Aba Prefecture / Spirit of Shambhala, Agarwood Heart of Shambhala

I would guess that part of the high prices on these two Aba Prefecture incenses are the gorgeous containers. Honestly the packaging for the Spirit of Shambhala is literally one of the most beautiful incense boxes I have ever seen as the picture speaks for itself (although you might notice that my box has a red cover while the one pictured at incense-traditions.ca looks dark grey, so there must be some cool variations too!). You also get plenty of incense in both boxes so it may be some time for the opportunity to reuse the box for something else, but it’s surely something you’d want to keep forever. I have already gone on record for Aba Prefecture Miyalo Town’s wonderful Quinrun and Huiyou incenses, but this may be the truly deluxe Tibetan high end when it comes to this particular style of incense. I originally gave the Spirit of Shambhala a try as a sample and fell in love with it right away.

I mentioned both incenses in my Five Fragrances review along with the two Miyalo Town incenses and Taiwan’s Bosen company, although overall it’s really only this first one that ties them all together. What exists in common for all of these incenses is that there is a mix of resins and woods here that really transmits what I would call a high altitude evergreen scent, that smell you can get walking through an evergreen forest, particularly when it’s cooler with anything from cypress to juniper to fir to pine in the mix, not to mention any number of other plants and herbs that accompany the experience. It is a wonderful and nostalgic scent even if these scents originate from half way around the world, and they always take me back to any number of camping experiences. Spirit of Shambhala is a particularly fantastic example of this sort of blend, the evergreen is just so deep and intense and the wood base it’s all mixed in is also particularly good quality, there’s no feeling this is made from anything inexpensive or lacking in aromatics. Anything with this sort of freshness is just highly invigorating and impressive. While one might feel like a price comparison would make some of the other options a bit more reachable I might also add that this could be absolute favorite of this entire style. It is extremely green and feels about as streamlined as it possibly could be. You might even describe it as a deluxe version of Bosen’s Pythocidere Incense, an old favorite of mine.

The associated Agarwood Heart of Shambhala is priced the same but its slightly lower gram content corresponds with the use of the more precious woods. Now I’ve gone on record a bunch of times that Tibetan incenses with agarwood aren’t really the same sort of deal as a deluxe Japanese incense, but of all the Tibetan agarwood incense’s I’ve tried this might be the closest in terms of having a noticeable wood content to it. While it still has a a high altitude presence, moving the scent to a much more wood-based incense changes this a lot in comparison to the Spirit incense. While it’s not frequent, occasionally the wood does hit resinous pockets that liken it to Japanese incenses; however, overall this feels a bit more like a wood blend that also has an interesting herb and spice component to it that make it more of a conglomerate style incense rather than an agarwood fronted incense per se. But like a lot of higher end Tibetan incense it’s often what you notice when you stop paying attention as much that is really impressive. The stick I’m burning has already gotten my distracted attention three times during the current burn from some aspect of its overall complex bouquet. It can be sweet, leafy, musky, and quite arresting at times in that the combination of its elements hides secrets. Once again I’m hesitant to draw comparison with a Japanese incense because the mix of what it does is purely Tibetan and not at all concerned with highlighting the resinous qualities of the wood. But that’s, perhaps, what makes it really special. There’s no other incense quite like this one.

11 Comments

  1. incenseburner111 said,

    March 14, 2022 at 10:51 am

    3/14/22. I find there is a lot of sandalwood creaminess to the Agarwood Heart of Shambhala. I really like both of them. Thanks, Mike!

  2. John Pawn said,

    August 2, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    What!?!?! You’re back???? Can’t believe it took me this long to find out. This is great news. As always, thanks for everything you do and I look forward to hanging out here a bit.

  3. timdufka said,

    August 2, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    I have both of these, and while both are certainly quite engaging, the Agarwood Heart of Shambhala is indeed something special.

    Mike, have you tried the Lawudo made by the Kopan nuns? It reportedly has juniper, rhododendron, juniper, sage, spikenard, and other botanicals. If you like “the high mountain” scent, you might like this, and it is not expensive.

    https://www.nepacrafts.com/products/nepacrafts-premium-herbal-lawudo-incense-gift-box

    • Mike said,

      August 2, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Tim I have not. How is their service?

      • timdufka said,

        August 2, 2021 at 2:22 pm

        I purchased mine at a meditation center abroad, so no idea on Nepal Crafts, although their online reviews look very positive.

  4. Febo Bartoli said,

    August 2, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    Mike, just randomly checking the website, only to discover you have been back for half a year! Welcome back! The website is a welcome refuge that has introduced me to many great incense blends I otherwise would not have known about, and I always considered the updates essential, much like the reviews of new wine vintages.

    • Mike said,

      August 2, 2021 at 1:39 pm

      Hello! Thank you for finding ORS again and thanks for the kind comments. 🙂

  5. realmeteoro said,

    August 2, 2021 at 11:57 am

    Agarwood Heart of Shambhala is quite a unique incense indeed, and quite challenging to stay away from comparing it to Japanese incense, as one might easily label it under during a blind sniff. Although I like Tibetan incense, I truly prefer woody incense, especially Agarwood and that’s why I found Heart of Shambhala to be not only unique, interesting and high quality Tibetan incense, but also to poses a special mystique, like a dance between the traditional and comforting, and the natural and the spiritual hight ground. Lovely incense.

    • Mike said,

      August 2, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      Nicely stated. Yeah one of the things I was trying to do was sort of put it in its own class vs other Tibetan incenses like Agar 31 and variants, as I think while this is obviously not a Japanese stick it’s heads and tails above this other Tibetan class. I think all the Aba Prefecture incenses are amazing.


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