Temple of Incense / Jasmine Blossom, Kerala Flower, Lakshmi, Lavender Fields

Temple of Incense Part 9
Temple of Incense Part 11
The entire Temple of Incense review series can be found at the Incense Reviews Index

Without actual planning, this next block ended up being mostly florals. Historically, florals tend to be problematic for me because I expect when offered a smell and told ‘this is lily of the valley’, I expect it to smell like the lilies of the valley I had growing in the back of my home. And when I get handed a smell called ‘lily of the valley’ and it smells like feet bathed in crappy perfume, I shake my head and move on. Most florals don’t tend to smell like the flower it’s named after and that ends up being my primary complaint.

Most florals in Japanese and Indian incense fall into the category of shake my head and move on because many of the people involved in crafting go and find a great essential oil or absolute and throw it into their incense and think they’re done. The problem is that some of the absolutes and oils can show up differently when they combust, and in many cases, they smell like the ‘cooked’ version of the flower, as if someone were taking the fresh flowers and stewing them for a jelly.

Our first entry is Jasmine Blossom, a handmade charcoal heavy agarbatti finished with a brown powder. This box and stick smell of fresh jasmine without lighting it and that alone is quite pleasant. Absolute Bliss sells the same stick as ‘Vintage Jasmine‘, with the same bamboo and same masala and very similar scent. The jasmine here, once lit, transforms a little bit from the scent of the unlit stick, to something much bigger. There is a saltiness in here that makes it feel like a touch of sandalwood oil might have been added, and then the reveal that there must be at least 2-3 jasmine sources in this stick. One of the notes remains in the fresh category, one of the notes turns a bit towards the ‘cooked’ category, and a third smells like a different kind of jasmine like Night Jasmine but without the bottom note that comes as the bloom starts to fade.

This is definitely a stick for jasmine lovers. As someone who dislikes floral, this still makes it into my rotations because it is far more pleasant and never crosses into the cloying range that so many florals can do. This is a work of art, a masterpiece of blending in the floral world.

Kerala Flower is a yellow-green bamboo stick with an extruded agarbatti that appears to have a powdered finish. The agarbatti appears to have charcoal but doesn’t looks as black as others, so there might be more fragrant material than oils making this. For those of you who are familiar with Happy Hari’s Samadhi Sutra, this is the same stick with lime green stems and scent profile. One of the things about my newness with Indian incense is that there are smells that I don’t know what the real world equivalent is, and Kerala Flower is definitely one of these. I’ve smelled this smell before but only in Indian Incense. If I had to describe what I’m smelling it would be something along the lines of ‘lemon/lime baby powder’ because there is a definitely scent that reminds me a bit of ‘Sprite’ but also a scent that reminds me of a typical Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder. I believe I encounter this scent in multiple incenses I love, like Niyama Sutra/Dancing Sufi.

Looking up the ‘Keralian Lily’ I find that this isn’t a particular species of flower but rather a place where lilies grow in abundance. Instead I found different websites showing pictures of festivals where the water is filled with colorful lilies so I’m wondering if this incense is trying to conjure that. Either way, as far as this goes, it has a sweet, bitter, playful floral note that I enjoy and I was hoping that this ‘Kerala’ was the name of the scent but alas, I’m still wondering what the ingredients are that make this scent.

For Lakshmi, if you have a princess, or a fairy, or even a fairy princess in your life, then this incense is for you. Adorned with glitter, this extruded resin stick seems to be dark with charcoal and resins in the masala. I will say that since I started using this incense, I am finding glitter in places I least expect it. A friend of mine said ‘It’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you have glitter on your face’ and I think that can apply to this incense.

As it is burning, it seems more to me that this is a charcoal stick with oils rather than any resins as the box suggests, but this is mostly due to the ash appearing to be more like ash from a charcoal stick than a wood stick. The scent is soft and floral in the baby powder range, again, as this has a very dry top note that might very well be amber or a floral similar to amber. Since the ingredients include ‘perfume’ this very well could be the perfume I’m smelling. The website has a mention of the perfume but the box does not. The citrus mentioned is both in the front and in the finish, as if this perfume covers its middle note. Most of the time it sort of blends into the perfume but enough interplay is there to allow you to detect it if you start looking for it. The glitter makes this special, and the scent is lovely, combined you have a stick that, while gimmicky, is probably one you’d like to have in your collection.

