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.

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12 Comments

  1. scandojazz said,

    August 30, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    Green Garden is an immediate classic daily burner that leaves so many of the champas in the dust and makes its way to the top of my list. The vanilla tinged base and herbal masala firmly, yet gently, establishes itself in the background and never wanes or interferes with what you are doing. Very relaxing, present, and simply first rate. TOI is on a different level than most incense products. We are extremely lucky to have Mike introducing us to quality like this. They are expensive for many incense users and I find myself burning 3-4 cm of a stick which is enough to fill a room and make each stick last longer.

  2. Peter Bartlett said,

    August 7, 2021 at 3:15 am

    I have only just caught up with the Sandalwood Exreme, and I had a similar experience to yours Mike. Only my proustian moment featured Portobello Rd in London ( as featured in the movie Notting Hill) back in the 70’s. There was a shop that sold Indian imports that the owner used to bring back himself from trips to the Subcontinent.. They included a range of incenses one of which smelt just like T.O.I. Sandalwood Exreme. I have not seen the brand since.When I heard that the owner of that shop was having a closing down sale I bought his small remaining stock of incense sticks…on first catching the scent of the T.O.S stick the years rolled away. ..it’s a delight.

    • Mike said,

      August 7, 2021 at 7:49 am

      Great memory Peter, thanks for sharing. TOI has managed to do it more than once thankfully, but yes this one is incredibly special.

  3. Khalid said,

    July 25, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Been waiting for this one! Great reviews and I can’t wait to try some of their offerings, I’ve ordered 5 to start with. So they have some in common with Happy Hari – I suppose the golden nag champa is one, I wonder if you know which others? I’m much closer to the UK than the US, so it would be great to know so I could cross reference with your Hari reviews.

    • Mike said,

      July 25, 2021 at 8:45 am

      Hi Khalid, thankyou! I don’t have a hard and fast list yet, but for sure the Oudh = Oud Masala, the Amber, Myrrh and Frankincense all match up with Happy Hari “royalty” scents, Dancing Sufi is very close to Niyama Sutra, and there are definitely others which we’ll get to when we confirm (or maybe if Stephen is reading this he can jump in as he’s identified some others). I would not say that there is an exact match on these given that different batches of the same recipes can vary, but I think they’re close enough to not duplicate depending on if you’re in the US or UK. For example Niyama Sutra right now is the better incense to Dancing Sufi, possibly because the Absolutely Bliss batch is tremedously fresh. The two Ouds different a bit in their note but they’re still basically the same pitch. But the similarities are worth pointing out for budget considerations.

      • July 25, 2021 at 10:00 am

        Here are the HH scents I was able to detect:
        Amber=King of Amber
        Dancing Sufi-Niyama Sutra
        Dragon’s Blood=Red Blood Dragon(not HH but at Absolute Bliss)
        Frakincense=King of Frankincense
        Lotus Flower = Queen of Lotus
        Myrrh = King of Myrrh
        NC Gold = NC Gold(However, their version seems to have a touch of musk or I got a contaminated sample)
        Oudh = Oudh Masala(I think they use a different supplier or their batch is using a slightly different oil but almost the same smell and appearance)
        Perkey Pandit = Pratyahari Sutra
        Shiv = Emperor Lotus

        Those were the ones that stood out to me. Hope this helps!

        • Khalid said,

          July 25, 2021 at 11:05 am

          Thanks for this, very helpful!

  4. Peter Bartlett said,

    July 25, 2021 at 6:47 am

    A wonderful line of incenses Mike..I am still working my way through the scents. Their Oud is intriguing. It obviously uses a high quality blend of oils comparable to those used by Adi Guru Das’s people for the Pure Incense line. The big difference is the lack of vanilla powder used in the base. I am a fan of Pure Incense but the ubiquity of vanilla in their sticks can give rise to a sameness. The absence of it highlights the richness and complexity of the scent. I would guess that Temple of Incense Oud uses a similar base to their fabulous Himalayan Spikenard sticks. A pleasing earthiness and herbiness against which the main scent floats.

    • Mike said,

      July 25, 2021 at 7:42 am

      Thanks again Peter – many more reviews on their way. Yes the vanilla powder makes up part of what is typical Madhavadas base. For me you really have to get up into the high enders to where the better oils start to set each scent apart from each other. Temple of Incense seems to be largely sourced from the same Indian suppliers who do the Happy Hari blends, but it looks they do some incenses outside of that as well.

    • July 25, 2021 at 11:50 am

      I just wanted to be clear, when you’re talking about the Pure Incense Oud line, are you discussing the ‘Pure Incense USA’ on Etsy where they have the expensive $20 for 10g ‘Malaysian Masterclass’ and similar? The ‘Masterclass’ incenses are actually worth it while the rest have the problem with being too sweet and I go further and call it ‘banana cream pie’ rather than just vanilla because that’s the base note I get from the Madhavas family line through all of the Pure Incense line.

  5. glennjf said,

    July 24, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    They appear to be a hit 😊

    After reading mention of them here at ORS only recently I set my incense wheels in motion. My first order was made up of the following incenses…

    Arabian Attar <– Perfumed plus
    Electric Musk <– Wow!
    Ganesha <– Shroff Ruby lives again 🙂
    Green Garden <– What Mike said
    Himalayan Spikenard <– Put your mind to rest
    Jaipur Joshi <– Satisfaction guaranteed
    Lotus Flower <– Delicate intoxication
    Oudh <– Nose says Yes and yes and yes again
    Sandalwood Extreme <– A time machine
    Shiv Incense <– Love at the speed of just a couple of centimetres per hour 🙂 Dip the end into water to stop the burn.
    Temple <– It's a journey

    I was sent some sample sticks and Dhoop cones but I think I'll let others get around to describing them, I have only a basic ability to convey what I sense plus there's a lot I have to learn about these incenses and scents in general.

    I've now ordered…
    Delhi Nights
    Shakti

    At some point would like to sample…
    Banaras Sandal
    Krishna
    Orange Blossom with Lemon Grass
    Sufiaana

    Huge thanks to Simi and Sam Aydee and their parents for making Temple Of Incense incenses happen, you've certainly done good 🙏

    My thanks also to Peter for suddenly and unexpectedly pointing me towards a place that I would never have discovered otherwise ☮️

    • Mike said,

      July 25, 2021 at 7:37 am

      Thanks for sharing your impressions Glenn and glad you grabbed a box of their stuff.


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