Shroff Channabasappa / Soft (Semi-Dry) Masalas / Apsara, Exotic Petals, Little Woods (new version), Orange Blossom, Pride, Raja Yoga, Silver Bouquet, Suganda Mantri, Tapasya, Yatra, Yogi Bouquet

Shroff Channabasappa Part 1
Shroff Channabasappa Part 2
Shroff Channabasappa Part 3
Shroff Channabasappa Part 4
Shroff Channabasappa Part 5
Shroff Channabasappa Part 6
Shroff Channabasappa Part 7
Shroff Channabasappa Part 8
Shroff Channabasappa Part 9
Shroff Channabasappa Part 10
Shroff Channabasappa Part 11
Shroff Channabasappa Part 12
Shroff Channabasappa Part 13
Shroff Channabasappa Part 14
Shroff Channabasappa Part 15

Shroff Channabasappa Part 16

I’ve been wanting to write about this group of incenses for a really, really long time now, in fact it should be a measure of my appreciation for them that I’ve restocked every single one once. If there can be one string that ties all of these incenses together is that they’re (almost) all very sublime in terms of their mixtures of notes, the kind of quality that’s like a lure or siren’s song. When I first started to use them, I found it fairly difficult to get a really good impression that I could turn into words and then before I knew it they had sucked me in and I fairly rocketed through all of my initial packages before I could even put words down on paper. So then I ended up restocking them again a few months ago and was a bit more careful and methodical with them. By then there was a new blend called Silver Blossom and some of the original soft masalas were starting to change in recipe. One of these is here, the new version of Shroff’s classic Little Woods.

While Shroff don’t tag these as wet masalas, it’s kind of difficult to really tell what the difference is between the two categories, except, perhaps, that the wets are a bit stronger in terms of perfume content. There’s perfume in these as well but they are much quieter in terms of how much the scent comes out of the boxes when you open them. Think of Darshan or Saffron and how potent they are, these are something of a step down from those. But most of this group is also different than the original group that Little Woods came in, and what they tend to smell like on the burn is quite a bit different from what they smell like in the box. But in all of these incenses’ cases, the more you get to burn them, the more you come to love them and some of these I’d find difficult to do without, especially with all the changes and bad news on the market at the moment. With Dhuni closing up shop, Shroff are now the predominant incense in the Indian export field and the reason why they are is part to do with the subtlety and quality of the last couple of groups.

Apsara lists balsam, jasmine and musk as part of its ingredient list and you’ll see musk pop up at least a couple more times in this group. In particular this is a really crystally perfume musk that really works well with these incenses. With Apsara it’s married to a really sublime and gorgeous floral champa scent with a terrific spicy finish. It’s somewhat reminiscent of pink or even royal amber incenses at times and the mix of what seems like cinnamon (but is probably partially the balsam) and the champa base is perfectly done. As such, it is fleetingly similar to some of the better Japanese florals with a high quality perfume scent at heart. Gentle and seductive, like nearly incense in this liine, this has a subtle quality that always keeps me coming back to it.

With lavender, sandal, and palmarosa in the description, Exotic Petals is a mix of lemon and citrus with a floral and fruity type of center. This is the type of scent I always find reminiscent of air freshener or furniture polish, it’s bright, intense and almost impossible not to get the huge palmarosa hit in front. But don’t let comparisons to these household products scare you off, this is much more well done than a synthetic fragrance, and it has a unique atmosphere that is well worth checking out, particularly for those into “desert flower” type mixes. It has a bit of sandalwood in the mix that grounds it nicely and it has a really cleansing vibe that is good for lifting the atmosphere of your burning area. In fact this one seems quite perfect for summer.

Little Woods has been reviewed here before and has shown up in previous monthly top tens for me, I’ve always stood behind it as one of the best incenses India has to offer. So I was a little tentative to realize that the group it came in has rumored to have changed in scent. The new version is definitely different but the good news in this case is that it’s at least as good as the old version. When I originally reviewed this, I found it slightly reminiscent of the incense known as Woods that started out brilliant and then really took a dive with the recipe changes. However, I’d say the new version might even be closer to that original classic and this seems to be less perfumed in some ways and more evergreen or resinous in scent. As a result it doesn’t feel like we’ve lost another old favorite so much as gained a new one (even if the perfumed version was brilliant). Little Woods is still an evergreen and evocative wonder.

Orange Blossom lists orange and ylang as ingredients. Like an orange cream soda or popsicle, this fruity-citrus champa is one of the best and most unique of its type. It’s not only that it gets its scent right (too many bad memories of off orangey incenses makes me hesitant to approach these), but it does so and manages to be subtle as well. The blossom part, if you will, is nicely defined and gives the scent a lot of sunshine, it’s still distinctively gummy and balsamic at the same time with a touch of the powdery. The combination of elements makes this one perfect overall, but do note these are thicker sticks than the rest of the line and thus the stick count will be a little lower.