Just the box of Lavender Fields smells lovely. Opening it up, the smells of fresh, concentrated lavender wafts out. This is an extruded charcoal blank soaked in a scented solution to create the stick. Lavender can come in many different forms, and in this case, I get the cooked scent first, followed by the essential oil version, with a scent at the tail end of it that is a little acrid, something I associate with the dipropylene glycol (DPG) that is used to make the essential oils thinner. I associate it with the kind of perm-and-burning hair you get in a hair salon that does perms. As dipped incense is probably my least favorite of the styles of incense, I just want to say that this still manages to be an okay stick. If you’re a lavender lover or you love the dipped style, then check this out.

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16 Comments

  1. scandojazz said,

    January 11, 2022 at 8:07 am

    Kerala Flower is a great scent but the stick looks nothing like Happy Hari’s Samadhi Sutra from AB. Samadhi is not dusted and is uniform in color in my sample. Great scent, though. I wish I could remember TOI’s actual scent as I only received a sample some months ago. Lots of burning sticks since then.

    • January 11, 2022 at 9:40 am

      I made the comparison after having burned ToI and HH side by side. Both sticks had a lime green stem and almost the same Masala. In this instance the ToI sticks were older than the HH and the ToI had less of the finishing powder but the sticks smelled EXACTLY the same when I burned them side by side. For me to say X is the same as Y, there has to be very little difference between them. Otherwise I will say ‘This stick reminds me of…’

  2. scandojazz said,

    September 8, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    This trip was 13 years ago. Incense was not one of the things I thought about much back then. I was more interested in the beauty of the land, the wildlife, and the tea estates. I did wind up buying various oils and spices that were grown and made there. I remember the best vetiver(khus) oil I’ve ever encountered but not a Kerelan lily. lol.

  3. Mike said,

    September 8, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Kerala Flower is in the same family of sticks that used to be called Maharaj or Maharaja back in the day, same green stick. The best ones always seemed to have some cool licorice note in them. Was one of my favorites back in the halmaddi days and this is still about the best you can find in its class now.

    • September 8, 2021 at 5:14 pm

      Funny thing, I bought a box of something Corey had listed as ‘Maharaja’ and it felt like it was a more mild version of this with a little less sweetness.

      • Mike said,

        September 8, 2021 at 6:24 pm

        Yep it’s probably an old traditional recipe of sorts. Both Mystic Temple and Incense of India used to do halmaddi versions of it, for all I know they may both still do one as a different recipe. I haven’t checked in a while. But it’s the green bamboo stick dip that tends to give it away. But even those two were a little different from each other, so they’re not super static in aroma.

        • scandojazz said,

          September 8, 2021 at 9:30 pm

          Mike, I’m assuming you know that TOI makes theirs with halmaddi. If you had to describe what halmaddi adds to the fragrance, what would you say, how would you describe it?

          • Mike said,

            September 9, 2021 at 4:50 am

            Take out a stick of Kerala Flower and try squishing some of it with your fingers, If it had any substantial level of halmaddi resin it it, it would be softer and more pliable because the halmaddi would be drawing moisture out of the air. Incenses that used to have a lot of it would still be slightly wet and if it was all bundled together and smooshed during a mailing, the sticks could be flattened. You can’t do that with the Kerala Flower, so it’s still largely charcoal. I don’t see halmaddi in the ingredient list or on the web page, so I’m assuming maybe the TOI people said it was in there. What I think might happen now is charcoals can be a bit more hybridized if mixed with other ingredients so maybe there’s a bit of the resin in the mix. It might sweeten it up a bit more than a dipped charcoal base. If I was to note one TOI that has it listed and seems to have some level of presence of the resin, it would be the Shakti. In this case it’s still a hybrid, but the stick is much thicker so there may be enough other ingredients that prevent the halmaddi’s hygroscopic tendencies from making the stick softer while having enough of it to be noticeable. Halmaddi on its own doesn’t have a huge scent, it’s really more what it does to the other ingredients in an incense that makes it special. It tends to sweeten things up a bit, although sometimes this is also honey and/or vanilla also.

