Shechen / Red, Blue, Riwo Sangchoe, Surpo

Shechen monasteries are apparently located in Tibet, India and Bhutan but it seems their incenses hail from Nepal, based on recipes from Mindroling monastery. Essence of the Ages carries four scents from Shechen, two in boxes indicated by their color, and two roll incenses. By price the two boxes seem to be the most premium items.

The Red box incense is slightly the premium of the two colored boxed and it’s actually no surprise that the recipe originally came from Mindroling as the incense here is very similar to Mindroling’s Grade 3 incense. It has that almost common mix of woods and berry found in many Nepalese incenses with some musky/dusty tones that are similar to the Mindroling, but I suspect the difference here is that Shechen probably uses herbal ingredients to get this layering. Overall this is a very common type of incense, but more or less a superior form of it, so well worth starting with here if you haven’t tried it.

If you have the Red it’s unlikely you’ll need the Blue which definitely seems to be sort of a Grade 2 version of the Red with a little more in the way of that filler wood/campfire scent. Given that the two boxes are only separated by less than $1, there’s really no reason to not go for the Red. The Blue’s rather nice on its own merits, but since the musky sorts of tones are more subdued (by replacing some of the red sandalwood content with juniper) it’s less interesting as a result.

The two roll incenses are much less impressive, both have very heavy amounts of cheap wood and little in the way of character, in fact both seem more ceremonial based than aromatic. The Riwo Sangchoe states the inclusion of red and white sandalwood on the wrapper, but I find it difficult to detect either. It does have maybe some slight musky/musty tones that are reminiscent of the Red and Blue boxes, but these tones leaven the rather dull woodiness very little. The Surpo isn’t much different, mostly made from filler wood material (probably cedar and juniper) but having some slight floral notes in the mix. The wrapper mentions ingredients like yoghurt, milk, butter, molasses, honey and sugar but I couldn’t really tell where any of these sat in the aroma.

There’s really not a lot new here if you’re already well stocked in Tibetan incense. I think I liked the Shechen Red more when I first purchased it, over time, it’s struck me as fairly static, but it’s a nice incense (although I’d guess you might find something similar in, say, the Stupa line at a more inexpensive price. Unfortunately the two rolls aren’t likely to do much more than irritate your sinuses.


  1. Sam said,

    June 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Riwo Sangchod and Sur are two kinds of smoke offerings made in Himalayan Buddhism to help beings suffering in the intermediate state between rebirths, appease hungry ghosts and demons and bring good fortune. Many monks and yogins perform these rites daily. On one level they are about satisfying the appetites of hungry beings, so incenses ready-made for this purpose typically contain sweets, grains and dairy products. Most of them I’ve tried have at least a faint “Pop Tart caught in the toaster” smell: not at all unpleasant IMHO, but not what most people would burn for fun.

    I think the Shechen versions are a pretty solid bargain for the price, since they burn cleanly and smell at least as good as most Tibetan incenses do at $3-$6 a roll. But you’re right, they’re no luxury scent to burn at a party.

  2. glennjf said,

    February 14, 2011 at 6:00 am

    I have the Shechen Red. Bought it after reading some earlier remarks about it, felt it was worth buying, very affordable incense. I’m very happy with it, there’s a pleasing musky warmth to it hit the spot every time.

  3. Clifford said,

    February 11, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    When you say “Riwo Sangchoe”, do you mean “Ribo Sangchoe”? I purchased a red box of Incense from a local Incense shop named the latter. The one I speak of is manufactured my Mandala Trading.

    Are we talking about the same Incense here?

    • Mike said,

      February 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

      Riwo Sangchoe and Ribo Sangchoe are just transliterations of the same thing, but no it’s not the same incense, the one I reviewed here is Shechen’s version. I’m pretty sure I reviewed the Mandala Trading version elsewhere a while back.

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