Shroff Channabasappa / Natural (Masalas) / Masala Natural, Rose Natural, Patcholie, Vetivert (Lavancha)

Shroff Channabasappa Part 1
Shroff Channabasappa Part 2
Shroff Channabasappa Part 3
Shroff Channabasappa Part 4
Shroff Channabasappa Part 5
Shroff Channabasappa Part 6
Shroff Channabasappa Part 7

Yesterday, I went over the latest group of Shroff Channabasappa incenses and their classifications, all of which you can catch up with by reading the link at Part 7 above. In it I discussed the new grouping called Natural Incenses, in which a group of nine incenses are split between five charcoals (also reviewed) and four masalas, and in this article I’ll be discussing these other four.

What we have here is a slightly unusual incense style that seems to be even more wood-based than your average masala. All four of these incenses, despite any individual ingredients are based on a warm, sawdust-like wood center, which manages not only to capture the particular herb added but to combine with them in quite consonant ways. It’s difficult to tell what woods are being used, I’d guess some sandalwood, but the wood blends don’t just smell like sandalwood based incenses. I’d guess that these wood blends are actually used in a similar method to the charcoals in that they act as an absorbent to capture essential oils. Perhaps in the case of charcoals such woodiness would overwhelm the particular scents, but here it seems to be assumed that the added oils are powerful enough to come out in their own right.

The first of these incenses, Masala Natural, might act as a sort of base stick and is unfortunately one of the few Shroff failures, an incense that seems to only smell like a base wood punk. While I’m not sure if this contains benzoin or not, the stick reminded me of the rough and ready nature of the more basic lobans, and even more so it’s an Indian that is reminiscent of the more campfire-like Tibetan sticks. As such, it’s not impressive in any way and is one of the least Shroff-like scents in the catalog in that it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of perfume or oils. It’s almost like the scent of mesquite charcoal heating in a bit or even burning paper. I’d hold out hope it might get better but I would not expect it to given it has so little breadth.

Fortunately the other three wood masalas here are more up to the usual Shroff standards. In fact the Rose Natural is quite lovely, as with the wood taking up so much of the aromatic panorama, the rose scent tends to be milder and more gentle than it tends to be as a perfume. It’s almost what it would be like if you took away the amber aspects of the Amber Rose and added a woodier base, dissipating some of the strength of the perfume. Like the rest of the masalas in this group, the base is a very clean, almost fresh-cut wood scent and it gives the atmosphere of the incense both a down to earth simplicity and a subtle beauty. One of the best in the new batch and another where Shroff shows how they excel in rose incenses.

The other two incenses feature two well-known, deep, green herbal scents. The unusually spelt Patcholie continues the trend of embedding a fine essential oil in a wood base and the results are both similar and quite different to the wide variety of patchouli incenses in other companies. For one thing this is not a sweet patchouli, featuring the more dry, herbal, green and claylike scents found in some green masalas as well as the black, oily notes you tend to find in the oils. As with all the oils used in this subline, there’s a clarity and intensity that’s quite impressive and overall I came out of this thinking that it was just different enough to sit alongside the varying patchouli styles so common in the incense world.

Vetivert/Lavancha costs approximately twice as much as the preceding three incenses, and we’ll assume that the cost increase is due to the expense of vetivert oil. After all, this is a fabulously earthy, green and pungent vetivert scent, mixed in with a fresh-cut sawdust base wood, a combination that seems to combine for a very fresh and invigorating scent. Like with the patchouli the oil seems natural and true to form rather than a stylized perfume so the more intense and pleasing elements of the herb come to the fore. In fact I’ve always felt both vetivert and patchouli have some crossover similarities with the patchouli being a bit darker and more overtly oily and the vetivert more grassy and herbal, so certainly one should be confident in buying both if you’re only familiar with one. Only in resin and herbal blends have I experienced a vetivert scent with this sort of definition and I love the balance of it being seated in a woodbase, especially as I would have never expected it.

So overall 3 for 4 in this group, with a style that seems to be somewhat different than I’ve seen in Indian incense, wood-based in a closer sense to charcoal-based than the mix usually found as a base in Indian masalas. Up tomorrow (most likely) will be the two new wet masalas in the Shroff line up.

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25 Comments

  1. Hamid said,

    January 6, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Oh right…thats interesting. I actually went to Vrindavan in October of 2008 and bought incense from the source. Quite an experience. Unfortunately my family swiped most of the incense from me when I returned, so I didnt get to smell much of it.

  2. Hamid said,

    January 6, 2010 at 5:42 am

    While I am ‘fessing up I might as well confess to what amounts to incense blasphemy..I have never developed a taste for agar/aloes/oudh in either its Indian or Japanese forms. I hope this will not result in my being drummed out of the incense lovers club..

