Traditional Tibetan Medicine Pharmaceutical Factory / TPN Calm, An Shen Tranquility Incense, Nectar (revisit)

In recent articles I’ve brought up the speed and uncertainly of information that travels from the East. When I originally reviewed the Nectar incense I was led to understand that it was created as an incense created by the Tibetan Medical College of Traditional Tibet College that created the fantastic Holy Land incenses and always treated it as perhaps a variation on the grade B of that line, because while it appears to have been created by an entirely different company it’s an incense that is obviously in a similar traditional vein. So I’m happy to correct the record here and back then as well and take another look at that incense even if the elements outside of the difference in company still largely remains the same. But before I do that I wanted to talk about a couple other incenses made by the Traditional Tibetan Medicine Pharmaceutical Factory first. I will also add that I love the little Himalayan logo with the paths to the flame and the plants.

TPN Calm is definitely something of a variation of Nectar, but it just takes similar aspects of that scent, dials back to the intensity and embeds the scent in a much woodier base. I don’t think there’s any question the creators were going for something milder and a bit more polished here, but while the aromatic intensity is dialed back in comparison to Nectar, it still retains quite a bit of aromatic strength and complexity. In many ways it’s like you’re given either option to have it as background or enough in the way of bouquet to pay attention to the aroma. While this still has that element that reminds me a bit of a bowl of salted pistachios, it’s not intensely salty and it allows the background woods of juniper and sandalwood to come through more. The different formula also seems to highlight a bit more of an herby formula as well. I like that there’s an element to it that’s kind of cooling in a way, I think it’s actually somewhat successful in making this work a little bit in its intention. In fact in some ways you might even think of this as a pivot point in the middle of the more woodier incenses common in Tibetan sticks and the more deluxe, aromatic and unique incenses that largely come from monasteries. But overall I would definitely say try the Nectar first because this is still a bit of a step down compared to that wonder of a scent.

Unlike Nectar and Calm, An Shen Tranquility Incense comes in a striking tube with wonderful dragon wallpaper-like art. Unlike those two incenses, An Shen is a bit thicker of a stick and seems to be a much more traditional incense, in fact if you weren’t told or missed the cool little logo on it, you’d never imagine it’s related to Nectar or Calm in any way. It took a few sticks to realize it had a bit of depth to it because there’s so much wood in the mix and it leans towards a bit of that campfire sort of aroma. However, one of the substrata is an almost clay-like richness and there’s a bit of the tangy in there too. Unsurprisingly it has a similar polish to the Calm as well (I’d be interested to know what language differences/subtleties might be between what is translated as “calm” and what is translated as “tranquility”*). The ingredients include sandalwood, agarwood, clove, guangzao and natural Tibetan medicines, and indeed you do get a bit of that inexpensive agarwood aroma that shows up in some Nepali or Tibetan incenses, often called “Agar 31,” but it’s faint and not at all resonant. All in all this may be missing the same sort of vivacity and personality that Nectar has, but if it’s trying to help you sleep a bit, maybe invigorating isn’t the answer. Aromatically it’s a bit static, but certainly not unpleasant. It also reminds me a bit of some of the off-main brand Dzongsar monastery incenses.

So although this isn’t really a full review, I wanted to circle around again really quickly to the original Nectar. I have this pile of about 10 or 15 incenses I keep around where I sleep that I burn as I wind down and read late night and my only definition for these is that they’re ones I always think of to reach for. Nectar is kind of borderline in that category because it scratches a similar itch to Holy Land while being a bit more red and floral. It’s easily a hall of fame Tibetan stick and something of a classic on its own because it has that real density all of the best Tibetans have. It is the flagship of this factory and rightly so. The list of ingredients (I can’t remember if I knew this before) includes musk, sandalwood, borneol and other precious herbs. These three main qualities are definitely all in noticeable quantities here. It also feels there’s a lot of saffron and some hard to define floral elements that add a level to this that really set it apart from most incenses. Definitely an absolute must on Tibetan purchase list and quite affordable still too.

*Thanks to Hart at incense-traditions.ca for sending along the answer to this question: ‘An Shen’ in Chinese is intended for “calming down mental processes” and ‘TPN Calm’ refers to “calming of the heart” – as in helping achieve balance and serenity.

1 Comment

  1. scandojazz said,

    December 14, 2021 at 12:22 am

    After my ‘glowing’ review of Holy Land Grade 2, the TPN Nectar incense is described as being made from musk, sandalwood, borneol, and herbs. I can detect juniper as a base scent but not much of musk and sandalwood. The dry stick scent is camphor-like and its blended very seamlessly with the wood. This is a rather milder stick than the Ga’re, with its woody juniper scent being smoother, but with no real sweetness or distinctiveness as far as fragrance goes but sweeter than the Ga’re. No campfire here. But sweet is not a word I would use to describe Tibetan incense. The sweetest Himalayan stick I’ve found so far is the Nado Grade 1 and that is not really sweet as we’ve come to know in Indian sticks. The TPN is not smoky and is a slow burner. This might be the only one of this group of 3, Holy Land Grade 2, Ga’re, TPN Nectar, that wasn’t offensive to me on some level but I wouldn’t buy it again. For more interesting scents in this genre, Korean Bo Rim and Nado Grade 1 are much more interesting for me. The Korean is a lot more money, though.


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