Pride sticks out of this group quite a bit by moving away from obvious floral scents and using sandal, aloes and musk as its ingredients. It’s probably the driest in the bunch, stick and scentwise and reminds me a little of Shoyeido’s Haku-Un, a woody blend with a nice touch of aloeswood in the mix. It’s quite different for a champa or soft masala, with peppery hot notes mixed in with the woody/spicy blend. At the risk of repetition, it has a great balance like all of this line. The whole scent has a spicy richness that makes this an earthy classic and could easily be used as a temple incense. Don’t expect this to have any sort of whopping Japanese style aloeswood note in it, but you can tell the ingredient is part of the mix nonetheless.

Raj Yoga is an earthy champa of a different type, and lists rosemary, olibanum and oakmoss among its ingredients. It’s very close to what I’d call a patchouli champa variant with a green, herbaceous character (the oakmoss I’m sure) that is reminiscent of vetivert as well. The middle seems sandalwood heavy and there’s a touch of spice/floral to give it some individual character. It’s all extraordinarily fresh and original, and a great example of why these are all such impressive hybrids, incenses that only work because all the moving parts are in their right places. It’s tough to pick a favorite in this group, but for sure this would be in the running.

Silver Bouquet is one of Shroff’s very recent blends and is a really excellent entry that reminds me of the older champa days. It’s not so much that it reminds me of one scent in particular as it evokes a combination of older notes in a newer blend. Hints of Maharaja or Incense from India’s Silver Temple, a touch of Lotus, a bit of Incense from India’s African Violet fill the mix as well as a bit of nuttiness and a thread of spice permeate. It hits the kind of sultry end you want with a “silver,” with the perfume revealing some cool subtleties through the burn. Amazing, like a quality spiced tea.

When I restocked Suganda Mantri, it was the one incense in the group I bought two boxes of. It’s one of this line’s brilliant pieces of art, a rich, sultry Eastern perfume in champa form. The scent is quite woody (musk and sandalwood are listed) and the subtleties are many and difficult to list. There’s a bit of chocolate, some earthiness, some sensuous florals, especially rose. It has a depth to it all the best Indian masalas have, where the plurality of ingredients come together in all sorts of sublime ways. It may be the best of several examples of why this batch of Shroffs is so good. Perhaps a bit similar to desert flower blends but if so the most superior version of that scent on record.

If there’s one incense in this group that I might have slipped a little bit with, it’s the musk, sandalwood and amber blend Tapasya. It’s a bracing, fruity blend with the usual sandal, orange peel and spices, in fact this could be considered something of an alternate version of the old Maharaj scent. The main issue with it is that either the bamboo stick or part of the aroma cuts through with a slightly rough woody scent that gives it some bitterness. It gives an abrasive note to the scent that prevents it from working properly. Like Pride, it’s quite dry, but not in a good way. In fact as I took notes down on this I went through several sticks just to try and capture why it wasn’t working as well for me anymore and mostly it just doesn’t pop like the rest of them.

Yatra, a mix of jasmine, sandal and musk, is an excellent blend of fruity and floral with a really powerful and crystally musk presence, this is really what this line does well, balancing several ingredients in an unusual and clever fusion. The wood and champa base sits in the middle and they seem to ground both the jasmine and musk so that both are distinct in the bouquet. Sometimes jasmine can be overwhelming, but like with Apsara it is placed rather perfectly in the scent. Very nicely done, fresh with a touch of evergreen in the mix.

Finally we have Yogi Bouquet which lists citrus, musk and balsam. Like Yatra, it has a distinct and noticeable musky quality, although where it’s more crystalline and perfume-like in Yatra, it shows up a bit more sultry here, meshing perfectly with the balsam. The citrus is nicely mixed in and doesn’t kill the incense like it often can when the essential oils are over accentuated. There’s a bit of sawdust in the mix as well and it’s perhaps a touch rough, but the combination makes it quite worthwhile.

This article more or less catches up with the Shroff line to date, although after trying the new Little Woods, I’m curious to revisit some of the other incenses in the group that have probably changed. I tried Pearl again but it’s close enough to the old version to be redundant and reports elsewhere on the site evince that Jungle Prince might not be up to the standards it used to have. Another big change is that Shroffs are now being packaged in 50g packages, which seem a good balance between not having enough and having too much. Let us know in the comments section what your current favorites are in this thread and if you’ve noticed any changes, any observations will be highly worthwhile to our readers.