    • Mike said,

      January 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

      Isn’t there a circle in Dante’s Inferno made especially for agarwood dislikers? 🙂 Seriously though, I think agarwood may very well not be to everyone’s tastes, after all a prime component of the wood is a certain acridity which you either like, dislike or develop a taste for. Whatever’s the case, certainly there’s room for all aesthetics and anyway before you started posting here about all the rose incenses, I’d have said I didn’t like rose either, now I’m completely turned around on that opinion.

      • Hamid said,

        January 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

        And I well may end up liking Agarwood Mike, so perhaps the Inferno could be put on hold for now…You mentioned earlier the fact that Shroff have a way of making one eat one’s words ( or words to that effect ) so my words and a helping of humble pie for me because I am starting to like the Rose Natural…

        • Mike said,

          January 6, 2010 at 9:45 am

          Heh. I think Masala Natural may be the first Shroff incense I’m not worried about “eating crow” on. I’m often amazed going back to any of the older scents that even ones I don’t expect have an ability to click with me. In fact my only concern with the bazillion Shroff scents that keep showing up is that I get less time to go back to the trusty formulas.

        • janet said,

          January 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm

          I don’t think you have to eat the humble pie, Hamid…
          as I recall you said right up front that your opinion could very well change, so you can just attribute your conversion to the my good friend the “learning curve”!

          • janet said,

            January 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm

            “the my”??
            oh, well. long day.

            • Hamid said,

              January 7, 2010 at 2:02 am

              Thank you Janet, although I think you might be too kind to my ” fire! take aim ” tendencies.

  3. Masha said,

    January 6, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I agree with the reviews. Masala Natural was a total miss with me, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be, I was expecting spices or something? But the Patcholie and Vetivert are terrific, completely natural and high quality. I also got to try the Akash Ganga and WOW is all I can say, I think it is my favorite Shroff at this point. I can certainly see why it keeps selling out!

    • Mike said,

      January 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

      Yes, Akash Ganga’s been a big sleeper hit for me too. I’m actually not even sure if it does come in 100g. I immediately ordered a package of it when the last Shroff batch came into Essence and still only ended up with a 25g box, so bigger boxes are either scarce or nonexistent.

  4. Ross Urrere said,

    January 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Nicly done review Anna. Really enjoy your descriptive talents. Plus. you calls them as you see’s ’em :0 )
    -ross

    • Anne said,

      January 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks, Ross. 🙂 Alas, I noticed some spelling and grammar errors upon re-reading my post, but oh well, c’est la vie. At least the spirit of the review remains intact, so that’s all that really matters.

  5. Maharani said,

    January 5, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Mu guess is Shroff spells it “patcholie” because in India that is how it would be pronounced-not patchouli.

    • Anne said,

      January 6, 2010 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks for the cultural tidbit of info, Maharani. It makes sense that they would phonetically spell it the way that they pronouce the word.

  6. Anne said,

    January 5, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I’m playing a bizarre little olfactory game, and am pitting incense brand up against incense brand right now. I’m burning sticks of Shroff’s Patcholie and Pure Incense’s Absolute Patchouli. Though I like both incenses, and both companies too, I gotta say that when all is said and done, Shroff reigns supreme for me. As I mentioned in another post, I’m beginning to have issues with Pure Incense. I find that their incenses have “too many notes”, and that other component notes are detracting from the star scent. Kinda of like the singer in a rock group being upstaged by the other members in the band. Though they’re a band, and everybody’s suppose to play their part, the other members are playing too loudly, and are drowning out the vocals from the singer. In Pure Incense’s case, the scents of honey, vanilla, and cocoa that I often detect are distracting – and detracting from the main scent. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Pure Incense, and it’s obviously a company that is head and shoulders above a lot of the other indian incenses out there in the market, but in a head on head battle with Shroff, my money (and tastes) are on Shroff. From the incenses that I’ve sampled from both companies, I think Shroff does a much better job of staying true to the key component or scent that is featured in the incense. Pure Incense isn’t as good at that, and other scent notes creep in and threaten to take over the show.

    In the cases of the patchoulis, Shroff’s endearingly mis-spelled “Patcholie” and Pure Incense’s Absolute Patchouli, the two scents are quite different. First off by looks alone, they differ. Shroff’s patcholie is earth colored like dry dirt, and even unlit gives off the unmistakeable scent of true patchouli. The scent, unlit, is drier than most patchoulis, but it’s still a pleasant patchouli scent. Pure Incense’s abolute patchouli is greenish brown colored, like a lawn in spring beginning to bloom after a long winter. Unlit, the scent on the Pure Incense Patchouli has top notes of vanilla, which is followed by the patchouli. Here the patchouli scent is, for a lack of better words, “green” and “young.” This combined with the vanilla like top notes creates a sweet boquet, almost candy like. The patchouli is also the mid-note or end note on this incense, too. Unlike Shroff’s Patcholie, when patchouli is the beginning, middle, and end scent.

