Dhuni / Citronella, Hari Om, Kashi, Khus, Lotus Flower, Moksha, Nag Champa, Special Amber

New incense company Dhuni came to our attention a while back thanks to our friend Hamid and then not long after the owner Piers dropped by Olfactory Rescue Service and kindly sent some samples along. What was immediately clear is that this series of incenses is one of the few lines in Indian incense one might consider connoisseur or gourmet. Like with the Mother’s India Fragrances line we recently covered, most of the Dhuni incenses have a distinct halmaddi presence, although I don’t detect so much the honey pairing as not all of these scents are sweet.

The sticks are generally a bit larger than your usual champa or durbar style and both Kashi and especially the Special Amber are almost what I’d call flora style and even evince some of the wonderful aromatic attributes of those incenses. These are all extremely rich and quality scents and I have the distinct wish, like I did when Mother’s used to only have five fragrances, that there are plans to expand this line. Like that venerable company, Dhuni’s incenses are virtually at the apex of quality Indian incenses and are essential for those who love good champas.

Citronella could almost be classified as a lemongrass champa, with the citronella oil content combining about equally with the halmaddi and base. It’s a very cooling incense with few surprises, after all citronella oil tends to have a very linear profile. What’s immediately noticeable is there’s enough halmaddi in the mix to feature a very strong balsamic back note. I’ll admit, I’m not personally huge for citronella incenses, but my experiences have almost all been with oil based charcoals and Dhuni’s version is far superior to any of these with a much better balance of base and oils. In the end it might be the finest citronella incense you can buy.

Hari Om is the first of Dhuni’s classics and the first of several here that remind me of the glory days of halmaddi champa incense. Like several of the blends here there are usually so many ingredients involved that it’s really difficult to get a sense of the single elements involved. With Hari Om the halmaddi and sandalwood are particularly noticeable here and there’s also a nice tough of vanilla in the mix reminiscent of Mystic Temple’s Vanilla Amber Champa. But this vanilla element takes a much different direction due to so many of the herbal elements coming from the oil mix, including what seems like a light touch of patchouli in the mix. In the end this has a scent profile much more complex than a few sticks might be able to imply meaning this should have a long and interesting learning curve.

Kashi is very much a thick stick version of a scent you may be familiar with as Honey Dust (Incense from India), Vanilla (Mystic Temple), Satya Natural or Shanti (Purelands), but this is much more like what the aroma used to smell like before Indian incense went through so many ingredient changes. It’s quite a bit more complex and now it’s pretty easy to see how the halmaddi lifts the whole thing, most likely because the balsamic elements help to make sure this doesn’t get overly cloying. This evergreenish quality, like in the Citronella, helps to make this a cooling sort of incense. It still has the honey and vanilla characteristics typical of the scent but the whole profile feels much more balanced and friendly. If you’ve never tried any of the incenses mentioned as similar, be sure to start with this one and don’t look back.

Vetivert isn’t generally a scent you’ll find in an incense range this small, but Dhuni’s Khus embeds this wonderful scent in a champa for startling effect, in fact this could be my favorite of the whole group. I’ve already mentioned that both Citronella and Kashi are cooling, but the Khus brings that element to an almost arctic level. Naturally this has a green, leafy and calming vetivert note on top that’s really beautiful and it melds absolutely perfectly here with the ubiquitous balsamic halmaddi content. It’s a very grounding incense and truly one of the market’s finest vetiverts, although I suppose half of the battle is won with such a great base. There’s even a very slight note that is reminiscent of forest resin blends.

Lotus Flower is a very different incense and like almost every Lotus incense you can name, this is completely unique. It’s a soft floral-fronted champa incense whose base seems to be fairly similar to the Kashi. In general it’s soft, sweet and friendly and if there’s any criticism to be had it’s that over the burn there’s perhaps too much linearity which leads me to believe it’s a stick best taken in smaller doses. This is a fairly common issue with floral champas, although again, the ingredients here are so quality that it’s probably only an issue of taste.

