Absolute Bliss, Happy Hari / Absolute Sandalwood, King of Saffron, King of Sandal, Oudh Saffron, White Lotus Oudh Saffron (new versions)

Absolute Bliss has recently gotten in a big restock and while I’m not entirely sure if this covers everything with significant scent differences (I am told there is also King of Musk which I would have absolutely jumped on had I known), it definitely covers five sticks that range from slight to significant improvements in aroma.

The first, Absolute Sandalwood, was enough of a trainwreck that I didn’t review it originally. Corey at Absolute Bliss is basically as aware as we are when something ships over that is not up to snuff, so in that sense I don’t really relish a blistering review of something we all know isn’t good. The new version of Absolute Sandalwood may not be the greatest sandalwood every extruded but it presents a really unique sort of woodshop-like take on it. Where the previous version did not get this mix right in the slightest, this new one actually really started to intrigue me after a few sticks. Think of that mix of turpentine, glue and fresh wood dust you’d get in a shop and then kinda bolster that with some level of sandalwood in the mix and you’re onto what this one smells like. I’m sitting here with my third stick from a 10g package and actually really starting to like it, in the sense that it’s actually complex but the complexity is almost like these specific woodshop elements one at a time. It has a strange quality of richness with these elements that elsewhere might not be to a lot of people’s tastes. So while I’d probably caution one not to go hogwild, I would also highly recommend checking out a small package of it to see if it’s your speed. I’m actually starting to love it.

King of Saffron is not the King of Saffron I remember from many years ago when Paul Eagle was running the shop – that stick I remember being brown and very different from this one. The current King of Saffron should be familiar to those with some experience with Indian incense as it’s essentially the very thin, extruded, yellow dusted stick often called saffron sandalwood or some other name in plenty of catalogs through the years. I probably came across 3 or 4 versions of the same incense in the Vedic Vaani catalog this year except Absolute Bliss’ version is definitely better than all of those, and incredibly reminiscent of when the Mystic Temple version was a classic. The only other incense I’ve tried in the last 25 years that reminds me of the glory years of Indian incense is Temple of Incense’s Extreme Sandalwood. King of Saffron not only has the dryness, the saffron spiciness and a level of wood but it has that incredible floral finish that these incenses used to have but have usually just disappeared. It also has a wonderful camphor thread through it which has always been one of my favorite things about this particular scent. And remember these sticks are thin enough that 125g of this is likely to have has many as two times as many sticks as you usually get by that weight. So this is one you want to jump on for sure.

The King of Sandal is also very different from previous versions and it’s not really so much a pure sandalwood stick now as a sort of sandalwood champa type mix and a really beautiful one at that. It’s actually not easy to balance the sweet and woody of these two elements, and I come across plenty of these mixes that are off in some way. This new stick is halmaddi rich and probably leans in the sweeter direction but it’s rather perfectly balanced for a sandalwood top note and not only that it’s a very accessible scent. In many ways it’s not unlike the Oud Masala in this sense, where the sweeter base really creates more of a blend than say a charcoal with oil would. I actually was kind of wondering if part of this is that the sandalwood here isn’t turned up too high where the woodier notes might conflict a little more. Needless to say this is another highly recommended new find.

The last two incenses, the Oudh Saffron and White Lotus Oudh Saffron are now in a different format, moving to a bit larger of a charcoal masala base than the previous versions. These are incenses that are largely carried by the oil mixes on top and when they are, the mixes tend to vary a little from batch to batch. This is my third batch of the White Lotus and it’s largely the same incense, just maybe a little bit different. The second batch may have been a tiny bit more dialed back in the woodiness where this new batch turns it back up a bit. The Oudh Saffron however, actually strikes me as quite differently formulated. I am not sure how to explain this except that this new formulation seems a bit more complex and rich than the prior one. I think that the inherent woodiness in Indian oud incenses is generally pretty rare because there usually isn’t any real oud in them and so the approximation doesn’t account for the deeper and richer aspects you’d find in wood or wood-heavy aloeswood incenses like you’d find in Japan. Instead Indian oud incenses tend to approximate that a bit and go for more of those spice tones you tend to find at the top of ouds. Saffron itself is also pretty multifaceted, even among incenses called saffron sandalwood that stretch beyond the one I reviewed above, the note can be anything from floral to spicy and all places in between. Here I think it ends up pushing the usual Indian oud spice mixes into something a little richer. It still has the same sort of almost licorice like middle in it the previous stick had, but of course when the batch is fresher you’re likely to catch all of this more up front.

