Pure Incense / Connoisseur Blue Lotus & Musk, Connoisseur Musk De Luxe, Vintage Catuhsama Oud Musk, Connoisseur Opium Intense

In this second, recent, installment of Pure Incense reviews, I’ve sorted this group essentially into the musk category, even if the Oud Musk is probably more of an oud with musk touches and the Opium may or may not have it at all, but the latter does seem to have some real similarities to the Musk De Luxe stick both in color and perhaps more partially in scent. Second, two of these incenses, the first and last listed, were part of the samples a kind reader sent to me some months to check out (the third sample is currently out of stock, so I did not get to grab that one but certainly would have) so this is a group I like a lot. In many ways when you’re really looking into ouds and sandalwoods and so forth it can be a breath of fresh air to move to incenses that tend to differ from more or less any other creator’s output and are great without needing any woods to complete things.

The Connoisseur Blue Lotus and Musk, unsurprisingly, is essentially just a slight variation on the Connoisseur Blue Lotus. As most Pure Incense appreciators know the Blue Lotus is certainly one of the line’s most original and dependable aromas and it ranges across the entire Pure Incense spectrum, although for my nose, I prefer to have the quality of the perfume cranked up as much as possible, as it is on this stick. Lotus oils vary so much in incense that it can be fairly difficult to really describe what a lotus scent actually smells like other than the flower itself, but in the Pure Incense Blue Lotus incenses, it has always been something of a powdery, gentle and distinct floral scent that is so unlike any other lotus incense that it’s an essential stop for increasing the variety of your scent collection. It is, for example, completely different than the lotus incenses in the Absolute Bliss/Happy Hari/Temple of Incense range, and as far as I know I can’t think of any other line producing the quality of either manufacturer that’s still in business. The musk added here seems to be very slight in comparison to the main Blue Lotus incense, it’s certainly tangible and perhaps moves this into a different kind of sweet territory but it doesn’t have the power that the musk does in the De Luxe below. But for my nose after retrying the regular Connoisseur Blue Lotus recently, it feels like this is of slightly higher quality overall and it reminds me more of the first time I tried and reviewed it than the most recent box I tried. And yes here, the vanilla of the base I think really compliments the perfume. It’s a really friendly and wonderful incense.

The Connoisseur Musk De Luxe is also the type of aroma I think is relatively uncommon and could be quite novel to readers’ noses. In a lot of ways it’s a similar issue to lotus perfumes, musks can vary a lot and of course they can also be sourced from animal or plant sources. Often when it is not expressly stated that it’s a plant-sourced musk, it’s because it isn’t, but in this case if you pop on over to the Pure Incense Nepal Musk page, you will see the language affirming that Pure Incense musks are plant based. Anyway this brick red color stick is kind of a sour-sweet marvel that is really an aroma of its own. The vanilla feels a bit more dialed back here compared to many Pure Incense sticks, which I feel was a good move (or maybe the musk obscures it) and the musk has a very pretty center note that really sells it. I like its tanginess, the almost definitive sweet note and just the overall power of the stick. In fact this is often the case in the Pure Incenses that have the perfumes dialed up. It is not at all the kind of refined musk scent you’d see in, say, a Kourindo incense which would have the sweet center note up more in front.

The Vintage Catuhsama Oud Musk is described as “two parts of musk, four parts of sandalwood, three parts of aguru or saffron and one part of camphor, when mixed together, form catuḥsama.” I would still probably class this closer to the ouds in the previous installment however this has a much mellower wood sort of scent which I would assume is due to the dialed up presence of the sandalwood. The vanilla in the base is also pretty noticeable here, partially because it tends to come out a bit more when there’s more sandalwood oil in the mix. For an oud scent this is probably closest to the Egyptian Oud from the previous installment in that it has a healthy bit of spice to it as well, not to mention there are no really overtly strong agarwood notes in this (although definitely enough to recognize its oudness). It feels a bit more of a balance of a number of aspects than any one thing. I remember some musk sandalwood masalas from the past that were kind of roughly in this area, so if you remember those, think of what that would be like with a spike of oud in the middle somewhere and you’d be fairly close.

Finally, the other sample that I received prior to this order, the Connoisseur Opium Intense. In my experience Opium in an incense tends to be more related to the perfume with that name than the poppies or the smell of opium itself. However here the scent comes from opium essential oils which “have been used to create a masterful wondrous scent that is like a rich sultry Ambery oriental woody fragrance with dark exotic notes.” I like that description, can definitely get the amber out of it and overall I just like how this is another great scent that doesn’t really smell like any other, and for sure it’s better than any opium perfume on charcoal stick I have seen offered. But naturally I can’t really side by side this with the real thing nor do I have any valid memory or what that might be like, and if I did I’d still wager this is probably a lot prettier. And you really gotta love the end of the description: “Lose yourself in dreams of other realms far away from the concrete and iron civilisation all around us….to a place with a variety of trees and bushes and flowers and birds and bees and swans and parrots and all manner of colourful flowers and scent and birds and creatures!” Wheeeee!