Moksha isn’t terribly different from the Lotus Flower in that it also has a floral top note that’s simialr, but this incense isn’t quite so linear and is a little more intricate. There’s a touch of citrus in the mix as well as some herbal qualities that are difficult to identify but which help to ensure this has something of a wilder streak in it. The sandalwood content also seems to be a bit stronger here than in the other line’s incenses. It’s perhaps a little too close to Lotus Flower to be in such a small line, but I’d have to pick this one between the two as it’s a lot more interesting.

If I was to recommend one of the many “vanilla” nag champas on the market, it would have to be this one as it’s easily the most authentic Nag Champa I’ve come across in the modern age, even more so than Shantimalai’s red box version, which is perhaps this scent’s closest equivalent. No doubt this is due to the halmaddi content in the mix, which if it isn’t high enough to make this gooey like in the old days is certainly high enough to give the scent the balsalmic backdrop it needs. Overall this is a nag champa that tends to a much drier and less overtly sweet bouquet with a distinct sandalwood strength to help bring out its richness. This one’s essential.

Special Amber is Dhuni’s thickest stick and it packs an incredibly scent wallop like most sticks of its sizes. This is really unlike any amber you’ll ever try and even though a lot of the incense is apparently created from ground up amber resin, the scent also seems to have a powerful perfume oil on top to give it some similar qualities to incenses I used to see referred to as Triple Amber, in that these qualities tend to come from three different angles for something exquisitely deluxe. In fact of all of Dhuni’s scents this could be the most intricate, even after several samples I only felt like I was surveying the surface of what is obviously an incredibly deluxe amber.

The verdict is more or less simple, this is a company that Indian incense shoppers will need to add right next to their Mothers, Shroff, and Pure Incense lists. I really can’t wait to see this company expand the line to more scents as this is an audacious start. And for US customers, you can also now find these at Essence of the Ages.


  1. janet said,

    March 28, 2011 at 6:04 am

    I know these came in winter, but has anyone had a chance to test out the Citronella incense as an insect repellent?

    • janet said,

      March 28, 2011 at 6:05 am

      Meant to say winter “here”, as I know it’s summer for Glenn and others….

      • glennjf said,

        March 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

        Hi Janet,
        Your timing is spot on. I only just sampled the Citronella incense last week plus there are mozzies about these parts right now.
        I have screened windows here but I’d hazard to say it would do the job. I’d personally have to consider the ongoing cost of using this one as a repellant. I’d have to look at cheaper options for daily use, dedicated outdoors citronella base incense sticks or coils. These might be more effective for the purpose although they certainly will not smell so amazing. Dhuni Citronella incense is just as Mike described by the way, it very quickly earned itself a permanent spot in my indian box.

        I got to try another Dhuni incense called Bhakti. It’s not appearing at the Dhuni website right now so perhaps they’ve sold out as they did with their Nag Champa recently? They had described it as follows…
        “‘Bhakti’: the Sanskrit word for devotion. Bhakti is a a very thick, deluxe stick with a rich base and oil and more floral high notes than our other dhuni blends. Imagine a floral spice mix rooted in the smoke of Indian temples and you’ll be getting somewhere close. This one to burn in a yoga room while the morning sun streams through the windows, or in a meditation room before your favourite Buddha. It’s quite simply one of our most special creations and we hope you like it!”

        I enjoyed burning Bhakti so I’m hoping it reappears, for now, http://www.mettascents.com (Australia) had a little stock if someone was wanting to try it. You would have to email and ask after it as it’s not appearing at their website.

        • janet said,

          March 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

          Yeah, I won’t be able to do it as a regular thing…but I wanted something nice if I were going to try at all, as this will be in my Mexican apartment, which has big french windows…and no screens….and rainy season on the way.

          • glennjf said,

            March 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm

            Your new neighbours are going to love you 🙂

  2. piers said,

    February 23, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I know I’m biased but I think I must be on another planet or something. When I burn a stick of Dhuni, and then a stick of Mothers it genuinely feels to me like comparing a vintage claret to a drinkable but everday bottle of wine from the supermarket. There’s just no comparison whatsoever! However, I deeply respect the opinion of all of you lot on here, so we’ll keep refining things until this becomes absolutely irrefutable to all.

