Ap Sonam Tashi/Bhutan Jewel Incense: The Lost Fragrance of the Mountain Gods

I wanted to talk about Bhutanese incense for a bit. While of course there’s some overlap with Tibetan incenses due to the monasteries, Bhutanese incense commonly falls into what are essentially pink, red or slightly purple sticks that are all created largely similarly. Most stick incenses from Bhutan fall in this category and I would guess Nado incenses are probably the brand most people are familiar with. I don’t tend to see a huge variation in this theme. These sticks are created for a bit more durability than you see in many Tibetan sticks. They’re much harder to break, have a higher tensile strength, and tend to thickness. They’re also very blended in the sense that individual components are much harder to pick out from the overall scent. To my nose Bhutanese incenses tend to be a bit higher in resinous content than most Tibetan sticks, frankincense in particular seems to be a dominant note. These sticks can not only be fruity but they’re a bit berry like, likely from the juniper content which often tends to be the incense’s top ingredient. There’s certainly a lot of wood, herbs and spices in them but my general feeling is the ingredient list tends to be large enough to mix into a more homogenous whole. The difference between variant Bhutanese sticks then tends to be how deep the aroma is, whether it’s a sort of general theme or whether the more variant notes pop through a little more.

To that end, “The Lost Fragrance of the Mountain Gods” seems to be a pretty solid entry into this field and one that appears to be aimed at the English market. So in this case we can find out the incense also contains giwang (bezoar) (this appears to be something of a medicinal/herbal mix), clove, musk, nutmeg and saffron as well, most of which are also quite common in all Tibetan and Bhutanese incenses. In fact it has been impressed upon me quite frequently of late how much of a player saffron tends to be in these blends, it often seems to be what imparts a floral note to the top end which mixes nicely with the musk note. This incense is probably not quite as resinous as other Bhutanese, but I personally prefer that as it lets the woodiness out a bit. Overall, this is not a bad place to start overall if you want a good example of the style.

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