Nehnang Monastery / Nehnang No. 1 Tibetan Incense

I’m always a bit charmed by what lowering the ambient temperature of the room does to Tibetan incense. If you consider the colder weather in higher mountain latitudes, it sort of makes sense, but in California, where a streak of 100 degree plus days is a fair norm during the summer, you do have to take into account that even regular heat can sometimes hide the notes of a fine monastery incense. I often like lighting one of these first thing in the morning when its cooler and it’s almost a necessity for an incense as complex and interesting as Nehnang No. 1 (I covered the No. 2 some time back). The No. 1 is described as containing “25 kinds of “pure natural precious fragrances”, incl. nutmeg, clove, spikenard and cinnamon.” While spikenard (or sometimes nard) is often not listed in a monastery incense ingredient list (although it might often still be there), when it is you can almost be sure it’ll be a more profound note and here you can definitely sense it as part of the background. In fact there’s something about it that I think tends to pull out the resinous elements that aren’t listed. The remaining listed ingredients, of course, show that this has a nice bit of spice to it. But it might be stressed overall that this does have a different profile than the No. 2 and one might stress that this appears to be about double the price of the next grade. Perhaps strangely while sandalwood is listed in the No. 2 but not in the No. 1, I would still describe this one as a bit woodier of an incense. It’s just that within the base there’s a large amount of spice and herbal notes that come out that show an almost delicate intricacy to the composition that is intensely fascinating. I might say it earns an almost Baieido-like level of “listening” in order to suss out how truly complex it is. As I let this stick burn down, I’m quite surprised at how the spice comes out sometimes, while at others its the spikenard or some unique, leafy herbal note. While I wouldn’t describe this as quite as musky as the No. 2, it does have some level of it that is sweet. It might be worth nothing here that there is a Nehnang Vegetarian No. 1 as well which kind of hints that this one probably isn’t. If I would further sell this incense, I would just remark that it’s fairly unique in its scent profile, much more so than the No. 2. Anyway this is certainly recommended for the monastery incense afficionado for sure, it shows the marks of a blender of high skill and sophistication.

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Nehnang Monastery / Nehnang No. 2 Tibetan Incense

I’m sort of scratching my head right now trying to remember what my impressions were for the two other Nehnang Monastery incenses. This amounted to something like a No. 1 but also a Vegetarian No. 1 where there doesn’t seem to be a Vegetarian No. 2 listed, so I may have sort of mixed up in my head the two number 1s (although I have noted that I did have sample of the Vegetarian). But for sure the Nehnang No. 2 is in the same tradition of salty, woody, musky, bag-of-pistachios scented Tibetan incenses like the Holy Lands, Dirapuk Monastery Tibetan Incense, Ga’re Therapeutic Incense etc. It reminded me that any of these usually tend to be a bit more woody or slightly evergreen than the Holy Lands, which have always felt a bit more streamlined to me, perhaps due to whatever is making up the hue of the sticks.

The problem with reviewing a stick like this after saying the same things for similar incenses is that it’s fairly difficult to describe what is different about them, Even the ingredients list: “…contains more than 30 ingredients, incl. white, red and purple sandalwoods, cinnamon, borneol and clove” is pretty much about what you’d expect. Perhaps one difference I might notice is that because this has a more powerful spice and musk presence, occasionally you will feel the combined weight of the two show up in quite an impressive way that I don’t think I’ve quite seen in any of these other named incenses. While it’s pitched in about the same place as the Ga’re or TPN Nectar, it’s a bit more basic than the latter, without the more floral notes (which would likely be more subsumed in this sort of mix anyway). Like all of these incenses they’re all in about the same price range. There really are a lot of very, very good monastery incenses. Anyway I sent for the “regular” No. 1 and will get to that one at a separate time, because this is quite good for anything you might call a No. 2.