    • Mike said,

      February 23, 2011 at 8:53 am

      Piers lays down the gauntlet. 😀 Seriously though, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable comparing Dhuni with Mothers, although I can see why one might given both company’s incenses are basically wet masala or champa styles. To me they both scratch different itches though. I’d be totally hesitant to give any company or incense the #1 spot, just because I think so much of the joy of incense is the diversity and new experiences. But please don’t let that stop you from your ambition Piers!

      • Mike said,

        February 23, 2011 at 9:18 am

        You know, come to think of it, there is one good comparison and that’s that both Dhuni and Mother’s started off with small lines, at least in terms of the champa style (Mother’s has several other lines which are mostly charcoals that I’ve been hesitant to review just because I don’t find most charcoals any good).

        I think the challenge comes in terms of expanding the lines. The original five Mother’s included at least one incense I’d consider absolute word class, one of the finest Indian incenses I could name, Ganesh Nag Champa. You search for that incense at ORS and I’m sure you can find many comments singing its praises. Now this is just a theory, but I think that type of love comes from really getting familiar with a scent. This is more difficult to do with Dhuni because of the costs, you’re getting approximately 8 sticks in a package where you could buy maybe 2-3 20 stick packages of Ganesh for the same price. This kind of puts Dhuni in the same territory one might for Japanese aloeswoods that go $1 a stick. I think what oftens happens in these cases is you don’t have the repetition needed to allow one to really appreciate the richness of the blends. I know after reviewing the Dhuni line that I was still seeing a learning curve stretching out into the future and wished I could bulk up on, say, the Khus in order to experience that. My guess is if Dhuni eventually opened up to 50g packages of their incenses that this would likely mitigate the issue. That is I wouldn’t mind at all laying out $40-$50 for a bulk package of a blend, but feel less comfortable buying 6 or 7 packages of 8 sticks.

        And of course if you REALLY want to lay down the gauntlet, Piers, take a look at the latest batch of Shroff wet masalas. You can get 50g packages of these for $7.66 a piece. I don’t necessarily want to measure them next to Dhuni and Mother’s but the price and quality of these means I haven’t stopped burning them since the day they came in the mail. I think in the end the incense lover is going to want their favorites of all of these, but given the price and quality considerations, Shroff is really in the lead right now.

        But think of it this way too, people loved the original Mother’s quintet, but I don’t think they really started getting as much attention until they expanded the line to 19. I can imagine when Dhuni does something similar it’ll blow open the door.

  3. greg said,

    January 31, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Dhuni is on the right track with the organic-type incense sticks. i’ve sampled all of them and have to say that the sticks pack an incredible scent punch-in-the-nose due to their thickness. i wondered what would happen if they tossed the bamboo core and extruded them like the japanese style incenses? to test my theory, i took the masala off the sticks and heated them on my incense heater – you get a much more subtle scent with no acrid smoke irritation. the quality of the ingredients are superb, with special accolades for the moksha and lotus. the nag champa wasn’t as good as the shantimalai, in my opinion – as it lacked the moist richness that i found so appealing in the vintage nag champa.

  4. MattnDC said,

    January 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Hi folks.
    I’ve been following the site and recommendations for some time now, and this is my first post. I thank you all for the many wonderful scents you have recommended!

    I’d like to second (or is it third) the deja vu feeling with Dhuni Nag Champa. It brought back memories of incense from the 70s for me. Like the frangrance of the ISKCON temples of the time, and the sticks one could find in “head” shops too.

    Teeing up a second order for Nag Champa really soon!

    Oh, and the Amber is very nice too..


    • Mike said,

      January 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      Hey Matt, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts! I highly recommend checking out Shroff’s Nag Champa wet masala too, if mostly because it’s quite similar and a lot more inexpensive.

      • MattnDC said,

        January 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm

        Thanks, Mike.

        I will have a selection of the new Shroff’s in the order too , and that will be one of them.

  5. Alan said,

    January 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I shouldn’t be posting after burning only an inch of the Nag Champa,
    but this is some serious Deja Vu.
    I swore I was going to cut back this year, but I’m really glad I pounced
    on this while it’s hot.
    Mike is blazing quite a trail. I don’t know how he keeps it all straight.
    I suppose we’ll follow him till we run out of money.
    Many Thanks to ORS (and EOTA). I’ve been in incense heaven for some
    time now! And I have a much better sense of which items in my collection
    are “vintage” and which are merely old.

