Ganesha Incense/Nag Champa, Jagannath, Agarwood

Ganesha Incense is a new company creating traditional Indian incense and based on my review package, ships from Thailand all over the world. Their incenses come in 100g containers, large tubes with easily removable lids that are really nice, you can actually set them on their base and they stay upright and are very easily accessible. There is no inner packaging (they’re essentially cardboard), so I’m not quite sure if the incense is protected over time, but based on what I sampled, I’m not sure it’s necessary as the lids fit snug and everything smelled nice and fresh.

It’s never stated on the packaging but I wouldn’t be surprised, based on some of the offered incenses and the base of the incenses if these were sourced in the Madhavdas family, the same venerable incense creators behind the Primo, Pure Incense and other lines. If not, there still seems to be a similar base at work, a mix of vanilla, sandalwood and charcoal. But like most of the incenses sourced through Madhavdas, Ganesha incenses do differ in overall scent and aren’t just the same incenses being sold under different names. As we have found out, this base can be solid for connoisseur and high quality incenses.

Based on the three incenses in the package, Ganesha seem like they’re off to a very good start. But first of all, a bit of a preamble as I haven’t reviewed a Nag Champa in a while and there is some history behind the style. Nag Champa incenses today are generally better than they were ten years ago, but if you go ten years earlier you go back to a time where they were much more impressive. One of the things I remember about the older Nag Champa is that the sticks were very gooey, it wasn’t uncommon to find smashed sticks where the consistency of the material was still quite wet. This has been attributed, sometimes from myself, to the use of halmaddi in the stick, a material that keeps an incense in a sort of state between wet and dry. However, I haven’t seen a single new Nag Champa incense since Olfactory Rescue Service has been active whose consistency matches the “historical” Nag Champa (not even Dhuni’s) and so I’ve come to the impression over the last few years that something in the mix has been lost since Satya Sai Baba changed hands and that it could be something more than just halmaddi. Halmaddi was (or may still be) on the CITES endangered species list and for a while it was very rare, and the Nag Champas during this period were very dry and mostly downright unpleasant. Fortunately incenses have been popping up since this dry period that clearly contain it and thus we’ve had a bit of a renaissance with the blend such as with the Mother’s wide range of champas. Halmaddi tends to give champas a uniquely balsamic middle which tends to balance nicely with the oils being used.

There is one important difference in the newer blends, however, and that is most of these are quite a bit skinnier than the “historical” champas and so the actual materials being used often don’t overpower the scent of the bamboo stick in the middle and this tends to cut through sometimes. I wanted to mention this as it’s not specific to Ganesha’s Nag Champa, all the new ones have it. But I also wanted to mention it because Ganesha’s version is very very good and I know the owner has made a strong effort to release a really authentic scent and even with the history given above, I’d easily think about this as the market’s go-to Nag Champa. It has a nice halmaddi base, a good balance between the sweet and dry and a touch of depth that all the good incenses in this style have. And unlike some other types of Nag Champa, I actually found myself enjoying this MORE with every stick, rather than less, which is not often the case. Overall I do wonder what a thicker stick with similar materials would be like, other than obviously more expensive. And I have been informed that as the company goes forward there will be more attempts at connoisseur level scents, which of course we look forward to with great anticipation.

Ganesha’s Jagannath is a Nag Champa variant and it’s a sweeter mix of spices and ingredients that is vaguely reminiscent of styles like Vanilla and Honey Dust as well as Maharaja, but unlike either lineage Jagannath is not a clone. This one has been exciting to try as where Nag Champa is an old familiar, Jagannath has just that right amount of newness to keep me pulling for it and learning more about the scent. Like the Nag Champa, there’s something stately and restrained about Jagannath, and my experience with it was that after a few sticks I started to notice a bit of depth to it, something that a lot of sweeter incenses can easily overwhelm. Ganesha’s incenses are true Indian style but don’t seem primed to overwhelm you with perfume like a lot of Indian incenses, their claim to natural scents really seems to bear out. Even last night I pulled out another stick and was even more impressed, like all good incenses you notice more with increased use and this one really does have a lot of subtlety to it.

