March 2010’s Top Ten

The boys – Mike, Ross, and Steve – are true gents, and have graciously given me the large corner office here at the ORS HQ. Its got a splendid view of the lake, and when the season’s right, you can see the swans and ducks swimming around.

To get to my office, just walk past the ORS labs, and don’t mind the big thingamajig what’callit machine that looks suspiciously like a death ray device from a James Bond movie. The boys tell me it’s quite harmless, and is only meant for pulverizing particularly hard resins and woods.  Please don’t mind the mess and clutter in the labs, Ross was here recently, experimenting and such. Personally, I hope he was cooking up another batch of his wonderful Oceans of Night incense.  That stuff’s amazing!

Anyway, my office is just down the hall from the labs, and is the last door on the left. Should you stop by for a visit, you’ll find any of the following ten incenses will be burning away while I’m working on my own projects.

To my great surprise, a lot of my favorite incenses this month are Tibetan. A while back, I would have laughed at this as that I wasn’t overly fond of Tibetan incenses in general. This, no doubt, was due to me having not found the right Tibetan incenses.  I’m glad I finally did, though.

Top Ten

1)  Mindroling Monastery Grade 1 Incense.  I got this incense back in December with a bunch of other stuff, namely Fred Solls, Shroffs…etc. As a result, this incense got lost in the crowd and when I finally got around to burning a stick, I was kinda underwhelmed. I was, at the time, more taken with the flashier, more aromatic incenses. Recently, when I started burning this again, I came away very pleasantly surprised at the character and depth, and even the slyness of this incense’s personality. Like the shy sweet boy/girl at the party that doesn’t say much and gets overlooked for the more raucous guests, Mindroling Monastery Grade 1 deserves a second look and a second chance to impress – and impress it will, I believe. The sticks themselves are eleven inches long and the color of sand. The scent is mellow, fine, and refined. There’s a top note of sandalwood, the middle note is slightly musky, and the scent finally segues into a cherry like tobacco end note. It’s not the stink of cigarettes, but of a very pleasant, very expensive top notch cigar or even tobacco leaf for pipes. I mentioned that this incense’s personality is sly, and I say that because its appeal quietly creeps up on you.  This is a mellow incense, one that is good for meditation – hence the length. This incense is so mellow, that if it were a song, it’d be Easy Like a Sunday Morning. There’s an affability and easiness to it that it is quite appealing.

 2)  Gangchen Himalayan Healing Incense (the fourth one down from the top, the one in the little blue box).  I discovered a Tibetan store in my city that carries an array of Tibetan items and incenses.  Gangchen Himalayan Healing Incense was one of the items in stock, and I’m glad that I purchased it.  The box for this incense states that it is “particularly beneficial to relieve symptoms of insomnia, giddiness, shivering and pains arising from nervous disorders.”  When lit, this stick is astonishly fresh, almost as if it somehow magically imported the cold, clean fresh air of the Himalayan Mountains to you.  It does make one want to inhale and exhale great big gulps of air! The scent itself is cool and calming, a mix of sandalwood, green herbs, and a slight touch of aloeswood thrown in, too. This is a healing incense, and one of the best that I’ve come across. Though it doesn’t cure me of my malaises – I fear that I’m way too neurotic to be cured by a mere incense – I am incredibly soothed by it, and any incense that can do that is a very good one, indeed.

 3)  Gangchen Spiritual Guide Incense. This is another incense that I picked up at the little jewel of a Tibetan store that I discovered. This incense is as good as its sibling, Gangchen Himalayan Healing Incense.  Spiritual Guide is a green incense not only in scent, but in looks as well.  This incense is jade green and evokes a soft, green herbal scent. It’s very soothing, slightly minty, and utterly captivating.  I suspect that its fresh sweet herbaceous scent can be partially attributed to ganden grass, a grass that is common in the Himalayan region and widely used in incenses.

