Shang Valley of Shigatse / Gangtruk Grade A and Grade B Incenses classifies both of the Shang Valley of Shigatse Gangtruk incenses under a “therapeutic” category. Many of these incenses that fall under this rubric have a surprisingly addictive quality to them. I think there’s something to be said for incenses that make you reach for them, to crave them and to think about them when they are not burning. To this day I still reach incredibly frequently for my Holy Lands and my Wara monastery incenses, there is something about them that relaxes me after a long day. Winding down with these burning and a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I could be adding at least Gangtruk Grade A to this short list.

Both of the Gangtruk incenses are created in or by the Shang Valley of Shigatse. These appear to both be intentionally marketed, in part, to the English speaking audience as there’s some informative literature on the boxes. Gangtruk Grade A is an incredibly rich and beautiful incense, one I added to the ORS Tibetan Hall of Fame list. Gangtruk incenses are a little thinner than the usual Tibetan stick and that thinnness will once again remind some of Bosen incenses, Shambhalla, Five Fragrances and the like (although this stick is a bit more fragile than any of those). There is something about this kind of formulation that really makes the evergreen qualities of Tibetan incense pop in a surprising way. But the cool thing about Gangtruk A is that it doesn’t move completely in that direction, it also has qualities more common to the usual traditional blends. Grade A contains 30 therapeutic herbs and other precious substances, including white and red sandalwood, saffron, musk, bamboo manna and clove. That’s actually the first occurrence I’ve ever seen of bamboo mana, and I’m not sure I can quite pick it out, but there’s something in the middle of the scent that is cypress-like and evergreen, which is a quality I adore in incense. Some of this could be a healthy hit of resinous ingredients as well. The musk hit is really gigantic in this one, it nearly cuddles up the whole bouquet in its warm embrace. Overall this is one of the best of the real traditional Tibetan incenses, it has has a lot of the same elements that other traditionals have, but this is of really peak richness and quality.

Gangtruk Grade B is slightly less expensive and only slightly less rich and is enough of a different recipe to treat them as two separate incenses. Which is a bit surprising when you consider the ingredients listed are the same. The evergreen/resin note from the Grade A is not in this one at all and the overall aroma is a lot more tangy and akin to the more harvest-like, rhododendron-infused Tibetan sticks. This one has a bit more of the funky Tibetan note, just enough to kind of liven up the entire blend and mix with the musk in a way that’s completely different from the Grade A. I actually enjoy the contrast quite a bit because they obviously both come from the same shop and so it’s fascinating to see two completely different incenses in comparison. Again it’s notable just how rich and dense these sticks are, there’s no feeling whatsoever that there’s too much wood in the middle or that that aroma isn’t something that won’t grab your imagination right away. If you love the Grade A, I’m sure this one will be next on your list.