    Lit, both sticks stay true to character, and evince their makers’ art. Shroff’s patcholie is, well, pure patchouli. Sure, this is a dry patchouli, but when lit, the scent is lovely and earthy, and unmistakeably patchouli. Not the case for Pure Incense’s Absolute Patchouli, there the other notes of vanilla and honey and cocoa make their appearance, and patchouli is regulated to being a background player. Also, when burning Pure Incense’s Absolute Patchouli, the patchouli scent is weak, and if one didn’t know better from reading the label, wouldn’t even know that it’s suppose to be a patchouli incense! I don’t mean to damn this with faint praise, but again, the other notes here though they make a pleasant enough melody, cover up the patchouli’s vocals. The singer (the patchouli) is being drowned out by the other players (the other scent notes).

    When burning Shroff’s Patcholie, the scent is strong and true, and anyone with a passing familarity with patchouli will recognize that this is a patchouli incense. The same can’t be said for Pure Incense’s Absolute Patchouli. The two incenses are very good, but if you’re after a true patchouli scent, go with Shroff. If you’re more interested in an incense where patchouli is more subdued, go with Pure Incense.

    The two incenses, to my mind, aren’t so much brothers from other mothers inasmuch as their cousins – once removed! Yep, there’s a noticeable difference between the two, and though they may be both patchouli, one is more patchouli than the other.

    If you’re a true patchouli fan, go with Shroff. You won’t be disappointed; whereas if you go with Pure Incense, there’s a possiblity that you will be.

    Shroff wins this battle of the patchoulis! 🙂

    • Hamid said,

      January 6, 2010 at 5:26 am

      Even with a company like Shroff or Pure-Incense there will always be elements that we wont all like. I dislike patchouli per se ( however spelt )..Among the Pure-Incense I dislike the Vrindavan Champa, the Amber, The Bharat Darshan and the Kevda. Even among my beloved Jivada’s I dislike the Green Khus and am less than keen on the Pink Saylii made by either Jivada or Pure-Incense….When the Pure Incense or Jivada range is to my taste the Roses, the Sandals, the blends, they are among my favourite incense experiences. However I also think that a lot of the range is samey. I think this may be because of the powdered vanilla that lies at the heart of the range . Most Shroffs ( I am not including the latest premium incenses ) in my view do not hit the heights of Pure-Incenses Conn Rose or Black Sandalwood, or Jivada’s Hanuman Rose. But on the other hand I like most Shroffs a lot more than I like the Pure Incenses that I dont care for, if you follow my tortuous meanderings..Even leaving aside the sheer bang for bucks element of Shroffs they are a stunningly diverse and elegant range of incense sticks.

      • Anne said,

        January 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm

        I get what you’re saying, Hamid. It’s a rare incense company that can hit all the high notes and put out a winner with each incense. Obviously, individual tastes and preferences being what they are, it’s all but impossible to please everyone, everytime. Shroff had a great run, more or less, until the latest batch came in, and the lack of love for some of their more recent entries filtered out. But they are, to my mind, still the frontrunner when it comes to indian incense makers.

        I actually have Pure Incenses Amber, and Vrindavan Champ, too. However, I still haven’t gotten around to burning a stick of either. I’ve got so much stuff; so many incenses, so little time, indeed!

        As I’ve already stated, the issue I seem to be having with Pure Incense is the similarity between their incenses due to using the same base matter or blend. By scent alone, I think I can tell when a Pure Incense stick is burning due to the highly recognizable base blend that they use. I don’t believe that I would be able to do that for Shroff’s incenses. Shroff’s incenses seem to have their own distinct personalities, and there’s little in the way of common denominator in terms of a base blend, I believe. For example, Shroff’s Night Queen does not smell like Shroff’s Jungle Prince, which does not smell like Shroff’s French Musk…etc. I think Shroff is the true innovator, taking risks, and working with their ingredients to find the “soul of the scent” for each incense. Whereas Pure Incense seems to have found a winning formula, and have stuck to it ever since, making minor adjustments here and there by adding in the flavor or essential oil to make the incense type they want. To Pure Incense’s credit, they use top notch ingredients, and craft their work with care. But still, I can’t help but feel that there’s a cookie cutter type of methodology going on, and that, to me, implies a lack of creativity.

        Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh. I haven’t yet burned my other Pure Incenses. Maybe they’ll change my mind, and I’ll recant. But as things stand right now, though I do enjoy my Pure Incenses, once they’re used up, I don’t believe I’ll be restocking them any time soon.

