Gokula Incense / Marigold & Juhi, Musk & Amber, Musk & Champa, Musk Heena, Musk & Patchouli, Pink Rose

Agarwood & Musk, Agar Sandal, Aloeswood & Jasmine, Amber & Frankincense, Celestial Fruits, Chocolate & Vanilla
Flora Fluxo, Floral Bouquet, Gold Sandal, Jasmine & Lotus, Jasmine & Nag Champa, Lotus & Kewra

This is the third of four in a series of Gokula Incense reviews, please see the first installment for an introduction to the company.

In the latest installment I wrote about three very good floral incenses, some of which used marigold and/or juhi in the aromas. However the Marigold & Juhi as an incense on its own is probably the first Gokula incense I’ve come across I found actively unpleasant. Floral charcoals often have pitfalls of having bitter, sour or other off notes and this one seems to have the middle quality. The lemon or citrus qualities (described on the site as citric floral) are a too loud and while the charcoal often isn’t too bad in Gokula incenses, it’s unwelcome in this sort of combination. Perhaps this is just my own feelings about citrus floral mixes and I admit I don’t usually like them so if you do you might like this one better.

Then we go from maybe the worst to probably the best incense in the catalog that I’ve tried, Musk & Amber. In the last year I’ve sampled a number of great Vedic Vaani musks and this one is akin to those that lean more in the animalic direction rather than the sweet. Amber always seems to pair really well with musk and there is a thickness to this scent that a lot of the catalog doesn’t have as much. There’s something about amber that brings out some balsamic qualities in the middle that really compliment the musk so it’s almost a perfect merger. The site also describes this as having frankincense, hina and sandalwood in the mix and while I wouldn’t expect any of these notes to be loud they certainly help with the complexity. I know this is one I would bulk up on with a repeat visit, it’s just extraordinary so I’d certainly recommend adding this to an order.

The Musk & Champa incense is a scent that I’ve gotten really familiar with through the Vedic Vaani catalog. VV have a gigantic host of sticks that are dark brown colored and usually have some level of halmaddi in the mix. They’re a faint cousin to some of the darker flora/fluxos but in something like 8 out of 10 cases the top note is something that doesn’t quite come together with the rest of the stick. This note often kind of reminds me of crayon or an oil used in a candle. For sure whatever the musk here is very different to that used in Musk & Amber and is much moved over to the sweet side but I’d guess that element is either synthetic or created from a combination of elements. This probably includes the agarwood and saffron given as side notes. Where the champa is soft and powdery in the florals I described last review, everything in this incense blots out those gentle elements. Don’t get me wrong, this is likely to be something ORS readers will like, but I will admit these sort of incenses are heavily fatiguing me. But I have tried a couple that got the balance right outside of Gokula, although I will have to discuss those another day.

One of my new favorite aromas of late is heena (also hina), the leaves from the tree that impart a lovely green note very different from western trees. Like amber, and sometimes included with amber, heena imparts a really different characteristic to incenses that tends to make the aroma a bit more complex, because being fairly unique it tends to broaden any profile its put in. While I’d love to see what Gokula imports could do for a Musk, Amber and Heena incense, the Musk Heena here is still a really lovely scent with the heena sorta of tempering the animalic qualities of the musk. It keeps a sort of bitter but somewhat evergreen meets herbal freshness to the scene that a lot of these other musk incenses don’t quite have as much. So this is a yummy goody as well, well worth checking out.

It’s strange that with some of the Gokula musk incenses being so powerful that the Musk & Patchouli would be such a mild incense and not really be strong in either ingredient. Perhaps some of this profile is because of the additionally listed ingredients of sandalwood, frankincense and neroli. It seems more like this was going for a champa-ish incense without really evoking musk or patchouli all that much. The incense is instead cooling, camphorous, powdery and has quite a bit of vanilla. So it’s a relatively mellow scent but seems to have a bit of resolution nonetheless. The incenses tilts largely over to a dusted charcoal but even some of these that are quite firm seem to have a bit of halmaddi in them. I wouldn’t really get this for the musk or patchouli, and nor would I recommend this as a starter incenses but there’s little wrong with it. It just doesn’t leap out and grab you and I would guess it doesn’t end up being particularly memorable.

