no matter what the company outside (Pure-Incense, Triloka, Mystic Temple, Incense from India etc). I’ve got both Triloka and Pure-Incense reviews in the works right now and I’d say there’s at least one or two scents between the two companies that are virtually identical in scent, implying a common source in India for the scent.

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