        • Hamid said,

          January 7, 2010 at 4:30 am

          I think that there is a lot of truth in that Anne. Anyone who knows a Pure Incense stick well would recognise one of its stable mates without seeing the pack. And conversly Shroff’s are far more diverse and less generic. I am currently burning one Pure Incense to about 6 or 7 Shroffs and that is not simply a cost issue.Its about diversity in style as well as in ” flavours”. But I would not choose to be without the Pure Incense roses or sandals. nor Jivadas roses or sandals. They are still what I burn for a little treat, along with Shamama Gold for a BIG treat.

      • janet said,

        January 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

        Regarding the Jivadas….I love the Green Khus! I’m looking forward to trying the Pure version…has anyone done that yet?
        I remember you and I discussing the Red Amber, Hamid – do you like that one? I thought you did, but for some reason I thought you liked the Khus, too, and was wrong there….

        • Hamid said,

          January 7, 2010 at 4:34 am

          I went off the Khus a bit Janet. And the Jivada Red Amber to be honest I dont remember what I thought. I prefer the Shroff/Incense Co sweet spicy Ambers to the more sombre type Ambers. I wonder if they are the same basic substance or whether several things are known as Amber.

    • Mike said,

      January 6, 2010 at 9:04 am

      A very cogent analysis Anne. In fact the aromatics of the base in these incenses is something I’m conscious of when reviewing (worth checking the last couple Pure Incense round ups I did). I actually think the base is common in Indian incense, in fact I do wonder if the same Indian company that creates the incenses for Pure Incense is the same one that does it for Primo, as both have that charcoal, vanilla and sandalwood base that becomes part of each incense’s bouquet. I think the the case of most connoissuer scents, the oils tend to be strong enough to hide a lot of the base, but in the Absolutes they definitely share time. Of course I do like the fact that patchoulis vary so much anyway, if I need a high quality oil hit a Fred Soll works, for a drier scent, the Shroff Patcholie, for a sweet and stingingly green hit, the Triloka, for a more restrained Japanese take, the Shoyeido Premium Daily En-Mei.

      • Hamid said,

        January 6, 2010 at 9:17 am

        I dont know the background of the Primo range Mike, but I| think I have mentioned before that I suspect that the Pure Incense range and Jivada range are made by the same family. In the case of Pure Incense they are called the Madhava family and they live in Vrindavan, and have been incense makers for generations.
        Mahesh who runs Jivada, describes his incense makers as a family who have lived in Vrindavan and have made incense for generations, so rightly or wrongly I have put two and two together..

        • Mike said,

          January 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

          Actually on the Primo side it says Harjdas Madhavda’s Primo Incense, so it does indeed look like the same family. It certainly makes aromatic sense. It sounds like maybe Pure Incense just asks them to crank up the oils. Primo also states the family’s been around for 147 years. And Primo also do a Yellow Rose (which isn’t very good) so it seems there’s wide variation even within the family lines.

    • janet said,

      January 6, 2010 at 9:45 pm

      Not a bizarre game at all, Anne…
      I often do the same thing, with both Indian and Japanese incenses, either within a range or with similar ingredients. I find the immediate contrast often brings out notes that I had not noticed when I burned the incenses alone.
      Somewhere around the neighborhood I posted a similar – although not nearly so comprehensive – of several patchoulis, since I am a bona-fide patch nut.
      I find that I agree with Mike’s post below, that there are differences between several “styles” of patchoulis that work for me at different times. I had actually burned a couple of sticks of one incense that comes close to the Shroff take – from an Auroshikha essential oil line – though not nearly as good. I *do* like the Pure version, as well….I think I have about half that line, and I find that I regard it as kind of an entity unto itself…..well, the Absolutes, anyhow. They do surely have that common base, and that base is a major player in all of the incenses, but I think less that the idea of using the winning formula over and over comes about because of a lack of creativity, and more that the creativity comes in creating blends that utilize that common base with the perfumes to create a harmonious and lovely whole. Not purist scents, exactly, but ones that occupy their own niche – IF you like the style and the base, which I do. So, no, I wouldn’t reach for the Pure when I want a blast of patchouli…but I might when I want the sweet richness of a Pure, and am in the mood for that particular variation.
      I guess a couple of comparisons that come to mind are the Solls, many of which are variations on the pinon theme….and Kunmeidos, most (or all) of which incorporate the reiryo scent to some degree, but I’m sure there are others.
      Whew! Sorry for the long-windedness!

      • Anne said,

        January 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm

        Don’t worry, you’re not long winded at all compared to the length of some of my posts!

        Good and valid points, Janet. And yes, I do see where you and Mike are coming from in terms of using different types of incenses (within the same scent family) for different types of needs.


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