Temple of Incense / Bombay Blues, Coconut Dream, Dancing Sufi, Jaipur Joshi

Temple of Incense Part 2
Temple of Incense Part 4
The entire Temple of Incense review series can be found at the Incense Reviews Index

This next quartet from the Temple of Incense line shows some interesting variations. As you explore the line, you find a really wide range of different scents that leads one to expect that there’s nearly something for everyone in the group. This group contains basically two (somewhat similar) charcoals and two very sweet and almost confectionary-like incenses. It has been truly fun to go through this range, there’s a surprise at every bend.

Bombay Blues is a really well-named incense. The given ingredients of patchouli, mint, geranium and khus push this aroma much more into cooler regions than a lot of incenses. The base feels like maybe a notch north of a charcoal in the direction of a masala. The khus and patchouli both provide a bit of a clay-like base note but they’re also co-responsible along with the mint for the incense’s overall smooth and chilly top notes. There are surprisingly few green notes like you’d expect from these sorts of ingredients. Even though it is not mentioned in the ingredients there seems to be a bit vanilla note in this as well, which may be the only warm thing about it. The geranium seems to be much farther in the background as a subnote. It’s a very interesting scent overall, it certainly sets a mood and atmosphere quite different than any I usually expect from an incense. Overall it’s probably not as much to my taste but please don’t take that to mean the artistry isn’t still at its usual high level here and if the ingredients list is attractive to you then you’ll certainly want to see if it’s to your taste.

I was working through some Ramakrishnanda incenses recently and noticed that the company had changed their Govardhana incense away from the original loban and coconut aroma to wood rose and vanilla. As someone who felt that the stick was one of the most successful coconut scented incenses I had tried, I was disappointed to see it go, so perhaps it’s fortuitous to try a new coconut incense with Coconut Dream. As I mentioned in my original Govardhana review, I have smelled some utterly disastrous coconut incenses in the past and find it’s a pretty bad idea to formulate one purely on a dipped oil as its likely to smell more like suntan lotion than real coconut. Unsurprisingly Temple of Incense does create a very nice “coconut champa” incense here (although this is scent is still largely charcoal-based) which has enough of a woody base note to make sure such a sweet scent doesn’t get too cloying, and rather than suntan lotion, this smells more like a coconut cream pie with hints of toasted coconut and a lot of vanilla. It even has the kind of grassy subnotes real coconut has, which I think might have the side effect of making your stomach growl. Don’t get me wrong, anything this delectable is probably something you want to use judiciously, but I can see coconut lovers wanting to eat this one up. It’s very nicely done.

Dancing Sufi is an extremely close cousin of Happy Hari’s Niyama Sutra which I have effused elsewhere about. In fact if you have done a deep dive into the Temple of Incense catalog and noticed that they too have a Gold Nag Champa with flakes in it, it’s hard to not feel that both lines share the same recipes or creators. This appears to be an incense with a top note so delicate that it may begin to age really fast as I notice it a bit more in the fresh Niyama Sutra than I do here, but they’re both extraordinary incenses in my book. The notes here are vanilla, kewra, amber and rose absolute. I remember kewra (aka screwpine) from old Shroff incenses and you can smell its particular and unique subnote here. The vanilla and amber are also really obvious, but it’s curious to imagine what gives the top note a sort of like nutella hazelnut or caramel sort of aroma because that’s really what makes this particular stick pop gloriously. Well, that and the beautiful rose note, which is a wonderful secondary bit of complexity. Definitely put this one on your shopping list if you haven’t tried it, it is a particularly fine incense. However US customers might find it more price conscious to go for the Niyama Sutra. You really don’t need both.

Jaipur Joshi is not terribly far from Bombay Blues. It’s perhaps a little more obviously charcoal-based but they both share a mint background that give both incenses a bit of similarity. The other notes in this incense are amber, woods and musk and this mix is certainly less earthy and cooling than the Bombay Blues. The amber here is unlike how it is in most of the other Temple of Incense line and more reminiscent of the charcoal “royal amber” types due to its more perfume-based transmission. The musk is particularly strong here and the woods are very similar to the way they feel in the Wood Spice incense. So in some ways if you’re familiar with some of the rest of the line, it’s difficult not see this as a bit of a hybrid, a combination of elements from other incenses in a new mix. But where the coolness of the ingredients tend to mask the charcoal base in the Bombay Blues, the base is a bit more obvious here. Temple of Incense do respectable charcoals for sure, but I find it to be a bit of a limited format and while this never gets too harsh it feels like it pushes in that direction a bit.

