Pure Incense / Bulgarian Rose Masterclass, Saffron & Rose Masterclass, Camphor Masterclass, Connoisseur Laos Agarwood

This (final for now) installment of the most recent Pure Incense 2021 reviews ends up as something of a miscellaneous section, but includes a couple rose incenses.

The first of these is the Bulgarian Rose Masterclass. One might consider this the most high end upgrade of the Connoisseur Rose, even if it is geography specific, as it still has a lot of similarities. This latter formula is one of the incenses that has maybe traveled the most in scent through the years. In many ways any Pure Incense Rose I’ve sampled is still the conglomerate aroma of the rose oil being used along with the vanilla, charcoal and sandalwood of the base, and it can be fairly difficult to comment on the rose perfume being used without being cognizant of how much this base shifts that. In this case the base provides something of a sweet note that certainly cuts in, but I don’t think it obscures the fine delicacy of the rose oil being used here, which has enough resolution to it that it actually starts to resemble the actual scent of roses and not an approximate pitch at a related floral. Before telecommuting I used to work across from the California State capitol park which has a very sizeable rose garden in it and when this thing is in bloom, walking through it is a veritable lesson on what a lot of roses smell like at once. I will say, first, that it’s something of a confirmation that roses may not be my most personal favorite scent even at its most natural so I’m not always the one to give the right take, but I would say the Bulgarian Rose Masterclass comes as close to any natural rose scent as I’ve seen on an incense and that is highly commendable. For one of the few times I’ve ever said this I actually wonder what this oil might smell like without the ever competing vanilla scent and on a more pure charcoal delivery system because it really seems like a fine absolute. But certainly if you love the scent, you will want to check this one out.

The rose is moved to a bit more of a back note with the Triple Saffron and Rose Masterclass. Here the saffron is in charge and it’s a reasonably resolute saffron note with that sort of tangy, spicy-herbal note you tend to find in most saffron incenses. Saffron is of course the stamen of a crocus sativa flower and so even the raw materials tend to break down a huge supply of these flowers into the cooking spice and then one might have some idea at what it would take to turn even that material to an oil, absolute or otherwise, with the expense of such perhaps raising the question to how much real saffron is in this. The rose becomes less resolute in the face of such saffron heft and, as a result, loses some of its clarity to become a complementary note. I do feel with this one that the intensity of the oil does tend to mask the base more so it’s not cutting through as much and it tends to prevent this mix from getting too sweet. There is, fortunately, some level of interplay to the saffron and rose that makes it interesting nonetheless, but I would guess that whether you like this or not entirely depends on how much you like saffron. High end Pure Incenses can be pretty successful with saffron, for instance I very much enjoyed their Saffron & Musk incense, so again this may also be where I sit with rose as described above.

The scent of the Camphor on the Masterclass stick is actually much stronger on the fresh stick than during the burn, which disappointed me a bit because that note is almost exactly what I’m hoping for (camphor is one of those medicinally-related scents that not everyone likes but I most assuredly do). Alit, the vanilla of the base comes through almost shockingly loud and while you think it might create a conflict, once you get used to it it’s actually surprisingly comfortable. At this point the camphor tends to fade back into roughly the same place that it fills in some of the agarwood or oud sticks. There’s some intriguing dryness to this scent as well, almost as if some level of buttery sandalwood also wanted to be part of the profile. Overall though one thing I do like about camphor wood and it’s even true to some extent on a campfire is that kind of weird cooling vibe that it exhibits (I mostly remember using it for cold sores). So while this stick may be much more than the single note itself, it’s a nice stick nonetheless. And it is certainly different enough to feel more like a genuinely unique incense stick than just a variation.

And finally, perhaps circling around to the Oud group in some way, is the Connoisseur Laos Agarwood. There’s some level of similarity to the camphor on the fresh stick but it’s a bit sweeter here and not as pure a note. This is actually quite an intense agarwood, similar to the general Connoisseur but quite a bit denser in aroma. While it’s labelled as an agarwood and not an oud I have to stretch the imagination a bit to even say what the difference could be as this seems like it could fit in with the oud reviews fairly easily. It’s perhaps not as spicy as some of the others, but generally speaking this sort of wood tends to have that element even at its mellowest. Like the Oud Kathmandu, this has some level of actual wood presence in terms of resolution and definition. In fact based on a recent box of the generic Connoissuer Agarwood I’d easily recommend this one over it, perhaps because the oil seems pretty intense. Like most Pure Incenses there’s still some level of vanilla in the base but the oil mix more than makes up for it. In the end I think if you’ve tried any of the ouds I recommended in that review then it depends on how much you like them in terms of whether you want what are essentially variations on a theme, but then again most of the variations are all the kind of incenses that aloeswood lovers are going to go for.


Pure Incense / Connoisseur Govardhana Heena, Conoisseur Sandalwood Extreme De Luxe, Connoisseur Shiromani Chandan

In this third, most recent installment of Pure Incense reviews, I tried to lean a bit more in the sandalwood direction, although this group includes composite scents. There are, however, only three in this particular batch as it turned out one of the incenses I originally intended to review turned out not to be dried properly (it happens), but I will also mention Pure Incense took care of this issue nice and speedily. So for the remaining three…

The Govardhana Heena is described as “a blend of Hina oil with Agarwood from Assam.” If you look up Hina (or Heena, the transliteration seems to be commonly interchangeable) oil you will find that it can be referred to as the essential oil of the Hina flower (part of the Henna tree) or a mix of a number of different ingredients. Here I believe it’s probably the gentle floral that is sitting quite prettily on a mild, spicy oud oil. The sandalwood/vanilla mix in the base is particularly complementary for this arrangement and it doesn’t even manage to drown out the oud, although it may be a close to an equal note. Mostly the attraction of this incense is the resolute hina oil, which is just one of those pleasant and mild floral scents that stays soft and powdery rather than spiking you with off notes. My only potential criticism, perhaps only because I got a few sticks, is I do wonder if this aroma will have staying power over time or if it might fade into something more generic. But it is deeply wonderful at the moment. It reminds me a little of the Minorien Kagiku/Chrysanthemum in some ways because of the floral/agarwood combo (or maybe more conceptually, and not aromatically, to the Absolute Bliss White Lotus Oudh Saffron) which is something I find myself really enjoying when you want the beauty of a floral with some depth to it.

I’m always somewhat amused to see the word extreme applied to a sandalwood as it’s always struck me as one of the more gentle and mild woody aromas, but then again when you crank it up this much the word does start to apply. This Connoisseur Sandalwood Extreme De Luxe is another deep sandalwood on charcoal stick that is quite comparable to similar sticks at Temple of Incense and Absolute Bliss. I am actually starting to think about these in terms of the “vintage” of the sandalwood oil because if you compared all three you would certainly find some level of scent variation, but all are also quite enjoyable and this really has the oil turned up in a way that mutes the charcoal, perhaps more than the other two. While I certainly still prize the Temple of Incense stick for the way it digs up nostalgia and scent memory, I find this one to also be a really attractive heavily powerful sandalwood oil with something of a slightly tangy presence, but even if there’s no specific identification page on where this oil comes from it still strikes me as close to the upper echelon with the wood. There are even some intriguing fruity subnotes I don’t quite remember from other sandalwoods which is a tendency I tend to find more common with some ouds. This one does indeed go up to eleven.