So ultimately a stock well worth going back for. As always, there are no current plans to actually put these incenses up at the Absolute Bliss website so it is highly recommended and encouraged to contact Corey directly using the methods at his contact page. My experience is that you can find what you want and ask him for a Paypal invoice. Please note that currently Absolute Bliss only ships to the US.

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Absolute Bliss restock

Corey has restocked the Absolute Bliss/Happy Hari line, please use his contact page for more information. I am hearing there are some quality upgrades on a few of the normal scents, so that is particularly good news!

Temple of Incense vs Absolute Bliss

The following chart has been compiled to demonstrate the similarities between incense sold by Temple of Incense vs Absolute Bliss, in the sense that both, mostly, originate from the same Indian incense manufacturer. As Temple of Incense is in the UK and Absolute Bliss is in the USA it may save a purchaser money to go with who is closer. With that said, there are batch variations between the two although we believe the variance to be no greater than 5-10% for these incenses. We’re not interested so much in an incense where the dusting differs or there is some slight variation. For example, Niyama Sutra struck me as fresher than Dancing Sufi, while Extreme Sandalwood is a slightly superior stick to Natural Mysore Sandal. But the point is all of these are so close that it is essentially splitting hairs to speak of the differences. All incenses here were evaluated by both Stephen and I and discussed for some months before finishing this chart. There are two differences though, I have listed two Temple of Incenses that appear to be Madhavadas sourced and I have kept those in the chart out of interest. These are somewhat easily identifiable incenses usually due to their base and are perhaps the most commonly sourced Indian incense, so much that we do keep finding them in newer lines. For reviews of all of these incenses (including purchasing links), please use the Reviews Index on the left (many of these will be found under Happy Hari).

AmberKing of Amber
Bengal BeautyYama Sutra
Benzoin AbsoluteAsana Sutra
Dancing SufiNiyama Sutra
Delhi NightsPranayama Sutra
Dragons BloodRed Blood Dragon
FrankincenseKing Frankincense
Guava GuavaGuava
Jasmine BlossomVintage Jasmine
Kerala FlowerSamadhi Sutra
KrishnaKing of Vrindavan
Lavender SupremeVedic Lavender
Lotus FlowerQueen of Lotus
MyrrhKing Myrrh
Nag Champa GoldNag Champa Gold
OudhOudh Masala
Patchouli WoodsPatchouli Khus
Perky PanditPratyahara Sutra
Purple Rain(Madhavadas)
Rose Absolute(Madhavadas)
Sandalwood Extremesimilar to Natural Mysore Sandal
ShivFloating Lotus Flower

Stephen’s 2021 Top 10

The biggest thing to note is I am ranking the 10 favorite incenses I encountered for the first time this year. Many are older than this year but they were tried by me for the first time. This is Indian-style heavy because I spent most of 2021 exploring Indian incense for the first time. Before 2021, I had really only burned a handful of crappy Indian incense and was kind of biased against it until I started getting some incense from Reddit’s /r/IncenseExchange, which turned me onto Absolute Bliss and Happy Hari’s incense as well as Yi-Xin Craft Incense.

