Pure-Incense / Absolute & Connoisseur / Frankincense, Jasmine, Parijata, Rosewood, Sandalwood

In this group of Pure-Incense sticks, I’ll be tackling the back five of the incenses that come in two forms, the Absolute and Connoisseur lines. Some of the Connoisseur packages also say Double Absolute, so one might be safe in guessing that the top line doubles the relevant oil or ingredients from the Absolute and that’s actually not a bad gauge to go by, it really does seem in many cases (although there will be two exceptions in this group) that the Connoisseurs are twice as intense or strong as the Absolutes.

For this back five, we have three sticks that are very common in the Indian masala world: Frankincense, Jasmine and Sandalwood. These are the incense archetypes one might find in any Indian incense range from Mystic Temple to Triloka to Primo to Incense from India, however, it’s easy to say that while the Absolute version of these three scents is quite comparative to similar incenses found in these other lines, the Connoissuer Pure-Incense line introduces these scents at, perhaps, their finest. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot more to say about them that I haven’t mentioned in a previous review or two. On the other hand both the Parijata and Rosewood sticks here are quite unique to Pure-Incense and present variations on other incense woods.

In both the Connoisseur and Absolute forms, Pure-Incense Frankincense is the most common masala form of the scent, one that carries the aroma of the resin quite a ways from its natural state, embedding it in a charcoal, vanilla and sandalwood base and thus transmuting the resin’s qualities into something different, a masala that seems to work more with a resin extraction than the resin itself. The combination of the perfume elements and the base end up creating something of a third note that varies depending on which company creates it, but ends up being something like a confectionary, anything from cocoa powder to caramel to nougat. It’s a noticeable element that one won’t find at all in frankincense resin per se, so it’s important one sets one’s preconceptions aside if you’re coming from a pure resin perspective or perhaps even the sort of frankincense you might find in Minorien or Tennendo lines. In the Connoisseur version this frankincense oil note or the combination of ingredients that make it up is refined to a very high degree thus surpassing any of the masalas that vary from the Absolute version and hail from different companies. At this oil strength the scent is sublime and the strength of the aromatics give it a scent like some fine cognac or wine which really sets it apart from other Indian masalas, making this, perhaps, the best Indian frankincense you can buy that isn’t a champa or durbar style. If you’re familiar with the style based on one of the above companies’ offerings then I’d advise to skip the Absolute and move right onto the Connoissuer, however if you’re not at all familiar with this style than you’re likely safe with either one.

Likewise, there’s a similar comparison when it comes to Pure-Incense’s Jasmine charcoal. In fact of all the sticks that cross from the Absolute to the Connoisseur, I’d say the least amount of aromatic difference exists between the two jasmines. This is the typical jasmine essential oil on charcoal base that you’ll see from many of the above-listed companies and as such it varies very little from one to another. Unfortunately as pretty as the essential oils seem to be on these sticks, the charcoal bases in nearly all cases often compete or overwhelm the oil, no doubt due to the pretty, ethereal and gentle scent of the jasmine. The combination creates a combined note that while not terribly offputting isn’t nearly as distinct a jasmine note as you might find in the Shroff catalog. Even the sparkly fixative used to bind the oil doesn’t seem to help with the dissipation and this characteristic makes it fairly difficult to tell, after some aging, that the Connoisseur version contains a stronger dose of the oil, in comparison it only seems vaguely more intense. Perhaps fresh off the batch it might be more impressive, but again I think this reflects more of the weakness of oil on charcoal scents than it does on the oil itself.

Parijata (nychanthes arbotristis) is another of India’s aromatic flowering trees and appears to be the scent the incense matches up with, but not having actually experienced the aroma of the tree itself, the scent of it seems to me to be almost a variation of sandalwood and a mighty fine one at that. The only other parijata I’ve examples is the Krishna store version and it’s a completely different incense to either Pure-Incense version here. To my nose the Parijata incense here is almost like a chandan sandalwood stick pepped up with light fruity elements, for some reason I always seem to get hints of apple with this one or perhaps citrus in the mix, not to mention an unusual floral subnote. It’s a really attractive incense at the Absolute level and only slightly more intense at the Connoisseur version, the difference obviously the amount of oil being used. And the oil in the Connoisseur version seems to impart an even woodier quality with hints of, perhaps, saffron in the background – really beautiful stuff.

