Top Ten Incenses for July 2010

I have the pleasure of writing up the Top Ten Incenses for the month. Below are my top ten for July 2010. In the review process, I’ve re-acquainted myself with forgotten favorites, and have had to revise an opinion of an incense which at first I didn’t particularly care for all that much. That’s one of the bonuses of writing top ten reviews – old favorites resurface and remind you why their favorites and other incenses get additional chances to impress.

Well, without further ado, here’s my July Top Ten for 2010:

Pure Incense Blue Lotus: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and indeed, that’s what I’ve found with this incense. It’s been a while since I’ve burnt some Blue Lotus incense, and I only recently returned to it, but I’m glad that I did.  I’ve been critical in the past about Pure Incense, citing their base blend of charcoal, vanilla, and sandalwood creates a generic shared aroma to all their incenses.  I still think that is the case, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that they make very good incenses. This Blue Lotus is floral and perfumey, and sweet, and really all around lovely.

Shroff Patcholie (Patchouli): Earthy and perfumey, with just a touch of sweetness, this is a wonderful patchouli scent. It’s got a good scent throw, and one stick will scent a large room easily, leaving a lingering patchouli scent that is sure to please. One of the best patchouli incenses out there, with an authentic aroma, very affordable, and lasts a good long time. If you like patchouli, you owe it to yourself to try Shroff’s Patcholie.

Fred Soll’s Desert Patchouli: Different from Shroff’s patcholie in that there’s Soll’s signature blend of pinon resin present in this incense. This is a really nice patchouli pinon combination, with the pinon adding a nice resiny finish to the stick. Unlike Shroff’s version, the patchouli scent doesn’t have that sweet note in it, either.  This is a lighter and drier patchouli scent and worth trying as well.

Hougary Frankincense: This is the King, nay, the Emperor of all franks, and if you like frankincense, then you really must sample Hougary.  Resiny rich, with the balsamic base note and the wonderful citrusy lemon and/or orange top note, Hougary, which comes only from Oman, is in a class all by itself. Hougary is more expensive than other frankincenses, but you get what you pay for, and here you’ll get top notch quality. Even unlit, these resins perfume the air with their unique rich resin scent.

Al Haramain Bait Al Arab Cambodi Oudh Bakhoor: Baby, it’s bakhoor, and what a bakhoor! If you are unfamiliar with bakhoor, it is a type of incense from the Middle East.  Bakhoor can come in tablets, pellets, and/or chunks of woodchips. Bakhoors generally contain oudh (aloeswood) scent and are usually very aromatic and/or perfumey. Seriously, virtually every bakhoor that I’ve ever tried has packed a serious scent wallop. A little goes a very, very, very long way with these incenses. Al Haramain’s version of Bait Al Arab shouldn’t be confused with Swiss Arabian’s Bait al Arab (which was previously reviewed here on the ORS).  Firstly, Al Haramain’s Bait al Arab comes in perfume drenched wood chunks or chips, and not dry tablets like the Swiss Arabian version. Secondly, these woodchips are just permeated with one of the loveliest mélange of scents. A lot is going on here; the overall scent is a complex blend of oudh, amber, floral essences, and resins.  It’s very rich – and err, so is the price tag for this bakhoor.  Available at ParadisePerfumes.com, this retails for $39 CDN for 100 grams. However, since it is such a potent bakhoor, a little does go a long way and therefore this will last a long time. So in the end, you will get quality and your money’s worth. This is just my personal preference, but if I had to choose between Swiss Arabian’s version or Al Haramain’s version, I’d go with Al Haramain’s Bait Al Arab.  Incidentally, note that you will need charcoal tablets and/or an electric incense burner for this bakhoor. This type of incense cannot be burnt by itself, and needs a heating element like a hot coal or an electric incense burner.