Connoisseur Shromani Chandan is a stick that hearkens back not so much to the sorts of powerful Mysore oil incenses that often tend to be the high end for Indian sandalwood incenses, but to something a bit more standard or common. Chandan is a sanskrit name for sandalwood, but it is a word you used to see a lot more frequently on incenses, and this is somewhat reminiscent of an incense from a previous installment, the Catuhuama Oud Musk, albeit without the oud note. Sticks like this in the old masala days would highlight the more buttery and sugary aspects of the wood and as such is probably more recognizable as a sandalwood scent to most people than a lot of the more higher grade Mysore-sourced woods and oils we discuss here. The vanilla in the base is also pretty loud here and would have to be considered part of the overall aroma. While it’s not a stick I find complex I do feel that the oils here are pretty strong at the top end, although it feels more like a vanilla and sandalwood end note than just the wood itself (even the vanilla seems like its a bit more at oil strength than just the powder, but I’m not sure if its materials or the combo). I can’t personally go back to the 70s to really compare it, but even in the 80s and 90s you could find sticks that pointed to this area of the aromatic spectrum. Of course the thing is, you only need to pay a couple of pounds more to get a box of the Extreme so I’d certainly try that one first if you had to pick one sandalwood, but this is a friendly well done incense stick nonetheless.

Pure Incense / Connoisseur Blue Lotus & Musk, Connoisseur Musk De Luxe, Vintage Catuhsama Oud Musk, Connoisseur Opium Intense

In this second, recent, installment of Pure Incense reviews, I’ve sorted this group essentially into the musk category, even if the Oud Musk is probably more of an oud with musk touches and the Opium may or may not have it at all, but the latter does seem to have some real similarities to the Musk De Luxe stick both in color and perhaps more partially in scent. Second, two of these incenses, the first and last listed, were part of the samples a kind reader sent to me some months to check out (the third sample is currently out of stock, so I did not get to grab that one but certainly would have) so this is a group I like a lot. In many ways when you’re really looking into ouds and sandalwoods and so forth it can be a breath of fresh air to move to incenses that tend to differ from more or less any other creator’s output and are great without needing any woods to complete things.

The Connoisseur Blue Lotus and Musk, unsurprisingly, is essentially just a slight variation on the Connoisseur Blue Lotus. As most Pure Incense appreciators know the Blue Lotus is certainly one of the line’s most original and dependable aromas and it ranges across the entire Pure Incense spectrum, although for my nose, I prefer to have the quality of the perfume cranked up as much as possible, as it is on this stick. Lotus oils vary so much in incense that it can be fairly difficult to really describe what a lotus scent actually smells like other than the flower itself, but in the Pure Incense Blue Lotus incenses, it has always been something of a powdery, gentle and distinct floral scent that is so unlike any other lotus incense that it’s an essential stop for increasing the variety of your scent collection. It is, for example, completely different than the lotus incenses in the Absolute Bliss/Happy Hari/Temple of Incense range, and as far as I know I can’t think of any other line producing the quality of either manufacturer that’s still in business. The musk added here seems to be very slight in comparison to the main Blue Lotus incense, it’s certainly tangible and perhaps moves this into a different kind of sweet territory but it doesn’t have the power that the musk does in the De Luxe below. But for my nose after retrying the regular Connoisseur Blue Lotus recently, it feels like this is of slightly higher quality overall and it reminds me more of the first time I tried and reviewed it than the most recent box I tried. And yes here, the vanilla of the base I think really compliments the perfume. It’s a really friendly and wonderful incense.

The Connoisseur Musk De Luxe is also the type of aroma I think is relatively uncommon and could be quite novel to readers’ noses. In a lot of ways it’s a similar issue to lotus perfumes, musks can vary a lot and of course they can also be sourced from animal or plant sources. Often when it is not expressly stated that it’s a plant-sourced musk, it’s because it isn’t, but in this case if you pop on over to the Pure Incense Nepal Musk page, you will see the language affirming that Pure Incense musks are plant based. Anyway this brick red color stick is kind of a sour-sweet marvel that is really an aroma of its own. The vanilla feels a bit more dialed back here compared to many Pure Incense sticks, which I feel was a good move (or maybe the musk obscures it) and the musk has a very pretty center note that really sells it. I like its tanginess, the almost definitive sweet note and just the overall power of the stick. In fact this is often the case in the Pure Incenses that have the perfumes dialed up. It is not at all the kind of refined musk scent you’d see in, say, a Kourindo incense which would have the sweet center note up more in front.

The Vintage Catuhsama Oud Musk is described as “two parts of musk, four parts of sandalwood, three parts of aguru or saffron and one part of camphor, when mixed together, form catuḥsama.” I would still probably class this closer to the ouds in the previous installment however this has a much mellower wood sort of scent which I would assume is due to the dialed up presence of the sandalwood. The vanilla in the base is also pretty noticeable here, partially because it tends to come out a bit more when there’s more sandalwood oil in the mix. For an oud scent this is probably closest to the Egyptian Oud from the previous installment in that it has a healthy bit of spice to it as well, not to mention there are no really overtly strong agarwood notes in this (although definitely enough to recognize its oudness). It feels a bit more of a balance of a number of aspects than any one thing. I remember some musk sandalwood masalas from the past that were kind of roughly in this area, so if you remember those, think of what that would be like with a spike of oud in the middle somewhere and you’d be fairly close.

Finally, the other sample that I received prior to this order, the Connoisseur Opium Intense. In my experience Opium in an incense tends to be more related to the perfume with that name than the poppies or the smell of opium itself. However here the scent comes from opium essential oils which “have been used to create a masterful wondrous scent that is like a rich sultry Ambery oriental woody fragrance with dark exotic notes.” I like that description, can definitely get the amber out of it and overall I just like how this is another great scent that doesn’t really smell like any other, and for sure it’s better than any opium perfume on charcoal stick I have seen offered. But naturally I can’t really side by side this with the real thing nor do I have any valid memory or what that might be like, and if I did I’d still wager this is probably a lot prettier. And you really gotta love the end of the description: “Lose yourself in dreams of other realms far away from the concrete and iron civilisation all around us….to a place with a variety of trees and bushes and flowers and birds and bees and swans and parrots and all manner of colourful flowers and scent and birds and creatures!” Wheeeee!

Pure Incense / Egyptian Oud, Oud Jakarta, Oud Kathmandu, Oud Noir

Pure Incense expanded their incense lines considerably during the ORS closure (I keep thinking I need to rename this something like “The Retirement Years” or the “Big Gap” or something). I remember their regular, Absolute, and Connoisseur lines from when we reviewed them, but there appeared to be a concerted effort to really expand the Connoisseur line in the last ten years and it is quite frankly where the strength of the company lies. I do highly recommend checking out the reviews we did on most of the early incenses by looking the company up in the Reviews Index because outside of natural variation Adi Guru and Pure Incense have done a fairly remarkable job of staying consistent through the years.

