Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory / Gateway of India + Puspa Perfumery Products / Puspa’s Green Mogra + Parekh Perfumery Works / Great Himalaya of India

These three Indian charcoals have a few things in common, they’re all quite good for the style and they’re all very long sticks. They also represent what might be considered archetypal Indian scents, perhaps one or two here I think of subconsciously when evaluating anything new that’s similar.  As implied these are all scents whose primary mode of aromatic transmission is through a mixture of perfume oils and I’ve found in all cases, the charcoal bleed through is standard and the oils work fairly well in the style.

Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory’s Gateway of India is the type of scent reminiscent of what we’re finding in a stick like Shroff’s Sugandhi Bathi, a mixture of florals that mix and are difficult to identify. Of the three here, perhaps the charcoal plays the most part in this bouquet but it’s only slightly rough and I can imagine this issue may gain prominence as the stick ages and the oils volatize. But really this is the only issue as the perfume is lilting, gentle and exotic with both floral and herbal elements. Like all of these scents it’s perhaps designed more for a larger room than personal use, so it works at a premium if set up in a corner somewhere and allowed to dissipate slowly. Sure, I’d probably go with the Shroff incense mentioned over this, but they differ in style enough for them to both be worth sampling.

We’ve seen a mogra come in via Shroff as well, but the dominant mogra style from India often seems to be a Green Mogra and Puspa’s version is almost the baseline version of this scent, the one you might compare anytning new to. This captures the exotic almost lotus meets jasmine type of scent in an oil form, with its slight green and sweet contours giving it hints of flowers and a touch of menthol. A little does go a long way with this one, but again it’s a stick that works best in a large room where the oil will win out over the base, after all this is quite a lovely perfume, very watery and surreal.

Like the Gateway of India, Parekh’s Great Himalaya of India is a composite blend of floral and herbal qualities that’s difficult to parse into its components. It’s not as gentle as the Gateway perfume is and there seems to be more in the way of evergreen or woody qualities along with a dark autumn/post-harvest like smell that reminds me of aging hay or even raisins. Because of its relative strength the charcoal is at its least intrusive here and while this isn’t quite as kinetic as the sticks that use dominant florals, it still manages quite an exotic and eastern touch to it. While one might compare it to general Indian oil charcoals, it still stands on its own and it’s hard to find another incense that compares.

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Dhoops / Sree Yadalam, Goloka, Padmini, Bic, Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory

While the word dhoop is sometimes used as a general name for incense, it seems to be most commonly reserved for a certain type of extruded, thick, bamboo-less, sandalwood-based and heavily perfumed incense that is one of the most inexpensive styles available. Many different companies from India produce incenses such as these and they’re often used to fragrance large areas given the profuse amount of smoke they produce. Unfortunately they’re also commonly created from very inexpensive ingredients and often contain bitter, sour or other off scents that bring the overall scent down a notch.

The following is a survey of a number of different available dhoops with a general assumption that the scents are very close and can be described as a group. Usually at core we have a certain inexpensive binder, a decent amount of cheaper sandalwood or other woods, and what often seems like an oil blend that one might generally think of as floral, but often contains ingredients that are woody or citrus-like as well.  As mentioned, the results are very inexpensive with boxes often around a dollar or two.

Sree Yadalam Dhoop Industries’ Sree Sai Dha Sangam Dhoop Stick is an example that falls, perhaps, at the more synthetic end of the equation. The ingredients remain as explained in the previous paragraph, however in this case the perfume is a little too strong. Like many dhoops the oil smells like a mix of woody, citrus and floral elements with a subscent that reminds me of candle wax or the scent associated with a box of crayons. It seems to my nose that the elements one would associate with sandalwood are perhaps approximated rather than provided by the ingredient itself, leaving the experience fairly unsatisfactory. However, this is still certainly well within the standard characteristics of a dhoop.

Goloka Dhoop is probably a little friendlier and slightly richer in sandalwood content, but other than these differences, the dhoop scent is relatively similar. The slightly bitter or sour elements of the previous dhoop’s perfume oil are absent here, but the candlewax-like subscents are still quite present. Goloka Prayer is something of an alternative to the dhoop featuring a very strong resin content replacing much of the wood, perhaps guggal or frankincense in the mix, and the results are closer to certain Tibetan incenses. Of all the dhoops in the list this is perhaps the least traditional, although the resin doesn’t completely cover up the nature of the wood and oil mix commonly found in dhoops. Interesting, but ultimately its basis relies on fairly inferior and cheap ingredients.

Padmini Dhoop is a thinner stick compared to the previous three with a slightly more brick red hue. It’s also fairly removed from the synthetic-seeming and more bitter oils found in the Yadalam and Goloka version, with a bit more of a floral slant, which helps to free up the wood scents a little more. It’s also missing the more candlewax-like elements but perhaps trades these for a bit more in the way of cheaper binder or wood filler. Again, it should be reminded that these are all shades of a degree and that this remains quite close to the standard scent.

Bic Sandalwood Dhoop is relatively more pleasant with the dhoop scent moving to the woodier side of the equation with the lack of the “floral” perfumes associated with the others. It has hints of much more quality sandalwood, with touches of the better crystalline heartwood-like scents mixed in with the more buttery and sawdust like inexpensive outer wood. After the heavier perfumes of the previous four this one came as something of a relief.

Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory’s Chandan Dhoop  is easily one of the more commonly found sandalwood dhoops and is both thicker and shorter than the previous  versions, almost like wood cylinders. Compared to the Bic, the sandalwood seems very mixed down with cheaper woods and I’ve often gotten a more bitter woody scent from these, which tend to be a bit smoky and harsh. Of course given their thickness, they’re probably better relegated for large room use than personal.

Similarly, Mysore Sugandhi’s Laxmi Dhoop should also be used for a larger room as it’s one of the most intensely smoky incenses you’ll find in any style, perhaps the closest an incense will come to setting off your smoke alarm. But unlike the Chandan Dhoop, the Laxmi seems to be of an uncommonly high quality. For one thing it’s not hardened like the others, with a size and consistency like a several inch long cylinder of play-doh. I find this so smoky that I’m more apt to pull inch-long pinches off a log than to burn a full one. The color is of a dark brown and while it has similar characteristics to the candlewax/crayon like scent of the dhoops early in this article, the mixture of herbs and oils seem to be at an uncommonly high level for a dhoop, which perhaps makes this one the most removed from the traditional style. And it’s also fairly easy to recommend in that I can think of no other incense like it, truly a one of a kind experience.

There are lots of other dhoops out there, but you find pretty quick that after sampling a few of them a certain amount of repetition sets in. Certainly the two I’d pick in this batch would be the sandalwood goodness of the Bic and the original and unusual quality found in the Laxmi dhoops, both of which, while you may not burn them often, will stretch the diversity of one’s collection of scents and do so without breaking the bank.