  6. annechan71 said,

    January 9, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I was initially thinking of skipping the vertivert, but since it’s getting so many positive reviews, this is definitely going on my ‘to get’ list. I may skip the lotus in favor of the Moksha, though.

    Oh, and I second Ross’s comments about Dhuni coming out with an aloeswood stick.

  7. Christian said,

    January 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    When I read the December review of Dhuni, I placed an order with them (U.K.) in early December. Christmas came and went-no order. I e-mailed them about order status and received a lovely, personal response within a few hours. I just got my order a week ago (Moksha and Nag Champa) and have since placed a larger order with Essence of the Ages.

    The Moksha’s touch of citrus makes it extremely pleasant when burning in a house that is closed up tightly for cold weather. I lit a stick, placed in the sink in a holder before I left for errands earlier today and now, hours later, the atmosphere in my bedroom, kitchen and even the bathroom is still highly scented, but in the nicest and most uplifting way. I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of this line.

  8. piers said,

    January 6, 2011 at 10:03 am

    What a total joy to read such thoughtful, appreciate reviews on this most eloquent of incense sites. Thanks to Mike especially for taking the time and applying both his judicious nose and well crafted penmanship to our Dhuni incense sticks. After the monumental effort it took us to get this incense out there, we feel thrilled and justified to find others feel the same way about this stuff as we do. We’re hoping to expand the range this year – and would love some suggestions of which particular scents you’d like us to try and put together? We’re off to India shortly so can do some testing…

    • Mike said,

      January 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

      Hi Piers! Here are some suggestions: Mogra, Patchouli, some sort of resin blend (Frank, Myrrh etc), a “golden champa” (in the Sai Flora sort of area), something with sandalwood up front, anything with a heavy green/evergreen note, one with a lavender top note, a stick that maybe accentuates halmaddi itself, a musk champa and a spice champa. How’s that? 🙂

      • glennjf said,

        January 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm

        Put me down for a packet of the Mogra and Patchouli if they happen 🙂

        I’d like to suggest two others, a Rose and also a Parijata incense.

        I should say now that I’ve never tried any incense containing Parijata but as Hamid has mentioned the type on a couple of occasions I figure why not put it up for consideration.

    • Kevan said,

      January 6, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      Absolutely go for a sandalwood-dominant scent, and some “distinctly Indian” scents like mogra and parijata.

      • Hamid said,

        January 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

        Yes my request would be for a plain Sandalwood too.
        I think that just as the acme of an ice cream maker is its vanilla… the acme of a incense maker is their Sandalwood.

    • Ross Urrere said,

      January 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      I twould be nice to see some very wood based scents or wood/resins mixs. Something in the aloeswood/oud range also and of course the sandlewood.

  9. Kevan said,

    January 6, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Has anyone encountered inconsistency in the Dhuni Nag Champa? As I work my way through my box, some sticks have smoky “off” notes that punctuate the sweet richness that this blend exhibits. If this is an authentic nag champa I’m glad to experience it but I have to say I enjoy the Mother’s more. They seem to have a cleaner aroma. The Dhuni has similarities with “Sairanjani” incense from Adivasi, rich and gummy but maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Mother’s.

    I’m having difficulty with Hari Om as well, with some sticks being “off,” but even with the good ones, the aroma is a little too dry (almost chokingly dry) at times. I’ve come to like it more as I progress through the packet. but I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t replicate the cologne-like fragrance the stick has when unlit.

    However, I am absolutely over the moon about Kashi and Moksha. My experience with incense as a whole isn’t so deep as some here so these two are entirely unique to me, delicious and wonderful.

    I’m kicking myself now for not ordering the Khus though!

    • Mike said,

      January 6, 2011 at 8:00 am

      I wouldn’t have really counted the Mother’s incenses as a comparison to the Dhuni Nag Champa. I think it’s their Shanti Nag Champa that’s considered their “vanilla” but I tend to see the whole line as variations. Shanti strikes me as a bit too spicy to actually resemble a straight nag champa. I haven’t noticed any off notes yet, but I do think there might be something about the Nag Champa’s profile that makes the bamboo stick a bit more noticeable.