 4)  Chandra Devi’s Aromatherapeutic  Jasmine Incense. Of the Chandra Devi incenses that I’ve tried, their Jasmine in my opinion is their best. This incense is simple, uncomplicated, and exactly what it says – an aromatic jasmine scent.  This is a true to life jasmine scent, evoking the flower itself. Even unlit, these sticks smell sweetly of jasmine flowers. If you like floral scents, and particularly if you like jasmine, definitely give Chandra Devi’s version a try. It’s as good as Shroff’s Night Queen.

 5)  Dzogchen Monastery Lotus Ground Incense.  My final Tibetan in this mix, and one very much worthy of your consideration as a future purchase. Like many people on the ORS, I like this incense very much.  The sticks are eleven inches long and cranberry red in color.  The scent is as shocking as its color. This is to say, it’s probably not what you’re expecting, but when you smell it, you’ll realize that it’s exactly the way it should be.  The top note is slightly musky, but not overwhelmingly so, the middle note is spicy, almost cinnamonish, and the end note is sandalwoody. Intertwining with all those notes is a mild floral, one that I presume is the lotus scent.  Of all the Tibetan incenses in this post, this is the most complex, hitting all the major bases of musk, spice, wood, and floral.

 6)  Shroff’s Jungle Prince Incense. The only Indian incense in the bunch, and one of my favorite Shroff incenses. This is a very perfumey scent, with notes of cherry and honey, but it’s not a foody scent. Indeed, this scent is sensual, rather like a good unisex cologne. This is one of the better shroffs, and if you like perfumey and/or modern scents, then definitely give this one a try.

 7)   Tennendo’s Frankincense. This unusual frankincense stick contains genuine Oman frankincense. It’s a quality stick all the way.  It also contains an odd little note of honeydew melon mixed in with it as well. The result is a slightly sweet and fruity scent, with the frankincense providing a warm resiny base and the melon note providing a sweet and fruity top note.  This particular incense seems to polarize ORS readers, with some absolutely loving it, and with others that don’t, and won’t burn a stick of it due to the melon like sweetness which they find off putting.  To each his/her own, of course.  Personally, I like it!

 8)  Keigado West Temple Incense.  These incense sticks are a foot long (12 inches) and provide an excellent sandalwood scent. This is a strong and true sandalwood scent; Mysore sandalwood is used in these sticks, I believe.  There also seems to be some confusion about this incense, with various marketing write-ups saying that there are no additional spices in this incense, and others that say that there are indeed spices in the mix.  Whatever the case, the scent is warm, comforting, and mellow; and yes, I personally do detect a little bit of a spicy note in the background. These sticks provide a strong sandalwood scent, one with a good throw, and which can scent a large room very well. Of course, these sticks are good for mediation too. Due to their size, these sticks are particularly conducive for long meditation sessions. So for those of you that meditate and enjoy the scent of sandalwood, this incense would likely be a good purchase.

 9)  Mermade Magickal Arts Faery Call Incense. This is one of the newer offerings from the fine folk over at Mermade. This incense is specially formulated for Spring, and it shows – from the wonderfully fresh floral scent of the incense itself, to the lovely packaging, which contains real dried rose petals, marigold petals, and lavender buds. Just looking at and opening the bottle that contains this incense is likely to put you into a cheery mood.  Unlit, these triangles smell like a spring bouquet of flowers.  The top note is neroli, which is orange blossom, and gives this incense its sunny, citrusy scent. This quickly gives way to jasmine, which adds a softer, sweeter floral base. The scent throw from the unlit triangles is amazing – the sweet, heady floral aroma drifts up and perfumes the air – and this is the incense when it is unlit! Fire is a transformative medium though, and once an incense triangle is lit, the neroli and jasmine which are still present, mix in with the other ingredients that form this scent, which is white sandalwood, orris root, and fir balsam. Thus, the overall scent is citrusy floral that is also earthy, woodsy, and slightly herbaceous.  A true delight and a wonderful ode to Spring!

