Tennendo / Hana Set / Rose, Lily, Lavender, Violet

To date we’ve managed to cover all of the available Tennendo incenses except for this floral gift box set, an attractively designed and fairly massive set of four floral incenses which straddle both traditional and modern tendencies. Each scent is represented with well over 100 sticks in four slots that have an inner sleever and outer sleeve to keep all the incense snug no matter whether you store the set horizontally or vertically.

All four incenses seem to have a very similar in base in common and only vary by way of color and whatever floral and oil content “flavors” the base. This base strikes me as being made up of binder and lighter woods, perhaps something like a cedar and inexpensive sandalwood mix. It gives each incense something of a traditional grounding so that these don’t exactly match up with the more modern styles you’ll find more readily. Although it fetches a fairly expensive price, it’s safe to say that it’s unlikely you’ll need to restock this for a very long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the total stick content approaches 500.

The Hana Rose immediately had me crosschecking my memory with recent Indian masalas, most of which strike me as having a far more authentic rose scent, however you trade this authenticity for delicacy and restraint in the Hana version. The bouquet seems to be made up of other elements and often comes across more as a general floral aroma than a pure rose one, but as such it has a surprising complexity for an incense at its price with a mix of flower and slighty berry-ish elements. And most importantly, there are no off notes or bitter subscents interfering.

The Lily might be the most successful of the four and comparatively it’s the most exotic of the bunch. The green color of the stick reflects the verdant snappiness of the top perfume as if some of the building blocks were patchouli or even green tea. Overall I think this scent most closely matches the flower it represents and it succeeds in that it’s not too uncommon to find bitter and offputtting lily incenses, however on the other hand, the most superior scent of this type is the expensive Encens du Monde Blissful Mountain and the Hana version is a far cry from it in both scent and price. But the two do share a certain woodiness at core, implying most of the scent comes straight from the oils.

The Violet is similar to the Lily in terms of being a perfume on wood scent and it may be the woodiest of the four incenses here, either that or it has the most fleeting and mellow perfume. As the base seems to bury the floral scent, the stick doesn’t evince the type of gentle subleties that make a fine violet incense (as is notable in, say, Shoyeido’s Floral World series) and while the finish isn’t unpleasant, it’s also not very notable.

The Lavender also suffers from not being terribly reminiscent of the real thing, although one might argue that in a floral set the aim was to bring out those aspects rather than the more pungent aroma of pure French lavender oil. However because of this possible compromise the scent ends up being a little too close to synthetic home deodorizers, a hazard that befalls many generic florals. Not that it’s bitter or soapy, Tennendo is generally too classy a company to not avoid those pitfalls, but it might have been more successful had it been called something else.

As a whole the Hana set surely wins on presentation, but on incense it will entirely pivot on the tastes of any particular consumer. In fact one has to classify the incense here as being fairly low budget, especially when you divide up the cost of what is a very large bulk package. It’s unlikely any will find these unpleasant and floral lovers are likely to have a higher opinion than I, but despite the restraint and class shown here, you’re likely to find greater authenticity in the less pricier Indian masala ranges, although perhaps the quieter and gentle nature of these four will balance the playing field for some.

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.

Newer entries »