My opinion of these “flavored” champas has actually degenerated quite a bit, not only since I first tried them several years ago, but also since I started writing about them. If there’s anything obvious about the whole series it’s that in every case the same generic nag champa stick (which like every other company isn’t as good as it was a decade ago) is dipped into a fragrance oil, likely synthetic and inferior even in cases where one doesn’t have to pay great expense to get a good scent. Some of these scents have to be synthetic, particularly in the fruit category, as essential oils of many of these do not exist and have to be approximated. And you can often tell as one’s opinion might be fairly positive at first, but by the end of the stick the one dimensional nature of the scents starts to cloy and becomes bothersome. And in this trio’s case at least two of these are scents you can find elsewhere in much improved fashion. So these are definitely scents, especially when you consider your minimum order is 100g of each scent, you want to try first.
Pineapple Champa was actually quite superb in the days where the champa “punks” where high quality and made with halmaddi. The rich honey and vanilla like scent merged quite nicely with all of the fruit scents and there was a time when this scent, the Apple and the Banana were all favorites of mine (the Banana in particular smelled like Banana bread, a fabulous scent), despite the use of synthetic oils (which might have been better then as well). Even to this day burning a stick of the current version is fairly nostalgic for me. The Pineapple oil here is very stylized, more like pineapple candy or flavoring than the sharp and pungent scent of the fruit, mellower and almost distinctly synthetic. Perhaps that’s for the best in some ways, as you really don’t want the more citrus-like elements of the fruit to come out in a champa blend, but the result still lacks distinction. In fact had this been shunted into the Shrinivas line (ironically this has actually been the case – although these pictures did not originate at Essence and thus are not filed on the Shrinivas page) and given a different name it would probably fit in quite nicely in between some of the company’s 100g boxes.
Likewise the Strawberry Champa merges generic nag champa with fragrance oil and this one in particularly seems to burn surprisingly long. And this is unfortunate as the longer it does burn the more obvious the synthetic nature of the oil becomes until it starts to grate. It’s actually kind of easy to pick out as strawberry is so common as a scent and flavor addition to so many air fresheners and food products. And by comparison it also doesn’t hold up, both Blue Pearl’s version and especially Fred Soll’s (the latter a natural approximation of the scent) are much better, neither one holding the deep red coloring this one has.
Finally the very common Vanilla Champa scent. Particularly with amber this is a plentiful and excellent Indian durbar (Mystic Temple, Incense from India and Blue Pearl all do superior versions), unfortunately Nikhil’s is one of its lesser renderings. Like with the Coconut champa the off scents of the oil come through much more than the central scent, making it a very cloying stick in the end. For a scent like this you want your vanilla to be drier, particularly when a champa base is going to impart some vanilla anyway, here it’s overkill to the nth degree, distracting rather then being pleasurable.
Overall and despite the synthetic oils being used here, I do think much of the problem is the champa base being used in this whole series is rather dull, much closer to, say, Goloka than Bam. When halmaddi was more plentiful it added a depth to these that made up a lot for the oils, which now seem responsible in carrying most of the aroma. In every case I’d request samples before ordering a full batch of these as in nearly every case the sticks are quite thin, so you’re probably getting at least 100 sticks in every group and that may well be a lot more than you’d want.
And Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I’ll see you all next week!