Swiss Arabian’s Kashkha Oodh Muattar: Another bakhoor, this time from Swiss Arabian. This bakhoor smells like a sophisticated aloeswood floral perfume. I’m not kidding, if you like perfumey aloeswood, or just perfumes and colognes in general, you should consider trying this bakhoor.  Kashkha comes in small agarwood (aloeswood) pellets, and even unlit, smells of oudh, musk, and floral essences.  This is because the agarwood has been drenched in concentrated perfume, and thus emits its  oudhy floral goodness into the air. Though bakhoors aren’t generally aimed as for being for one particular gender, I would classify the Kashkha scent as being more feminine. It truly does remind me of a high end women’s perfume. This bakhoor also requires charcoal tablets and/or an electric incense burner to burn it. Note that this bakhoor is available for purchase at: http://www.mukhalat.com/Bakhoor_c2.htm.  I hasten to add that I did not purchase my Kashkha bakhoor from Mukhalat.com, so I have no idea what their customer service is like. However, note that Mukhalat offers free shipping on all products for delivery within the USA.

Gangchen Healing Buddha Incense:  Excellent and affordable incense from Gangchen. The box states that “These Aroma Therapeutic incense is made from very special thirty-one (agar 31) natural ingredients. This incense specially made for Lungny (wind diseases) which we got from nervous and fear, such as heart attack, insomnia, shivering, temporary loss of consciousness, back pain, dryness of the mouth.  This incense can help.  Also it’s very good for massage.”  This is gentle and soothing incense, with a soft woody aroma. The scent is comprised of aloeswood, juniper, and Himalayan herbs.  I personally find it very calming and relaxing, and one good for decompressing and unwinding.

Baieido’s Koh En:  A delicious spicy aloeswood treat that is to be whipped out for those special occasions, or when one is feeling particularly indulgent and/or flush. This is one of Baieido’s more upscale aloeswood incenses, and retails for $120 USD for sixty 6.5 inch sticks (though given how expensive some of the kyara incenses are, this is really more like the mid-tier or low end of the upscale level!).  My budget doesn’t allow for this to be an everyday treat. But when that aloeswood craving needs to be satisfied, this incense is one that will certainly fit the bill (alas, in more ways than one! 😮 ).

Minorien Fu-In Sandalwood: Classic sandalwood scent, using classic “old mountain” sandalwood from India.  If you’re looking for an authentic sandalwood scent that won’t break the bank, then try Minorien Fu. This is excellent sandalwood incense, and one that is not likely to disappoint.

Tibetan Medical College’s Holy Land Grade 2: This is a surprise entry even to me, given that when I first tried Holy Land Grade 2 a few months ago, I was underwhelmed. All the hype and praise heaped upon it had built it up to mythical levels, plus I was still in my perfumey incense phase, and was at the time, taken aback by this incense’s muscular rawness, its combination of musk and floral and spice and dark earthiness.  To give you a point of reference, if you’ve tried Dzogchen Monastery Lotus Incense, think of Holy Land Grade 2 as similar to that, but amplified and expanded upon.  Anyway, as time passed and I fell into a Tibetan incense phase, I started burning the HL Grade 2, and slowly, little by little, I went from being disinterested to liking it, and now to really loving it. In a previous email to an ORS reader, I had stated that once I had used up my HL Grade 2 that I wasn’t going to re-purchase it, opting instead to spend my money on other incenses. But now, as I look at the last few sticks of it in my collection, I’m forced to reconsider that notion…

Well there you have it, my top ten for the month – all incenses that I heartily recommend. What ten incenses are in your top ten for July? Chime in and let us know what you’ve been burning, and why. 🙂

Best,

Anne

15 Comments

  1. Carrie said,

    May 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I have always loved the smell of a *good* patchouli oil, and way back in the day (1970s) I used to buy different patchouli incenses when I’d find them and be sorely disappointed. After what I’ve learned from ORS, I realize looking back that probably all of what I was buying were charcoal sticks dipped in cheap patchouli oil, and they all smelled nasty.

    I was gifted a roll of Shroff’s Patcholie recently 🙂 and immediately burned a stick and was in love. But I didn’t realize just how good it was until today when I had to leave the room for a while and come back, and it smelled so good I went over to my incense bowl and stuck my face in the smoke. It’s so warm and has just the perfect amount of sweetness. It’s so gentle, it almost seems like a distant relative of patchouli oil.

