Dzogchen Monastery / Brilliant Gem Incense

Readers of Olfactory Rescue Service may be familiar with Dzogchen Monastery’s classic Lotus Ground Incense, which used to be one of the finest Tibetan style incenses on the market, a scent completely unique and unduplicated anywhere else. I’ve been informed that it is current unavailable for sale in the west, but of course we hope to see that change eventually. Strangely enough, Dzogchen’s Brilliant Gem incense, which also fluctuated in availability now seems to be available for the time being. So I grabbed a box just based on Lotus Ground to see if they had replicated their magic with another incense.

Brilliant Gem is actually as solidly traditional as Lotus Ground isn’t. I was actually somewhat surprised as it ended up being a rather unremarkable scent. Certainly it’s on par with most of what comes out of Tibetan (or Nepal) as it’s largely made from woods and thus comes closer to pure campfire type aromas. There’s probably a touch of spice in the mix, but it does not seem to rise above the base. And while the incense does follow the double roll packaging of Lotus ground the box is much shorter. After a few sticks I didn’t really notice anything hidden about the formula. It does not have the same kind of ash reside as Lotus Ground either. In some ways it’s hard to believe it comes from the same monastery as it’s completely different in every way. And the woods used don’t seem to be particularly rich in resin or aromatic content. It does manage to avoid and off notes or harsh qualities which does leave the finished burn fairly smooth, it’s just that there isn’t much to say about it in the end.


March 2010’s Top Ten

The Olfactory Rescue Service Top 25 (Mike and Ross)

Today we introduce to you the Olfactory Rescue Service Top 25. However, unlike our usual top 10s and last year’s combined top 20, we thought we’d do something a little bit different and a little bit tricky. This year’s top 25 is something of a meta-list, in a way we want to capture the best of incense by looking at things from a larger perspective. So instead of having one incense per entry, we’re just going for broke: full companies, sublines, incenses, incense materials, incense supplementals – everything we could think of that would lead to a top tier incense experience. In fact we started at a top 20, expanded it to a 25 to make sure we got everything and ended up with a pretty good group.

Please keep in mind as always that our best of lists are something of a lark. For one thing I think both Ross and I probably find it somewhat difficult to truly tier these in order and so while maybe we like the stuff at the top a little more than at the bottom, maybe, there’s no particular rhyme or reasoning to the ordering and we consider everything on here to be superlative work, perhaps with a few individual idiosyncracies we won’t mention. As a whole though, I think this is a good look at what we consider the best incense related stuff on the US market today and we’ve pared it down only to include what is available here. As each entry often includes several incenses, we’ve left off links to reviews and sites, but just about everything on here has been reviewed previously and links to them can be found in our Reviews Index. So, after the cut, the ORS Top 25. Read the rest of this entry »

Dzogchen Monastery / Lotus Ground Incense

[As of 6/17/2021, Lotus Ground Incense is currently unavailable in the west. References to previous prices and sellers have been removed.]

Lotus Ground Incense is one of the finest offerings to be imported from China in the modern age, a truly spectacular, refined incense of an uncommonly high class. Sold in single or double rolls, this is a world class incense, not only among the best Tibetan China has to offer, but quite arguably the most sophisticated and Japanese-worthy scent to be offered. Not only is the stick slightly thinner than most Tibetan sticks, but it’s also redolent of extracts and perfumes directly on the stick.

When I first opened the box I knew this one would be special as it gives off a strong, spicy aroma like a combination of cinnamon, saffron and musk. And strangely enough, cinnamon isn’t even listed in its primary group of 17 ingredients, which also include red and white sandalwood, titepati, ganden grass, jattamasi, sunpati, aggur, kushum flower, surchandan and saldhoop. I would expect some of these ingredients show up as extracts as this is as redolent a Tibetan incense off the stick as you’ll find.

Aromatically this is also fairly unusual in that the smoke content’s a bit lower than it normally is for a Chinese Tibetan incense and the remaining ash tends to a brick red color, which is fairly unusual for any incense. The scent is both mellow and striking in its intensity, a rare balance, that puts the saffron, cinnamon and musk up front as the base aroma, but also implies a much greater complexity than these three afford in their own right. There’s definitely an unsual floral element at work that winds its way through the burn almost like it’s playing hide and seek, in fact the nature of this incense is almost like a sine curve in the way that it’ll play subtly in the background and then whip out to stun you with its pristine and regal bouquet. Like most excellent monastery incense it has loads of juju or spiritual potency at work and it seems difficult to not call this incense a product of the fire element, like kundalini at its very base, indeed its playfulness is very much like watching the flickering of a flame.

Overall it’s difficult not to see this one close to the apex of incense art, along with Tibetan Medical College, Samye Monastery, Medicine King and Highland incenses, but even with that said there’s even a greater refinement on this one, as it’s not quite as wild and untamed as the rest of these. Ultimately it’s a brilliant, classic incense that gets the highest marks I can give it.