As I understand it, Pure Incense is one of the western companies that contracts with India’s Madhavadas family to create incenses and import them to the UK. This venerable incense family has been around longer than I have and was behind both the Primo and Ganesha lines before they closed. As most familiar with this company know, they make a very distinct masala base created from charcoal, sandalwood and vanilla powder that can be something of a heavy player in their aromas. It is almost worth trying some of the line’s base scents to see where you sit with that base, maybe before trying some of the high enders; however, when it comes to the higher end Connoissuer and Vintage lines there is really a deluxe range of top oils and perfumes that are extremely impressive. I was sent a few samples of Pure incenses from a reader and was really taken with them and eventually got around to making a nice order of my own, one that amazingly got stuck in US customs for what I am told is the first time in PI history. After some form filling out, they ended up finally arriving. I’ve decided to break the series of boxes and samples up into about four reviews in order to a group a few things, including this series of four oud incenses. Ouds are of course fragrances made from agarwood, but it should be noted that Pure Incense creates both Ouds and agarwood incenses. To my nose the Pure Incense ouds are a bit spicier and more oil based than the regular agarwood incenses. And in fact this is a range of incenses that is very close together so talking about the differences is probably more useful as they are largely the same sort of incense, just with different regional woods being the source for the perfume.

A Pure Incense Oud is generally what I’d call a spicy wood sort of scent. These are similar to the Happy Hari Oud Masala and so forth but they’re also a bit mellower due to a bit more of a masala blend in the base than charcoal alone. The thing to keep in mind is that the Madhavadhas base has a lot of vanilla to it and how much it cuts through into the overall aroma is pivotal to the overall scent. Ouds, including the Egyptian Oud Intense, tend to be strong enough to mute some of the vanilla without completely eliminating it, but the sweetness of the base is not completely submerged. The Egyptian oud oil here is quite friendly, this isn’t one of those oudhs with barnyard/animalistic notes at all, it’s quite cinnamon/clove spicy while having a definitely agarwood sort of scent to it, so it’s a very likeable stick overall. Pure Incense also describes the scent including “tobacco notes and leather and hint of fruit” all of which feels like a decent take on a lot of the more subtler notes. But intense it is and that is what you want in an oud overall, so there is plenty to listen to here.

Pure Incense describes the Oud Jakarta (Indonesia) as having “a real heady wood note and beautiful undertones of peach and green leaves.” The peach note is a surprising thing to note for sure, but it’s absolutely there and in strength as well and it really adds a nice flavor to this oud stick. I’m sure having that bit of vanilla in the background intensifies this note a little, but don’t think that means there isn’t plenty of deep, woody oil notes on this one. The green leaves note is one that kind of reminds me of an incense or two in the Nippon Kodo Yume no Yume line that had something like this (can’t remember the specific one but both Bamboo Leaf and Horse-Tail Plant ring a bell) and it also reminds me of the scent of a green, unripened banana with a bit of tartness. Anyway it’s a very powerful scent, when I tried it the oil seemed strong and recently placed meaning for a while you might want to back up some. But every bit of that agar-woodiness is really here and I’ve smelled a lot of Indonesian aloeswood in Japanese sticks that didn’t really approach this kind of wonderful intensity so it’s quite a marvel. And as a difference I would say this isn’t quite as spicy as the Egyptian and while you’re comparing two oud sticks it just goes to show you how deep, different and complex ouds can be. Really gorgeous stuff and one of my favorites of the whole Pure Incense aloeswood line.

Pure Incense calls the Oud Kathmandu “The best Agarwood incense sticks on earth.” I’ll just say there are some agarwood incenses out there I can’t even afford enough to make that kind of call and leave it at that, mostly because that’s a statement that takes a lot of guts. Even in the Pure Incense line up alone, I’m not sure I can make that call, even in this review alone, but this definitely has a very different aromatic profile to the previous two oud incenses. Quite frankly I can’t remember every trying a Nepali agarwood incense of this sort, maybe a bit of wood in a Tibetan stick, sure. This is the woodiest of the oud sticks so far and it’s quite different from the two I’ve just reviewed and it does indeed have some very unique and different notes to it that are quite arresting in the profile. It appears to have some level of resin depth to it that starts to approach the higher end Japanese sticks in a way, like there’s some particular weight to it and the overall wood profile is probably the loudest in this group. It may be why no other notes are really named in the description, but I pick up the leather here more than in the Egyptian and it shares a bit of the same spice to it as well. There is also some level of lacquer or turpentine as well which one tends to get when an oud is really aromatically dense. While I tend to set Japanese and Indian agarwood sticks apart since they’re somewhat incomparable in style, I would say this is a fine oud indeed and well worth checking out. And of the sticks in this group this is perhaps the one where the base is the most occluded by the top scent.

Oud Noir is described as Pure Incense’s “new Agarwood flagship scent. It has a strong prominent Oud note that is a pure dark wood with a leather note.” Like the Egyptian Oud Incense this is a stick where the base’s vanilla notes cut through, as the overall scent is not as strong as any of the geographic specific ouds above. Also like the Egyptian, this is a bit of a spicy oud, its got a fairly light profile and may be a bit closer to the line’s agarwood-named incenses than the two listed above. It has a bit of an airiness to it, although it does have some of the more denser end that it shares with the Oud Kathmandu, but for a stick called noir, it doesn’t feel as dark or nighttime as the others. There’s some level of floral subnote that I like and it’s a bit more on the prettier end of the range. It also seems to have some strong camphorous notes that the regular Connoissuer Agarwood often has. Honestly if I wasn’t doing these in a rough alphabetical order this might have been the one I opened with as it has a lighter feel than the other three. On the other hand having it be a bit lighter helped to accentuate the differences.

So the overall issue with this group is they’re all part of a range of one scent really and so it is somewhat arguable whether this is an entire batch you would want to grab at once. But compared to one another they show you why agarwood is so genuinely prized, because distillations of the woods from geographic locations show very different profiles within a sort of general idea of what an oud scent is. The thing to keep in mind with Pure Incense is generally there’s a base that’s as important in the overall profile as the scent of the incenses but its presence often depends on how loud, deep or rich the main oil note is. When the oil notes are intense that base tends to dissipate into the mix, while when they are not I think you get a lot of vanilla in the mix as well as some notes of sandalwood. There’s something of a trade off here as well as I think these elements reduce the amount of charcoal in the mix and at times it makes them easier sticks to process then, say, some of the more oil-based Ouds in the Happy Hari or Temple of Incense group. Finally, this actually doesn’t exhaust all of the ouds and agarwood incenses I received in the new batch, but I have placed some of these others in different arrangements for reasons I will talk about in one of the next installments.

