Lama Chodpa incense, assumedly named for the recipes’ creator, is made by the Friends of Nub Gon Monastery rather than being a monastery incense per se. Rather than creating four different incenses, the Lama Chodpa line almost seems to be variations on a theme, or at least the standard tube the incenses come in is basically stamped with the formula name, with the incenses all being roughly close in scent, with just enough differences to lack repetition. Strangely enough, it seems that the promo names and the names stamped on the rolls vary a little, and, in the same order, Essence of the Ages has these incenses listed as Cleansing, Flower, Meditation and Relaxation.
The quality of these incenses fall somewhere in the middle, not quite up to the heights of Chinese/Tibetan masterpieces like Tibetan Medical College Holy Land or the Highland line. At the same time, they are aromatically dense and made with quality ingredients setting them apart from the inexpensive variants and subsequently more on the level of incenses by Stupa, Dhoop Factory and Zongkar Choede. All four incenses come in smaller 5″ and larger 8″ rolls and are essentially very affordable.
Lama Chodpa Clean Environment/Cleansing incense is a deep red stick with a lot of potency. Roughly a red berry, somewhat standard incense, the addition of asta sughanda (or at least a combination of ingredients very similar to that scent) gives the incense quite a bit of tang and a hint of sourness. There’s quite a bit of wood here, possibly some juniper and a strong camphor element, not to mention a bit of cinnamon and cardamom presence that adds to the incense’s overall richness. I like the strength of this one, although it does have that rough, earthy and somewhat gravelly presence that Tibetan incenses with a lot of evergreens tend to have.
Flower Incense also has this very woody Lama Chodpa core to it and isn’t really a true floral like you’d expect from the name. It’s actually more of a standard Tibetan red with just as much spice content as the rose and other flowers. Like Clean Environment, the aroma is quite full, but the two scents diverge, as this is a much sweeter and friendly-to-the-Western-nose incense than Clean Environment and is perhaps the line’s most accessible scent. Like all the incenses here there’s a freshness and quality of ingredients that are nearly perfect for the price. Perhaps the one to start with.
For Meditation has the most noticeable rose content of the three incenses that list it in the ingredients and is really the most floral of the four. Unlike many rose incenses that bring out the sour burnt petal-like scent, the aspect is well balanced, although I assume some of this balance is due to the line’s heavy wood content. Like Clean Environment, this has a bit of tang to it, which undoubtedly is part of the two incenses overlapping ingredients. The biggest difference would be Meditation’s basil content, which gives it a stronger herbal content. Overall it might be the least distinctive of the four, and is generally the hardest one for me to remember after burning.
For Relaxation is the spiciest incense of the four and despite lacking cinnamon in the ingredient list, seems to have the most noticeable content, probably a byproduct of the nutmeg, clove and cardamom. It’s generally a red/berry sort of scent, which seems to be the standard middle through all of these incenses, but it moves in a drier and mellower direction. Perhaps the most unobtrusive of the four scents here, with an almost metallic sheen with some sublime qualities the other three scents don’t seem to evoke.
Overall all four of these incenses, at heart, are quite similar at core, which might be best described as quality generic; that is, while these follow traditional and familiar formulas they have a strength of ingredient that keeps them at a remove from other heavy wood Tibetans that lack richness. At times one or two of these will stand out, in particular I found the rose content in several of these to differentiate themselves from other lines, but these differences are mostly noticed with attentive listening rather than casual burning, during which the differences among the four will be less noticeable.