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Tennendo / Hana no Byakudan

For my tastes, I find the range of sandalwood incenses in Japanese incenses to be much narrower than the range in aloeswood incenses. Even company to company the aromas can be very similar. Now there are low end daily incenses with inexpensive sandalwoods, but I’m speaking more of the range where Mysore sandalwood comes into play, a finer level of wood. The issue for me is I can find even the slightest of tweaks to separate one I like from one I don’t. I’m not sure these distinctions may be quite so fussy for other readers. Sandalwood can be kind of buttery at times, sometimes it’s just not particularly distinctive. Sometimes it has a citrus note, other times it can have what I have often called a “crystalline” (perhaps resinous) quality to it which I often feel is showing up the best the wood has to offer. And there are sandalwoods that often smell like they’re fresh off of someone’s saw, which is another quality I enjoy. But on the other hand give me a high-end Indian absolute or essential oil and I might rocket to the moon (I’m looking at you Temple of Incense).

Tennendo’s new (or newly imported) Hana no Byakudan is packaged in the kind of pawlonia boxes that tend toward premium scents and at $24 for 55 or more sticks, I think it’s safe to say this is more upper-end sandalwood. It has almost all of the notes I mentioned earlier, although the crystalline qualities aren’t always present as if you get them when the burn hits a finer pocket of wood. But overall when I burn this incense I definitely get a good definition sandalwood in mind. It’s not adulterated too much, nor has it lost the personality that good sandalwoods have and I found the more I used it for this review, the more I liked it. But it’s close to missing this sweet spot in a way that I think Japanese sandalwoods of old weren’t as likely to do. For instance, one of my favorite sandalwood incenses ever, Kyukyodo’s Gyokurankoh is a great example of an incense that went from one of my favorite sandalwoods to one in the middle. And of course there’s the recent news of Baieido discontinuing their very premium Byakudan Kokoh. It feels that just like aloeswood, some level of the really good stuff has been disappearing in no small way. And I think this Tennendo is kind of in that middle spot. It’s very nice and I love its fresh atmosphere, no question. Special? Maybe right on the cusp. Just another shift in availability I would guess. But I can’t imagine if you’re a big sandalwood fan you will have too much issue with this.

Ga’re Tibetan Incense Factory / Ga’re Therapeutic Tibetan Incense

You really have to classify Ga’re Therapeutic Incense in a similar category as TMC’s Holy Land or TPN’s Nectar. In fact the box dimensions, size and color for and of the incense are very similar to that of Nectar. Ga’re shares with both incenses a musky and salty, deep sort of aroma that is definitely a favorite area of mine. Yes, there is some fair overlap with the incenses I just compared it to and so if you’re new you might want to start with the others first. But this is actually even a little more affordable than those. This whole class of incense is still one of the best buys you can find price to quality level.

Now it’s hard to really say how much it differs from the others. I will note that the color of the stick in the incense-traditions.ca picture is a bit browner than the red stick I’m looking at, which seems to be quite a bit different than maybe a photo lighting difference might cause. It’s also not uncommon for recipe or ingredients shifts to cause this sort of change. It’s probably closest to Holy Land Grade 2 in scent. It doesn’t really have the floral overtones of Nectar or the complexity level of the Grade 1 Holy Land. Ga’re has a gigantic musk hit that’s the equivalent or better of any of these, a very powerful top note, and it is of course mixed in with that almost salty, pistachio like aroma I’ve mentioned in reviews of all these other incenses. The differences might be that it’s a touch woodier or evergreen than the others. Just a very light touch of campfire in the burn that I would guess could be juniper wood. There’s probably some saffron in here too. And like a lot of incenses, leaving the room and coming back show another more subtle note not as noticeable if you’re near the burning stick, something a bit more resinous and additional. It’s actually a feature of a lot of the best Tibetans, almost like the crescendo of a chorale. Like with other incenses in this class, it packs a lot of flavor to it and the more I burn it the more I notice. I’m sure Holy Land and Nectar fans will want to check it out as something of a variant of the style. I am even hesitant to say more as this feels like it could be a sleeper favorite and wonder what I might have felt like I had I encountered this first and the others next.