Pure Incense / Tuberose, P-Gokula, Pushkar, Pavitra Vastu; Revisits / Connoisseur / Agarwood, Blue Lotus, Parijata, Rosewood

Pure Incense have been kind enough to provide lots of samples for Olfactory Rescue Service review and I recently received a new batch, including four old sticks previously reviewed in order to give a taste of where these classics have been heading as ingredients and recipes change over the years. In my opinion this kind of transparency is to be highly lauded when so many companies just change things completely without notice and I believe it to be a true acknowledgement of the art of incense in that change is inevitable in this field and that your favorites will probably not be around forever. It is good to see that even with changes that new formulas are being added and experimented with and that Pure Incense really do have a way with the perfume notes in their incenses. So let’s start with the new and previously unreviewed formulas. [NOTE 10/8/21: Due to variation in natural products it is unlikely Pure Incense reviews written from 2009-2013 will be completely accurate in 2021. Links below are to new versions (in these cases Absolute versions), so please use caution in purchasing. Pure Incense uses different grade levels and you’re likely to find their best work in their Connoisseur and Connoisseur Vintage ranges.]

When it comes to certain floral incenses, a lot of Indian incenses tend to a high level of charcoal in them, after all you can’t really burn rose petals and have the scent smell like roses and so there is a high level of oils in incenses like this. Tuberose is one of these scents and I’m probably not alone in not being a fan of this format of incense. But just like when you compare Pure Incense to their US cousins Primo, the quality level seems to be a lot higher with Pure Incense and I found the base to be, if not pleasant, and least not offputting. I seem to remember Primo’s version being a lot harsher and eyestinging. The oil on the base, of course, is quite nice and while you can still sense a bit of the vanilla floating behind it in the base, the Tuberose is a soft, rounded and cushy floral, somewhat powdery and quite feminine.

The Pavitra Gokula scent, which seems to be a subline of Pure Incense’s Premium collection, appears to be a new riff on their classic Blue Lotus scent. And like anything even remotely similar to the Blue Lotus, this is a very beautiful and bewitching incense, almost like a caramel-tinged floral. It has some similarities to one or two of the Vrindavan incenses elsewhere in the line, and there’s that wonderful hint of sweet and crystal pink that these incenses are topped off by. The Gokula has an almost candy-like middle, giving it a real complexity (especially when you consider how complex the Blue Lotus perfume is on its own). Perhaps its only weakness lies with the base, but its likely most readers will already know if they’re OK with it or not. And if you’re not sure I wouldn’t let it put you off as the base layer actually adds more than detracts from the complexity. It’s really the kind of direction you want to see a company take, experimenting with their formulas for new takes.

The Premium incense Pushkar also riffs on the Blue Lotus incense, this time combining it with the Vrindavan Champa scent. I believe it is with some modesty that Pure Incense hasn’t ranked this with their Connoisseur level, as the crystal pink floral scent mixed with the Blue Lotus oil is really a product of master craftsmanship. The mix has some similarities to the line’s brilliant Rosewood incense as well in that the scent seems to have a bit of woodiness in the middle to give it a nice breadth. It’s almost like a mix of pink florals and evergreen foresty scents. It’s truly well worth checking out, a really fine entry to their line. [10/8.21 – A reader pointed out that this is an equivalent scent to Temple of Incense’s Purple Rain, which sounds reasonable both by picture and this description.]

The Pavitra Vastu is notable for not having any flower oils in the mix and is instead a mix of herbs. The result is a spicy, tangy herb and wood heavy blend with a hint of citrus in the middle. It’s a very robust and hearty incense that has more than a hint of orange tea in the mix, although it really doesn’t get too spicy. After a couple of sticks, I wasn’t sure about how complex this could be, but it is nicely balanced and has a nice clarifying affect on one’s surroundings.

As could be expected the Connoisseur line has changed in scent in the few years since I reviewed them last. It would still be a good idea to revisit the reviews here and here in order to see where these new reviews get their basis from. I only had a stick of each of the new version to sample and so I can only really approximate the changes, but none of them are particularly severe, which leads me to speculate that the changes are mostly via the ingredients.

The Connoisseur Agarwood has, unsurprisingly, changed the most, which is what you’d expect. Of course it’s important to note again that Indian agarwoods differ a lot from the Japanese, but the Pure Incense version from a few years ago was easily the best of the Indian agarwoods, with a wonderful deep and resonant foresty camphor like note that gave it a huge amount of dimension. This new version (marked Autumn 2013) doesn’t strike me as being quite as woody and I wasn’t sure with just one stick if that note was as strong as it used to be, but the incense really hasn’t lost the agarwood scent at the center. It just seems maybe a little more concentrated, and it isn’t overshadowing the vanilla note in the base like it used to. But I think if I was coming fresh to this I’d still enjoy it a lot, there is really no other Indian agarwood on the market with this kind of scent. It doesn’t have a perfume based scent like other Indian agarwoods, and so it’s still quite dry and stately. [NOTE 10/8/21, I have some some stock on this one bought from Incense Warehouse in the last year. It largely remains the same as this review. I will note that in the gap between closing and reopening ORS, Pure Incense have added a much wider array of more specific agarwood and oudh incenses, many of which I hope to review in the near future. However this Connoisseur version still remains a very good, general, Indian agarwood incense.]

The new (Sept-Dec 2013) Connoisseur Blue Lotus is quite close to what you might remember from my original review and in a way is a lot more difficult to describe since essentially what has changed is the perfume oil(s). None of the subtle notes have disappeared so much as changed in just the way you’d expect from the flora the oils were distilled from. The overall scent still has the soft and floral notes the original did and honestly I don’t think this has changed for the worst, it’s at least as good as the stick I previously reviewed. And this is really a special incense, there’s no other like it on the market. [NOTE 10/8/21: Unfortunately the Connoisseur Blue Lotus I have in stock is not fully up to old standards. However, I had a sample of a recent stick of the Blue Lotus and Musk and the former was absolutely perfect in that one, so I’m assuming this is either an age or vintage issue with this box. The Blue Lotus used by Pure Incense isn’t really used in any other line in any other way so variance is likely to be acceptable anyway.]

The Connoisseur Parijata seems to be a much milder incense this time around and seems to lack a bit of the punch and personality of its predecessor. Keep in mind again I’m only evaluating one stick and the nose has the ability to close up on some occasions. But this one strikes me as light and airy and so the base comes through quite a bit and seems to render it a bit more generic than I had remembered it (I still need to dig out the old stick as I’m going mostly on memory here). It’s a bit powdery, woody and sweet but ultimately I found the burn a bit too mellow to get my attention.

On the other hand the Connoisseur Rosewood was an improvement to an already excellent incense and I found this new version to be absolutely superb in every way. It’s hugely rich, floral and fruity, having those fine wine-like qualities all good perfume oils have. And like all good oils, the scent has lots of subnotes, all of them red or pink. It’s hard to quantify why this is much better than most Indian rose incenses, maybe the hint of wood or spice in the background helps to make up for the bitter notes often found in these sticks. Nonetheless this is superb and the biggest upgrade in an already fine group.

It’s good to see Pure Incense still going in what has been something of a difficult market of late and nice to see they still have a commitment to quality and connoisseur level scents.