  1. Absolute Bliss/Natural Beauty – This made the top of my list because I asked myself which stick I burned the most this year and this is it, in fact, the top 4 are in order of most burned for the year. 5-10 are more favorites that didn’t get as much ‘air time’ but definitely were worth mentioning. Natural Beauty is a masterpiece of cedar/oud/halmaddi and this scent profile has popped up in incenses that are no longer available.
  2. Temple of Incense/Ganesha – This fat pink stick won over the hearts of everyone in my household. My husband is a devotee of Ganesha and we have statues of the elephant-headed god all over the home. This incense gets burned regularly on the altar and scents the house with a sweet halmaddi scent.
  3. Absolute Bliss/Devansh – When I was looking for a ‘Super Hit’ that wasn’t synthetic and headache-inducing, I came upon Devansh. It is kinda like Super Hit only with a rose note on top of the creme brulee scent. I fell in love and have been burning this on high rotation ever since.
  4. Absolute Bliss/Forbidden Fruit – This fell into my lap and didn’t become an instant love. No, it took several burns before I realized this had almost the same smell as my favorite hand soap – Everyday Shea Spiced Lavender. While I don’t think there is lavender in this smell or the soap smell, it is a wonderful sweet spicy scent that seems to share a common thread in it’s floral/fruitiness with sticks like Queen of Roses and Bengal Jungle Beauty.
  5. Yi-Xin Craft Incense/Into the Agar Woods – While we tend not to review ’15 minute incense drop’ incense producers mainly because they don’t need our help to sell out in 15 minutes and because we want people to visit this site and be able to purchase the things they read about. However, since this is a top 10, I selected one of Ken’s creations that has been on High Rotation on his monthly incense drops(I have seen it in his monthly collection at least 5 times this year). Ken is a student of KyaraZen and his ideas and techniques are next level. Highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter so you get notified of his monthly drops. Since there isn’t a store, link is to the front page of the artists’s website.
  6. Mother’s/Guna Nag Champa – In my vast sampling of 2021, where I think I sampled close to 300 new incenses, this one stuck out as really unique. It is the only coffee incense I’ve tried so far. I know less reputable companies make incense with artificial coffee smells, this one has a sweet and bewitching scent of being in one of those specialty stores like Gloria Jean’s Coffee Beans or similar shop where there are coffee roasters mixing in with the smells of the additives for the flavors, which normally smell like sweet, nutty candy to me.
  7. Dr. Incense/Cinnabar – Another 15 minute incense drop producer. This Taiwanese incense artist is doing the research into the ancient techniques. His blog is a treasure trove of legends around incense. Cinnabar caught my attention because of it’s TCM value but also because this is one of the first times I’ve seen a mineral used in incense. Since the store is a once-a-month etsy drop, I am linking to his blog.
  8. Happy Hari/Oudh Masala – This stick actually sent me on a quest into the Oud Oil world. In a podcast, Happy Hari himself claimed that this Oudh Masala came from the Assam region. So I bought several different distillations from that region from different vendors at different price points and quality. I couldn’t find the smell in these sticks until one day I doused my mask with a few drops of an Assam Oud and went out. After a day of wearing it, I put it in the wash. After going through the wash it came out and HAD THE EXACT SMELL OF HAPPY HARI’S OUDH MASALA!! So it just goes to show that the sticks probably have less than a drop of the oil to get the smell profile.
  9. Kin/Pear Chamber – I encountered this when I decided to try out a sampler from Kin Objects, a Chinese incense manufacturer that ships to the US. This is an ancient recipe where a pear is hollowed out and filled with sandalwood and aloeswood and then steamed. The resulting steamed pear is mashed into a dough and turned into incense. This bewitched me on the first stick and I was reaching for more immediately.
  10. Absolute Bliss/Emperor Amber – A 2 hour slow burn of a wonderful interpretation of amber. One of the first Indian ‘fatties’ I’ve tried, these quickly became a favorite in the house to burn after a stick of Ganesha.

Absolute Bliss restock

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Absolute Bliss has received their latest restock from India, replenishing the stocks of many depleted incenses (Happy Hari and related) and adding a few new ones, so there will be some reviews coming. The new restocks include the wonderful White Lotus Oudh Saffron and Natural Beauty incenses, both huge favorites of ORS. Please contact Corey directly using the methods at his contact page for questions and ordering.

Discontinued Happy Hari Incenses (Meena Supreme, King Sandal, King of Saffron)

Finally, as a bonus review and appendix to the reposted/redone Happy Hari series, I wanted to post all of the discontinued incenses from the Happy Hari line here for historical posterity. And I should say that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the incenses are discontinued at their original source, just that they are currently not imported to the West that I know of. For example, I believe Meena Supreme is still up and operating, but it’s not in the Happy Hari catalog at the present time. Also Indian sandalwood incenses like King Sandal change just as much from the differences in sandal oil quality over the years as well, although in this case the old version was a different incense stylistically as well. Also, Absolute Bliss has dozens of other incenses that come from the same Indian supplier, many of which we will be getting to as we move forward, but the discontinued incenses here were considered once part of the Happy Hari line. Keep in mind the historical reviews here were written probably somewhere from the late 00s to the early 10s and that I’ve possibly taken out some of the original context as orphan reviews. These are just here as a record.

[Original Meena Supreme review] But even if you can’t count on incense nirvana, usually something so prized is usually going to be quite good and for the most part Meena Supreme succeeds from just about every angle and if it may not be the best incense ever created, I’d definitely say it’s one of the more unique and desirable of Indian incenses and certainly one I’m going to add to our Hall of Fame. Meena Supreme is a fluxo incense which means it’s solidly in the genre inhabited by Sai Flora, Sai Deep, Sai Leela and the like, which also means it’s a big stick, highly aromatic and something of a major smoke producer. This is perfect for me, especially during the dawning of spring where various allergies often make smelling Japanese incense very difficult, but if Indian incense smoke is too much for you, Meena Supreme will likely be too. In fact during the first two sticks, I wasn’t even sure if I would end up liking it, but it was likely because it was just too much at the time.