Temple of Incense / Himalayan Spikenard, Wood Spice, Bengal Beauty, Ganesha

Temple of Incense Part 1
Temple of Incense Part 3
The entire Temple of Incense review series can be found at the Incense Reviews Index

So here’s the other half of my initial order, minus the samples, from Temple of Incense. I noticed there’s an “est. 2012” on the boxes which just made me wonder why news on these fantastic incenses took so long to spread. It does seem like there’s a substantial UK to India connection that really helps with the foundation to some strong companies there, so I’m sure there’s more hunting to do. Anyway in this round we have both charcoals and masalas (including a very familiar traditional) and another of the line’s baton size wonders that nearly makes me faint away due to the beauty of it.

Himalayan Spikenard acts as one of the high enders in the Temple of Incense catalog at nearly twice the price much of the range goes for. That’s because it’s not just a spikenard-fronted charcoal but because it has a something of a bakhoor-like oud scent in it as well as musk, oak moss and vetivert. The thing I really love about spikenard is you can experience it ranging from the sweeter notes found in Japanese incense or Greek monastery-styled incenses to musky, earthy aspects of it that feel a little wilder in the natural source. Here you have the full range of the spikenard note even though it’s essentially fronting a blended oil. It is a charcoal, so I do think the mix of these elements actually goes to highlight that in a way not everyone might like, but there’s nothing wrong with this mix of oils on their own, in fact it’s a bewitching blend with a bit of a erotic flair to it. And most importantly it has some aromatic elements I don’t think you will find in most incenses. It’s like having something familiar with a more exotic edge to it.

The Wood Spice is an intriguing (also charcoal, but not as obviously so as the Himalayan Spikenard) incense that reminds me of a couple different scents. The notes listed here are not specific, just flowers, woods and spices, and while I think the woods obviously take the central place, there seems to be a lot of other activity rotating around this center. It feels like it works on two levels, the woods blend on one hand and then some sort of tangy richness on the other with a powerful hit of spice that reminds me of anything from cardamom to clove or nutmeg. The spicy wood feels like it goes in a bit of an Oud Masala direction, but without the more expensive agarwood touches and with the heavier spice touches, the scent profile ends up being something like the old Maharaj or Maharaja blends of the original champa era, although to be fair I think this is more due to the oils than any sense of halmaddi at play. It just feels that there are dozens of ingredients and that the mix creates something that justifies the more general notes than being specific of just a few. The oil overall feels like it could work either as a perfume or cologne, depending on your definition or preference.

Bengal Beauty is one of the latest in the family of incenses that have a long history of lavender-ended goodness. My old favorite was the old Mystic Temple Honey Dust incense, which was a delectably sweet treat of honey and vanilla and I’ve seen it in the old Satya Natural and Happy Hari’s Yama Sutra and probably a few more lines I’ve forgotten about now. It may very well be the second most common traditional Indian masala next to Nag Champa itself, although it feels like this version may have shifted more to a charcoal or hybrid style than it used to be in the old days. And this is as good of a version that exists on the market currently. Part of that is the sweetness, another part is it’s a bit more balanced in a sandalwood direction and part of it is that its more obviously an amber as well (there are some similarities to ToI’s Amber Supreme as well). The other notes mentioned on the box are khus and rose and while I get the earthy notes of the former, the rose is far more subtle. It probably tends less to the sweet side than other versions, but that makes it a better balanced incense. This is a very friendly Indian masala and not a bad one to put on your starter list.

I don’t know what it is about these thick stick incenses like Ganesha, maybe it’s just that they feel like they’re frontloaded with a lot of halmaddi resin, but just like the Shiv this is a stone classic of a scent. The notes are lotus, lavender, eucalyptus and light florals, but the overall effect is like some modern candy fronted Japanese stick except in big stick form. It is super pink in color and in aroma in fact “Valentine’s Day candy champa” popped right in my mind as I wrote this in front of a burning stick. This is fairly well blended, sweet and feminine floral, you certainly get the lavender and eucalyptus notes in the mix but it’s so sweet that most of the rest of the floral notes just kind of converge into this big bouquet of hallelujah. It’s an incredible floral and because of the oils not quite as gentle as the Shiv is, but it’s no less impressive. I would love to see what a big batch of this looks like and smells like. More like this please!