    • Carrie said,

      May 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      I just brought the incense bowl over next to the computer and lit a second stick. I think some of the richness and hint of sweet I’m getting must be benzoin. I keep getting very brief hints of a spice too, but not cinnamon or clove or anything like that. I wonder if there’s a little cardamom in there?

      • Anne said,

        May 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm

        Hi Carrie,

        Glad to hear that you like Shroff’s Patcholie! It is indeed one of the best patchouli indian incenses out there. I haven’t burnt Patcholie in a while – in fact I’m down to my last stick – but I don’t recall detecting any cardamom in it. I will have to revisit this incense again at a later date, when I’ve ordered another roll and have the time to really “listen” to its scent.

        • Carrie said,

          May 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm

          There might not be. After my third stick of the evening, I realized I was only catching a fleeting hint of some kind of spice in that first stick earlier.

          I’m just about to go open up my Kindle and light a 4th stick of Patcholie. And I’ve made a note to add a couple rolls to my next EotA order. 🙂

          What an amazing incense!

    • glennjf said,

      May 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      I know what you’re talking about 🙂

      The process of walking out of the room and returning a little later to meet with scent cloud from a lit incense has assisted me much in deepening my appreciation of many incenses that I might otherwise have disregarded. First time I experienced it was identical to yours. Walked into a scent cloud from one I’d lit a few minutes beforehand and it simple blew me away. In that instance it was Baieido Kokonoe Floral (purple stick) and till then I was very undecided about keeping it, giving it away seemed very likely, came across as being overly heavy/sweet to me.
      Returning to the area where I’d left the stick burning I experienced a moment of disconnectedness, I couldn’t identify the beautiful floral scent? Then I remembered what I was burning. Today Baieido Kokonoe Floral remains part of the collection in my japanese incenses box and though I continue to think of it as being overly sweet I know how to get the most from it.

      • Carrie said,

        May 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm

        I got a three stick sample of the Shoyeido Zen series
        and lit the Evening one, because it was evening, and my first thought was Yuck! Too sweet!!.

        Maybe I should try the leaving the room scenario.

        Also, I only have one Japanese incense as of yet (soon to be rectified) and that is Kai un Koh, which is not sweet at all.

        I think in my mind right now, Japanese incense is supposed to be
        *not sweet*, and Indian incense is always supposed to be sweet.

        lol

      • glennjf said,

        May 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        I also was gifted a roll of Shroff’s Patcholie recently and it’s completely altered my appreciation of patchouli when used in an indian incense. I was the same as you, 1970’s, experiencing only cheap indian charcoal sticks, artificially scented or cheap oil dipped. I was had arrived at a place where I really did not much enjoy hearing the word let alone smelling any version of Indian patchouli incense ever again.

        Now, I’m completely turned around 🙂

        This is the first indian patchouli scented incense that has ever delivered for me 🙂

  2. Mike said,

    August 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Definitely a fine write up Anne!

    First, I’m glad Holy Land has its hooks in you. For me there really are few incenses that when I bring the box out that I actually end up burning several sticks (and this is true Grade 1 or 2). I think this line just has tremendous juju. I’m still amazed the Grade 1 and Nectar have been sold out for as long as they have, but given it’s the second time, it just goes to show a lot of people are digging them.

    Shroff incense is just so much the real deal. They’re clearly created to mature because I think maybe at 6 months after they’re finally shipped, they really tend to show their finer qualities. Another one I noticed that really surprised me again was the Vetivert, which I think is smoother and more holistic than it was when I first got the batch. I’ve also been preparing the reviews of the 7 floral/charcoals and have gotten a lot more familiar with them of late, in particular I’ve really grown to love the Lilac (the only one that mystifies me is the Monica, as research has turned up nil on what the original scent is). I also mentioned elsewhere that the Mogra has been a big favorite this month and I’d probably put it up there with Pearl, Amber Rose and Red Sandal now. I love the fact that every time I go through the whole line, I come out with at least one new favorite.

