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.
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.