Nag Champa and Jagannath are two of Ganesha’s Silver incenses so it’s perhaps impressive at this point to note that they also have a Gold line as well (4 different incenses so far). The Gold incense I was sent was the Agarwood. As noted before when reviewing Indian agarwoods, they are very different from the Japanese scents. And there aren’t really that many of them, only Pure Incense’s blends come to mind at the moment. But I am really impressed with this one, it has a really astounding depth to it and seems quite superb especially for its price range. Given how expensive Agarwood is, to keep it at the 100g/$19.99 price there has to be some clever trickery involved in the makeup, and I was quite impressed by not only some of the spicy oud-like characteristics here but the authentically woody scent that pops up, some of which I would expect to be from the sandalwood in the mix as well. The combination of the base and all of these elements adds up to a very complex incense with some of those dark fruity notes you find in some ouds. It’s also very different from any of the Pure Incense Agarwoods. Like the Nag Champa and Jagannath, the more I sample the Agarwood, the more I like it.

Overall I’d say Ganesha Incense is off to a very good start and I’m certainly looking forward to trying any of their other incenses in the future (these were only 3 types out of approximately 15-20). The scents, presentation and solid price range have obviously had a lot of thought put into them. I’m not sure if the company plans on releasing smaller packets in the future or samplers, which I would think would be key to success and longevity, but I can also imagine that most Indian incense fans sampling these would wish they had 100g if they didn’t. We have a new winner on the market here.

19 Comments

  1. Heidi M said,

    March 18, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Being a Japanese incense fan, but now into Yoga, I thought in honor of it’s Indian roots I would try out “the classic” incense of Nag Champa. Locally, I found “the blue box” and then a couple of the other mainstream champas, and realized this brought back memories of university in Boulder, and that I quite liked the concept. After reading Mike’s praise of Mother’ champas, I was lucky enough find 12 of the most popular stocked at my local spiritual bookstore, so have just begun trying those (!!!)… When the review for Ganesha was posted. So I jumped on that and ordered two of the flavors Mike reviewed…

    Housekeeping comments: The product only comes in large packs of 70+ sticks, which if you want that as your signature household scent is good, but if you like to explore and try new things all the time, that’s just too much to buy at once on the chance you don’t like it so much or because you want to move on to the next experience and won’t ever get to it all. (Apparently Ganesha Nag Champa is now available on Amazon.) Ganesha dearly needs to create a sampler pack of their line. I’m more likely to buy more if I know I like something; I don’t want to keep sampling full-size single-flavor packs. The customer service from Goldmund at Ganesha was beyond superb, and he got the package posted immediately…but note it does take about 3 weeks to receive one’s (neatly wrapped and professionally presented) package. (Includes a few days in Customs, where they probably needed to decide if “incense” was contraband — but does not appear they opened it after all). Nicely thought out product packaging too. The price for shipping is very reasonable, around 5 bucks, but did need to sign for it when ultimately delivered by US Mail (had to make a trip to pick it up at post office since not home on their first try). The two points here: Ganesha needs a sampler pack, and this is quality incense that most definitely deserves for an importer in the US to pick it up for their store line (hello, who is going to step up??). Oh, I also would like to see more detail and information on the Ganesha website regarding say, several highlighted ingredients, versus just one or two; plus more info on the company — people and philosophy. I’m a nerdy scientist, so I like to know as much as possible. The website descriptions are stylish marketing, so it was hard to pick what to try from that for those of us left-brainers. But from what I can tell of the majority I sampled, you could probably risk any of their blends and come out well.

