Gokula Incense / Flora Fluxo, Floral Bouquet, Gold Sandal, Jasmine & Lotus, Jasmine & Nag Champa, Lotus & Kewra

Agarwood & Musk, Agar Sandal, Aloeswood & Jasmine, Amber & Frankincense, Celestial Fruits, Chocolate & Vanilla

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

My general impression of flora/fluxo incenses is they usually come with an orange dipped stick (either full or just the end). And Gokula’s variant (one of them really) is actually called Flora Fluxo. I have reviewed or burned so many of these types of incenses in the last couple months that they probably feel more redundant to me than they actually are, but if you’re not familiar with the style then usually the standard version (kind of like how blue box Nag Champa is – or maybe used to be – the standard for those incenses) is the red package Sai Flora and it’s a reasonable baseline although it is heavily perfumed and often stronger than those I have reviewed lately. Gokula’s version is somewhat muted and not quite as bright and brassy as Sai Flora. Most floras and fluxos have earthier levels in them but they’re usually much more buried than they are here, which tends to give me an August, almost Dionysian vibe like prunes or grapes. I am not sure the balance maybe quite works for me on this stick, but I would not take that as gospel because most are just minor tweaks from one to the other and if you like the style, you’re likely going to search for the one that works for you. This is certainly a reasonable quality take.

Floral Bouquet actually does what it says it’s going to do and presents a floral mix that’s very pink and sweet. It’s a bit of a masala although still fairly firm but it’s worth noting because it doesn’t feel like it’s battling charcoal but is more of a blend with a bit of woodiness. I’ve gone on record many times the pitfalls of presenting general florals, but this one has no bitterness or off notes and it’s probably friendly enough to be kind even to incense muggles. It actually reminds me a little of some of the old Dhuni incenses, perhaps in a more manageable form than that, but approaching that kind of pleasantness (I keep being reminded by the sadly lamented Dhuni Frangipani for some reason). It feels like it has something like pink Valentine’s candy at heart, but the structure of it seems to balance it out in a good way.

Gold Sandal seems to be a cousin to the Agar Sandal we reviewed last time, but like a lot of midline Indian sandalwood incenses, they really don’t smell a lot like sandalwood. There is some inherent woodiness to the incense but there are bitter/sour off notes as well as some really strangely placed fruity notes like peach or apricot in the middle. One wonders if this was an attempt to build a sandalwood out of a different set of ingredients. The Agar Sandal actually felt a bit closer to me in getting to that note or at least it ended up being more genuinely woody than this one. Certainly, the overall bouquet of the Agar Sandal is much more coherent, so I’d suggested starting there before heading to this one.

Even though I am going in alphabetical order, the next three incenses share quite a few of the same ingredients and operate very closely in style. The Jasmine and Lotus (and according to the description juhi, kewra and parijata) is an interesting blend for sure in that you’d expect that to be tilted way over into jasmine when the noticeable lead aroma seems to be something similar to the blue lotus that’s part of the Madhavadas catalog. It’s a very pretty, powdery sort of scent where if you can imagine it, the jasmine kind of faintly provides a background color to give a bit of complexity to the lotus scent. And honestly I think that is where jasmine is at its best. So after introducing some incenses Gokula imports that may be wobbly, this is one that I think has a rather distinct sort of mix I haven’t turned up in other catalogs and that is indeed what one often looks for in an incense.

And better yet, the Jasmine & Nag Champa may be one of Gokula’s best. While I’m not sure either aroma is dead on, they are both close and the juhi and lotus they meld with work well together. Whatever one has in mind for a mix like this, it’s going to be a bit different than you expect. While the champa perfume isn’t the classic style you get on something like the AB or TOI Gold Nagchampa, it does have a much more powdery bottom to it that evinces maybe a bit of halmaddi in the masala. The top note is very pretty and while you can kind of sense jasmine in there somewhere it’s not unlike the previous incense where it seems to mostly come out in some aspects of the bouquet as part of a merger. And overall, it leans over into pink florals a bit.

Finally the Lotus & Kewra is a very interesting experiment. This stick is a lightly dusted charcoal, but even moving back from a more masala like approach this still seems to have the same sort of warm and gentle powdery qualities of the last two incenses, which I like very much. The charcoal does spike a little through it as is always the case with floral charcoals but the perfume mix is quite nice nonetheless with what seems like either a balsamic or vanilla like quality in the middle. And yes there is even a distinct kewra note through the middle! Screwpine is definitely an aroma I’d like to see more often as it’s such a distinct and different scent to anything else. While the lotus isn’t quite as distinct as it is in the incense above where it’s paired with jasmine, and this may be because of the kewra, the resulting merge is certainly worth it. The incense description also describes the blend “in a sandalwood base with swirling notes of champa and marigold.” The powdery quality is certainly champa-esque and the marigold can be faintly ascertained but to my nose I don’t get any sandalwood and nor would I think you’d need to. Whatever the case this is definitely a Gokula winner.