 10)  Mermade Magickal Arts Deep Earth Premium Incense.  Another quality offering from Mermade, this time their Deep Earth incense reformulated and done up kyphi style.  This means that the incense is presented as soft kneaded little nuggets or pills. The style seems somewhat similar to Orthodox incense in which resins are grounded up and soaked in floral oils, cut into pieces and then cured.  However, whereas orthodox incense is generally resiny floral, kyphi style incense provides a more complex and complicated perfume.  This is due to many other ingredients being added into the mix. Here, Deep Earth includes such wonderful ingredients as cultivated aloeswood and vetiver roots. There’s also a ridiculously wonderful amount of other top of the line resins such as hougary frankincense, yemeni myrrh, copal negro, and benzoin.  Throw in some patchouli and liquid amber (copalm balsam), and the overall scent is one that is more than just a little lovely, It’s a wonderful sensuous blend of resins that is also earthy, slightly woody and sweet all at the same time.  Those of you that like warm, earthy, resiny scents, and Mermade’s other incense offerings such as Wild Wood and Pan’s Earth, are likely to love Deep Earth Premium.

Well, there you have it, my top ten of March 2010. I would recommend any of the above incenses for purchase.  Most of the incenses mentioned above are quite affordable; though note that the Mindroling and Dzogchen Monastery incenses are the more expensive items on list.  A roll of Tennendo’s Frankincense can be purchased for under $10, and a roll of Keigado’s Sandalwood for under $20 USD. Those that are on a tighter budget may want to consider going with the less expensive but equally wonderful Gangchen incenses, or perhaps, if floral and resins are more your style, going with some of the Mermade offerings.

Best,

Anne

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12 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    April 6, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Great top 10 and I’d probably add Ross’s Oceans of Night mix to one of my top 10s as well, it really is that good!

    Was really glad to see a second opinion on the Mindroling, I’ve always thought there had to be something going for the priciest of Tibetan imports, so I’ll have to return to it with your comments in mind. I had Holy Land and Lotus Ground out a lot over the weekend, definitely “go to” incenses in my book.

    Have to mention that I really fell for Shoyeido Kyo-jiman all over again over the weekend. Has just a beautiful minty end note that I’m not sure I sense in any other incense.

    And the best thing about those yellow box Shroffs is they all seem to change a bit with time. I think they’re even better now than they were fresh, as if the time to mature a bit has improved the overall scent.

    • Anne said,

      April 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm

      Mindroling is mellow, subtle, and has a quiet personality. Therefore, those that are looking for a perfumey and strong scented incense should look elsewhere. I kinda of think of Mindroling as a bit of a “chill-out” incense, one that you light to softly scent the air and have as a background scent as you read, listen to music…etc. Of course, due to its length and mellowness, it’d probably make for a good meditation incense, as well.

      Anyway, Mike, let me know what you think when you start reburning Mindroling again.

  2. Steve said,

    April 5, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Nice Top 10, Anne – nice to see a Tibetan surge! Also nice to see Tennendo Frankincense, a personal favorite. Tennendo Frank was my first frankincense incense, so I originally assumed that was just what frankincense (unadulterated) smelled like. Over time I realized the melon-top was not part of the essential core smell of frankincense and that some folks found that dimension off-putting. I find it adds a lightness-of-being to the stick that only furthers its calming and centering affect on me. Still one of my regular recommendations to Japanese incense newcomers!

    And yeah, Ross used to leave some clutter in the lab, but when he came out that day with Oceans of Night in hand, I decided his genius was worth the occasional mess 😀 I AM concerned about our new ACME Chip and Resin Pulverizer, however – have you seen our facility’s power bill lately?!

    • Anne said,

      April 6, 2010 at 8:39 pm

      Ack! The power bill! Did we forget to shut off the power on all the other gadgets in the lab again? Heck, at this rate, we might have to get Ross to churn out big batches of his Oceans of Night and start selling it on Ebay to make some moola to pay off the electric company. 😯

      Joking aside, yes, almost totally tibetan for my top ten. But that’s cool, y’know. We got to spread the word for tibetan incense love!