    The sticks: Scent in the box is not the same as scent burned. There are definitely fragrance components that top note when intact, which I generally am wary of, being a resin and wood lover. (Are those plant-distilled essential oils or perfume oils?) Nag Champa: I had the same words in mind as Jeff’s comments, the Nag Champa is very smooth and focused. It’s brighter, sharper, and more sophisticated than the classic Sai Baba, and it could easily be chosen as one’s household signature Champa. It is intelligent in its interpretation of the classic concept — sophisticated and coherent. But yet it doesn’t stray too far at all, so you still get the emotional memory and olfactory “comfort food” effect. It could be applied well as mood scent for a metropolitan yoga studio or Ayurvedic wellness center. Jagannath: I did not like the scent when intact/unburned. Intense perfumy quality was a turn off. But that totally changed upon burning. It has a subtle underlying Nag Champa sense, but is topped by a floral-botanical character, that makes me think of British garden conservatory meets the Raj. Again, smooth and focused, the two layers of scent concept interlock to make a unified mark. The scent nicely lingers in the house for a couple days. Overall the scent is enjoyable and I would call it moneyed feminine. The sample sticks (3) that I received were the Cedarwood Gold: These did not have a perfumy nose, but rather a sweet and resinous salutation, which I really got excited for. However, upon burning, the scent totally changed, and not for the better, at least to my nose. It flattened out. As Jeff mentioned, I don’t get the Cedarwood feel, either. However, it may be from a “cedar” variety not common in the west, or a less common genus? When moving out of the line of smoke, a very subtle hint of the original sweetness is detectable. Overall, great line, and I look forward to trying more. P.S. I didn’t realize one could ask for a few sample sticks. I would have asked for the Rose. So if somebody orders that, please post your review here! Namaste.

  2. Jeff said,

    March 15, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I ordered and received the gold Agarwood. I’ve burned several sticks, then stopped, and burned only Japanese sticks with agarwood in them to do somewhat of a comparison. What I noticed is that the Japanese sticks tend to be a more focused, woody fragrance where the actual wood can be somewhat isolated and identified much more easily than the Ganesha agarwood. While the Ganesha is a very powerful stick that literally envelopes you in its world, it is overwhelmingly sweet and the agarwood fragrance is somewhat lost in the highly perfumed mix. I can’t get through a whole stick of it. It is too much sensory overload for me. There is no escape from it. While some people are going to love this, I love the Japanese style of incense when it comes to woods. Of course, the Indian and Japanese cultures broadly contrast on many levels and each will have its devotees.

    I also received some samples of the gold Sandalwood which I really enjoyed and rank very highly. This is a stick that is very sexy to me and much more tame than the Agarwood. While sweet, it doesn’t overpower me and burning a quarter of a stick in the bedroom is great to falling asleep by. This is a different fragrance of sandalwood that you normally get with Japanese sticks and with other Indian brands and I think that Ganesha’s can live harmoniously with them all. It might very well be my next purchase.

  3. Jeff said,

    February 15, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Based on Mike’s recommendation for Ganesha Incense, I ordered the Nag Champa straightaway. Let’s face it, Nag Champa is about as iconic a scent as one could get from India. But, nothing prepared me for the smooth fragrance and penetrating depth of this stick. Powerful, but not in an obtrusive way. In a smaller space, 1/3 of a stick will last for hours. This one is hypnotic and each stick is about 1.3g, handrolled.

    Just for comparison, I opened a stick of Shanthimalai Nag Champa which is a very decent Champa. The difference was immediately noticeable. While the Shanthimalai is soft and fragrant, the Ganesha stick was much more focused and deeper while retaining a softness that the Shanthimalai could not produce. A thinner bamboo stick from Ganesha also makes a difference in being less noticeable and allowing the Champa scent to be forward and present at all times.

    I was also given a sample of Ganesha’s gold line Cedarwood. This one was even smoother than the Nag Champa with a sweetness that was intoxicating. I was never able to figure out what the predominant note was in this stick as I couldn’t detect any cedar from it, at least the kind of cedar I’ve had in Japanese incense. Nonetheless, it is a premium stick and worthy of anyone’s treasure trove of scents.