Okuno Seimeido / Meiko Kunsui Aloeswood, Gokuhin Kunsui Aloeswood

It was the moment I realized (and later remembered) that some time after carrying the tube of Okuno Seimeido’s Gokuhin Kunsui from one area to another that most of it had fallen out on the carpet, breaking about half the sticks, that I don’t talk about or complain about incense packaging all that much. While the lids are a little different on both of these tubes, once they’re popped off (especially the Gokuhin) then they go back on far too loosely. So buyer beware just to be careful if you grab either one of these once opened. It’s not ideal, but it’s manageable. It strikes me that the Meiko lid fits on a little tighter, but I seem to have trained myself better to account for gravity shifts if I have to move these. Anyway, these two incenses are what I would describe as modern aloeswoods. Neither are going for a premium wood stick, they are stylized aloeswoods meant to be friendly and comfortable to the casual user. As such they are nicely inexpensive. Ginsen Kunsui was not available at the time I ordered the other two, so it has not been included here – I may have to circle around to this. However, fortunately we already have a review for this one here.

Meiko Kunsui looks to be the low end of what are essentially three different Kunsui aloeswoods. In some ways these Okuno Seimeidos are a bit analogous to most of the Kunjudo Karin range in that they are formulated mostly based on perfume oils. I might even describe the Meiko Kunsui as being a bit more of a sandalwood-aloeswood mix than a pure aloeswood. Anyway where more traditionals at this low a range can often lack a lot of aromatic punch, the ones with oil mixes like this can still be pretty satisfying in terms of having a full aroma. I don’t want to say that the Meiko is close to Kunjudo Karin Zuito (aka Golden Waves), but it does share a little of that aroma’s nutty side note. Overall the incense definitely has a bit of a perfume vibe to it, but still in a way that aims for a more traditional sort of aroma. Don’t expect this to be particularly woody, but to have a sort of general kind of aloeswood scent like you might find in a lower end Nippon Kodo.

Gokuhin Kunsui, for a few dollars more, is a much richer affair and much more in the ballpark of the upper end Kunjudo Karin range. This is where Karin Zuito is a better pointer, as finally we have some more noticeable wood elements in the mix. Mind you I would guess a lot of these are perfume enhanced, but it still does satisfy some need for the woody profile in an aloeswood scent. There’s an element to this that is nicely musky, with a bit of sweetness in the middle. I really like to sing the praises of a good, relatively affordable incenses (and yes I definitely want to get back around to the Karin line again as so many of those are wonderfully affordable) and this has what I would refer to as a bit of legit cheating in that it’s reminiscent of incenses in a somewhat higher price range. So good on Okuno Seimeido and Japan Incense for offering this kind of option. And if you end up loving it, it looks like you can get a big box too. And at 450 sticks for $65 that’s an even better deal, although you obviously better love it. Once again, this kind of incense is a bit more comparable to Nippon Kodo in style. It actually isn’t terrible far off NK’s Kyara Kongo except since it’s not trying to play pretend you don’t get the extra, somewhat cloying sweetness.

El Incenses and Fragrances / Capture, Sunflora

You’d have to go back about 10 years in the ORS archives to find an article I wrote called Floras and Fluxos. I was not only reminded of this in receiving very generous samples from this new Indian incense company, but the night before I wrote this I was burning Temple of Incense’s Krishna and thinking wow this smells like a flora too. I like these convergences in my incense use patterning because it helps me focus down on what I want to say. We talk a great deal about charcoals and masalas and champas when we discuss Indian incense here but floras are really something of their own category. Perhaps the most famous of all of these, at least in the West, is the ubiquitous Sai Flora. I originally came across incenses like this in other catalogs where they were called Golden Nag Champas, well before I saw any actual Nag Champa with gold flakes on it.

