Ganesha Incense/Nag Champa, Jagannath, Agarwood

Ganesha Incense is a new company creating traditional Indian incense and based on my review package, ships from Thailand all over the world. Their incenses come in 100g containers, large tubes with easily removable lids that are really nice, you can actually set them on their base and they stay upright and are very easily accessible. There is no inner packaging (they’re essentially cardboard), so I’m not quite sure if the incense is protected over time, but based on what I sampled, I’m not sure it’s necessary as the lids fit snug and everything smelled nice and fresh.

It’s never stated on the packaging but I wouldn’t be surprised, based on some of the offered incenses and the base of the incenses if these were sourced in the Madhavdas family, the same venerable incense creators behind the Primo, Pure Incense and other lines. If not, there still seems to be a similar base at work, a mix of vanilla, sandalwood and charcoal. But like most of the incenses sourced through Madhavdas, Ganesha incenses do differ in overall scent and aren’t just the same incenses being sold under different names. As we have found out, this base can be solid for connoisseur and high quality incenses.

Based on the three incenses in the package, Ganesha seem like they’re off to a very good start. But first of all, a bit of a preamble as I haven’t reviewed a Nag Champa in a while and there is some history behind the style. Nag Champa incenses today are generally better than they were ten years ago, but if you go ten years earlier you go back to a time where they were much more impressive. One of the things I remember about the older Nag Champa is that the sticks were very gooey, it wasn’t uncommon to find smashed sticks where the consistency of the material was still quite wet. This has been attributed, sometimes from myself, to the use of halmaddi in the stick, a material that keeps an incense in a sort of state between wet and dry. However, I haven’t seen a single new Nag Champa incense since Olfactory Rescue Service has been active whose consistency matches the “historical” Nag Champa (not even Dhuni’s) and so I’ve come to the impression over the last few years that something in the mix has been lost since Satya Sai Baba changed hands and that it could be something more than just halmaddi. Halmaddi was (or may still be) on the CITES endangered species list and for a while it was very rare, and the Nag Champas during this period were very dry and mostly downright unpleasant. Fortunately incenses have been popping up since this dry period that clearly contain it and thus we’ve had a bit of a renaissance with the blend such as with the Mother’s wide range of champas. Halmaddi tends to give champas a uniquely balsamic middle which tends to balance nicely with the oils being used.

There is one important difference in the newer blends, however, and that is most of these are quite a bit skinnier than the “historical” champas and so the actual materials being used often don’t overpower the scent of the bamboo stick in the middle and this tends to cut through sometimes. I wanted to mention this as it’s not specific to Ganesha’s Nag Champa, all the new ones have it. But I also wanted to mention it because Ganesha’s version is very very good and I know the owner has made a strong effort to release a really authentic scent and even with the history given above, I’d easily think about this as the market’s go-to Nag Champa. It has a nice halmaddi base, a good balance between the sweet and dry and a touch of depth that all the good incenses in this style have. And unlike some other types of Nag Champa, I actually found myself enjoying this MORE with every stick, rather than less, which is not often the case. Overall I do wonder what a thicker stick with similar materials would be like, other than obviously more expensive. And I have been informed that as the company goes forward there will be more attempts at connoisseur level scents, which of course we look forward to with great anticipation.

Ganesha’s Jagannath is a Nag Champa variant and it’s a sweeter mix of spices and ingredients that is vaguely reminiscent of styles like Vanilla and Honey Dust as well as Maharaja, but unlike either lineage Jagannath is not a clone. This one has been exciting to try as where Nag Champa is an old familiar, Jagannath has just that right amount of newness to keep me pulling for it and learning more about the scent. Like the Nag Champa, there’s something stately and restrained about Jagannath, and my experience with it was that after a few sticks I started to notice a bit of depth to it, something that a lot of sweeter incenses can easily overwhelm. Ganesha’s incenses are true Indian style but don’t seem primed to overwhelm you with perfume like a lot of Indian incenses, their claim to natural scents really seems to bear out. Even last night I pulled out another stick and was even more impressed, like all good incenses you notice more with increased use and this one really does have a lot of subtlety to it.

Nag Champa and Jagannath are two of Ganesha’s Silver incenses so it’s perhaps impressive at this point to note that they also have a Gold line as well (4 different incenses so far). The Gold incense I was sent was the Agarwood. As noted before when reviewing Indian agarwoods, they are very different from the Japanese scents. And there aren’t really that many of them, only Pure Incense’s blends come to mind at the moment. But I am really impressed with this one, it has a really astounding depth to it and seems quite superb especially for its price range. Given how expensive Agarwood is, to keep it at the 100g/$19.99 price there has to be some clever trickery involved in the makeup, and I was quite impressed by not only some of the spicy oud-like characteristics here but the authentically woody scent that pops up, some of which I would expect to be from the sandalwood in the mix as well. The combination of the base and all of these elements adds up to a very complex incense with some of those dark fruity notes you find in some ouds. It’s also very different from any of the Pure Incense Agarwoods. Like the Nag Champa and Jagannath, the more I sample the Agarwood, the more I like it.

Overall I’d say Ganesha Incense is off to a very good start and I’m certainly looking forward to trying any of their other incenses in the future (these were only 3 types out of approximately 15-20). The scents, presentation and solid price range have obviously had a lot of thought put into them. I’m not sure if the company plans on releasing smaller packets in the future or samplers, which I would think would be key to success and longevity, but I can also imagine that most Indian incense fans sampling these would wish they had 100g if they didn’t. We have a new winner on the market here.