Pure Incense / Amber & Rose, Frankincense & Rose, Parijata, Pavitra Vastu, Saffron & Rose, Yellow Rose

It has been a while since I sampled any new Pure Incense scents after reviewing most of their range in the last few years, so was pleased to receive some samples in the mail, although without much in the way of explanation, I’ve had to put two and two together from looking at their revamped product line. Almost all of the samples came labelled, but at least half of them weren’t tagged as Connoisseur, Absolute, Premium or Classic. It seems that almost everything I was sent is part of their Premium range, which I assume is just the revamped Absolute range. [NOTE 10/8/21: Due to variation in natural products it is unlikely Pure Incense reviews written from 2009-2013 will be completely accurate in 2021. Links below are to new versions (in this case the Absolute versions which I would guess are closest), so please use caution in purchasing. Pure Incense uses different grade levels and you’re likely to find their best work in their Connoisseur and Connoisseur Vintage ranges.]

Anyway if you’re new to Pure Incense, I’d recommend looking here for previous reviews and to try some of their long standing catalog before trying most of these, many of which are hybrids of other scents. For those that don’t know, in many ways Pure Incense is like the United Kingdom outlet of the Madhavadas family, in the same way Primo is in the United States, however unlike Primo, Pure Incense extends the Madhavadas line into Connoisseur levels, and many of these like Blue Lotus, Nepal Musk and Agarwood are well loved at ORS. The theme common to most Madhavadas incenses is their base mix of charcoal, vanilla and sandalwood. In many cases the vanilla is strong enough to be part of the bouquet of their scents and so it’s good to know if you like the style early. Fortunately the company is a master at this type of incense, often using very high quality perfumes for maximum enjoyment.

We’ll start with the Amber & Rose which is largely a variant of Pure Incense’s Connoisseur Rose. The amber in this case reduces the heaviness of the floral oil, which also brings the vanilla/sandal base to the fore. You can sense the line’s actual amber in the background, largely because the floral perfumes drown a bit of it out. Overall it’s hard not to like this one, it’s familiar in its elements but other than wishing the amber was a touch stronger, the merging is quite well done: soft, pink and pretty.

The rose element in the Frankincense & Rose is much more subdued to the frankincense and acts to give it a subnote rather than the 50/50 hybrids you usually see from Pure Incense. This is a neat trick as the florals touch the citrus notes of the frankincense a bit more than you usually find in Indian incense. The main issue is this is still very close to the regular frankincense that you might not need both, but given this caveat, I’d go with this one as it’s more complex.

The Parijata is a somewhat generic fruity flora, with quite a sandalwood presence. It delivers a light, powdery and floral pink type of aroma without any particular element standing out. It’s interesting because I remember trying both the Absolute and Connoisseur versions of this previously and thinking they were quite good, so I was surprised to be a bit lukewarm here. Anyway you’re probably safer with my original review – this sample did say it was Connoisseur but I remember that stick being much better.

Newcomer Pavitra Vastu is a spicy and herbal evergreen incense with a pleasant green scent mixed with a noticeable woodiness. This has some similarities to Shroff’s Amir, a certain saltiness in particular drew my attention to the comparison. It has more of a juniper needle and cedar oil note in front that is very nice. Overall a very masculine, Jupiterian type of incense and one I’d love to try more of.

The Saffron & Rose (labelled Connoisseur if my memory is correct), like other incenses with this mix, comes off somewhat furniture polish-like to my nose. The floral perfume is modified in a way that brings out the lemon or citrus qualities a bit too much. The rose character without the mix is a lot more identifiable (if not totally authentic due to expense). There’s a bit of a saffron note, but it’s not really in the right spot. Perhaps it’s just personal taste with this, but of all the samples I received, this came with the largest supply and over the batch it ended up wearing me out more often than not.

Yellow Rose is a typical charcoal rose with its incumbent harshness, at least the aroma mixed with vanilla is quite nice, the sort of soft and gentle floral you tend to get from yellow roses. I also got an amber, which I had review before, but even though it struck me as slightly different I’m not quite sure which product I’m looking at.

Anyway I’m still glad Pure Incense is with us, they’ve always been a class act with great incense and beautiful packaging and if you haven’t tried them yet, I recommend checking out a sampler or two.

Pure Incense / Absolute / Black Sandalwood, Sandalwood and Lavender, Sandalwood and Rose, Patchouli, Patchouli and Rose

This is the fifth installment of the Pure Incense range, for previous reviews please refer to the Pure Incense link on the left (categorized under Indian incenses). In this installment I’m going to cover a small handful of sandalwood and patchouli incenses. [NOTE 10/8/21: Due to variation in natural products it is unlikely Pure Incense reviews written from 2009-2013 will be completely accurate in 2021. Links below are to new versions, so please use caution in purchasing. Pure Incense uses different grade levels and you’re likely to find their best work in their Connoisseur and Connoisseur Vintage ranges.]

It’s probably worth reminding everyone that Pure Incense is an English company offering incenses made by the Madhavadas family which is also the source for Primo incense. There’s definitely some overlap between the two companies, so it’s a good idea to check what you have first. However, not only does Primo not offer the hybrids Pure Incense does, but Primo seems to stick to the inexpensive, so you’re far more likely to find quality incense via the Pure Incense route. But what all the Madhavadas incenses have in common is a sort of vanilla, charcoal and sandalwood base and in particular the former ingredient is quite noticeable in almost all of the line’s incenses, a trait that doesn’t always work out.

Black Sandalwood presents an alternative to the line’s regular Sandalwood, which can be found in both Connoisseur and Absolute ranges, however this variant is only found in the latter. The differences between this and the Absolute Sandalwood, however, are far more subtle than noteworthy. Like with the other sandalwood, the vanilla aspect of the base comes through quite strongly and changes the contour of the wood. The level of oil seems more matched by other elements that aren’t part of the Absolute Sandalwood, with a touch of mellow spice in the mix that tends to give the Black Sandalwood more breadth where perhaps the Absolute Sandalwood had more depth. Be sure you love the Absolute Sandalwood a lot before grabbing this one as the two incenses are very close.

While the fresh Sandalwood and Lavender stick allows one to sense both the sandalwood and lavender oils in the mix separately, like with many other Pure Incense “duos,” the two ingredients merge into something more hybrid-like while burning, and in this case the results are quite spectacular. For one thing, while you can smell the lavender oil on the fresh stick, the oil itself is more submerged in the burn allowing the lavender’s best aspects to rise to the top. It also helps to keep the ubiquitous vanilla scent a bit lower in the mix. The play of elements on top is particularly fascinating as the merging strengthens its floral characteristics. This is a good example of a scent being much more than a sum of its parts.

While the previous two scents are masala types, Sandalwood and Rose is a definite black charcoal-based stick, which is a style I’ll probably never fully embrace as the charcoal subscents always get in the way due to the sheer amount of smoke produced. While the oils are quite good, the vanilla is probably a bit too strong to work well and thus there seems to be as much charcoal and vanilla scent as there is the rose oil and a vague sense of sandalwood in the background. I expect the shelf life, like other charcoals, isn’t high and I’m wondering if the sample I was provided had already lost some of its power. Needless to say be sure you like strong charcoal scents before taking a chance on this.