Floras are incredibly brash, highly perfumed and loud incenses usually. They have so many ingredients in them that talking about any in specifics can be a little difficult. They are powerful ways of fragrancing ones space. Most of them have a bit of an earthier element and I see patchouli in the ingredients in both of these two (curently of four) El Incenses. I think it’s important to note some of the bottom end because the mix of perfumes and florals is something of the oppposite to that earthy low end. One thing I did notice about both of the El incenses is that they’re a bit warmer than most floras, they’re a bit more akin to something like a good amber masala, that is the not the red colored ones, but the more champa-like tan colored incenses. I think having this kind of warm base in both of these incenses helps to tone down the harsher elements found in other floras.

So there is some level of difficulty in talking about the perfume oils on top of both Capture and Sunflora, not only because they are a conglomerate of different sources but because they differ in both incenses. One thing I do like about both of them is they remind me a lot of some of my initial experiences buying incenses at Cost Plus when I was a teenager and what it smelled like to wander into that section and smell something exotic. That is there are some perfumes in the mix here that you don’t tend to find pitched at the Western market and that is refreshing, especially when you are looking at something different. We actually get a reasonably good description of the ingredients too (they are the same in both scents): spices, herbal oils, essential oils, sandal oil, patchouli oil, resinoids, bamboo sticks, coconut and sawdust sourced from the forests of South India.

It feels to me that the incenses are both similar in all the initial make up, so how do we describe one apart from the other when the top scent is so complex? For sure in Capture, we are talking about a more floral-dominant mix, but it’s not one that is masking the sandalwood, amber and patchouli of the base. I’m reminded of a lot of different floral blends from previous use, not only rose but Night Queen, Mogra, Shroff’s Amber Flora or Sugandhi Bathi. Like with Sai Flora you can definitely sense resinous materials in the mix, it’s an element that tends to give floras a sort of sparkly or crystalline middle to them that is much rarer in champas. Sunflora is not dissimilar but there isn’t as high a concentration of the floral top note which seems to highlight the base and the spices much more. To me this shift kind of highlights the amber-ish base and leads to an even warmer scent than the Capture. The thing about floras overall is they are meant to have a lot going on them and both of these really do. They are usually some of the strongest incenses on the planet, so in comparison to others El’s versions are a bit more restrained, which is a nice take.

In spending some time with these incenses I was sort of tackling how to explain the perfume notes in these because the same element that reminds me of encountering Indian incenses in Cost Plus is a note that feels something like the way florals do in soap. It’s not overwhelming and you smell it more on the fresh stick than during the burn, and it really does have an exotic feel that pushes these a little more in the unfamiliar direction, which is something I welcome. But it’s a note that often tends to show up in more inexpensive floral mixes (it’s a bit more apparent in the Capture as that one feels more intentionally floral) and had it been turned up even a fraction more it would likely be too distracting. I will note here that while these incenses are not currently imported to the US, the price at El looks like a bit under $3 for a 50g box. Should that hold in the US that’s a good deal for incense at this quality level and both of these feel different enough from not only other incenses, but other floras, to be worth checking out. I am hoping to see El expand their line and flourish as a new business.

Mermade Magickal Arts / Green Faerie

Oh here’s another one … five left at the point I posted this (and Kuan Shi Yin was gone by the end of the day I posted it, so…) Green Faerie, if I was to give it the most simple explanation, is something like an absinthe resin blend. I’ve always really enjoyed the aromatics of a nice absinthe (I don’t partake much of alcohol anymore) so it seems like a very natural and cool idea to transport this sort of almost liquorice-like bouquet to an incense format, especially by a creator who has gotten really good at creating oil blends that often have the depth and intensity of fine wines or spirits. First of all the resins, which is really quite a list: mastic dipped in fir balsam, green frankincense dipped in violet leaf absolute, and Hougary Oman Frankincense. This creates an incredible strong base that honestly lasts for hours and hours, I even left my heater on overnight and got wafts the next morning (it is also very sticky stuff and takes a bit of extra effort to extract from the tin). I really feel like that violet note cuts through nicely, but overall the sum parts of this really set up a nice background to give the more absinthe-particular herbal content a base to exude their strengths in. These are wormwood, tagetes lucida, davana and Egyptian mint. I love the way it feels like these herbs were carefully chosen to bring out that particular absinthe aroma, particularly with the anise/liquorice and minty notes. But that’s not all, there appears to be some jasmine, rhododendron and sandalwood as well, which gives the overall scent some slighter and more complex notes. Anyway I think you’ll know from the word absinthe if this is going to be along your lines. It’s of course quite a bit more than that and the equal or more to any spirit’s aromatics and like all Mermade brews an absolute winner.

