Fred Soll / Part 3 / Cedar & Patchouli, Ceremonial Rain, Desert Patchouli, Frankincense & Patchouli, Patchouli & Dragon’s Blood, Patchouli Rain

Fred Soll Part 1
Fred Soll Part 2

In the large Fred Soll catalog you can roughly break down some of the incenses into groups. There’s a large number of frankincense incenses, quite a few champas and then several with sage, patchouli or cedar as the basic scent. I’ll be covering the patchoulis this round, and I believe Anne will be covering the frankincenses at a later date. The champas have been sadly out of production for at least a year now, so we’ll be waiting if and until they’re released again, the question being whether halmaddi resin will ever be available again. And of course we’ll have a couple more miscellaneous batches to come, one in the near future from Ross. All in all, including the champas, that should be about 7 installments in this series and given the selections are pretty fluid, perhaps more to come in the future.

This part, I’ll be covering the patchoulis and an incense called Ceremonial Rain, which fits into this batch alongside the Patchouli Rain incense to round out the group. The thing is, it’s fairly easy to summarize most of these incenses without going into a lot of detail. Except in the case of Ceremonial Rain, all of these incenses use a very deep and beautiful patchouli oil, one that combines the usual herbal essential oil you’ll often find, with a sweet finish that is often rarer. Combined with the pinon, charcoal and wood base, Soll seem to have found a very nice combination that works most of the time. However, I should mention that in a couple of these cases, the incense has a hard time staying lit, although you can mitigate this issue by burning the incense horizintally as the directions suggest. It isn’t foolproof, but I did experiment and found that at least one of these incenses burned without extinguishing once the stick was horizontal.

This incense was the Cedar & Patchouli, which I found very difficult to keep lit vertically, so this is one you’ll want to burn the other way. And you will want to burn this as it’s once of Soll’s more pleasant scents with the cedar wood and oil wonderfully fragrant along with the usual patchouli. Given i’s smokiness it’s a remarkably mild scent. In many ways it’s an east/west blend, a skill Fred Soll seems very fluent in applying.

Ceremonial Rain is the one incense here that doesn’t (seem to) have patchouli, and acts instead as a cross between a forest resin sort of blend (something that usually has a high level of pine pitch anyway) and a deodorizing, cleansing incense. This tends to reflect quite nicely the quality of the environment after a bit of rain. The resin and gum mix is quite pungent with that apple-like quality resin blends often have, yet one will be left guessing at the rest of the elements, certainly some pine and cedar are in the mix, but one wonders at possible lavender, juniper and dragon’s blood notes that may or may not be present. Overall you tend to get the fruitier resin notes on the top and a more herbal-like oil below. It’s almost like burning five different Soll sticks at once and ends up being one of the line’s most intricate recipes.

Not terribly far off from the Cedar & Patchouli mix is Soll’s Desert Patchouli, perhaps an incense a touch more in the western direction. The patchouli is perhaps a bit heavier here with the pinon element more of a note. The balance provides a dry herbal feel, a touch of spice and perhaps an even fainter touch of sage in the mix. Intense and very smoky at heart this still seems to be mostly a pinon and patchouli mix, so you may want to either buy this or the Cedar & Patchouli as the two are similar enough that one may feel they’re somewhat duplicative. Of course fans of patchouli might like to compare the subtle differences.

Frankincense & Patchouli combine, perhaps, two of Soll’s most common ingredients (along with the ubiquitous pinon). As always the use of frankincense resin, generally of the less expensive and mild kind, tends to quiet this incense down, and as such it’s quite a bit less intense than any of the previous patchouli blends. It’s virtually a cross between the Classic Frankincense stick and the Desert Patchouli and the two ingredients turn out to be quite complimentary, the resin matching the intersection where the patchouli is sweet, no doubt with a little help from the pinon.

Patchouli & Dragon’s Blood is also very similar to the Desert Patchouli blend, with the distinctive Dragon’s Blood resin lessening the sweetness the Pinon usually applies. As a result, this tends to be even more so in the Western direction with a distinct campfire like scent to it, a bit hotter and slightly tangy. I’d add this to the minor differences mentioned between the Desert Patchouli and Cedar & Patchouli, all are different in only minor, slightly adjusted ways. You can perhaps attribute this to the strong personality of the patchouli oil.

Finally, the Patchouli Rain and as you may have guessed, this is like taking the five Fred Soll sticks you’re burning to make up Ceremonial Rain and adding a Desert Patchouli stick, but without the smoke such a hypothetical situation would entail. This stick I found trouble keeping lit either horizontally or vertically, which is a shame as this is the most intricate incense in this group here, with the wet, cleansing feel of the Ceremonial Rain without as much of a fruity resin blast, thanks to the patchouli evening it out and giving it a better balance. It may even be a bit too multifaceted, at least looking from the angle that often Soll’s work is so good given its simplicity and two or three note scents.

As always only patchouli lovers need apply here, but really those who think of Deadheads and their patchouli oils might be surprised to find a better quality oil at work here, one with less of a cheap oily smell and more of a sweet open ended scent.



  1. Carrie said,

    July 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I saw this post today after receiving some Fred Soll Frankincense in an order.

    The Frankincense and Patchouli sounded VERY intriguing, so I lit a stick of Shroff’s Patcholie next to the Soll Frankincense and oh my gosh, it’s incredible. This must be what heaven smells like 🙂

  2. Mike said,

    January 20, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I think there is a similar plan yes. I read something a while back at the CITES site on conservation members for a number of endangered flora, of which sandalwood and halmaddi are just two. I think harvests are probably a ways off on both though (especially when you consider that the really fine sandalwoods come from very old trees).

  3. Janet said,

    January 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I love all of the Soll’s Patchoulis, although I haven’t tried Patchouli Rain (I guess I’m a little more skeptical of incenses that have a name even somewhat evocative of synthetic oils, even in this line), although the Dragon’s Blood version, to me, highlights the darker qualities of the oil and almost came across as unpleasantly sharp, to my nose. Desert, Cedar, and Frankincense are all varieties I turn to again and again. I think in all three varations the other primary ingredient (pinon, cedar, and frank) does an awesome balancing act with the assertive nature of the patchouli oil, although they balance in different directions.
    Just an FYI – I contacted Solls directly in October because I was getting worried about the long-awaited restock of Patchouli Champa at EoA, and I’m lucky I did…Joy Soll told me they HAD made more, but they only had a few packs I managed to score twenty sticks. I didn’t think to ask about the other Champas, but if you’re fond of any it might not be a bad idea to get in touch with Soll directly.

    • Hamid said,

      January 20, 2010 at 3:17 am

      I am more than a little Patchouli averse, too much exposure to the Height Ashbury fall out when it hit the UK I think..But I do like the Ceremonial Rain sticks. Wonderful deep and evocative smell. And I rate the Fred Soll range very highly in general. Does anyone know what the wider halmaddi situation is ? I know that there are plans to expand the cultivation of Sandal trees as well as to conserve the current trees. Is anything similar happening with halmaddi ?

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