Floras and Fluxos

In December I wrote a piece surveying several incenses in the Nag Champa style, after all if there’s anything that might be considered a genre or style of incense it would be those. In researching those I also remembered a style that could be considered a cousin to the Nag Champas, in fact it’s a style somewhat blurred in that many entries into this style are also called Golden Champas.

The etymology of the word “fluxo” on some of these incense packages is a bit difficult to track down. I’d guess the origin lies with the Portuguese word whose translation as “flow,” especially in terms of a movement from place to place in large amounts, seems to be the defining factor of this style of incense. For one, most of these incenses are among the largest and thickest sticks in the bamboo stick masala format, as thick as twice the size of a Nag Champa stick. In fact the weight of materials of these sticks are often enough to weigh down the bamboo stick. Naturally, what this does is set up the incense to be one of the most profuse and smoky styles and the fragrances are as loud and as perfumed as any available. Those who prefer low smoke volumes are likely to find these uncomfortable, particularly in small rooms. They’re all unlikely to be totally natural as well, as the perfume and oil contents are very high.

If the Satya Sai Baba blue box Nag Champa is the ground zero for that style then the red and gold foil package Sai Flora by Damodhar & Co. would fulfill the same place for floras and fluxos. This is a very common incense and might even be more commonly found under the Golden Champa name or a slight variation, for example in the Blue Pearl, Incense from India and Mystic Temple lines. It’s a large, brassy incense with what must be a gigantic list of ingredients, so many that discussing any single element of the bouquet is practically impossible. Perhaps the two largest factors are the gigantic mix of perfume oils on the top and the mix of what are much earthier elements below. In fact where “gold” might imply “deluxe” or the actual color of the incense, it seems to me to best describe a sort of metallic sheen that the incense conveys, so that it’s the smoke itself that might be seen as golden. In the end it’s what one might call a mosaic incense because every element you might find in a masala from oils to woods to resins seem present in some amount. At times it’s the floral oils that grab my attention or even the incense’s sweet and honey like tendencies akin to the champa style, but I’ve known several people who immediately notice the almost manure or earth like tendencies in the background even more so than the glittery oils. In the end this is really one you have to try for yourself, at least to introduce yourself to the style, but keep in mind that this isn’t for those who have trouble with their sinuses and it’s recommended that you give a large space, because as the name fluxo implies, there are large amounts of smoke that are going to flow constantly outward.

The next two incenses, made by Shah Agarbatti, seem like they’re modelled to be Sai Flora knock offs, not only in that they present variants of the style, but also have very similar packaging. Sai Deep is very similar but tends to amp up the spice mix quite a bit so that the cinnamon content is more noticeable. This is actually a similar technique that I remember finding in my favorite from the style, the Shanthi Sai Flora mix that Incense from India periodically distributes (I mention this mostly in passing as it’s been many years since I tried it last). Turning up the spicy qualities seems to tone down the brassier qualities of the perfume and creates a slightly mellower incense, although in the end the differences are probably trivial.

Sai Leela is again, not far from the Sai Flora style with only slight aromatic differences. In Leela I detect hints of toasted marshmallow and a greater reduction of the brassy or coppery sheens of the perfume oils. The result seems to bring out the sweeter qualities more and as such it seems to be the heaviest of the three floras discussed so far. In summary, the order in which I’ve placed these three probably works as a good order to try them in, so I’d only recommend Leela for those who really like the style as a whole.

We move to the company Anand for the next two incenses and while we’re still in the same fluxo/flora style, these two are actually distinctly different in scent to the previous three. They’re still big and thick, but the coloring and the perfume mixes are very different. The general Anand Fluxo/Flora Incense is definitely creamier than the Sai Flora brand and the hints of oils, sandalwood, champa, soap, lavender and vetivert all seem to be a bit more prevalent and obvious. The composite aroma seems initially very floral but after an inch of burning the herbal elements seem to share the stage more.

Anand’s Ganesh Special Fluxo Incense is also a totally different bouquet and it’s one that shares some similarities with Satya Nectar (which in itself might arguably be a fluxo incense due to its sheer size). It’s a much drier bouquet than the previous Anand and less sweet, even if some of the similar lavender, sandalwood and vetivert hints still seem to be part of the mix if in different proportion. Personally I found this one a bit more successful, although the very rich oil content still tends to what I think of as synthetic perfume elemnts. Other notes that may be involved are anise, evergreen and jasmine, although again, I always feel like I end up guessing with fluxos just because they’re so complex and massive in bouquet.

Janak Perfumery Works’ Darshan Flora might be considered more of a hybrid of the flora and champa styles, since the stick here is more of a regular champa like style, while the name and part of the aroma seems flora. It’s more akin to the Anand duo in this group as the bouquet is largely derived from the heavy perfume mix. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the drier “desert flora” incenses (Purelands Flower perhaps), but far more intense (I’d guess the similarities are due to camphor). I’m actually not even sure how much I like this yet, but since I find the unusual to be intriguing it’s possible it just hasn’t clicked yet.

Overall this is not a totally exhaustive list, and as I mentioned before the Sai Flora probably ends up being made or copied for most Indian incense lines. I’ve grown over the years to really love the “Golden Champa” style, although I suspect, like the champas themselves, that ingredients changes may have softened their impact if not to the extent of most champas. In the end if you can deal with heavy smoke or need something to diffuse through a big room, this is definitely an avenue of incenses worth travelling down.