Aba Prefecture (Miyalo Town) / Huiyou and Qinrun Tibetan Incenses

I live pretty close to the Sierra Nevadas and have a lot of camping and travel memories of going into the evergreen-rich mountains and the ever-present scent of pine, cedar, fir and juniper. Hikes were always permeated with this higher altitude freshness and some of these were the woods that would end up in your fire at night. And so a lot of these impressions form the basic memories that the most resinous and green Tibetan incenses tend to recall. There are the similarities that trigger those memories and of course the differences that make them fascinating.

Both Huiyou and Qinrun incenses are intense evergreen incenses made by the Aba Prefecture in Miyalo Town. Huiyou Incense appears to be a therapeutic incense with a number of different uses but its central potency lies in how well it really captures this high altitude evergreen and wood aroma. It’s not the same kind of stick that Aba Prefecture’s other incenses create (the two great Shambhala incenses, a review of which should be forthcoming) or the sort of denser stick I’ve talked about with Bosen or Five Fragrance but this doesn’t lose any of that super green middle. I’m burning a stick first thing in the morning right now when it’s cool with a cup of coffee and it’s just an invigorating scent that gets in the back of the brain and pulls out great memories, where you’re all bundled up and inhaling the richness of nature. While the incense’s dominant note is definitely that green foresty scent, this also has a lot of herbal and spice content to keep it nice and complex too. There are so many blending ingredients that it’s a bit hard to separate one out from another, but it has that wonderful sawdust of fresh cut evergreen wood as a note and a bit of a spice mix that reminds me of some teas. Really gorgeous incense, highly recommended at its price point. It’s a bit smaller of a box than most of what you’re used to (including the Qinrun), but it’s well worth it.

Qinrun itself is something of a variation (or vice versa) of the Huiyou. It still has a lot of the same evergreen and wood qualities, but they’re a touch milder and pulled back. The ingredients given for Qinrun (there aren’t any given on the Huiyou but it’s not hard to extrapolate in some way) include white sandalwood, rosewood, nutmeg and Rhodiola roses. I feel this is enough of a variant on a good thing to make it an incense worth checking out in its own right. I would guess the rose element is probably not in Huiyou as much because it’s a note that changes the profile a bit, you get it right on the edge and it is a wonderful adjustment to it. It is really rare for floral elements to be strong in Tibetan incenses, so this incense is somewhat remarkable in having one. It also feels like the wood content is a bit higher, but once again this is just a slight change. Like Huiyou, this is a very beautiful incense with a lot of richness and complexity. Quinrun is a bigger box than Huiyou with only a slight adjustment upwards in price, but it’s still a very affordable incense for such incredibly high quality.

As a final note on the photos, you can see the fronts at the incense-traditions.ca links, but these are both really beautifully done boxes, so I thought I’d feature the other angles.

Temple of Incense / Temple, Green Garden, Electric Musk, Shiv

Temple of Incense Part 2
Temple of Incense Part 3
The entire Temple of Incense review series can be found at the Incense Reviews Index

It was when I lit the sample stick of Temple of Incense‘s Sandalwood Extreme that I went from sheer aromatic overload to some level of transcendence and gratitude. I had spent most of the day with my first package utterly astonished by not just the sheer range of scents but the quality and strength of absolutely everything. It wasn’t just being bowled over by the saffron-fronted power of their Temple Incense, it wasn’t switching to their Green Garden and just realizing how completely different it was from everything else I had (ever) tried. It wasn’t even when I lit a stick of the brand’s deluxe Shiv and realizing I was in the presence of a masterpiece, wondering is this the point I should put the stick out? How about now?

No, it was the Sandalwood Extreme and its ability to whip me right back to the very early 90s when, on a trip to the bay area with friends, I stopped at a shop just off of Haight/Ashbury and encountered the Mystic Temple line for the first time. It brought back that exact aroma, a sandalwood scent I had not encountered in probably almost 30 years. You get used to losing brands and favorites, you get used to scents you love losing some sort of power and presence and I was there when nearly everything from Satya to Incense from India to Mystic Temple itself went through wholesale changes. You don’t remember when the scents that literally etched the most special of memories disappear, but when it comes back…. that’s really special. I couldn’t believe once again I was around the Indian incense I fell in love with, the kind of aromas that are in part responsible for why there is an Olfactory Rescue Service.

