Lopen Tandin Dorji Poizo Khang / Flower Incense, (A) Quality, Gift Incense

So after a while you really do start to run out of ways to describe Bhutanese incense as so much of it is traditional and created in a similar fashion that mixes up a number of ingredients that end up drying to a somewhat different tensile strength that other Tibetan incenses. All three of these are that red to purple color that 80% of Bhutanese incenses I have tried have, I’m not sure if this is the saffron doing it or a mix with other ingredients or dyes. None of these really list the ingredients, but most incenses like this have red and white sandalwood and spices like clove and cinnamon and we assume a whole host of unnamed herbs, woods and spices. The blending doesn’t really lend itself much to specific notes anyway, what you tend to get is a conglomerate sort of scent.

I would guess different wrappers show up for the “(B) Quality” or “Flower Incense” as my roll showed up as the latter name. White wrapper, deep maroon red stick and a bit more woodiness and smokiness (like in the actual aroma not how much smoke is produced) than I usually see. I don’t know if the intent was to use a lot of actual flowers in the blend but this isn’t really what I’d think of as a floral incense. It’s more of an earthier variant of the usually Bhutanese red scent, maybe not quite as sweet, but still maintaining the general essence of the main tradition. Which really means that sort of red berry top note, the mixed in spice, and a touch of an almost tobacco-like herb. It’s quite a visceral take on the formula.

While it’s indicated at the above link that the use of letters isn’t related to actual grades of quality, I would think the difference between the Flower Incense and the (A) Quality is something of a step up, or at least it is if you prefer a more polished traditional red scent, with the earthiness of the (B) stepped back quite a bit. For the same price you feel like you’re getting more incense per weight with the B. To my nose they are similar scents, but taking a step back to Bhutanese incense in general, you would largely be thinking the same thing. I feel like I’ve tried so many of these incenses that there isn’t a specific type that is the runaway favorite or at least I’d probably have to go through them all again. But for sure it feels like (A) Quality has a higher grade of ingredients and certainly has a mix that leans towards the better versions of this incense. The sandalwood seems to be a bit more present and I love the way it merges with the berry front end.

While the (Gift Incense) (I have no idea what the parens mean in any of these incenses, but all of these incenses have them in some way) has a similar dark maroon color, I think this one largely leaves behind the traditional mix that we usually see in Bhutanese incense. I would guess that this is more akin to the A Quality price range as it’s about half the price range and around half the sticks. That front berry smell has disappeared for something that is a bit tangier or at least not as sharp. That brings the woodiness of the incense forward but in a way that feels like the sandalwood has been infused with oils that mute the impact some. Like the A quality this has a feeling of being close to top grade for Bhutanese incense, but the herbal and saffron mix with the woods, makes it a bit less close to my personal taste.


Lopen Tandin Dorji Poizo Khang / Tara Puja Incense

I might have this a bit off but in Bhutan a Poizo Khang/Poi Zokhang translates to something like a house of incense. Nado Poizokhang appears to be the largest of these incense houses, but there’s quite a few small ones as well and most seem to include the creators in their name (Mr. Nado is considered the father of Bhutan’s commercial incense industry), in this case one Lopen Tandin Dorji. While you will see what looks like two incenses in the pictures, about the only thing that seems different to me from the two packages is the color. The ingredients listed on both wrappers include red and white sandalwoods, juniper, species of fragrant plant, camphor, the resin of the Sal Tree, saffron, three sweets of sugar, honey and molasses, and three with milk, curd and butter. You may be happy to know there is no meat, alcohol or onion in this incense. Tara incenses relate to the meditation deity Tara in Vajrayana Buddhism and the colors relate to different forms of Tara, so it is assumed the incenses are intended for the specific forms. However, for Western noses, both of these incenses (green and yellow wrapper) seem aromatically identical and if there are any differences in recipe they are beyond my threshold to be able to tell. I lit both sequentially and at the same time to compare.

Tara Puja is actually a very friendly incense overall and the ingredients all seem high quality. I find that it reminds me a little of the long disappeared Lung Ta line which also claimed to list foods like honey or milk in the ingredients and however they formulate these (because imagine burning either on their own), they impart a bit of their own richness to the mix. But outside of these you’re essentially getting something of a woody and spicy blend. They actually seem a bit more akin to Nepalese incenses more than say the red/purple or Jaju styles normally found in Bhutanese incense houses, but there are still some similarities. The sandalwoods, juniper and the saffron seem well up in the mix, and the spice accentuates the sort of high altitude, evergreen feel without leaning into campfire directions. Whichever wrapper you choose, this isn’t a bad choice for an entry point into Bhutanese incense, and if you are stocked up on the traditionals you may still find this to be a different take, not to mention nice and friendly.