Drizang Kuenchap/Lhawang Driden Jaju Incense

You might only realize this is a different incense from the “regular” Drizang Kuenchap/Lhawang Driden from the fact that the label on the Drizang Kuenchap/Lhawang Driden Jaju is yellow rather than white and the incense is tan rather red, which you just barely might be able to see at the tail end of the package if it was unopened. The label itself looks close to identical from a rough going over. In many ways this tan-colored Bhutanese stick is something of a secondary style to the usual red/purple stick and tends to be less of a berry-like affair and nicely woody. In fact you can see “jaju” incenses pop up elsewhere like in the Nado line. I’ve discussed that scent of freshly cut wood that you often smell after a saw has been used in a workshop before. The jaju seems to have that aroma as a centerpiece, while the rest of the aroma is crafted around it in a way that does make it something of a cousin to the usual Bhutanese style. This crafting softens what would be the natural harshness of some cut wood by adding a nice bit of spice to the mix, but most importantly that cherry-berry redness that you usually smell in the red stick is virtually gone, even if some of the same elements remain in both incenses. It feels like the sandalwood is a lot more noticeable in the stick, but at the same time, jajus don’t seem to really vary all that much in price – it’s actually cheaper than the flagship. Perhaps the largest takeaway is that it’s mostly the base of the incense that seems to differ. Overall this is certainly a Bhutanese style worth familiarizing yourself, particularly if you’re already familiar with the usual blend. And this brand seems to be a particularly strong and definitive example of it, so it’s not a bad place to start.


Drizang Kuenchap/Lhawang Driden Incense

So just in case you haven’t, I want to refer you this review from a few days ago as it sets a bit of context for Bhutanese incense and the red/purple style that tends to be common from this country. I do so also because Lost Fragrance of the Mountain Gods lists some ingredients but Drizang Kuenchap’s Lhawang Driden incense merely tells you there’s at least 30 different ingredients in it and you’re more or less left to guess what they are. However, given that this incense is in the same style, I think you can draw some analogs from other ingredient lists.

However when it comes to this style, and while I haven’t tried them all by any means, I think this one is probably my reigning favorite. It is a very deep incense, unquestionably very heavy in high quality juniper content with a stamp of depth only comparable to the finest of Tibetan incenses. There’s nothing just surface level to this, it has musk and spice in quantities that leave quite a lasting aromatic impression on your burning environment. It has a level of high altitude freshness that many Tibetan incenses aspire to without reaching this sort of outdoorsy, elevated feel to it. It has subnotes and more complimentary aspects that incenses of this style can miss sometimes, almost like this is a prototype to those. I would guess this has a lot of the same ingredients as Lost Fragrance: saffron, clove, nutmeg, rhododendron, sandalwood and frankincense.

The real strength of Tibetan incenses to my mind and nose is that they are evocative of high altitudes, evergreen trees, camping fires and so forth. They are not usually refined incenses in the manner of Japanese sticks nor are they dependent on perfumes like Indian incenses. As a result, a lot of what is marketed in the United States often tends to be made from cheap cedarwood or juniper and is priced accordingly. Deeper Tibetan incenses result from recipes that account for the more offputting aspects of materials and manage to highlight the aspects we love about these evocations. There is something of a romance from the Western perspective of monasteries high in the mountains, deep meditation with the scent of nature permeating one’s space. And as result at least for myself they scratch a particular itch that other styles of incense don’t and if they are done well, I can becoming quickly addicted to what they offer. Lhawang Driden may not have quite succeeded in doing the same thing on the Bhutanese front as Holy Land or Wara Monastery has done for Tibetan incenses, but it is perhaps as close as I’ve gotten and does so at a nicely affordable rate.

[I was surprised to find out that I had actually reviewed this incense back in 2010 via the Reviews Index on the left!]

Drezang Kuenchap, Nado Poizokhang Zimpoe Grade A (Obsolete/Discontinued Review), Lhundup

From the looks of this group it would seem that I’ve already reviewed 2 out of 3 of these incenses before, but as it turns out, I actually haven’t reviewed any of them before, for reasons that will be made a little clearer in the respective paragraphs. All three of these, as with the Tsenden incenses reviewed last week, were provided as samples from Sensia, whose owner had recently received all these new incenses after a trip to Bhutan.

The first of these could be my favorite of the entire group. Drezang Kuenchap comes in both long and short sticks and is as robust, tangy and hearty a Bhutanese incense as you’ll find anywhere. I tend to evaluate any stick on whether its aroma exudes a greater or lesser percentage of fine ingredients as opposed to cheaper woods and in this case you’re definitely getting a stick that asserts its own character. In fact this is an incense that seems more Nepali than Bhutani in scent and strength. It’s difficult to pick out any specific elements since the whole thing seems a perfectly balanced mosaic, for instance the woodiness seems to be match perfectly with a certain sweetness in that the woods never verge too much in the campfire direction and the sweetness never overpowers. My guess is some of the elements of this will likely be familiar but it’s hard to criticise how this one was put together. To say I went through the sample fast would be an understatement and I’ll end up having to buy a pack at some point in the near future.

Nado Poizokhang incense seems to provoke intense reactions from its users, as the comments to my previous review of the top three grades demonstrates. What’s clear is that the company does indeed tweak their recipes severely as what I received from Sensia is an entirely different incense from the Grade A I reviewed years ago. Fortunately, I suppose, I’d never formed an intense attachment with the formula I previously reviewed and I think this current version is also an excellent incense, a well rounded, sweet, woody and herbal blend that most will enjoy. However I think it’s possible that due to costs there’s a greater level of juniper in this new version, however one not so high as to do anything but impart a round berryish scent to the mix. And the big change between the old and new is that this seems to be more Nepali in style and less like the snappy, plastic like stick style found in previous years. It all makes for a lot of confusion where Nado is concerned as noone seems to be sure what they’re getting, but at least for now, this well balanced stick is the new Grade A and it would likely only disappoint those expecting the old style.

I did some sampler notes on the Lhundup Grade A a while back, however what I received as a sample is the Lhundup in the regular pink paper package. I didn’t have samples to compare side by side, but by memory, this particular version seems to be a little less stronger than the grade A but roughly similar in style. I’d have compared this to the Nado Poizokhang Grade B of a couple years back, as its almost classic Bhutani in style, with a plastic-like tensile strength and that mysterious mix of spices that makes it difficult to differentiate specific ingredients. I don’t remember the Grade A having the sorts of mild characteristics this one does and as such this seems to be rather reluctant to assert a personality, certainly pleasant enough, but compared to the previous two incenses, this doesn’t really reach out and grab you. But essentially, given its price and now that Nado seems to have changed its style, this might not be a bad place to start to get a “ground zero” Bhutani blend as a base.