So yes it does appear miracles are possible. I don’t know how Simi and Sam Aydee managed it, but they not only plugged into more than one legitimate Indian incense source, but used these connections to allow for an extremely wide range, a sure grasp on old traditional recipes, a skill for creating oil blends that utterly sing in their complexity and a feeling that the ingredients and care that goes into their product is of the highest skill level. Not since Dhuni has there been such an incense line, but even then Dhuni only provided a dozen or two incenses and Temple of Incense are well on their way over 50 different aromas. It is truly remarkable to see that this is possible in 2021 and it has made me very happy indeed. Thanks to a reader who tipped me off, I took a look at the photos, thought yeah those sticks look deadly legit, and sent off an order for eight scents. Not only did I get eight boxes back but at least as many samples of the rest of their line. And also a charming and warm welcome from the Aydee team. Please note as well that many of these incenses share the same supplier source with the Happy Hari line, but Temple of Incense has also reached beyond this. But it’s worth noting because if you are a US customer then in many cases you’re likely to save postal costs sticking with Absolutely Bliss. And of course the reverse is true if you live in the UK. But we will try to point out the similarities in scents as we see them. Even when they are close there is still enough variation to make them not quite exact matches.

First of all I have to say I love the boxes. Not only is the line designed sleekly and classily but I love the slide out cardboard boxes, for me this is a really convenient way of packaging things. But the incense itself, this is really the stuff of legends. Half way through my sampling I was thinking the unthinkable, yes even their charcoal sticks are bloody great. Their masalas? Almost overwhelmingly stunning. It felt like every scent that showed up was a fresh and powerful as it could possibly get. Sometimes after the power would wash over then the complexity would hit. I remember being almost overwhelmed by the saffron infused oil of Temple and then over halfway through the burn it started almost feeling like it had been covering up some rose and wood oud scent. So when I say I’m excited about this line, I’m saying I’m as excited about it as I’ve been about any incense line in quite some time. So anyway as I said the line is gigantic. We could be covering this for quite some time, especially if we want to do them any justice at all. But first let me get started on some of my initial impressions…in fact let me go over this first group as I discovered them.

The first punch right out of the box is Temple of Incense’s deep red, saffron fronted Temple. This is an astonishingly powerful incense that knocked me out so hard out of the box I wasn’t quite sure what I was dealing with. Shroff Channabasappa had a Saffron reminiscent of this once, but it wasn’t quite as deluxe as this version. This is a very loud incense, even for Temple of Incense’s overall line, and I bet it could scent a house and the back yard on its own. In fact the perfume on it is so intense that it took a while for the blend to reveal it’s more subtle sides, which reminds me of arabian ouds with the agarwood-rose mix. It’s such a quiet note that the saffron almost blocks it out, but this is where getting some distance on the stick and allowing it to perfume a larger space helps. And like all good incenses, the more you burn them the more they unveil their treasures. This is a brilliant incense overall and honestly it’s probably something like the standard average for this amazing line. It also has quite a bit of a cherry note, which I don’t often smell in incenses. It may have nearly everything “red.”

Green Garden also took me by surprise as right after the Temple, it showed just how different each stick in this line is from one another, how utterly distinctive each scent is. I’ve actually never tried anything quite like this one as it has an almost mowed-grass sort of scent on the top, mixed in with all sorts of other herbal notes, without any real need to dip into patchouli or vetivert areas. And at the same time it felt like there was just as much vanilla or halmaddi-like aromatics coming off it as the green notes. I loved its bright energy and almost sunny feel to it, something that’s not always easy to capture without losing a sense of richness and depth, especially in what looks like a charcoal-masala hybrid. It almost reminded me of a Grass Champa or something, except one is not as likely to get hay fever from it. Really beautiful incense this one, one that would be a highlight if it didn’t feel like they all were.