Pure Incense’s Absolute Patchouli is quite a bit different from the Primo version although it’s similar in its green color. The oils are much richer on this one and in many ways this actually removes the scent from the more typical patchouli scent in the Primo. There’s a bit of lime hint in the mix (slightly similar to the Vrindavan Flower) that mixes with a soft almost uncharacteristic patchouli oil and the base’s usual vanilla and sandalwood mix. It all makes for a pleasant and unique patchouli variation.

The Absolute Patchouli stick can be detected almost as a subscent in the Patchouli and Rose and although the rose oil is strong, it mixes in quite nicely with the previously mentioned lime note. As with several of the (non-charcoal) hybrids, the blend of the two ingredients creates something new as a result. The oil mix does remind me of furniture polish to some extent, due to the rose somehow increasing the citrus-like qualities of the patchouli variation, but don’t take that to mean this isn’t a friendly incense. Like the Absolute Patchouli this is quite unique and it makes you wonder what other combinations would work well with the company’s patchouli.

This installment is not the final one in this series, but is the last of the samples I have at present and I’d like to thank both Pure Incense and Essence of the Ages for providing me with enough samples to be able to review the line. Since I received them, there have been several new additions to the line including Frankincense and Rose, Night Queen, Rhus Khus, Rose and Lavender, and Yellow Rose, so I hope to eventually get to try those out in the future.

Tis the season for some Frankincense Frenzy and a little bit of Myrrh Madness…

Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays to all our ORS readers! In the spirit of the season, I will be reviewing some frankincense and myrrh incenses. As many of you likely know, frankincense and myrrh were two of the gifts given to baby Jesus by the Magi (three wise men or three kings) with the third gift being gold. According to some interpretations by biblical scholars, the frankincense represented Jesus’s spirituality and his connection to the divine, the myrrh represented his human mortality and prophesized his mortal death, and the gold represented his royal power and influence.

To my mind, frankincense and myrrh are like the peanut butter and jelly of the incense world. Each is good on its own, but teamed together, they achieve greatness.  The following incense reviews lean more to frankincense then to myrrh. This is a reflection of my own bias; though I like myrrh, I love frankincense. Also, some of these incenses were already reviewed previously, but are included again because they fall into the theme and to act as a reminder of what’s available. Though of course, there are so many more frankincense and myrrh incenses out in the market.  However, I do believe the below are a good representative sampling of some of the better ones.

Fusoos frankincense resins: We’ve talked a lot about Hougari frankincense here at the ORS – and rightly so, it’s amazing frankincense, with its bright and lovely citrusy top notes followed by an earthy balsamic endnote. However, it’s time to give Fusoos, Hougari’s sibling, some consideration as well. Fusoos is a type of frankincense from Oman (which incidentally is the birthplace for the best frankincense resins) and differs from Hougari in that it’s less citrusy with a drier scent and is slightly earthier.  Incidentally, the Omani people consider Fusoos to be superior to Hougari.

Yemeni Myrrh: Those that love myrrh really should try and obtain the resin from Yemen. This Middle Eastern country produces the best myrrh, with a darkly resinous edge, one with depth and a scent that lingers for a long time.

Minorien frankincense: This provides good frankincense aroma with a woody undertone; alas there is no citrusy top notes though.  Nonetheless, Minorien as a company has provided consistently good work, and their rendition of frankincense is a good one, one that is more subtle.

Tennendo frankincense:  Tennendo uses frankincense resins from Oman. Whether or not Tennendo utilizes hougari resins is unknown. Regardless, don’t expect the citrusy top notes that are often found in Hougari frankincense, but instead a slightly sweet, slightly fruity honeydew melon top note. The frankincense scent itself is earthy. I’m quite fond of this incense, but I know others don’t care for the fruity sweetness, and prefer a darker more straight up frankincense scent.

Kyukyodo Shirohato White Dove: This is an interesting mix of frankincense, sandalwood, and a touch of floral. This is not a sweet scent like Tennendo’s frankincense. This is a warmer, woodier aroma. The frankincense and floral scents are accent notes.

Pure Incense Connoisseur Frankincense:  This is a sweet and foody type of frankincense scent. Due to the vanilla powder and other ingredients in the base, there are touches of cocoa and caramel notes to this incense. The frankincense scent is an endnote and muted as well. Those that would prefer a less candy like scent and more frankincense should look elsewhere. However, those of you that like the sweet scents are likely to be over the moon for this incense.

Fred Soll Classic Frankincense: The name says it all; this is a classic frankincense scent. This is smoky and resiny goodness in a stick form.

Fred Soll Frankincense and Cedar: This is a mix of frankincense, cedar, and pinon herbs. This is an unusual blend that is slightly musky. This incense does not have the bright citrusy notes of Hougari (boswellia sacra), which isn’t surprising because Fred uses resins from boswellia thurifera, another type of frankincense tree from Somalia. Nonetheless, this is still a good frankincense scent, and due to the addition of cedar, has a warm woody note.

Fred Soll Frankincense and Patchouli: A nice mix of frankincense, patchouli, and pinon. The frankincense and patchouli are the more prominent scents, and work surprising well together with the earthy sweet patchouli blending well with the resiny frankincense.

Fred Soll Frankincense Jasmine and Roses: Due to the jasmine and rose notes, this is more of a floral than frankincense aroma. Top notes are jasmine, followed by rose, and the frankincense is the end note. The frankincense is muted here, so for those that prefer more dominant frankincense, you should consider going with another incense. Though this is still a very good incense blend, and those that are looking for a new floral twist on frankincense may enjoy this particular blending.

Fred Soll Frankincense and Myrrh: Fred’s rendition on the classic pairing of these two incense resins. The myrrh is not very strong, which may appeal to those that aren’t myrrh aficionados. Frankincense is the more dominant scent, with myrrh being muted and the end note. This is still nice incense, and is a good choice for people that want an easy accessible stick with these scents but don’t want to bother with the real resins.

Ancient Forest Frankincense and Myrrh: An excellent blend of frankincense and myrrh, with a nice even balance between the two resins. The myrrh is readily apparent but not overwhelming. These short little incense sticks once lit are very smoky. Though like Fred Soll sticks, they do have a tendency to be difficult to light or stay lit.

Orthodox Incense Myrrh: About a year ago, I wrote this about orthodox myrrh – “The athonite style myrrh, blended in with floral oils, is a nice change of pace. The top notes are of a fine floral bouquet, the scent of various flowers blended in together, which then give way to the bitter resinous edge of myrrh. The two play off each other very well, the soft sweet florals give way to a sharper, dry, resiny myrrh earthiness. However, the floral notes still linger, and so the edge that myrrh brings isn’t completely overwhelming. It’s an interesting contrast, as if this is the olfactory version of balancing sweet with sour/bitter in a culinary dish. That said, I think that those that don’t normally take to myrrh would like this athonite style of it. However, hardcore myrrh lovers and traditionalists could literally turn their noses up at this, believing that the florals are too soft, too sweet, and detract from the lovely bitter edge that myrrh is known for. The floral bouquet in this athonite style is myrrh is very hard to pin down. I can’t say definitively what floral oils are in it, but I think I’m detecting honeysuckle, lily, lilac, perhaps lily of the valley, and the merest whisper of rose.” I recently revisited this incense and all of the above remains true, though the myrrh scent is now a bit more muted, having lost some of its potency. Nonetheless, this is still lovely incense, and one that I recommend.