Since my initial foray into Meena Supreme, I think I’ve burned three to four boxes of it if not more (the size box I got fit about 6-8 sticks I believe). It is a highly addictive scent once you get it as most signature scents are and is also very hard to describe. Meena Supreme starts with the same earthy, almost stable-like background tones of Sai Flora but that’s where the similarity between incenses ends. Where Sai Flora goes in a bright, heavily floral, brassy direction, Meena Supreme is much more sultry with a mix of woods, rose, cocoa, coffee (with milk) and most importantly a feeling that all the subscents have been blended and aged. Most importantly Meena Supreme had the ability to make me think about it a lot when I wasn’t burning it, which has let to a lot of impromptu reaches.

[Historical King Sandal review] Happy Hari’s King Sandal is a champa type scent that will be familiar to those who have tried incenses like Rare Essence’s Sandalwood Supreme and Precious Sandalwood. However, unlike those incenses Happy Hari’s Sandal has a nice and sweet sandalwood, honey and halmaddi mix that really lifts the whole scent so that you have a fine oil mix riding an excellent base. In Indian incense, these are the types of sandalwood sticks I tend to prefer as the oils smell very woody and not so much a buttery/vanilla thing like so many of the masalas have.

[Historical King Saffron review] The King of Saffron will be of no surprise to anyone having some experience with Indian incense, as this yellow dusted, thin masala is common in other lines as Saffron or Saffron Sandalwood. I would mention that there’s a slight freshness and clarity to this version that might make it the one to start with. In many ways it’s a “classic” Indian scent and one I might put in a starter set.

Happy Hari / King of Frankincense, King of Myrrh (revisits); Queen of Roses, King of Vrindavan (new versions)

Happy Hari, Part 1
Happy Hari, Part 2
Happy Hari, Part 3
Happy Hari, Part 4

For the last of the Happy Hari series, I have provided revisits of four of their scents, moving the discontinued King of Saffron to what will be an appendix post of the historical reviews. This last installment is of two incenses that have stayed virtually the same in style and two that have the same name but are now different incenses from when I last reviewed them. Please note that while this ends the Happy Hari imprint series, Absolutely Bliss also has something like two dozen (?) or so other aromas from the same suppliers that create the incenses behind Happy Hari. We will be continuing to cover all of these moving forward; however, we do encourage you to contact Absolute Bliss (see below) even before we get to them for what is available, as many of these will not be on the website. So there are a lot more reviews coming and a lot of really really good incenses as well. It is a wonderful thing to see so many scents back in wider availability again. So here we go with the last of the actual imprint itself…

[2021 Updated Review] I’ve personally gone on record that if you want a frankincense experience, nothing beats the resin on a heater and there’s no stick that can really capture that brilliance. But then you flip to a different perspective and think hey King of Frankincense is not a bad run on a masala mix with resinous, church-like notes. This one, at least, is likely to be reminiscent of the smoke from a church censer, but it’s that kind of gravelly sub-Hougary resin that people either warm to or don’t depending on their experience in liturgical settings. However I think the essential (or absolute) oil in King of Frankincense manages to give this a bit of polish, so while the overall scent feels a bit rough, it has some great subnotes that balance it out a bit. In fact, if you compare it to the following 2012 take, it seems there has been some improvement (or perhaps this is a fresh batch). Overall, though, this is the traditional Indian frankincense masala and it is what it is. And yes the frankincense in the Temple of Incense line is virtually identical. And now follows my original review, but please keep in mind this does not apply to current stock. [Historical comparison from 2012] So let’s get the bad news out of the way first. King of Frankincense just doesn’t hold up. The first stick of this was almost painfully astringent to my nose and eyes, with the rough, bitter smoke of it building up into a choking cloud. Now generally speaking I don’t think you’re usually going to get a great Indian frankincense, mostly because the style of the stick is almost tailor made to add to whatever resin is being used. But even compared to a standard like Triloka’s Frankincense, this is very poor (the closest equivalent would probably be the Vinason’s masala) with way too many of the additives veiling an unremarkable Frankincense resin.

