Mother’s India Fragrances / Arjava, Hansa, Lavanya, Om, Purusha, Sattwa, Yajna

Since the last installment on the newly released Mother’s Fragrances Nagchampa incenses, the company kindly sent me what I’m dubbing the “Nag Champa Construction Set,” which is a series of ingredients that go into making their fantastic bases. One thing I learned fairly early about incense is that information from the east on these treasures has actually been remarkably sparse and so I’m extremely thankful to have received a further education from the creators. Not only has the set helped to show me where the sandalwood works into the base, but in particular having a sample of halmaddi resin has really helped to narrow down just where this works into these incenses. And overall my already high respect for the creator of these incenses has grown when I consider what the base smells like compared to the finished product. These are just works of art on every level.

So I wanted to say a few words about halmaddi resin before getting to the “back seven” nagchampas. This ingredient is particularly interesting in that the actually fresh smell of the resin itself (almost like a combination of chocolate and turpentine elements) is completely different from the smell while it’s burning, which is floral (likely that element similar to the champaka flower), slightly bitter and very balsamic. Not only is this obvious from the resin, but also from the base stick. Even on its own this a pleasant scent but what struck me is how much of a chameleon halmaddi must be since the oils that go into the incense change the nature of the relationship. Also, the Mother’s bases, while soft, aren’t gooey like the resin or many of the incenses I used to burn 15 years ago and as I intuit from the oils, there’s a really impressive level of balance and restraint here.

I wouldn’t have even recognized the base stick in the Arjava Nagchampa, which is the first of four incenses in this group that was not part of the original 12 incense sampler I received months ago. If there is a slight wildness to the halmaddi, you wouldn’t find it in this incense, which has a level of gentleness that is quite surprising. Where the descriptions of many of the other incenses list as many as 5 or 6 ingredients, there is only one specific listed here: rose. It’s interesting in that this is one of the new 14 that really stands out as being quite different, there’s an unusual herbal note at the top that is quite exotic and unique. The central scent is almost akin to some of the herbal-rose combinations found elsewhere and this all lies on a wood level that has been turned up a notch, while remaining pillowy soft. While it could be said that this is another wonderful contrast of spice and floral elements, the results aren’t quite so piquant as they are in the other scents, leading to a very sublime finish. Particularly because when I burn this I feel like I’m always trying to reach a description of the end, one that’s essentially elusive and mysterious. Like all great incenses the final notes end up as part of one’s memories.

Hansa Nagchampa is similar to the Arjava only in that it also has a fairly noticeable woodiness in the mix, but essentially this is a scent that returns to the floral/spice mix of many of these incenses. A lot of the main players in the whole line are in this one, including kewra, vetivert and lavender, but as always the addition of other ingredients modify the aromatic contour substantially. In fact, of the entire line this is perhaps the incense I find the most difficult to describe as the ingredient combos seem familiar, but the overall scent has been changed enough to be completely unique. Perhaps part of this is the golden champa scent in what I’d describe as the fourth fifth from top to bottom.  The amber here isn’t as strong as it is in the Om Nagchampa but it definitely flirts with the attention around all the floral notes and in many ways actually accentuates these notes so one feels that the florals are dominant to the spice mix in the background. And overall it’s the Kewra and Lavender that make, incrementally, the boldest statements in the mix. But in the end it’s puzzling because perhaps the best word to describe this incense is kaleidoscopic, because at any different time it’s possible to see new interactions among the ingredients. Which means in the end any static description won’t do this justice, as the base and the vetivert that tie it all together are really the only constants.

Lavanya Nagchampa really clicked with me after a couple sticks when it became obvious that the central part of the incense is very evergreen and spicy. I’ve discussed some of the incenses that contrast florals with a spice that could be roughly described in the cinnamon/clove/hot area, but this seems to get part of its spice from the use of resins as well as cedar, so that the spice note feels more green than red. Users of resin blends may have come across those that are resonantly foresty and that would be the comparison here. But it’s only a beginning and a platform because what dances on top is the jasmine and ylang ylang, and like the Arjava the results are just so delicate. It constantly strikes me that among Indian incenses, many of which can be incredibly strong and aromatic, that these are among the most refined and gentle, something only a master perfumer could gauge so perfectly. In the end it’s almost as if your aromatic senses try to convince you of its floral nature as the bewitching, rich evergreen and liqueur like background bubbles underneath, creating an almost yin/yang like paradox.

