Ramakrishnanda / Balarama, Gokula, Matsya, Narasingha Dev, Shyam

The five incenses in this write up can all be sampled via the Ramakrishnanda Varaha variety pack and are the last quintet among the originally released 15 incenses. Since then, Ramakrishnanda has released five new incenses, all of which will be covered in the next installment, however the current five are the last of Ramakrishnanda’s incenses to be included in a variety pack as of the date of this review.

As always, this group of five runs the gamut of Ramakrishnanda styles, from the floras of Balarama and Shyam through the charcoal of Matsya to the remaining two champa/durbars. Overall both the best and worst of the line are probably found among these incenses and like with the previous two samplers I’m not able to see any particular theme among them exc ept for, perhaps, diversity.

Balarama is a particularly unusual blend in its combination of lemongrass and clove. Like many of the line’s incenses the ingredients given in the description aren’t as intense or as obvious as you might expect. The usualy intensity found where lemongrass oil is concerned is quite tempered by the clove whose equally intense attributes are fairly blunted and mostly found at the top of the aroma and around the edges. That is, even with the spice’s presence it would be difficult to think of this as a spicy incense per se. Given this is a flora incense (although thinner than usual in a family of incenses that includes thick sticks like Sai Flora, Sai Deep, Sai Leela, Darshan Flora, and others), one expects a certain amount of sweetness but perhaps too the collision of lemongrass and clove oils manages to cancel these tendencies out. It’s an interesting, if not entirely successful experiment.

The lavender toned bamboo stick holding the Gokula scent fairly gives the incense away as Ramakrishnanda’s version of the same incense incarnated as Satya Natural, Incense from India’s Honey Dust, Mystic Temple Vanilla, and Purelands’ Shanti, the sweeter honeyed version of the classic Nag Champa. Ramakrishnada, interestingly, names the ingredients here as Vanilla, Myra and Tulsi. One assumes Myra is Myrrh in this batch and Tulsi Holy Basil, so no overt honey presence is noted, while two listed ingredients seem fairly buried (although one may be able to eke out myrrh floating in the background). Details aside, this is one most incense appreciators are likely to be familiar with already and as it’s pitched right down the middle, be sure you’re not already fully stocked in another version of the scent before purchasing this (and besides, the Ramakrishnanda version will likely be on the expensive side for this formulation).

Matsya is an incense I found virtually repulsive when I originally tried it and made notes about it years ago. Since then I think my appreciation for charcoals has grown a bit, but not enough for me to find this pleasant in any way. The ingredients (and likely oils) listed are jasmine, rose and tulsi and to my nose they clash like a poor house cleaner or deodorizer. It’s not only harsh, but it evokes all the off notes of synthetic products, hairsprays and bad perfumes. A much better alternative for the same sort of style would be something like Shroff’s Sugandhi Bathi, that combines a number of florals and woody oils while remaining very pleasant and perfectly pitched.

On the other hand Narasingha Dev is either the best or one of the best incenses in the Ramakrishnanda line. Described as a Frankincense Champa, it’s actually fairly unlike that scent found in the Incense from India or Rare Essence lines, where the frankincense actually comes through with its more citrus-like tendencies, here the result is more similar to Surya’s Forest Champa where the melting of resins gives the background a sweet and pleasant gummy aroma. The typical vanilla and sandalwood scents common in the style merge quite nicely with this central scent for an incense that is quite attractive and at times perfect for the moment.

Shyam is also quite impressive as many flora or durbars tend to be with the levels of fine sandalwood oil cranked up. Here the description is Sandalwood Supreme and it does indeed evoke the incense with the same name done by Rare Essence, while being quite different in shade. Perhaps the slight floral oil also in the mix tends to taper the finish off a little early, but it also helps to set it apart from other sandalwood durbars, if only just enough.

Overall, one gets the impression that Ramakrishnanda is perhaps, if only at times, playing the incense game a little too safe. I’ve noticed in reevaluating these scents that a lot of the initial intensity of the incenses has been lost since the batches were initially created and it may be slightly responsible for a more modest second evaluation. At the same time, I noticed frequently that the ingredients given in the description, while present, were often blunted or combined into aromas that perhaps didn’t work as well as one might hope. With lines like Shroff, Pure Incense, Mother’s Fragrances (at least their champa quintet), and Purelands easily available now, it’s easier to see Ramakrishnanda as an incense line that is perhaps best in a grouping along with Shrinivas Sugandhalaya, Nitiraj, Blue Pearl, Mystic Temple and Incense from India, all of which do very good work at times, but also produce aromas that get lost in terms of distinction.

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5 Comments

  1. amar420 said,

    April 10, 2012 at 6:32 am

    To my nose, Shyam is very floral for a Sandal batti. Luckily like many other Sandal Flora types this stick doesn’t give the sourness I associate with them. Nevertheless a rather classy take on sandalwood and it is creamy indeed, very old school. I do hoped they’d used a little more sandal in the masala. But very nice.

  2. July 28, 2011 at 8:53 am

    […] Part 1 Ramakrishnanda Part 2 Ramakrishnanda Part 3 Ramakrishnanda Part […]

  3. Aer said,

    May 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    I totally disagree about Ramakrishnanda’s Matsya. I think the smell is nice. The floral aspects of it are strong, but it doesn’t have the sweetness or added sweetness that a lot of florals of late have had.To me, the florals, mstly the jasmine and the rose give me the impression that thats what those flowers would smell like if they were allowed to grow wild without cultivation.

  4. Janet said,

    October 14, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    The Narasingha Dev is a standout from this line, I agree.
    Thanks for all the reviews that have been coming in, Mike!

  5. Hamid said,

    October 7, 2009 at 6:07 am

    I do have a liking for the Balarama. Its a little unbalanced as you say Mike, but I enjoy the occasional stick of it.


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