The following is my original review for King of Myrrh and it actually stands just fine even all these years later with some slight editing:  King of Frankincense’s “twin” King of Myrrh presents a stick format you wonder why the Frankincense wasn’t in, a thick masala-style stick that allows a reasonable aroma of myrrh to waft from it. This is actually fairly similar to the King of Amber in that the overall stick is warm and mellow, but instead of having a strong oil presence, the natural ingredients here allow you to get the sweet and spicy gumminess similar to a champa. The myrrh middle is more gently evergreen, like a good benzoin mix. Cooling overall, this is a nice and somewhat original entry into the series. [2021 addendum] The only difference I would add here is that, similar to frankincense, myrrh in an Indian masalas shifts the aroma well away from what myrrh often smells like heated in resin form. However, also unlike frankincense there is a lot more variation in myrrh resin, often even in one heating session, and so it’s easy to see that an oil distillation might have very different characteristics. I also detect a bit more sandalwood somewhere in the mix, although I may have just not commented on that originally.

The Queen of Roses really surprised me in its 2021 version. I originally felt it was a much better incense than it used to be, until I reread my old review and re-realized that I quite liked that one as well. There’s very little I like less in an Indian masala than some mix of floral oils that end up smelling like bad perfume (Satya and knock offs are full of these mistakes). As I mention in the comparison below, quality rose oil is well known for being pricy stuff and so if you see rose in an inexpensive incense, you’re automatically attuned to wondering how it’s going to be faked. But the Happy Hari stick is really a lesson in moderation. I’m not sure if there is a touch of real rose essential or if it’s just a good absolute in use, but this is a really regal and classy rose masala. The floral notes compliment the stick’s base and there’s some warm amber notes in the middle that tie it together in a wonderful way. A truly great stick, one of Happy Hari’s finest. This is a much different stick from the old Queen of Roses. [Historical comparison from 2021] The Queen of Roses presents a very good alternative to Pure Incense’s Connoisseur Rose, with a similarly colored stick and an aroma that mostly changes due to the quality of the oil. It’s not a perfect “rose” stick so to speak, in that most incenses at this price level couldn’t possibly be pure anyway but with that aspect causing most roses to be quite poor, this is quite the successful floral. There’s a touch of lemon in the middle of the genuine floral perfume and the results are quite pretty. What surprised me over time, was that this was an incense that would get my attention when my mind was something else, which is about one of the highest compliments I could pay an incense.

I believe the new King of Vrindavan stick is almost completely different from the original one based on the historical record below. So I’ll leave that one on its own and just start from scratch as its virtually impossible to compare them. However based on this stick, and Vrindavan-themed incenses in other lines, I’m not sure this is really of the same ilk at all. It actually strikes me more as a flora style incense now, not at all unlike the types of incenses reviewed recently under the El line. I sense both sandalwood and patchouli in this and while there are certainly some hard to define floral oils in the mix, they’re not dominant. It doesn’t have the sort of amber like warmth of the El scents so much (in fact it might be better described as cooling), but it is virtually the same genre of incense. In the end I think this is one whose name might subert expectations if you’re familiar with previous incenses with the label. Compare it to this older review: King of Vrindavan might be the best incense I’ve ever sampled with the V word in it and it’s even better than those with it in the Pure Incense line. This is a thick, heavily perfumed champa with that floral mix that really can only be experienced rather than described. This type of scent really should have earned this Queen status, as this is lovely and feminine, like a mixture of flowers and that sweet scent you get from valentine’s day heart candies. While this doesn’t quite have the subtlety of Dhuni’s Frangipani, it’s roughly in the same category and lovers of this kind of scent will definitely want both.

Please note you can find all of these incenses at Absolute Bliss. While this line finds new homes in US retail stores, I would use the contact page to contact Corey Topel for prices, shipping time and availability, but I want to stress that he has a new batch in that is current very fresh and it’s when Indian incense is at its strongest. Please note that while Wonder Incense in the UK has claimed they are releasing Happy Hari incenses, I have been unable to confirm this is a legitimate use of a Western trademark. If and until/unless I get to the bottom of this, I am providing this caveat. Following shortly will be a restoration of the historical reviews of all Happy Hari incenses known to be discontinued.

Happy Hari / Sutra / Pranayama, Pratyahara, Samadhi, Yama (Revisited)

Happy Hari, Part 1
Happy Hari, Part 2
Happy Hari, Part 3
Happy Hari, Part 5

[This review has been edited from the original and updated to match 2021 scent profiles]

This write-up covers the final half of the Happy Hari Sutra line. This review has been updated in order to portray reviews for 2021 versions. It feels there have been some shifts in scent which could have been any number of things so I am going to do all four of these from scratch. They all sit pretty comfortably in the traditional champa/masala range.

