Every once in a while you come across an incense where just trying to figure out the name is difficult. Essence of the Ages has this incense marked as Labrang, which might seem to be a drift of spelling, but when you see the microscopic English font that describes the incense it’s easy to see why. The other aspect is the biggest font on the package actually says Snowfield Chinese Herbal Incense. It’s difficult to tell whether Snowfield or Labuleng is the right “company” so to speak and it’s confused even more by the fact there’s also a perfume company involved.
In fact having a perfume company on board, while par for the course for Japanese or Indian incense, is quite unusual for Tibetan style incenses. And in fact it would really be difficult to think of this as a Tibetan style, as the sticks are about half as thin as the normal size. They are, however, very long and given you get three rolls of this for $10.50, this is actually a very inexpensive incense. Usually this isn’t a good sign where perfume is concerned, but as you might expect the way the base and perfumes work together in this incense is entirely unlike anything you’ve probably tried before.
For one thing, Labuleng is a surprisingly mellow incense. The fresh stick isn’t particularly heavy with oil or perfume, but it does give off a scent entirely different from most Tibetan sticks, that tend to be earthy, stable-like or heavily herbal. The incense goes for a much more subtle approach, part-Temple, part modern. It’s fairly basic at heart with what seems like a solid, if somewhat inexpensive sandalwood background. The scent on top is wet, slightly floral (in the jasmine direction) incense that reminds me a little of the Grade 1 Mindroling in that it’s not the kind of incense to leap out and grab you, but seems to be ultimately of good quality.
Perhaps the only downside is that the mellowness doesn’t give it a tremendous personality, but I don’t think that makes it any different than most incenses in its price range. On the contrary, its restrained personality might appeal to those who like less smoke incenses, as it’s always unobtrusive and light hearted.