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9 Comments

  1. Frances said,

    August 5, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Greetings from the UK, Mike et al…

    Having received my most recent shipment from EOTS, this brings my experience of the “Soft” and “Wet” Shroff categories as follows:

    Top marks go to Sugandha Mantri, which I think is heavenly and floats about the room in an ethereal way. Lovely exotic and Eastern florals.
    I am also very pleased with Apsara, which is more spicy and seems to smell different each time I burn it. Sort of elusive!
    The Champa is, of course, divine, and I had that previously.
    But unlike others’ opinions, I am not so keen on the Pearl, (also from a previous shipment), which I find leaves a rather heavy ambience in my room. Incidentally, to my nose it has some similarities with the Mother’s Ganesh.
    The Musk Flora, which I have had for a year, is rather strong for me, but I note it is maturing to a softer level.

    In the Wet category, Little Woods has been at the top of my list for some time, but having just paid up for the rather expensive Saffron, I have to say that it takes equal first place – a really marvelous stick, hot and dry, sweet and sour…Although the smell hits you the minute you unwrap the box, when lit, the sticks are not pungent, just beautifully balanced.
    The Nag Champa is a good, creamy one (though I preferred the Dhuni even more). The Dhuni Nag Champa was more earthy and left a wonderful after-aroma for some time in my rooms, whereas the Shroff N. Champa, while lovely when burning, does not seem to linger for long after the event.
    I just love the Shanti, which initially I wasn’t sure about but which seemed to grow on me, stick by stick. I seem to detect a hint of salt in there which perfects the whole experience!
    The odd one out for me is Super Star, which surprisingly doesn’t generate all that much smell, and nothing pops out at me from that stick. To my nose it smells sort of “ordinary”.

    The last new one I tried was from the Masala Base group – the Lilly 1938. I think it is a lovely floral, and I am waiting for stocks to be renewed of Night Queen to try next!

    I also want to try either Moonlight or Orange Blossom. Both sound similar. Can anyone tell me which they like better?

    • Mike said,

      August 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Frances, thanks a lot for sharing your comments on these incenses, I enjoyed reading your take. As to Moonlight vs Orange Blossom, I actually prefer Orange Blossom, although I’d guess Moonlight could have easily gone through a recipe change in the way Jungle Prince and Little Woods did. Moonlight gives off a more oil based orange scent where Orange Blossom is going for the scent of the tree and thus the orange scent is less citrusy and a lot softer. Orange Blossom is a really good one in my book, and the thick stick really speaks of an indulgent experience. Both are excellent incenses.

      • Frances said,

        August 7, 2013 at 3:20 am

        Thanks so much for that, Mike. I shall go ahead with the Orange Blossom.
        While still in the Shroff category, I have a couple of other queries: Firstly, how do you find the Shroff Vetivert (Natural group) compared to the Khus that Dhuni offered? I think when you wrote your review of the Shroff version, Dhuni had not yet produced their stick. I adored the Dhuni version, but now they are gone, would like to look into a substitute that is a bit similar.

        Secondly, I am interested in the Red Sandal, but wonder about the cinnamon element. Is it like cinnamon oil, (if there is such a thing) or powdery? Because I don’t much like the smell of cinnamon in terms of a baking cookies smell, which happens when it is combined with things in some of the incense bases. (That is my trouble with several of the Mothers’ sticks.) On the other hand, I am fine if it is diffused in a different way. There is also the Sandal Flora, of course, but your review of the Red Sandal seemed superlative!

        Incidentally, I have a batch of the Jungle Prince, which must have been post recipe changing, and I find it very harsh, to the point that I no longer burn it – very disappointing.

        • Mike said,

          August 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm

          Frances, the Shroff Vetivert is way different than the Dhuni. Dhuni’s was essentially a champa type variant where the Shroff is very dry and more woodbased. Unfortunately I can’t think of a substitute.

          I wouldn’t worry too much about the cinnamon in Red Sandal, it’s more a subnote and used to show that it’s a bit spicier than most sandalwoods. I need to pull this one out again myself!

  2. Geco said,

    June 28, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Hi,
    compliments for your incense blog, the best in the world.
    Have you ever see this line (“a gift of nature”)?
    http://www.karmashop.it/asp/asp/ec_prodotto.asp?idraggrupp=04&idraggruppsub=35

    I buy one packet of “Golden nagchampa” and i think is very good and natural: declared 100% natural, declared handmade in Nepal (yes,i think,the resin on the sticks have irregular form), paper is wet (real halmaddi or similar,i suppose).
    I’m curious about your opinion,thank you
    Geco

    • Mike said,

      July 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks Geco, I have not heard of or tried it but sounds interesting for sure. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Corey said,

    June 19, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Has there been any change to Amber Rose???

  4. Corey said,

    June 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I just received an order from incenseguru which included Amber rose..

    It smells great to me but..this was my first time burning it


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