    I guess I’m lucky to live Thailand now that Ganesha Incense is here. (I’m not related or know the owner personally) Just a happy customer.🙂

    • February 16, 2016 at 12:51 am

      Hey neighbour..🙂 It’s great that you were so kind to share your experience with other ORS readers. Thank you!

    • Gino Cortellino said,

      February 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      I found Happy Hari’s Nag Champa to be superb. Would enjoy trying Ganesha Incense/Nag Champa. Is there a website to place an order?

      • Jeff said,

        February 17, 2016 at 2:49 am

        Gino, I haven’t tried Happy Hari’s. I will keep it mind. Thanks.
        Ganesha Incense link is store.ganeshaincense.com

  4. Terra Renee said,

    February 15, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    I know this is a bit behind, but is your incense made by HM&Sons? I love their incense, all lines, and would certainly love a 100g pack of Blue Lotus.

    • February 16, 2016 at 12:12 am

      Dear Terra, while we prefer not to discuss the details of our manufacturing process publicly, I can tell you that our incenses are our own creations and not “me too” copies. Even if some may be similar to offerings of other brands, you will easily find that ours are unique and hard to match.

      It’s the way I wanted it when I started all this. And we intend to stick with this vision, no matter what the market/pricing pressure dictates. For us it’s about spreading the beauty through this world, not so much about being the most profitable of the lot.

      When ordering from our website, you can put in a note to tell us which other scents you’d like to try so we’ll include a free sample. Our Blue Lotus is wildly popular with women, though I have to admit that I as a man also enjoy it and never get tired of it.🙂

  5. January 22, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    This maybe a bit off topic, but thought to ask here. You mentioned Halmaddi. I have a bottle of it but no idea how to use it. Does anyone out there have knowledge about this ? It is very strange stuff.

    • Margaret Thorpe said,

      March 5, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      Hi Katlyn – I don’t have any experience using the Halmaddi resin, but have been looking for some myself to play with. I had suspected that you might have used some in your “Honey” sticks (the amber champa incense), which I loved…..but I guess not🙂
      I look forward to hearing about (and hopefully smelling) the results of your Halmaddi experiments!

      • mermadearts said,

        March 6, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        Hi Margaret, Still have not been able to get the bottle of halmaddi open….Need to get someone really strong I guess:) The Honey incense had Champa EO in it. I’ll keep trying.

  6. Gino Cortellino said,

    January 21, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Mike…I clicked on the link provided in the article. It seems to be ‘dead’.

    • Mike said,

      January 21, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      I just clicked on it and it worked. It looks like a kind of Java display at work, so maybe it’s not compatible with all browsers. It starts blank and then the logo flashes on the bottom right first, Then you have to scroll down. Link to buy is at the very bottom.

    • January 21, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      Dear Gino, our website address is ganeshaincense.com.

  7. Frances said,

    January 21, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Sounds interesting! Will these be available from Beth? Or where else can I obtain them from? My google search appears to bring up a different range under the same name, so not sure how to find them.

    • Mike said,

      January 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      If you click on Ganesha Incense at the beginning of the article, it will take you directly to the site. They are indeed hard to find on Google at this point.

      • Chris said,

        January 22, 2016 at 4:58 am

        Based on your Ganesha reviews, Mike, I placed an order last night. Goldmund contacted me within an hour to tell me very nicely one of my items was out of stock and offered a Silver or Gold version replacement and added they would pick up the difference if I chose something in the Gold category. I told him your review prompted my purchases. He did not know it was up and was thrilled when he read it.

        • Mike said,

          January 22, 2016 at 7:01 am

          Thanks for passing on the word Chris and hope you like them. They are definitely my go-to incenses right now and I’m always excited to be able to enthuse about a new company doing it right. I’m sure there will be more reviews to come!

    • January 21, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      Dear Frances, you can get our incense from our website ganeshaincense.com. Our website is fairly new, hence no love from Google yet.. And from Beth, I think so.. we’ll know soon.🙂


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: