Holy Transfiguration Monastery / Imperial Jasmine, Anatolian Rose, Damascus Rose, Mount Horeb, Sinai

This is what is known as Eastern Orthodox style resin incense or cakes. They come from Holy Transfiguration Monastery, It is based on ( at least in this case) high grade frankincense, with essential oils, spices or perfumes added in . It comes packed in unfired clay, probably to keep it from sticking together in its container, so when you first open the various containers you see these very small, square bricks somewhere between 1/8 to 3/16 inches across surrounded in powder. I must tell you that each one of these little guys pack quite a punch. Some are more potent then others but on the whole three to four in your heater or on a piece of charcoal or incense trail is plenty. A one ounce sampler is probably going to be more then enough for many months of use.

There are four price ranges to choice from, the difference, I believe being the cost of the raw materials (oils and spices). One thing that stands out right away is the quality of materials used in the blends.

They have a large number of blends to chose from of many different types and mixes.

I recommend starting with their one ounce samplers, they go a long way.

Imperial Jasmine

Very soon after turning on the heater you start to notice a very floral scent that has a subtle jasmine/flowery/ almost sweet note. As the cakes heat up more of the oil is released and at that point the “Imperial” part of the name makes sense. It is a very distinct jasmine smell, very much like putting your face into a large hedge of jasmine and taking a deep breath. To my mind it is one of the nicest florals I have yet experienced. The frankincense in the back round helps to even out the notes and it is here that you can get a sense of the quality of the resin. What more can I say other then it’s a really nice and clean smell.

Anatolian Rose:
A light, clean and very beautiful rose smell. Not at all heavy, yet still very floral and uplifting in nature. More white rose then red, far less demanding then the Damascus style.
This is something you could end up using a lot of and not being overwhelmed. I found myself classifying it as the rose of the garden rather then the bedroom.

Damascus Rose:
This is the really deep, rich and complex rose smell that makes me think of “A Thousand And One Nights”. It’s the classic red rose scent with a slight lemon-ish note in the back round, possibly helped along by the same qualities in the frankincense. It smells pretty much like a full blown red rose. Again, the scent grows the longer it is on the heater and also the scent tends to linger in the room for quite awhile. It’s a classic.

Mount Horeb:
Biblically this is where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, it also means Mountain of the Sun, so I was not to sure what to expect. It is quite different from the three florals above. There seem to be quite a lot of different spices in this mix, many of them I am not recognizing. Either because of the way the blend is put together (in other words, a very even mix) or because they are very particular to the Middle East. Ok, there might be a touch of cinnamon/cassis in there, but really a part of its charm is the learning curve on this one. It will take quite awhile to understand what is going on here. In the mean time it is very pleasant and refreshing, much like a cool breeze at sunset after the heat of the day. This is becoming one of my favorite things to burn.

This is their high end mix which they characterize as “A rich and heady fragrance developed by the monastery, compounded of essential oils imported from the deserts of northern Africa”. Like the Mount Horeb above there is a lot going on in this mix, much of which is not familiar to my nose. It brings to mind the idea of Kyara, not the scent, but the concept or ranking of Kyara in the Aloes. It smells great but at the same time you would not want to use this all the time because it would lose its special quality. They say it is “A pure and lingering fragrance suitable for important feast days.” It’s deep, sort of floral, yet dry at the same time and then all these other scents come drifting by. To say complex would be just the tip of it. It is also really hard to describe in a western mind set, nailed down manner. If you use a heater or even coals, then start at a very low setting and gently work your way up because there are different things going on at different temperatures. Fascinating.

One last little thing. They sell the frankincense they use for their blends. They have three kinds. I got a pound of the “Eden Frankincense”, I do not think it is made there :). But they will not say where it is from. It is very small, translucent tears that burn with a very clean, light lemony/citrus scent. Really, really nice. I plan on trying the other two kinds soon. All of them are a great price, especially since high grade frankincense is not always easy to find.

There are many monastery’s that make incense and I can see that there is going to be quite a lot of sampling going on for me, I find this to be a nice side trip from my love of Japanese incense. Gives me a little perspective and I also find it interesting how so many different scents can be put together from many of the same building blocks