      And yup, Tennendo’s frankincense is ace. The two top frankincense sticks in japanese incense are probably Tennendo’s version and Minorien’s version. Some other ORS posters have mentioned that Shoyeido’s nan zan is good stuff too, but I have yet to try it.

  3. Hamid said,

    April 5, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Well done on your first monthly review Anne !

    Of the incenses you mention Jungle Prince is the only one I am familiar with.
    It is indeed a super stick.
    Actually I have been rediscovering my “yellow box” Shroffs.
    Including my own particular favourite Moonlight.
    To my surprise and pleasure I discovered in the chaos of my incense hoard that I had a few sticks of Shamama Gold that I had not burned.
    What a truly extraordinary stick of incense it is…

    • Anne said,

      April 5, 2010 at 9:26 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Hamid. 🙂

      I’m down to my last few sticks of Jungle Prince, so I’ll likely be reordering this and some other shroffs soon. I look forward to exploring more of these “yellow boxes” as you so amusingly put it!

  4. janet said,

    April 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Hi, Anne –
    I am completely with you on the Faery Call, and I’m not much of a floral lover…but it is such a sunny, natural scent, sweet without being overwhelming or perfumey…Katlyn is just a genius, plain and simple. I’m really excited about the Deep Earth Premium, so I appreciate the review, because it wasn’t there last time I stopped by Mermade.
    I also like the Jungle Prince a lot, it is my favorite of that batch of Shroffs, and am a fan of the West Temple (but even more of the East, which has a sweetly spicy scent that I think I saw somewhere might be nutmeg?).
    Anyhow, great Top Ten….thanks so much!

    • Anne said,

      April 4, 2010 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Janet!

      Thanks for the compliment. It was fun to do the write up for the top ten, though in retrospect, I do believe that my intro bears some similarity to Steve’s top ten for January! Oh well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that. 🙂

      As for Keigado’s East Temple, it’s been a while since I last burnt a stick of that. However, I do think you’re right and that nutmeg is present in it. There’s also palto santo wood too, which adds a nice sweet woodiness to the stick, as well.

      Katlynn is indeed a genius. And not only that, she is a true craftsman and artisan, too. There is so much thought and care and love that goes into her work. Not many independent incense makers would go to the trouble of adding real dried flowers to the incense packaging, but she does, and it demonstrates that Mermade goes the extra mile to provide a quality product.

      Her new Deep Earth offering is another delight, one meant for the electric heater, so it’s good that you got one back in December. I would recommend that you keep the heat level low, as too high a heat would destroy the delicacy of this scent. It’s really lovely, and like I said, if you enjoy her other incenses, particularly Wild Wood and/or Pan’s Earth, it’s very likely that you’ll really like her Deep Earth, too.

      Best,

      Anne

    • Ross Urrere said,

      April 6, 2010 at 11:19 am

      I think the East and West temple sticks are both great and great deals for the price.
      I have some of the Deep Earth going at the moment, wonderful scent. I got some of the new stuff from South America she is selling and will be reviewing shortly, there are also some amazing Palo Santo sticks.

  5. Anne said,

    April 2, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the compliment – and the info about Dzogchen Monastery, too! BTW, I’ve edited my post and have now included hyperlinks to EOTA and Mermade – hope this makes it a little easier for those of you that are interested in these incenses.

    Best,

    Anne

  6. BenA said,

    March 31, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Thanks for the excellent Top Ten, Anne! Incidentally, it’s “Lotus Ground,” not “Ground Lotus.” I got a box of it during Essence of the Ages Xmas sale last year and really liked it, but was puzzled by the name. So I did some looking around online. Apparently “Lotus Ground” is the name of a retreat center at the Dzogchen Monastery.

    • Gregg King said,

      July 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      An easy puzzle to have, as even the newest batch gives Lotus Giound as the name, but fortunately spares us the list of ingredients includling muck, cloths, etc. Still love the incense, however the formula appears to have changed, with less cinnamon, and a thick gray ash instead of the thick red.


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