The Rosewood appears to be one of Pure-Incense’s newest catalog entries and like Parijata is a tree in its own right, although I believe what we’re seeing in incense form is something different as the rosewood trees appear to be named as such for their wood colorings rather than aromatic qualities, that is, except for Brazilian rosewood from which an essential oil is distilled. Just about every rosewood incense I’ve sampled has been quite different, so I’ve never been able to guess at what could be the standard, however it’s not difficult to think of Pure-Incense’s two versions as among the best I’ve tried. Even at the Absolute version this is a floral incense that’s as sweet as a durbar and suffice it to say, this doesn’t appear to be a mixture of, say, rose and sandalwood. The rose or floral element that dominates the incense has hints of ripe or even tart cherries and one can detect behind this powerful scent a rather mild wood backing. At the Connoisseur strength these elements turn even more elegant with the tarter elements of the top floral oil mellowed out a slight amount and perhaps a bit more in the way of a woody character. I’ve really yet to get into either deeply but found both really impressive and in this case even at the Absolute level there’s quite a bit of potency at work here. Only the Pink Sayli could be described as prettier.

Finally, Pure-Incense also has the classic Sandalwood oil masala in both Absolute and Connoisseur versions and as one might have experienced if one has dealt with better grades of sandalwood, the Connoisseur is the real treasure here with a really high quality sandalwood oil at the center that does exhibit elements of the heartwood. While the oil is at a strength level that it perhaps obscures certain aspects of the wood itself, I tend to like to think of this as a different experience overall and there’s a real almost antique-like side aroma that comes out of high quality oil at this strength. At the Absolute level we’re almost dealing as much with the vanilla base and thus more of a vanilla sandalwood mix than something purely woody. At this strength it’s a scent that’s almost a dime a dozen, one that can be found in nearly every Indian incense line. The Pure-Incense Absolute version does indeed hold up quite well in comparison to similar scents from other companies, but only the Connoisseur level is truly special here.

Anyway that takes the Pure-Incense overview through the Connoisseur line and thus the next few installments will get into the Absolute only lines. At this point one will notice in many cases that the Absolute versions are at strength levels more comparable to the Connoisseurs in some cases, likely due to more inexpensive ingredients making it possible. Next up I intend to cover some of the Absolute champas and Vrindavan scents, many of which I find the most pleasant in the Absolute line.

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8 Comments

  1. Tommy said,

    May 10, 2016 at 12:56 am

    The problem I have with Connoisseur Sandalwood is it has a strong smell of Cedar and Frankincense along with the Sandalwood. And when you are burning a pure extra strength Sandalwood incense you don’t really want to be smelling anything else. I even checked the box showing the ingredients and it states the cedar & Frankincense amongst the ingredients. Disappointing that they needed to add anything else to a Sandalwood fragrance.

  2. September 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    […] years since I reviewed them last. It would still be a good idea to revisit the reviews here and here in order to see where these new reviews get their basis from. I only had a stick of each of the […]

  3. June 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    […] good, so I was surprised to be a bit lukewarm here. Anyway you’re probably safer with my original review – this sample did say it was Connoissuer but I remember that stick being much […]

  4. September 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

    […] Frankincense is the standard Indian frankincense masala, also possibly Madhavadas sources. So this review is still close enough to be true. It has the usual cocoa/chocolate notes this type of masala […]

  5. Carrie said,

    August 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I received a pack of Pure’s Parijata today and oh my, this incense is INTENSE.

    I had ordered a pack of the Pure Connoisseur Sandalwood as a gift for a friend, and the scent of the Parijata burning reminds me much of that Sandalwood unlit.

    I’m only able to handle a few minutes of this before I put it out.

    If I don’t end up putting this in the trading box, this pack is going to last me for YEARS!! lol

  6. May 10, 2010 at 8:17 am

    […] March 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm (Incense, India, Pure-Incense) Pure Incense Part 1 Pure Incense Part 2 […]

  7. Hamid said,

    November 18, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Have you tried the Pure-Incense Absolute Black Sandalwood Mike ?
    To my mind its the better of the two Absolute Sandals.

    • Mike said,

      November 18, 2009 at 9:06 am

      Yes, and I’d definitely agree with that. In fact I just finally got through the initial samples of the rest of the Absolute line, I’m almost exhausted by the range of scents! Was very happy with their patchouli.


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