    I’m also super fond of the Tennendo Kuukai and Tensei scents. Those both have spicy qualities I can never get enough of.

    And this new batch of Mother’s champas also has the attention, although now that it’s expanded so large it’s starting to become more obvious to me which top notes I like with the base and which I can do without. For example, the lavender in the Ganesh is nearly perfectly matched, but the two new scents with lavender don’t balance quite as well. On the other hand there’s one that mixes the base with “Le Perfume” which is pretty astounding, one I don’t think I would have liked as much just from the description. But its musk hit is really sublime.

    I’d also agree that the Pure Incenses’ base of vanilla and sandalwood on occasion can overpower the incenses for me as well, although I think it’s a testament to the fine oils that it tends to be a rare case, usually a mood thing. The Blue Lotus, Nepali Musk and Connoisseur Aloeswoods have all been burned a lot around here.

  3. Anne said,

    August 1, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for the kind words, all. Hamid, as a fellow bakhoor fan, and knowing that you like Duggatal Oudh Ward Taifi, which is also made by Al Hamarain, I think that you’ll probably like their version of Bait Al Arab, too. Incidentally, this doesn’t mean that Swiss Arabian’s version is bad or not worth trying. That’s also a very good bakhoor. However, my personal preference leans towards Al Hamarain’s version.

    As for the patchouli incense being used during the heyday hippie days at Glastonbury…well, I think the hippies were more interested in using it to cover up certain other aromas that would have attracted the attention of the authorities. 😉 The blend of those two scents likely wouldn’t have been particularly pleasant.

    Janet, Shroff and Soll are two of my favorite incense makers too. And yes, I do recall you being a patchouli fan. In fact, I was thinking of you while writing up my review!

    Haven’t yet gotten around to trying Shroff’s Royal Amber. So many incenses, so little time… Gonna have to put this on my to get list.

    • Hamid said,

      August 1, 2010 at 8:53 am

      It wasnt so much incense Anne as hippies drenching THEMSELVES in low grade patchouli oil……eeugh.
      Yes the real refined article is a different thing. I gather that its a member of the mint family.

      • glennjf said,

        August 1, 2010 at 10:10 am

        “?hippies?” hereabouts do the drenching thing still. That practice had been the reason for me ever remotely giving consideration to trying anything patchouli based, till now! Thanks to you Janet I got to try it in an incense, Shoyeido Sagano Patchouli, changed my mind about patchouli it did. Other suggestions are welcome.

  4. janet said,

    August 1, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Thanks, Anne!
    The Shroff and Soll are two of my very favorite non-Japanese, of course I *am* a patchouli fan, and these both really satisfy the occasional patchouli craving!
    Hamid, it’s funny you should mention it, because I literally just burned a stick of Royal Amber, which I hadn’t in awhile…it is actually one of my favorites of the Shroff Ambers!

    • Hamid said,

      August 1, 2010 at 7:51 am

      Its called incense synchronicity Janet…

  5. Ross Urrere said,

    July 30, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Nice writup Anne. Soll does make a great product and at great prices. I am a big fan of his work.
    Ross

  6. Hamid said,

    July 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Tremendous Anne, thank you.
    I am a great admirer of the Blue Lotus too, and the Shroff and the Soll Patchouli ( various spellings ) which surprised me because I am less than keen on Patchouli oil having had a surfeit of it when I lived for a while in Glastonbury the hippie capital pf the UK…but these are far more rounded and sophisticated renditions of the theme.
    Great to see the Bakhors, as you know I am a fellow fan,( its morning here and I have just put some Bakhor Mulham on the burner.) I am not familiar with those two you mention so look forward to making their acquaintance.
    I always try to keep a little Hougary around, as you say their is nothing like it with its bright citrusy noted and underneath something much deeper and more mysterious.
    Thanks once more Anne.
    My own incense of the month is actually a rediscovered one..Shroff Royal Amber. I have been getting throgh a few sticks of that…..
    I wrote recently of developing a real crush on the Minorien Sandal..beautiful.


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