In fact as you use these incenses it’s really hard to separate one masterpiece from another, but there’s something in the Om Nagchampa that has made it my fastest used incense in the whole line, I literally have trouble trying to keep from burning my stock up in a couple days. It basically presents a triangle of amber, vanilla and cassia that is simply breathtaking and close to my sense of aromatic nirvana. My idea of the perfect incense is something that manages to be dry and rich at the same time, hinting at sweetness without being cloying. The cassia in this incense is just so perfectly placed that it’s a sheer delight and the amber notes are virtually flawless. As this scent burns it becomes so sublime by the end of the stick that it manages to represent the concept of Om in a way that might evoke ain ineffable response in the user. In fact it’s even difficult to want to burn another incense after this as it leaves such a powerful energy in the air after the last elements go up in smoke. By a long shot my top incense of August and it could be a reigning favorite for a while now.

Purusha Nagchampa is another of the dominantly lavender incenses in the line, which follows the absolute success of the Ganesh Nagchampa. Mother’s uses a number of different lavenders, however, and in this case we’re seeing an English lavender at the front, a note that is probably the most dominant lavender scent in any of these incenses. But while sitting on the top, the ingredients from the base up do a lot to modify the scent. For one thing this is one of the few, if not the only incense that has a sage note, an ingredient that seems to be far more common in American incenses (specifically southeast or Native American blends). Here it’s used to modify the lavender, and the results seem to bring out some of the wilder, herbier elements the two ingredients have in common. I’m not as familiar with orris, but I suspect this has a great deal to do with the more unfamiliar middle subscents that help to give this incense its individual personality. Closer to the base, the patchouli blends with the balsamic nature of the halmaddi to help make sure the top notes don’t go overboard. In the end this is definitely on the sweeter side of the Mother’s range, but it’s got just that touch of wildness to rein it all in.

Sandalwood is a main ingredient in all these incenses but it perhaps makes its presence most known in the Sattwa Nagchampa. With kewra, lavender tuberose and vetivert in the mix, this is definitely something of a cousin to the Atma and Hansa blends, if you can imagine the biggest change to be an increase in the amount of woodiness used. The vetivert here also seems to be turned up enough to give the scent a pleasant and sharp subnote and adding this to the woods and halmaddi base helps to balance the florals without reducing the richness of the scent. Overall this is a very pretty incense with a lot of activity in the mix and it’s among the bolder scents in the line. And like its cousins, the mix seems gauged to reveal its complexity slowly over time, something a review really can’t account for without an excessively lengthy preparation period.

Continuing a number of incenses with a strong lavender element is the spicy Yajna Nagchampa. However, if some of the Mother’s scents tilt more to a floral side, this is a decidedly spicy incense with woody notes, nagarmotha oil, patchouli and oakmoss all combining to imply a spice that also reminds me of cinnamon toast. This is also a very woody incense, however the type of wood scent it reminds me most of is akin (but far superior to) Satya’s Patchouli Forest scent, with that sense of crystalline, green resin that that incense evokes. Not only is the Yajna spicy, but it’s also devilishly complex in that there seems to be a lot of elements that make up this level of the incense. The oak moss is particularly noticeable here, almost more than a subnote at times, and with the patchouli it grounds the scent as something far more earthy the fire-like. In the end as you notice all this spicy, grounded activity it makes the presence of the lavender on top such a surprise and delight.

I’ll have to admit nearly every incense in this line is at a level of intricacy that they’re very hard to do justice to in words. So many of them are like a puzzle, because I feel that in a lot of other incense lines you wouldn’t expect some of these ingredients to work together like they do and in the end appraising them is like looking at a beautiful painting and switching between the singular elements and the composite final work. I may have mentioned strongly how much I love the Om, but over time I have no doubt that I’ll switch from favorite to favorite because in the case of complex aromas like found in the Hansa or Yajna, you get the feeling that it will take at least 10 sticks to feel that you’ve got a full grip on what’s going on here. And in the end I think this is the real joy in the use of incense, that what you have has the potential to continue to surprise and elate you as changing circumstances provide the varying viewpoints to smell new facets of complex bouquets. Because in the end with this line of Mother’s Nagchampas, all 19 exquisite treasures, you have some of the finest incenses available, particularly at an affordability that is quite astonishing. And please do check out the previous article for buying options, as I suspect in less than a month’s time they should be widely available to most of our readers.

