A note from Beth on Tibetan incenses

I received the following from Beth Johns at Essence of the Ages in order to clarify some of the issues regarding Tibetan Medical College Holy Land and other Tibetan incenses, based on comments in other threads…



I hope I can clarify a bit of what seems to be happening with the Holy Land incense, and certainly other Tibetan, Indian, and Nepali incenses.

Most of the incenses that I import are 100% natural or contain a very high amount of all natural ingredients.  Certainly Tibetan and Nepali incenses are the most natural incenses made, using literally no artificial ingredients. Now let’s change tracks a bit.

The wines produced from the exact same grove of grapes will taste differently from year to year. The weather has a huge impact on the taste of the fruit. Less rain produces a higher sugar content. More rain, less sweet. There are many other weather factors that also affect the taste of the fruit. Vineyards then call the yearly harvest and resulting wine a ‘vintage’. Even if you don’t consume wine, you certainly can taste the difference from season to season in the fruits you purchase from your local grocery. The taste is affected by the weather in the growing region of the fruit. Here in Minnesota, for instance, the drought from the past 2 summers has produced the most gorgeous fall colors I have ever seen … less rain means higher sugar content in the leaves and more brilliant fall color.

The same happens with the leaves, roots, flowers, et. al. that are used to produce all natural incense. The weather affects ALL growing and living things, including incense ingredients.

To the absolute best of my knowledge, the recipe of the Holy Land has not changed from when I first was able to import it in 2008. What HAS changed are the growing seasons. And I continue to be told by the Monastery that the Holy Land recipe has not changed.

The Holy Land that I currently have in stock was imported in August 2011. I believe it to contain a large amount of high quality ingredients, including animal musk.

This is the best explanation that I can offer. I hope you will try Holy Land for yourself, from my current stock, and enjoy what I consider one of Tibet’s finest incenses.



Beth Johns

Essence of the Ages




  1. JohnPawn said,

    February 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I think it’s become very easy for us all to want our cake and eat it too. It’s 2013 and we have come to expect consistency and uniformity in all the products we consume. But for those of us on this site, we have intentionally sought out incense that is made of natural ingredients and then hand made in facilities where concepts like “consistency” and “uniformity” may not be possible. To get that perfect consistency, be it with a hamburger or a stick of incense, we have to rely on the cold industrial process to break down anything that was once natural and wild in order to create something that conforms to a standard that can be replicated indefinitely. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to take some variance, and at times some disappointment, to enjoy what I believe can be a higher taste. I mean, who wants to look forward to burning a chemically dipped charcoal stick that is supposed to smell like apple pie or the latest Justin Bieber perfume?

    • Marian said,

      February 5, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Well said, John. It is those “natural and wild” elements of nature that are so amazing and intriguing. I burn more wood than I do sticks, and if every piece of wood I burned were exactly the same the magic and mystery would disappear. Thanks for your eloquent and sensitive comment.

      • greggking said,

        February 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

        Then you are going to be very disappointed with Scented Mountain and the generic wave of the future agarwood that is being produced on myriad plantations worldwide at the moment. Yes, it’s great for low end sticks, but will never produce Kyara, as the trees are cut down only a few years after inoculation. Another thing you will notice, whether it is Scented Mountain, Agar Harvest, or any wood from India or Thailand that you see for sale, is that each piece in the batch smells exactly like the one before it. That’s fine if you like the aroma, like buying a certain incense stick, but not nice if you are like me and love the variety in a batch of wood from say Malaku, where one piece may smell like cookies baking heavy on the vanilla, the next with a dash of cinnamon and something you can’t quite place but it sure smells great 🙂

      • JohnPawn said,

        February 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm

        Thanks for the kind words, Marian.

        Also, Mike, when you update the ORS score book, can you please make sure I get credit for the first Justin Bieber reference on the website. Thanks!

        • Michael Marquardt said,

          February 6, 2013 at 1:09 am

          Hi JohnPawn,
          though we shouldn`t waste our valuable time by writing funny things about Justin Bieber, here`s one more german saying: if we don`t like the odour of somebody, we say “He`s stinking like a beaver”. Bieber, written Biber, is german for beaver.

        • Mike said,

          February 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

          You sure you want credit for that? 🙂

          • JohnPawn said,

            February 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

            It may be a dubious honor, but an honor none the less! 😉

  2. Marian said,

    February 1, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks for your explanation Beth- it makes a lot of sense. I wonder if the reason people are commenting more about particular Tibetan Incenses is because Tibet has had a more dramatic climate change than elsewhere, or perhaps they use a greater proportion of natural ingredients in the recipe so the change is more noticeable. I have a few sticks that of Highland that were purchased in 2010. I look forward to comparing them with the current version the next time I make a purchase.

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