Nehnang Monastery / Nehnang No. 1 Tibetan Incense

I’m always a bit charmed by what lowering the ambient temperature of the room does to Tibetan incense. If you consider the colder weather in higher mountain latitudes, it sort of makes sense, but in California, where a streak of 100 degree plus days is a fair norm during the summer, you do have to take into account that even regular heat can sometimes hide the notes of a fine monastery incense. I often like lighting one of these first thing in the morning when its cooler and it’s almost a necessity for an incense as complex and interesting as Nehnang No. 1 (I covered the No. 2 some time back). The No. 1 is described as containing “25 kinds of “pure natural precious fragrances”, incl. nutmeg, clove, spikenard and cinnamon.” While spikenard (or sometimes nard) is often not listed in a monastery incense ingredient list (although it might often still be there), when it is you can almost be sure it’ll be a more profound note and here you can definitely sense it as part of the background. In fact there’s something about it that I think tends to pull out the resinous elements that aren’t listed. The remaining listed ingredients, of course, show that this has a nice bit of spice to it. But it might be stressed overall that this does have a different profile than the No. 2 and one might stress that this appears to be about double the price of the next grade. Perhaps strangely while sandalwood is listed in the No. 2 but not in the No. 1, I would still describe this one as a bit woodier of an incense. It’s just that within the base there’s a large amount of spice and herbal notes that come out that show an almost delicate intricacy to the composition that is intensely fascinating. I might say it earns an almost Baieido-like level of “listening” in order to suss out how truly complex it is. As I let this stick burn down, I’m quite surprised at how the spice comes out sometimes, while at others its the spikenard or some unique, leafy herbal note. While I wouldn’t describe this as quite as musky as the No. 2, it does have some level of it that is sweet. It might be worth nothing here that there is a Nehnang Vegetarian No. 1 as well which kind of hints that this one probably isn’t. If I would further sell this incense, I would just remark that it’s fairly unique in its scent profile, much more so than the No. 2. Anyway this is certainly recommended for the monastery incense afficionado for sure, it shows the marks of a blender of high skill and sophistication.

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