Advertisements

21 Comments

  1. Josh said,

    September 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I am having a very hard time figuring out which of these I like best! The whole line is awesome, each of the 21 nag champa’s they do are superb..

  2. Julia said,

    March 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I finally tried Yajna after trying a bunch of other Mother’s, and it is my current favorite (or at least a close tie with Ganesh). It’s a bit milder than Ganesh to my nose, and very appealing. I also tried Om, and am still familiarizing myself with it. I love its deep vanilla scent, but it sometimes leaves a slight bitter note in the air after its gone out.

  3. Janet said,

    November 14, 2010 at 12:16 am

    I’m loving the Hansa here lately…

    • glennjf said,

      November 14, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      Nice prompt! And another worthy incense 🙂

  4. Mike said,

    October 14, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I haven’t burned any yet, but I should mention, I stocked pretty deeply on Om Nag Champa through the 12 stick packages and just on the fresh stick I’m seeing a pretty big difference in scent contour. I’m not sure why that is yet, but it makes me slightly concerned that there might be significant batch variation. More after I test it.

  5. Masha said,

    October 1, 2010 at 1:47 am

    These really are fantastic, I’m particularly enjoying Lavanya and Om, and of course, Ganesh. I like taking the incense off the bamboo (by twisting it) and setting it on a heater, that allows the more delicate floral notes to play a bit more.

  6. Janet said,

    September 9, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Let me just add an enthusiastic second recommendation for the Om…for lovers of this line, I don’t see how this one can miss – doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles to me, just does what it does to perfection!

    • Mike said,

      September 9, 2010 at 8:41 am

      It always impresses me how the scent develops as the stick burns, like it just gets better and better. I find the intensity of it almost excruciating in the last inch or two.

    • susan said,

      September 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

      yeah, i biggie-sized my order of OM ……
      can’t wait !
      🙂

      • susan said,

        September 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm

        excruciating can be good

        “hurts so good”

        HA!

  7. susan said,

    September 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    One year ago i purchased a huge cache of incense from Beth, mainly the (then) new Shroff’s and Mothers’ India Fragrances: i posted here how i was so smitten with the effervescence of the Shroff’s that it seemed as though i could not fully appreciate the subtle powdery softness of the Mothers’ . .. my Mothers’purchase was mainly of Ganesh …. i found myself drawn to it more and more to where it seemed i could not do without a daily dose of Ganesh: Today I am purchasing another huge cache of Mothers’ India Fragrances, including the new varieties. Mike and Janet always lead me to what i need. I am beholden to you! Thanks to you all. Namaste’ .. susan

    • Mike said,

      September 9, 2010 at 7:15 am

      Awesome Susan, I hope you enjoy them!

    • Janet said,

      September 9, 2010 at 7:30 am

      Thanks, Susan – you made my morning!

  8. janet said,

    September 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    That’s a big help, and Lila and Yajna were definitely among the ones I wanted to head straight for.
    I’ll keep you posted!

    • Mike said,

      September 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      Janet, I just wanted to mention that when I picked the top 5 I was only including the new blends. I’d still have Ganesh in there if it was overall, although I couldn’t tell which of those five I’d drop in favor of it.

  9. Mike said,

    September 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Hi Janet, thanks. I have lived with a lot of these for a few months and even now I am not sure I did them all justice, but I’ve always felt that’s the case for any superior incense, that it’s not even just probable but likely I’ll appreciate them more down the line.

    I still think Ganesh (and even the rest of the five) are right up there with the new batch, and that’s a good example where living with them has continued to improve my opinion.

    But as far as top 5 I guess I’d go with Om, Moksha, Lila, Yajna and Bhakti. But that’s extremely likely to change and may reflect that those are the ones I’m most familiar with because I had them all early. I’m particularly fond of the Om though, that’s one that I can’t get enough of, I think the cassia side of it is perhaps as perfect a cinnamon-like note as I’ve ever witnessed and I really think you have to credit the creator on that one because that note has much to do with the amber and vanilla creating a framework for it.

    In the end I think your instinct to go for them all is a good one though, because I know how much you like the originals and I can’t imagine you not liking most of them.