Omani Frankincense sticks: This is an incense stick that I discovered a while back, one that is made in Oman and which uses genuine Omani frankincense resins. The aroma is bright, sharp, and penetrating, and very fragrant. This is an excellent frankincense stick, one that provides a very authentic frankincense aroma. It doesn’t state so on the package, but it’s quite likely that hougari frankincense are used in these sticks. The citrusy and balsamic notes associated with hougari are present in these sticks. Regardless of whether Hougari is used or not, this is a superior frankincense incense stick, and might just be the best in the market for those looking for a pure unadulterated frankincense scent without having to use the actual resins. This incense stick is about eight and half inches in length, with six inches of it being burnable, and the remaining two and half inches being the handle. This is very smoky, and burn time duration is about an hour and a half.

Incidentally, note that the Orthodox athonite myrrh resins are available from OrthodoxIncense.com. The Omani frankincense sticks are available from Ibn Saif Trading in Oman (see my review of this incense retailer in the Review Your Retailer section). The other incenses mentioned in this article can be found at various retailers on the internet.

So what are you burning this December? Are you veering toward the traditional frankincense and myrrh due to the holiday/seasonal associations? Or are you burning whatever suits your fancy? Perhaps something calming and relaxing to sooth raging emotions caused by holiday stress and madness? Chime in and let us know!

Pure Incense / Absolute / Cedarwood, Cedarwood & Lavender, Cedarwood & Rose, Cedarwood & Sandalwood, Saffron, Vanilla

This is the fourth installment of the large Pure Incense catalog and as it has been a while since the last one, I’d suggest clicking on the Pure Incense tag on the left to see the others as this is a mighty fine series of incenses with a diversity that probably won’t be self evident just from this particular subsection. Here I’ll be discussing several cedarwood blends, the Absolute Sandalwood and what perhaps could be considered the line’s most basic incense in the Absolute Vanilla. You may have guessed that these are all part of the line’s standard series, although in the case of many of these incenses they are the highest quality versions of their particular aroma. [NOTE 10/8/21: Due to variation in natural products it is unlikely Pure Incense reviews written from 2009-2013 will be completely accurate in 2021. Links below are to new versions, so please use caution in purchasing. Pure Incense uses different grade levels and you’re likely to find their best work in their Connoisseur and Connoisseur Vintage ranges. I will note that there are a surprising number of incenses on this page that show out of stock, but PI has been around so long, I’d wait to see if they circle around again in availability as I don’t think most of the ingredients on this page are too rare.]

As the Madhavadas family is the source of these incenses, it’s no surprise that their Absolute Cedarwood is more or less the exact same incense you’ll find in many lines such as Primo and Triloka, if not very similar to those from Incense from India and Mystic Temple. It’s a sweet and perfumed cedar, perhaps even more obviously so after trying Shroff’s most recent version, which is completely different. I’ve always had a fondness for this scent and consider it unique in comparison to other cedarwood scents, which often have little depth and are closer to, say, pencils than aromatic wood. No doubt this is due to an oil, but I’d guess its sweetness is also due to the line’s ubiquitous vanilla-enhanced base. I’d consider this the place to start before moving on to the hybrids as you’ll then be able to see how brilliantly a second ingredient tends to transmute the cedar aroma.

The first hybrid is the Absolute Cedarwood & Lavender whose added lavender perfume changes the entire contour of the cedarwood and as a result ends up in a very different lavender as well. The overall scent has definitely changed to the floral and just as the charcoal, vanilla and sandalwood base changes based on what is being laid over, the cedarwood also seems to go chameleon. It’s not even a combination I probably would have thought of and the result is something almost entirely new with neither main ingredient resembling what they do on their own. In fact you’d think this might be sweeter than it is, but it almost seems like those elements are cancelled out in the new equation.

The stick is a bit darker with the Absolute Cedarwood & Rose perhaps implying an adjustment of some sort to the base. To my nose the oil Madhavadas used on this stick strikes me as being a bit more “authentic” than the lavender and thus find this a very successful incense, the combination bringing out the darker and more mysterious aspects of both ingredients. It adds up to one of the more heavier rose incenses, but unlike many that are rough, this one has a pleasant roundedness. When I originally tried it as a sample, I ended up ordered a full 50g package. It’s only weakness is a slight ammoniac presence common to the occasional perfumed Indian stick.

Perhaps a more obvious pairing is the Absolute Cedarwood & Sandalwood and it’s probably not a surprise that the aroma is tilted more in the favor of the former ingredients and much closer to the base than the previous two mixes. The sandalwood does help to make this a much drier incense and as such it will be seen as an improvement for those whose tastes lie that way. It actually ends up with some rather unique combo notes, with the sandal presence taking the place of the cedar oil on the very top. There even seems to be a little patchouli in the mix, although I’m not sure if this is due to the combo or not. It’s actually quite an unpredictable scent in some ways.

Like the Cedarwood, I find the Absolute Saffron to be a fairly prevalent scent in Indian incense, although I’m not sure they’re all exactly the same given the possibility of diversity in such a scent. This version may not have the classic saffron scent per se, in fact it reminds me more of what I’ve occasionally seen classed as a saffron sandalwood, and that may very well be part of the base playing here. It’s an extremely dry incense, with a bit of spice in the middle as well as the usual vanilla subscent so common to this line of incenses. And there are even hints of some resins in the mix, or at least that’s what I’d guess is giving the incense its intensity and pungency. Quite nice and somewhat complex as well.

For those who have sampled many Pure Incense incenses, the Absolute Vanilla will probably strike you as the very base of the style, in that it really IS the Madhavadas Vanilla. For one thing, it’s relatively less powerful, as if the other oils have been subtracted. On the other hand it’s almost as if you can pick out the vanilla in most of the other incenses before you can with this one, where it’s very dry, as if the rest of the base is less disguised, such as the charcoal and sandalwood. Personally I find vanilla a rough thing in incense (perhaps my favorites are the Shroff Vanilla and Vanilla Balsam, neither of which is particularly comparable here), very difficult to get right and I’m not sure this one is particularly close, unless you have the predeliction for drier masalas.

Next installment will cover some patchouli and sandalwood variations and hybrids and beyond that I think there are a few newer scents I’ve not managed to try out yet, so still more to come.

Top Ten Incenses for July 2010

I have the pleasure of writing up the Top Ten Incenses for the month. Below are my top ten for July 2010. In the review process, I’ve re-acquainted myself with forgotten favorites, and have had to revise an opinion of an incense which at first I didn’t particularly care for all that much. That’s one of the bonuses of writing top ten reviews – old favorites resurface and remind you why their favorites and other incenses get additional chances to impress.

