Nitiraj / Classic / Amber, Divine, Frankincense, Musk, Myrrh, Nagchampa, Rajchampa, Sandalwood

NOTE: This line has been discontinued

Nitiraj is an incense company with a very expansive catalog, not only do they have several lines under their own imprint, but they’re also responsible for the large Atmosphere series of incenses. Like Shrinivas Sugandhalaya, Nitiraj isn’t really producing high quality incense, it’s more as if they’re covering the inexpensive, passable midrange of Indian incense. For example if you were to take a number of Nitiraj champas and mixed them in with the Atmosphere range, I think it would be very difficult to tell some of the incenses apart. This is the same issue with Satya incenses, the recipe changes have led to many of their incenses losing distinct personalities. In fact I think it’s instructive to take a Nitiraj or Satya stick and compare them next to something from Shroff or Dhuni.

Nitiraj’s Classic line is akin to something like Triloka’s main range or in some cases Madhavadas/Primo. What you’re basically getting are average examples of all the sort of standard incenses you’ll find in many common Indian incense ranges. Here you get the pink amber style, a flora, several masalas and a couple of champas, but unfortunate most, if not all of these fall under standard quality. I’m not sure if my packages are just too old at this point (it does seem, for instance, that the Atmosphere range is superior), but there’s not really a lot to be impressed with here so keep that in mind if you want to keep reading.

It’s rare to find a bad Amber incense, but Nitiraj have managed one, although in this case it’s because the scent is far more like some horrible synthetic floral than anything remotely resembling an amber. At the light it just smacks you with shallow bitterness and a number of off basal subnotes. In many ways this stick is a picture perfect example of why ORS exists, so you can be pointed to alternatives for this kind of thing (in this case almost anything else with the amber label on it). Your incense should not have to smell like a chem lab accident.

Divine is Nitiraj’s Sai Flora equivalent, but with a bit of glitter in the stick and a much flatter scent. The brassiness you’ll find in Sai Flora overtakes the base too much and very little of the earthy, almost manure-like undertones exist in the Divine, which isn’t actually a good thing in that it leaves the result too generic. Maybe it’s because I’ve been burning better fluxos and floras, but this is way too much of a one-note incense to be comfortable in this thick stick category. Divine isn’t as bad as the Amber, but since Sai Flora, Mystic Temple Golden Champa and many others are so much better, there’s no point in this version. An incense that reminds you of better versions isn’t really what you want.

Nitiraj’s Frankincense is as strange and offputting as the amber, as far from the Madhavadas frankincense style as it is from real frankincense. It seems to have a more “resin blend” smell, rather than resembling pure frankincense and as such it seems like there’s enough benzoin in the mix to make it church blend like. But despite it’s individuality, Nitiraj Frankincense just doesn’t measure up to any other Indian frankincense I can think of.

Nitiraj’s Musk is a reasonable herbal masala musk, obviously trying to imitate the French musk scent and at least creating the imitation without any overt unpleasantness. But we’re also so far from the real thing that it suffers from the comparison. It actually reminds me a little of the NK aloeswood sticks, but with sandalwood mixed in instead.

The Myrrh is a brutally bad, sour and perfumed incense that doesn’t smell as much like myrrh as it does some sort of industrial gravel mix. This is the type of incense that gives the whole paradigm a bad name, I’d be surprised to hear anyone find this even remotely pleasant. It’s hard to imagine the quality department signing off on this.

Nitiraj’s Nagchampa will remind you pretty quickly of what the blue box Satya version turned into over the last decade and is very typical of what the modern scent was like until some of the newer premium outfits started restoring the incense’s reputation. Without halmaddi (or with very little of it) the bouquet has to be largely carried by the base. However, this isn’t particularly terrible, but only if you don’t compare it to the versions on the market now, which show this up for its lack of authenticity.

The Rajchampa doesn’t resemble most champas of any kind, it’s a masala with a tatty kind of perfume oil, a mix of Chandan sandalwood and an odd floral/orange-ish mix. It blares its message a bit loud and doesn’t do it with any sort of real quality, so its bouquet seems kind of cheap. It’s not on the bottom rung like the Myrrh, but it’s not one you’d run out for either.

Like the amber and frankincense, Nitiraj Sandalwood is both totally and not so totally reminiscent of the Madhavadas family version. What I mean by this is it seems the construction of the incense is similar (such as the base), but the directions they go are very different. Like the Madhavadas sandalwoods, this is a highly perfumed masala, but it doesn’t share the same vanilla and buttery sandalwood overtones (which is actually a good thing in my book). Stickwise it seems to be a bit loud and the overall bouquet belies the complexity of the wood, but essentially it’s a passable version.

Fortunately at this point, I can at least say I’ve covered Nitiraj’s least impressive line and while there’s no drastic improvement in the other ranges, at least in nearly all cases everything left over is champa style. The next batch will be Nitiraj’s line of color/aromatherapy scents. Essence of the Ages has confirmed for me that this range has been discontinued, but it seems most of these incenses are still available if you look around (including a few at discount prices at Essence).

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2 Comments

  1. burnbeforereading said,

    July 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I remember discovering Nitiraj’s Masterpiece line at a record store when I was in my first year of college and just finding them utterly delectable, like nothing else. A few years ago the line turned up at a gift shop and the pack of Parvati (my favorite) I brought home just left me depressed; it was like burning a stick made from the ashes of the original fragrance, maybe with some gravel thrown in to stretch stuff out a bit. I’d hoped maybe that their inventory had just gone stale, but I suspect either my nose has become more discriminating (unlikely!) or the quality has dramatically diminished.

    That amber, though! That amber was always horrible.

    • Mike said,

      July 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      I have memories of old Satya incenses that help me realize the company went downhill, but unfortunately I didn’t know about Nitiraj until fairly recently, but I’d guess from their similarities to Satya that Nitiraj could easily have reformulated everything for the worse like Satya did.


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