Pranayama Sutra is a really nice mix between a fruity top oil and a noticeable halmaddi presence from the champa base. I don’t want to mix things up, but I made an observation on one of the aromas in my previous review from years back that reminded me of the fruitier champas that used to come out of Shrinivas like the Ajaro or Aastha, back in earlier days and I still think that holds quite a bit for Pranayama. I enjoy the kind of airiness about this one, it’s not a heavy champa despite how aromatic it is, and there’s a bit of sandalwood in the middle that gives a base for everything to move around. The difference between this review and the old one is that I originally went on record not enjoying it as much, but I really do like this version of Pranayama. I like how it can be a kind of gentle aroma without skipping the quality aspects of the scent. Again one really important thing is that this smells really halmaddi-rich like incenses from the old days.

Pratyahara Sutra is another champa-style masala, this time with a very strong vanilla presence, maybe one that goes a little farther beyond the base. This doesn’t really seem to be a particularly complex incense, there’s a bit of woodiness in the mix, maybe some very mild earth tones as a touch. But overall, it seems to be going for a vanilla style, maybe with a touch of amber too. Pleasant, although perhaps lacking in distinction. But vanilla lovers will want to check it out for sure as it’s not terrible far from the Vanilla Champa Blue Pearl did once. Not to mention that this vanilla has more resolution than you’ll find in Satya’s incenses and relatives.

Samadhi Sutra is also something of a variation of a traditional champa/masala recipe. It has a very unusual and deep oil on top, slightly spicy (similar to champas in the past that had the name Maharaj or Maharaja – many of these also had the green color dipped on the bamboo stick end), peppery, and very sultry. I remember a previous version of this incense felt like things didn’t come together perfectly, but in smelling a fresh batch it may have very well been due to some age as the powdery perfume at the top ties this together rather nicely. I like the sort of central spice component to this one, it shakes up and compliments the sweetness of the base in a powerful way. Like the Pratayahara Sutra I’m not sure this is a terribly distinctive incense for a “Maharaj style,” in fact you’d have to go way back to the old Mystic Temple stick for me to find one I really went for, but I do find Samadhi Sutra a pleasant and friendly burn. [9/10/21 – we wanted to note there’s a fairly direct match on this one with Temple of Incense’s Kerala Flower.]

The lavender covered stick end for Yama Sutra is something of a pointer. In fact night before I wrote this I was burning Temple of Incense’s Bengal Beauty which has the exact same color stick, as well as a similar scent profile. This is always an indication of a classic champa formula that I’ve seen under Satya Natural, Vanilla as well as Mystic Temple’s Honey Dust in the past. While I haven’t sampled any of those in quite some time (years ago I felt that these were all part of the whole ingredient shift), both Bengal Beauty and Yama Sutra take a much closer step back to where this fine scent used to be. It always felt like a very sweet and friendly incense, with big hits of vanilla and honey and it’s honestly one of the better places to start if you’re new to Indian incense and want to familiarize yourself with some of the more traditional mixes outside of the regular Nag Champa formula. If you’re hovering over a Happy Hari order, definitely add this one to your cart to see where you sit with it.

Please note you can find all of these incenses at Absolute Bliss. While this line finds new homes in US retail stores, I would use the contact page to contact Corey for prices, shipping time and availability, but I want to stress that he has a new batch in that is current very fresh and it’s when Indian incense is at its strongest. Please note that while Wonder Incense in the UK has claimed they are releasing Happy Hari incenses, there are some concerns that it is not authentic. If and until I get to the bottom of this, I am providing this caveat. Upcoming at some point is a fifth and final installment to finish up any remaining scents and when that happens I will also post an appendix of the scents that currently are discontinued.

Happy Hari / Sutra / Asana, Dharana, Dhyana (Revisited); Niyama (Revised)

Happy Hari, Part 1
Happy Hari, Part 2
Happy Hari, Part 4
Happy Hari, Part 5

[This review has been edited from the original and updated to match 2021 scent profiles]

Happy Hari’s line originally expanded from Meena Supreme and Gold Nag Champa to what is essentially two full new incense lines, both of which were replacements for previous lines that had been shifting around a bit. There are two series, one that features eight incenses all matching up with different types of yoga postures, and another that we’ll talk about later that is something of a “King of Incense” line, a line where some of our most recently reviewed incenses have ended up (with some name changes). I would describe the Sutra line as something of a mix of styles, it would be very difficult to describe the range as a whole, as there are some very different incenses at work here. The line seems to be roughly split into one or two charcoal incenses and six champa incenses.