Finally, we have the Pink Rose with a similarly colored masala. All roses these days are usually created from something else as it’s rarely been an affordable oil. This often results in incenses well off the aroma and some can be painful. Gokula have the right compromise which is basically something of a sweet floral hybrid, a very common take on a recipe (think Krishna Rose at Absolute Bliss for example). This is certainly a pleasant version of it and while it’s not really all that near rose, it’s likely to be well appreciated as long as you’re not overstocked in this area.

Advertisement

Pure Incense / Connoisseur Govardhana Heena, Conoisseur Sandalwood Extreme De Luxe, Connoisseur Shiromani Chandan

In this third, most recent installment of Pure Incense reviews, I tried to lean a bit more in the sandalwood direction, although this group includes composite scents. There are, however, only three in this particular batch as it turned out one of the incenses I originally intended to review turned out not to be dried properly (it happens), but I will also mention Pure Incense took care of this issue nice and speedily. So for the remaining three…

The Govardhana Heena is described as “a blend of Hina oil with Agarwood from Assam.” If you look up Hina (or Heena, the transliteration seems to be commonly interchangeable) oil you will find that it can be referred to as the essential oil of the Hina flower (part of the Henna tree) or a mix of a number of different ingredients. Here I believe it’s probably the gentle floral that is sitting quite prettily on a mild, spicy oud oil. The sandalwood/vanilla mix in the base is particularly complementary for this arrangement and it doesn’t even manage to drown out the oud, although it may be a close to an equal note. Mostly the attraction of this incense is the resolute hina oil, which is just one of those pleasant and mild floral scents that stays soft and powdery rather than spiking you with off notes. My only potential criticism, perhaps only because I got a few sticks, is I do wonder if this aroma will have staying power over time or if it might fade into something more generic. But it is deeply wonderful at the moment. It reminds me a little of the Minorien Kagiku/Chrysanthemum in some ways because of the floral/agarwood combo (or maybe more conceptually, and not aromatically, to the Absolute Bliss White Lotus Oudh Saffron) which is something I find myself really enjoying when you want the beauty of a floral with some depth to it.

I’m always somewhat amused to see the word extreme applied to a sandalwood as it’s always struck me as one of the more gentle and mild woody aromas, but then again when you crank it up this much the word does start to apply. This Connoisseur Sandalwood Extreme De Luxe is another deep sandalwood on charcoal stick that is quite comparable to similar sticks at Temple of Incense and Absolute Bliss. I am actually starting to think about these in terms of the “vintage” of the sandalwood oil because if you compared all three you would certainly find some level of scent variation, but all are also quite enjoyable and this really has the oil turned up in a way that mutes the charcoal, perhaps more than the other two. While I certainly still prize the Temple of Incense stick for the way it digs up nostalgia and scent memory, I find this one to also be a really attractive heavily powerful sandalwood oil with something of a slightly tangy presence, but even if there’s no specific identification page on where this oil comes from it still strikes me as close to the upper echelon with the wood. There are even some intriguing fruity subnotes I don’t quite remember from other sandalwoods which is a tendency I tend to find more common with some ouds. This one does indeed go up to eleven.

Connoisseur Shromani Chandan is a stick that hearkens back not so much to the sorts of powerful Mysore oil incenses that often tend to be the high end for Indian sandalwood incenses, but to something a bit more standard or common. Chandan is a sanskrit name for sandalwood, but it is a word you used to see a lot more frequently on incenses, and this is somewhat reminiscent of an incense from a previous installment, the Catuhuama Oud Musk, albeit without the oud note. Sticks like this in the old masala days would highlight the more buttery and sugary aspects of the wood and as such is probably more recognizable as a sandalwood scent to most people than a lot of the more higher grade Mysore-sourced woods and oils we discuss here. The vanilla in the base is also pretty loud here and would have to be considered part of the overall aroma. While it’s not a stick I find complex I do feel that the oils here are pretty strong at the top end, although it feels more like a vanilla and sandalwood end note than just the wood itself (even the vanilla seems like its a bit more at oil strength than just the powder, but I’m not sure if its materials or the combo). I can’t personally go back to the 70s to really compare it, but even in the 80s and 90s you could find sticks that pointed to this area of the aromatic spectrum. Of course the thing is, you only need to pay a couple of pounds more to get a box of the Extreme so I’d certainly try that one first if you had to pick one sandalwood, but this is a friendly well done incense stick nonetheless.