Electric Musk is a charcoal incense with a coating of cobalt-blue (well at least in dimmer lighting) that is very pretty to look at. It was the first of several charcoal style incenses in this line where I was like wow, this company actually does really good charcoals. If you know how much I usually hate cheap charcoal incense, hopefully it is saying something. As always it’s down to the quality of the oils and they have front loaded this with a bewitching Egyptian-style musk scent and in super strength too. Think, for example, of the scent on a Fred Soll Egyptian Musk stick except dial up the power and complexity of it to a much higher volume. Fresh and punchy, exactly like the description and electric like the name, this one grabs hold and doesn’t let go. It has it all, sweetness, deep muskiness, and a fruitiness that verges on citrus. Given Temple of Incense’s committed to vegan incense, cruelty free and natural products, it’s a wonder to think what this is all made from as it’s devishly complicated and almost erotic in a way. Really trippy stuff and a lot of fun, and overall something of a contrast in this group.

After a reader (thanks Peter!) sent me over to Temple of Incense and I zipped down the offerings marveling at all the pictures of what looked like really good incense, I must have actually missed the Ganesh the first go around and saw the Shiv sitting next to the Shakti. Four sticks per box on both of these two and I was reminded of the days of the great Dhuni batons, not to mention my recent revisit of Happy Hari’s Emperor of Amber. When you get an Indian masala of this thickness and high quality, it’s hard not want to jump in. And oh what a gorgeous and gentle beauty Shiv is, warm rushes of halmaddi resin fronted with a blend of amber, patchouli, musk and rose that is so beautiful it nearly stops everything you are doing. I don’t ever light a stick this thick thinking I’m going to burn the whole thing, but this was so heartstoppingly amazing that it took me forever to put it out. It’s strange that a stick so large could actually be the one in this group with the mildest aroma, but the amber, honey and vanilla beauty of this is nigh on perfect. Absolutely supreme Indian incense, the best of the best.

And so my journey into the heart of the Temple of Incense begins. We will have a lot more of these scents to feature over the next month or few. I bought a few more with this batch, got a wonderful number of samples, and by the time this posts I’ll probably be another 2 or 3 orders deep into their catalog. There is not a scent I have smelled so far that wasn’t undeniably amazing. This is the real deal people and long may the company last.

Minorien / Kougiku (Chrysanthemum), Hana Murasaki (Violet)

I don’t usually go deep enough into a company’s catalog to start experimenting with moderns and florals, but I’m a huge fan of the Minorien line and since it’s not a terrible large one, I wanted to see what they had left after all the wonderful aloeswoods, sandalwoods, kyaras and frankincense. It was a good move because I discovered another aloeswood-related incense with the Kougiku mini stick. I first introduced this in my 14 One of a Kind Japanese Incenses feature, but I wanted to memorialize it as an actual review as it’s a lovely and rare piece of incense art.

Kougiku (it’s also spelled Kagiku, but I’m sure both are fine from a transliteration point of view) comes in a little square box and yet like other Minoriens it is packaged with the paper covered trays. It’s just in this case they’re smaller and a bit more adorable as a result. Each little stick packs a glorious little wallop of a chrysanthemum-scented aloeswood, one of those rare convergences that even your family might be OK with. And of course it’s not a surprise from such a venerable company that the combination is pitched fairly perfectly, like a modern and a traditional coming to the table for a friendly handshake. It’s got a bit of a spicy middle, some caramel notes, and no lack of neat wood presence and so could easily also be the kind of floral an aloeswood appreciator is OK with. Honestly the only issue I have is it might be cool in a longer stick or coil form too. It comes and goes so fast, so it’s hard not to light up another one.

Minorien’s lil Hana Murasaki/Violet coils (these also come in sticks, although I have not compared them for differences) are another floral treat, although this time there are no woods outside of whatever base the oils sit on. This is straight along the line modern floral incense but very nicely done. Violet is another one of those flowers that can become indistinctive in the wrong hands and while this doesn’t come quite up to how amazing Shoyeido’s high end Floral World violet was before the deluxe version got deleted, it’s still a very worthy treat nonetheless and certainly one of the best violet incenses I can think of off hand. I am running the risk of going hey people this violet incense smells like …. violet, but at least in this case it really does and there aren’t a lot of harsh notes or floral bouquet dilutions to get in the way, which is a lot more common with cheaper fare. I don’t do a lot of florals but I am happy with this one as an occasional diversion.

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