Asana Sutra is the line’s first charcoal incense, which in this case means that the aroma is being largely carried by oils on the stick. I’ve gone on record in the past that, except in occasional circumstances, ORS does not review charcoal incenses, so this would be one of those exceptions in order to complete the series. A (much) earlier version of this incense seemed to be more of a charcoal hybrid similar to Madhavadas family incenses. The first sample of this incense reminded me of some ayurvedic mixes and had enough benzoin in the mix to be classified as something of a loban. The 2021 version seems to be fairly close to what I remember, there’s definitely a bit of a benzoin-amber sort of mix in the perfume, some vanilla, a gentle bit of something like spearmint in the background and it’s powdery, sweet and cooling. I should mention that at one point I reviewed some very high-end charcoals from Shroff that even though the oils were actually tremendously good on them, I still couldn’t get around the base and generally feel the same way about Asana Sutra. So please keep that in mind, as if you’re ok with the charcoal format you may very well enjoy this one.

Dharana Sutra had also changed once the first time I received samples way back. This was the first incense in the line that made me think Happy Hari went to some ends to really improve this group or maybe switch certain scents under different names. In 2021, this still seems to be something of a charcoal (I had written that in the past it may be a bit of a hybrid analogous to some Madhavadas family incenses, and it still could be). I’d almost describe it overall as a masculine floral, as it has the really cologne rich scent that’s reminiscent of Oud Masala, while at the same time having an unmistakeably floral sweetnees to it. This also has mint, but it feels a bit more peppermint. It has a similar powdery and sweet vibe to the Asana but it’s also a bit fruitier in some ways. It’s a very dominating, almost overpowering scent overall, so it’s one you want to back up from a bit.

Outside of the two charcoals things improve incrementally to my nose. These next to are just simply brilliant champa-type masalas, easily some of the best on the market now (and I’d grab them both right away while they retain this is initial freshness). An early version of Dhyana Sutra looked to be something of a Honey Dust or Satya Natural type variant and it still reminds me a little of those two even if it’s a different incense. The 2021 version still seems to be something of a musk champa even if it’s mostly because of the sweet notes. This incense has quite a bit of similarity to the now discontinued Shroff Shanti incense, although I think I like the sweeter and sugary direction here, it helps to balance out the heavy tanginess that Shanti exhibits. There was a touch of citrus mentioned in an earlier description that still feels like it’s here, it could be anything in the lemon to orange to mandarin range and it’s definitely not overbearing. Overall, this is a truly excellent scent, undoubtedly one that will be back on the Hall of Fame page when it gets reconfigured. I love the way it has two or three levels to it that playfully dance together.

So I wanted to include the historical review of the Niyama Sutra, before I add my thoughts because while the three I previously wrote about still seem well within range of my original reviews, this one has changed a lot and for the better: Niyama Sutra has also become a much better incense than what was in the first batch, and if the Dhyana was the musk champa in this group, than surely the Niyama is the patchouli champa. The patchouli champa style was quite prevalent in the halmaddi days and was a unique combination that transmuted the qualities of patchouli into something with a pleasantly burnt type of aroma. On the other hand there was a generic patchouli champa that used to be part of a dipped range of champas that wasn’t quite as successful but had some interesting elements in that it had a bit of a crayon subaroma and a mellower patchouli vibe. The Niyama Sutra is more in the middle, it has the crayon subaroma as well as a slight touch of the old patchouli champa scent and comes off being fairly friendly overall. The description gives vanilla and rose, so it’s quite possibly my detection of patchouli is largely because this reminds me of patchouli champa, but I detect more of the former than latter. Still, very nice. The fresh batch of Niyama Sutra is really downright incredible, it has been a really long time since I smelled an Indian incense at this level. It has this almost decadently candy exterior to it that I would guess could have been missing in some way from the previous stick I tried from it. I dunno how to describe it, like some elegant but gooey hazelnut-nutella-nougat-caramel mix, but with quite a bit of dryness that makes it so perfect as an aroma. I literally don’t notice anything patchouli about it at all, which is one reason why i needed to weight in separately from the old review. Nor the crayon aroma. It does however seem to have quite a bit of vanilla in it but not surprising given all the sugary treat-like notes. A confectionary champa? I don’t know but this is one you want for sure, just brilliant.

Please note you can find all of these incenses at Absolute Bliss. While this line finds new homes in US retail stores, I would use the contact page to contact Corey for prices, shipping time and availability, but I want to stress that he has a new batch in that is current very fresh and it’s when Indian incense is at its strongest. [NOTE 7/15/21: Please note that while Wonder Incense in the UK has claimed they are releasing Happy Hari incenses, there are some concerns that it is not authentic. If and until I get to the bottom of this, I am providing this caveat.]