    • glennjf said,

      September 8, 2010 at 11:46 am

      Thanks for asking Janet, it’s sorted for me also what I will try first. 🙂

      After Mike’s suggestion I’ve ordered from Beth the Ganesh, Om, Moksha, Lila, Yajna and Bhakti.

      I’m now looking forward to my first ever real Nag Champa (halmaddi/mattipal) experience 🙂

      for any Australians who might be reading this…

      I also have winging their way to me from the Netherlands a small5 fragrance sample pack (palette) with the previously reviewed Mother’s Nag champa fragrances (Ananda, Ganesh, Lakshmi, Shanti and Vishnu), as 6 short stick packets (burning time 20 minutes each).
      Those I ordered after an email reply I received from wierook.nl whom I’d emailed seeking to find out if their incenses would be available for purchase from anyone within Australia, they’re not I learned. I got back the following reply…

      …Because of the international interest we have gotten through Mike’s wonderful reviews, we’ve setup the site http://www.nagchampa4.me for international orders. Here you can order all the Nagchampa’s he has reviewed. As you can see on this site, we also have incense palettes with small packets of incense to try out. At the moment we only have the 5 fragrance sample palette with the fragrances (Ananda, Ganesh, Lakshmi, Shanti and Vishnu Nagchampa), which cost € 3,95. We also have small packets of incense, which contain 12 short sticks per packet.

      I figured the sample pack would be a nice/easy way for me to experience the five previously reviewed Nag Champa incenses, I really like sample packs, they’re cost effective and a means for me to experience incenses in general.

      • glennjf said,

        September 24, 2010 at 5:22 pm

        It’s official. Me and real Nagchampa have been formally introduced. Thank you Mike and thank you to also to Mother’s Fragrances for offering these incenses to the wider world.

        So far I’ve sampled only the ones I ordered from Beth (Essence Of The Ages) . I’m still waiting for the sample pack from the Netherlands, probably that will arrive this week.

        It’s clear to me there’s a learning curve associated with these incenses and I’m at the very beginning of it, good news is there’s this place offering to inform and help guide me.

        After burning a stick each of Ganesh, Om, Moksha, Lila, Yajna and Bhakti I found I came away favouring most Yanja, followed by Lila.

        I know I need to visit them all again and again to have any hope of deepening my understanding of them and Nagchampa, for instance the first lit stick was OM and I came away perplexed until that was I remembered to take into consideration my expectations, which were huge considering. I think no matter which incense I’d lit first that one was always going to have to contend in that way.

        It’s a departure from the Japanese I’ve come to love but one I am happy to explore now.

        Yesterday I passed along the URL for ORS and also Beths website along with a couple of sticks of Om to a local woman here who mentioned that she burns incense daily. I hope she likes what I gave her and checks out both sites. Also left her a couple of sticks of Japanese incense which she smelled unlit and swooned over 🙂

        • glennjf said,

          September 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm

          The Nag Champa sample pack, 5 x 5″ (13cm) packets has arrived from the Netherlands and what “cute” little scaled down packets they are too. This 5 pack assortment together with the others I already have purchased from EOTA together with 9 single sticks gifted by Janet means I now have the full compliment of Mother’s Nag Champa incenses to sample now.

          I’m enjoying them immensely, all the ones I’ve tried so far. The one’s I have not yet lit I’m sure I’ll enjoy just as much. Om I must say is very nice and with every stick I light I find I’m discovering more and more just how special it and indeed all these incenses are.

          • glennjf said,

            October 4, 2010 at 12:36 am

            I’m taking things slowly, visiting the samples in no particular order just lighting a stick when the urge takes me and seeing what I get from it then reading what’s been written about it in the reviews here.

            Today’s sample is Lavanya and another success it is too, hot on the heels of the previous Mother’s I’ve sampled, Lavanya smells wonderful, even unlit.

  10. janet said,

    September 7, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Congrats on the excellent reviews, Mike – I know that even reading about so many confuses me enough that I can’t imagine getting a sufficient handle on these to write about them without months of burning them.
    So, since I am going to pick up the whole line asap, being a huge fan, could you give me your top five, along with the dominant note of each?
    Also, how does Ganesh (as the previous favorite here) fit in now, as far as favorites are concerned?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: