Gang-Zi Nunnery Incense

Sometimes a scent has to percolate in the back of your head for it to speak to you when it’s ready, and sometimes you don’t even realize it’s happening, but as I lit a stick of Gang-Zi Nunnery incense I realized the scent of it reminded me of the original Samye Monastery scent. I had reviewed this latter incense so long ago that I had even forgotten that it had a name at the time, Samanthabadhra. Since then I feel like Samye Monastery incense has changed to a completely different formula, leaving something of a vacuum where the old scent used to sit in my memory. However as the link describes, this comes from a nunnery close to Samye Monastery so it’s probably not a surprise there’s some crossover in tradition.

Gang-Zi Nunnery is one of a group of incenses (the Holy Lands, the original Dzongsar, Wara, maybe a few others) where the scent has a level of density that appears to be fairly uncommon in Tibetan incenses but it is always notable. Unlike these other incenses, Gang-zi Nunnery has some similarity to other Tibetan red stick formulas, especially some pink colored sticks from Bhutan (once again I’ll note the link stating the nunnery sits close to the border) that seem to be as resinous as they are woody. Also, unlike those other incenses this is a sweet one, almost candy-like, with a strong hit of musk to it. As in the Samye review, this also has a rather strong spice mix, certainly hints of clove and nutmeg in the profile. It also has what I might describe as a velvet smoothness to it, but it also impacts the local atmosphere pretty strongly which hints a bit at a possibly faunal source. And on top, along with the resin, there are hints of the floral as well. All in it all it’s a wonderfully complex incense but unlike say Dzongsar (which is a bit too much for me) and Wara (which I’m hopelessly addicted to), this is also pretty friendly and more immediately accessible. Quite recommended, an almost essential scent for Tibetan incense lovers.


I just wanted to give a shout out to Hart and everyone else at this fantastic source for Tibetan incense which has now been added to our sellers below on the left And by Tibetan incense I don’t mean the kind of wood filler/campfire sorts of scents you get with a lot of cheaper fare, I mean the real deal, the monasteries and therapeutic incenses from the heart of Tibet. My rule for being on this list is personal experience from myself or any of our staff and I’ve just ordered my third box and the service is terrific. If you’re in the US, you will find this seller is likely to get your incense to you as fast as any other domestic incense seller.

First of all if you’re like me and Tibetan Medical College Holy Land sits permanently among your favorite top 10 or 20 incenses then Incense Traditions is an excellent source for this and the price is much cheaper than what Essence of the Ages charged for it years ago. I notice that over time the A grade of this incense evolves a little but at heart it still remains the same classic. In fact it’s almost like the subtle notes are what change, making it tremendously fascinating. I was also reminded that their long stick Grade 2 is really just as good, maybe not quite a complex but on the other hand it delivers exactly what I love about it. Honestly when I get in boxes and rolls of these two scents I often find it hard to burn anything else. It was nice to try another of the company’s incenses, Long Du Relaxing Incense, although it is a very different sort of blend, almost like the home scent embedded in a more woody, foresty sort of mix, definitely quite cooling. But seriously, if you read this site and have not tried Holy Land yet then, please, check it out as soon as you can. It is a wonder of the incense world. I can think of very very few incenses for $10 a box/$12 a roll that are this good.

I believe when I reviewed Nectar here so many years ago I thought it fell under Tibetan Medical College. It is actually an incense of the Traditional Tibetan Medicine Pharmaceutical Company. With language differences it’s probably not shocking those two would get mixed up, not to mention Holy Land and Nectar share certain similarities, but it was also good to revisit this as well, I was reminded what a fantastic incense it is in its own right. The notes here on saffron and borneol are well on point too.

Samye Monastery Incense is a funny one as well as it seems like every time I get a box of this from whoever it’s like a completely different incense. They’re always good, rich and dense, complex and deluxe, but my review elsewhere on this site is ultimately obsolete. I do like the new blend though, it’s got a very high altitude resins and wood combination I am looking forward to exploring more. Like I mentioned when I started this article, there’s a feeling of the legit to it, it’s not one of those “let’s bury a mild scent in a bunch of cheap wood” sorts of things that tends to be common among other Tibetan dealers. It has a crystalline brilliance to it that I am getting to know better.

Gang-Zi Mani Nunnery incense is a neat little gem in a striking black tube. One sort of branch of Tibetan incenses often tend to have a sort of red/berry sort of scent to them and this falls roughly in that rubric while being quite a bit more complex that what you usually find. I also like that has user reviews and would draw your attention to how insightful and dead on a lot of the regular reviewers are there, as I too sense a sort of resinous almost frankincense like resin in the mix along with the berry like redness but then there’s a whole other herbal and spice level to it that really adds to its complexity.

Anyway I highly recommend checking out some of the company’s sampler boxes. I’ve been working my way through their Tibet Monastery Incense Collection #2 (I just ordered a box of the Baigu, but it’s a bit early for me to share notes, but I liked it right away). I will also add that a lot of incenses are sorted by various notes/tags. When I clicked on the one for “pungent” for Wara Incense I laughed, and you would have to go dig up my long-ago review of Dzongsar incense, to figure out why, but yes I noticed the similarity right away. I am not yet done with you Wara!

Anyway there’s a lot to discover here and I’m definitely busy checking more out. I tend to find myself needing to switch from Japanese to Indian to Tibetan incenses when I want something different and exploring this site has really given me more appreciation for some of Tibet’s deep cuts. And oh they seem to be nicely stocked on the Bhutanese end, and it has been a while since I dipped my toes in there. Highly recommended source for great incense.