Happy Hari / Oud Masala, Emperor Amber, King of Amber

Happy Hari, Part 1
Happy Hari, Part 3
Happy Hari, Part 4
Happy Hari, Part 5

This is the first of four page restorations for the Happy Hari line and the second of five overall. All of these I restored from private. In cases (such as the Oud Masala for example) I just added notes to the original review, but in others I needed to rewrite the review. In these latter cases I did not want to delete the history because it may be useful to some to see the evolution of a scent. Remember the lion’s share of changes in an incense’s aroma is simply due to the same change with the natural ingredients and I think most of the Happy Hari line reflects that. Some of the changes, as we will find out here, are just the natural age of a particular incense, because when they’re this fresh they’re always truly remarkable. So in that case I don’t think people want to waste their time grabbing from the new batch. And finally when an incense was discontinued, I decided to port that text over to a separate post which I will post at the end of the series of what is available.

The first incense up is the extraordinary Oud Masala. I remember when I first started buying Indian incense decades ago, I found it very rare to see Indian incenses with agarwood listed prominently. That changed with Mystic Temple’s addition of an aloeswood champa (called Agarwood) and then the two excellent Agarwood incenses from Pure Incense. But as nice as those were, the Oud Masala is definitely the best of all the Indian aloeswoods, one of the most beautiful, bewitching, incredible incenses available. The key is the oud oil on top of the rich base. This is a very woody and spicy scent, much more like the oils you would encounter than the scents you find from the Madhavadas family. Of course on a different base this wouldn’t come off so well, the damp, feral, spicy oil on top of what seems like a sandalwood, halmaddi and honey base is a total kaleidoscope of aroma, every element of it of very high quality. It burns nice and slow and never gets in the way. I could burn this for days. [6/21/21 – I’ll just add a note here that the latest Oud Masala vintage is as good as it gets and every bit of this review still holds except for a few technical fixes. I think this incense has the finest oud oil I’ve ever smelled in an Indian incense. It is however, shocking loud and brash, somewhat cologne-like in the better sense of that description, and you better like it smoky. I can imagine one stick of this could probably fragrance a room for most of a day.]

Corpulent Amber was changed to Emperor Amber not long after, which is too bad as I always thought the former names was very funny and dead on. I really love these chunky Indian incenses (this is thicker than even the thickest Tibetan incense) even if they can be a chore to light, as smoky as it gets, and harder to put out. I noticed a few in the newer Temple of Incense catalog as well and already ordered one or two of them because usually when something is that deluxe it’s usually wonderful. This is an interesting amber, probably not at all what you’re used to, perfumed, a touch fruity, but rather dry too. It’s powdery like a lot of ambers I’ve previously liked and I would guess has some sandalwood and resinous content, the latter I’m assuming delivering a lot of the top fruit note. But most of what it is is quite unique and probably somewhat classic and best recommended as something really different from what you usually run across. The best part of something like this is it’s actually quite complex and the oil really delivers a lot of varying subnotes during the burn. It’s not really a champa but a masala that’s almost its own style. If you’re like me and love an incense whose aroma is just completely new and surprising to you, try this one. You can’t really even compare it to other ambers.

[9/16/21 – I’m adding back in Happy Hari King of Amber, which I wasn’t originally sent samples on with the batch for these reviews, but Corey sent some over in a recent package. It’s basically the same incense as the previously named Royal Amber, which is really the thinner stick cousin to the above Emperor Amber. It’s also equivalent to Temple of Incense’s Amber. It’s a really nice incense so well worth putting back in the available column.] King of Amber is a lovely, perfumed amber that gets better the more you burn it, like with the Dhuni incenses, there’s something almost like a fine wine when it comes to a good amber. The perfume here really melds with a perfect resinous touch for great balance. In fact the difference with the bigger stick is that it seems to be more resinous, although I’d only hazard to guess why this is so.

Please note you can find all of these incenses at Absolute Bliss. While this line finds new homes in US retail stores, I would use the contact page to contact Corey for prices, shipping time and availability, but I want to stress that he has a new batch in that is current very fresh and it’s when Indian incense is at its strongest. [NOTE 7/15/21: Please note that while Wonder Incense in the UK has claimed they are releasing Happy Hari incenses, there are some concerns that it is not authentic. If and until I get to the bottom of this, I am providing this caveat.]

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