Well, without further ado, here’s my July Top Ten for 2010:

Pure Incense Blue Lotus: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and indeed, that’s what I’ve found with this incense. It’s been a while since I’ve burnt some Blue Lotus incense, and I only recently returned to it, but I’m glad that I did.  I’ve been critical in the past about Pure Incense, citing their base blend of charcoal, vanilla, and sandalwood creates a generic shared aroma to all their incenses.  I still think that is the case, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that they make very good incenses. This Blue Lotus is floral and perfumey, and sweet, and really all around lovely.

Shroff Patcholie (Patchouli): Earthy and perfumey, with just a touch of sweetness, this is a wonderful patchouli scent. It’s got a good scent throw, and one stick will scent a large room easily, leaving a lingering patchouli scent that is sure to please. One of the best patchouli incenses out there, with an authentic aroma, very affordable, and lasts a good long time. If you like patchouli, you owe it to yourself to try Shroff’s Patcholie.

Fred Soll’s Desert Patchouli: Different from Shroff’s patcholie in that there’s Soll’s signature blend of pinon resin present in this incense. This is a really nice patchouli pinon combination, with the pinon adding a nice resiny finish to the stick. Unlike Shroff’s version, the patchouli scent doesn’t have that sweet note in it, either.  This is a lighter and drier patchouli scent and worth trying as well.

Hougary Frankincense: This is the King, nay, the Emperor of all franks, and if you like frankincense, then you really must sample Hougary.  Resiny rich, with the balsamic base note and the wonderful citrusy lemon and/or orange top note, Hougary, which comes only from Oman, is in a class all by itself. Hougary is more expensive than other frankincenses, but you get what you pay for, and here you’ll get top notch quality. Even unlit, these resins perfume the air with their unique rich resin scent.

Al Haramain Bait Al Arab Cambodi Oudh Bakhoor: Baby, it’s bakhoor, and what a bakhoor! If you are unfamiliar with bakhoor, it is a type of incense from the Middle East.  Bakhoor can come in tablets, pellets, and/or chunks of woodchips. Bakhoors generally contain oudh (aloeswood) scent and are usually very aromatic and/or perfumey. Seriously, virtually every bakhoor that I’ve ever tried has packed a serious scent wallop. A little goes a very, very, very long way with these incenses. Al Haramain’s version of Bait Al Arab shouldn’t be confused with Swiss Arabian’s Bait al Arab (which was previously reviewed here on the ORS).  Firstly, Al Haramain’s Bait al Arab comes in perfume drenched wood chunks or chips, and not dry tablets like the Swiss Arabian version. Secondly, these woodchips are just permeated with one of the loveliest mélange of scents. A lot is going on here; the overall scent is a complex blend of oudh, amber, floral essences, and resins.  It’s very rich – and err, so is the price tag for this bakhoor.  Available at ParadisePerfumes.com, this retails for $39 CDN for 100 grams. However, since it is such a potent bakhoor, a little does go a long way and therefore this will last a long time. So in the end, you will get quality and your money’s worth. This is just my personal preference, but if I had to choose between Swiss Arabian’s version or Al Haramain’s version, I’d go with Al Haramain’s Bait Al Arab.  Incidentally, note that you will need charcoal tablets and/or an electric incense burner for this bakhoor. This type of incense cannot be burnt by itself, and needs a heating element like a hot coal or an electric incense burner.

Swiss Arabian’s Kashkha Oodh Muattar: Another bakhoor, this time from Swiss Arabian. This bakhoor smells like a sophisticated aloeswood floral perfume. I’m not kidding, if you like perfumey aloeswood, or just perfumes and colognes in general, you should consider trying this bakhoor.  Kashkha comes in small agarwood (aloeswood) pellets, and even unlit, smells of oudh, musk, and floral essences.  This is because the agarwood has been drenched in concentrated perfume, and thus emits its  oudhy floral goodness into the air. Though bakhoors aren’t generally aimed as for being for one particular gender, I would classify the Kashkha scent as being more feminine. It truly does remind me of a high end women’s perfume. This bakhoor also requires charcoal tablets and/or an electric incense burner to burn it. Note that this bakhoor is available for purchase at: http://www.mukhalat.com/Bakhoor_c2.htm.  I hasten to add that I did not purchase my Kashkha bakhoor from Mukhalat.com, so I have no idea what their customer service is like. However, note that Mukhalat offers free shipping on all products for delivery within the USA.

Gangchen Healing Buddha Incense:  Excellent and affordable incense from Gangchen. The box states that “These Aroma Therapeutic incense is made from very special thirty-one (agar 31) natural ingredients. This incense specially made for Lungny (wind diseases) which we got from nervous and fear, such as heart attack, insomnia, shivering, temporary loss of consciousness, back pain, dryness of the mouth.  This incense can help.  Also it’s very good for massage.”  This is gentle and soothing incense, with a soft woody aroma. The scent is comprised of aloeswood, juniper, and Himalayan herbs.  I personally find it very calming and relaxing, and one good for decompressing and unwinding.

Baieido’s Koh En:  A delicious spicy aloeswood treat that is to be whipped out for those special occasions, or when one is feeling particularly indulgent and/or flush. This is one of Baieido’s more upscale aloeswood incenses, and retails for $120 USD for sixty 6.5 inch sticks (though given how expensive some of the kyara incenses are, this is really more like the mid-tier or low end of the upscale level!).  My budget doesn’t allow for this to be an everyday treat. But when that aloeswood craving needs to be satisfied, this incense is one that will certainly fit the bill (alas, in more ways than one! 😮 ).

Minorien Fu-In Sandalwood: Classic sandalwood scent, using classic “old mountain” sandalwood from India.  If you’re looking for an authentic sandalwood scent that won’t break the bank, then try Minorien Fu. This is excellent sandalwood incense, and one that is not likely to disappoint.

Tibetan Medical College’s Holy Land Grade 2: This is a surprise entry even to me, given that when I first tried Holy Land Grade 2 a few months ago, I was underwhelmed. All the hype and praise heaped upon it had built it up to mythical levels, plus I was still in my perfumey incense phase, and was at the time, taken aback by this incense’s muscular rawness, its combination of musk and floral and spice and dark earthiness.  To give you a point of reference, if you’ve tried Dzogchen Monastery Lotus Incense, think of Holy Land Grade 2 as similar to that, but amplified and expanded upon.  Anyway, as time passed and I fell into a Tibetan incense phase, I started burning the HL Grade 2, and slowly, little by little, I went from being disinterested to liking it, and now to really loving it. In a previous email to an ORS reader, I had stated that once I had used up my HL Grade 2 that I wasn’t going to re-purchase it, opting instead to spend my money on other incenses. But now, as I look at the last few sticks of it in my collection, I’m forced to reconsider that notion…

Well there you have it, my top ten for the month – all incenses that I heartily recommend. What ten incenses are in your top ten for July? Chime in and let us know what you’ve been burning, and why. 🙂



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