            • scandojazz said,

              September 9, 2021 at 7:04 am

              Mike, TOI told me that all their masala style sticks had 40% halmaddi. Electric Musk, Indian Rose, Arabian Attar, Fruits of the Forest, Lavender Fields, Saffron, Desert Sage do not contain halmaddi. Purple Rain, Rose absolute, Frankincense and Benzoin have less. I don’t know if this is complete or not.

              For me, I’ve been aware of the wetter sticks with halmaddi being pliable. It does seem to be discernable in the fragrance and sweetens things up. I’ve noticed that some sticks are difficult to keep lit while others burn beautifully. This must be due to the craftsmanship and balance of a stick. Halmaddi, for me, has an almost intoxicating effect on a fragrance.

              • Mike said,

                September 9, 2021 at 7:14 am

                Interesting on the 40%, I guess I would have to see what the percentage was was on the older, wetter sticks to make any valuable comparison. As a sort of rough comparison, I noticed fairly substantial halmaddi impact in the original Mother’s nag champa line (I am still trying to work out if the recipes are different now) but even those aren’t as soft as incenses used to be. I think the pivotal thing to note though is why did all the old recipes with the semi-wets disappear if it was possible to still use the same amount of halmaddi in an incense? To me that’s where the breakdown is. The only thing I would mention is maybe there’s a lower percentage now that when mixed in with a charcoal doesn’t allow the incenses to absorb moisture. Or maybe it really isn’t what we’re hearing. As always the issue is that we’re left to guess, but objectively speaking the semi-wets just do not pop up anywhere anymore. Believe me, if they did I would be singing their praises here asap.

                • September 9, 2021 at 9:23 am

                  Okay – I found a recipe that showed that the older recipes were over 50% halmaddi, this was for a 90s version of Nag Champa. I went and bought a jar of halmaddi to explore the ingredient as I was around for the ‘golden days of halmaddi incense’ but I wasn’t into Indian style incense back then. (For reference the list of ingredients were: )
                  Nag Champa Recipe:
                  10g Base – 50% Wood powder and 50% Charcoal
                  10g Halmaddi
                  5g Honey or Water
                  0.5g – 1g Perfume
                  0.2g – 0.5g Vanilla

                  At the end, it has you dip the stick back in some halmaddi and roll it in powder, so the halmaddi probably passes the 50% mark.

                  I wanted to know more about this stuff so I went and found a seller selling the resin and bought a jar. I took some halmaddi resin and melted it to liquid and then soaked a stick of nag champa in it. To start, I used shanthimalai, a very bitter nag champa. Adding halmaddi was like adding the melted remains of the staypuft marshmallow man, there was a sweet, sweet addition to the scent and it added a smell almost like toasted marshmallows.

                  I went and did the same for Vintage Nag Champa, and this turned a sort of ‘dry’ and mildly sweet Nag Champa into something that was like a dessert for my nose. It was so sweet and yet it never reached into anything cloying like other ‘sweet’ sticks can do. This wasn’t so much a toasted marshmallow as much as someone sprayed creme brulee over the nag champa.

                  • Mike said,

                    September 9, 2021 at 9:35 am

                    I’d add just a little bit to the old recollection here that while those old incenses probably must have had some level of charcoal in them to keep them burning, I really never noticed it at all, it wasn’t even until later that I even thought there was any. Even less than, say, the charcoal that’s blended into a Madhavadas masala.

                  • scandojazz said,

                    September 9, 2021 at 9:37 am

                    Yes, the magic of halmaddi. How viscuous was the halmaddi you purchased? Does it even approach a crystallized state like Frankincense, Myrhh, Dragon’s blood, etc? Umraz at Elf india said she would send some in my next order. I believe she said it was still liquified to some extent.

  4. scandojazz said,

    September 8, 2021 at 7:20 am

    The ingredients lists Keralan lily, a flower that I have no knowledge of and no memory bank to refer to. Having traveled in Kerala, I can tell you how beautiful this state is and have very fond memories of many places there. This stick is an immediate winner that pulled me in both in the dry stick aroma and the burn. An herbal and floral mix and bond into something very special. Spicy but sweet. Other than the halmaddi base, I don’t know what the base is but it has a complex and compelling herbal fragrance that weaves its spell. It floats, charms, but never overwhelms the space. This is one of my favored TOI products.Top stuff!

    • September 8, 2021 at 5:14 pm

      I’m curious if this smells like anything you encountered in Kerala?


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