      • Hamid said,

        January 6, 2011 at 8:49 am

        I think a certain degree of variation is perhaps inevitable with a product that is natural, and so subject to all the variables that nature is.

      • Kevan said,

        January 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm

        It could just be that I’m not used to what the “authentic smells” of these two incenses are like. But having said that, I lit the thickest, gummiest stick in the nag champa pack tonight and the experience was glorious! 🙂

  10. glennjf said,

    January 5, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Mostly I read reviews before determining what to buy but I’ve learned to trust Hamid’s alerts so I went ahead and purchased directly from dhuni in the UK in early December 2010.

    Though I did already burn the dhuni Nag Champa and the Khus back in December and wrote how pleased I was with them in comments here, I’ve been waiting for Mikes reviews to appear before lighting up the Special Amber, Hari ,Kashi, Moksha and Om.

    I believe now I’ll be as enamored with these others having read their reviews 🙂

    Congratulations to Beth for expanding her operation to include the dhuni range of incenses.

    I think back some 12 months ago to when I first found ORS and how I thought then that I would always be of the mindset to never revisit any indian incense companies products and then I come to now and find myself being so grateful that I have shifted in my thinking simply because I followed up with reading the relevant reviews and associated comments here. So it is that I now have a box dedicated for my Indian Incenses 🙂

    • glennjf said,

      January 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

      Umm correction to the 2nd paragraph in my comment above, better make that… Special Amber, Hari Om, Kashi, and Moksha.

      So, I’ve gone ahead and lit those four now and what can I say! I very much enjoyed doing so.

      I think the Special Amber and Moksha are my first picks of the four (for now). The other two are however so close to level pegging in the appreciation stakes. I have a liking for green and spice happening right now and probably that’s why Special Amber and Moksha registered a stronger impression with me.

      I liked that I got a strong sense of ‘honeycomb’ from Kashi, really lovely, probably this one will a bit sweet for my own personal taste for it to become an everyday incense for me so I’ll note it as reserved for special occasions, a dessert incense I’m thinking. Noted in the review it’s similar to some other incenses but I think I’d be happy to stick with this example if Mike feels it’s the best example of the genre.
      I’m so happy with what I have experienced I’m thinking I can easily wait for the Citronella and the Lotus Flower to make themselves known to me 🙂

  11. Cliff in Cleveland said,

    January 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Can’t wait to try a few. Thanks for highlighting this smaller company offering highest quality!

  12. Hamid said,

    January 5, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Your highly developed descriptive skills are once more put to good use Mike..Its good stuff all right.
    I have been pondering the reason for so many of the top end Indian sticks having outlets in the UK. I guess its actually not mysterious…its a continuing part of the relationship between the UK and India that goes back centuries.

    • Mike said,

      January 5, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Thanks Hamid and yeah I think you’re right about that relationship. Let’s hope incense ends up being as wide spread as curries over there. 🙂

      • Hamid said,

        January 28, 2011 at 3:22 am

        I wonder if another parallel with Indian food might happen in the incense world. There are a number of dishes that have become part of the world wide ” curry” scenario. like for example Tikka Masala which were in fact developed by the British Asian community, and then exported to India !
        It would be fun if that same population developed a distinctive style of incenses……

        • Anne said,

          February 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

          Hey Hamid,

          Tikka Masala? I heard that it was Butter Chicken that was developed by some british south east asians. The story is that there was leftover tikka chicken masala, and the chef didn’t want to waste it, and so invented butter chicken curry as a way of utilizing the chicken tikka leftovers!

          Mmmm…curry .

          Anyway, back to Dhuni. I finally got my package containing the dhuni and shroff incenses today. Thus far, I’ve burnt a stick of citronella, special amber, and nag champa. Though I like them all, I think that I prefer the Mother’s line a tad more. I groove on the sweetness that Mother’s has in their incenses. Dhuni is still great too, don’t get me wrong. Their nag champa is quite the standout. For those of us that never got to try the original blue box of Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa back in its heyday when there was an abundance of halmaddi in it, Dhuni’s nag is must try, if only to experience the closest approximation of how glorious nag champa incense was back in the halcyon days of yore.

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