El Incenses and Fragrances / Capture, Sunflora

You’d have to go back about 10 years in the ORS archives to find an article I wrote called Floras and Fluxos. I was not only reminded of this in receiving very generous samples from this new Indian incense company, but the night before I wrote this I was burning Temple of Incense’s Krishna and thinking wow this smells like a flora too. I like these convergences in my incense use patterning because it helps me focus down on what I want to say. We talk a great deal about charcoals and masalas and champas when we discuss Indian incense here but floras are really something of their own category. Perhaps the most famous of all of these, at least in the West, is the ubiquitous Sai Flora. I originally came across incenses like this in other catalogs where they were called Golden Nag Champas, well before I saw any actual Nag Champa with gold flakes on it.

Floras are incredibly brash, highly perfumed and loud incenses usually. They have so many ingredients in them that talking about any in specifics can be a little difficult. They are powerful ways of fragrancing ones space. Most of them have a bit of an earthier element and I see patchouli in the ingredients in both of these two (curently of four) El Incenses. I think it’s important to note some of the bottom end because the mix of perfumes and florals is something of the oppposite to that earthy low end. One thing I did notice about both of the El incenses is that they’re a bit warmer than most floras, they’re a bit more akin to something like a good amber masala, that is the not the red colored ones, but the more champa-like tan colored incenses. I think having this kind of warm base in both of these incenses helps to tone down the harsher elements found in other floras.

So there is some level of difficulty in talking about the perfume oils on top of both Capture and Sunflora, not only because they are a conglomerate of different sources but because they differ in both incenses. One thing I do like about both of them is they remind me a lot of some of my initial experiences buying incenses at Cost Plus when I was a teenager and what it smelled like to wander into that section and smell something exotic. That is there are some perfumes in the mix here that you don’t tend to find pitched at the Western market and that is refreshing, especially when you are looking at something different. We actually get a reasonably good description of the ingredients too (they are the same in both scents): spices, herbal oils, essential oils, sandal oil, patchouli oil, resinoids, bamboo sticks, coconut and sawdust sourced from the forests of South India.

It feels to me that the incenses are both similar in all the initial make up, so how do we describe one apart from the other when the top scent is so complex? For sure in Capture, we are talking about a more floral-dominant mix, but it’s not one that is masking the sandalwood, amber and patchouli of the base. I’m reminded of a lot of different floral blends from previous use, not only rose but Night Queen, Mogra, Shroff’s Amber Flora or Sugandhi Bathi. Like with Sai Flora you can definitely sense resinous materials in the mix, it’s an element that tends to give floras a sort of sparkly or crystalline middle to them that is much rarer in champas. Sunflora is not dissimilar but there isn’t as high a concentration of the floral top note which seems to highlight the base and the spices much more. To me this shift kind of highlights the amber-ish base and leads to an even warmer scent than the Capture. The thing about floras overall is they are meant to have a lot going on them and both of these really do. They are usually some of the strongest incenses on the planet, so in comparison to others El’s versions are a bit more restrained, which is a nice take.

In spending some time with these incenses I was sort of tackling how to explain the perfume notes in these because the same element that reminds me of encountering Indian incenses in Cost Plus is a note that feels something like the way florals do in soap. It’s not overwhelming and you smell it more on the fresh stick than during the burn, and it really does have an exotic feel that pushes these a little more in the unfamiliar direction, which is something I welcome. But it’s a note that often tends to show up in more inexpensive floral mixes (it’s a bit more apparent in the Capture as that one feels more intentionally floral) and had it been turned up even a fraction more it would likely be too distracting. I will note here that while these incenses are not currently imported to the US, the price at El looks like a bit under $3 for a 50g box. Should that hold in the US that’s a good deal for incense at this quality level and both of these feel different enough from not only other incenses, but other floras, to be worth checking out. I am hoping to see El expand their line and flourish as a new business.

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