Pure-Incense / Absolute & Connoisseur / Frankincense, Jasmine, Parijata, Rosewood, Sandalwood

In this group of Pure-Incense sticks, I’ll be tackling the back five of the incenses that come in two forms, the Absolute and Connoisseur lines. Some of the Connoisseur packages also say Double Absolute, so one might be safe in guessing that the top line doubles the relevant oil or ingredients from the Absolute and that’s actually not a bad gauge to go by, it really does seem in many cases (although there will be two exceptions in this group) that the Connoisseurs are twice as intense or strong as the Absolutes. [NOTE 10/8/21: Due to variation in natural products it is unlikely Pure Incense reviews written from 2009-2013 will be completely accurate in 2021. Links below are to new versions, so please use caution in purchasing. Pure Incense uses different grade levels and you’re likely to find their best work in their Connoisseur and Connoisseur Vintage ranges.]

For this back five, we have three sticks that are very common in the Indian masala world: Frankincense, Jasmine and Sandalwood. These are the incense archetypes one might find in any Indian incense range from Mystic Temple to Triloka to Primo to Incense from India, however, it’s easy to say that while the Absolute version of these three scents is quite comparative to similar incenses found in these other lines, the Connoisseur Pure-Incense line introduces these scents at, perhaps, their finest. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot more to say about them that I haven’t mentioned in a previous review or two. On the other hand both the Parijata and Rosewood sticks here are quite unique to Pure-Incense and present variations on other incense woods.

In both the Connoisseur and Absolute forms, Pure-Incense Frankincense is the most common masala form of the scent, one that carries the aroma of the resin quite a ways from its natural state, embedding it in a charcoal, vanilla and sandalwood base and thus transmuting the resin’s qualities into something different, a masala that seems to work more with a resin extraction than the resin itself. The combination of the perfume elements and the base end up creating something of a third note that varies depending on which company creates it, but ends up being something like a confectionary, anything from cocoa powder to caramel to nougat. It’s a noticeable element that one won’t find at all in frankincense resin per se, so it’s important one sets one’s preconceptions aside if you’re coming from a pure resin perspective or perhaps even the sort of frankincense you might find in Minorien or Tennendo lines. In the Connoisseur version this frankincense oil note or the combination of ingredients that make it up is refined to a very high degree thus surpassing any of the masalas that vary from the Absolute version and hail from different companies. At this oil strength the scent is sublime and the strength of the aromatics give it a scent like some fine cognac or wine which really sets it apart from other Indian masalas, making this, perhaps, the best Indian frankincense you can buy that isn’t a champa or durbar style. If you’re familiar with the style based on one of the above companies’ offerings then I’d advise to skip the Absolute and move right onto the Connoisseur, however if you’re not at all familiar with this style than you’re likely safe with either one.

Likewise, there’s a similar comparison when it comes to Pure-Incense’s Jasmine charcoal. In fact of all the sticks that cross from the Absolute to the Connoisseur, I’d say the least amount of aromatic difference exists between the two jasmines. This is the typical jasmine essential oil on charcoal base that you’ll see from many of the above-listed companies and as such it varies very little from one to another. Unfortunately as pretty as the essential oils seem to be on these sticks, the charcoal bases in nearly all cases often compete or overwhelm the oil, no doubt due to the pretty, ethereal and gentle scent of the jasmine. The combination creates a combined note that while not terribly off putting isn’t nearly as distinct a jasmine note as you might find in the Shroff catalog. Even the sparkly fixative used to bind the oil doesn’t seem to help with the dissipation and this characteristic makes it fairly difficult to tell, after some aging, that the Connoisseur version contains a stronger dose of the oil, in comparison it only seems vaguely more intense. Perhaps fresh off the batch it might be more impressive, but again I think this reflects more of the weakness of oil on charcoal scents than it does on the oil itself.

Parijata (nychanthes arbotristis) is another of India’s aromatic flowering trees and appears to be the scent the incense matches up with, but not having actually experienced the aroma of the tree itself, the scent of it seems to me to be almost a variation of sandalwood and a mighty fine one at that. The only other parijata I’ve examples is the Krishna store version and it’s a completely different incense to either Pure-Incense version here. To my nose the Parijata incense here is almost like a chandan sandalwood stick pepped up with light fruity elements, for some reason I always seem to get hints of apple with this one or perhaps citrus in the mix, not to mention an unusual floral subnote. It’s a really attractive incense at the Absolute level and only slightly more intense at the Connoisseur version, the difference obviously the amount of oil being used. And the oil in the Connoisseur version seems to impart an even woodier quality with hints of, perhaps, saffron in the background – really beautiful stuff.

The Rosewood appears to be one of Pure-Incense’s newest catalog entries and like Parijata is a tree in its own right, although I believe what we’re seeing in incense form is something different as the rosewood trees appear to be named as such for their wood colorings rather than aromatic qualities, that is, except for Brazilian rosewood from which an essential oil is distilled. Just about every rosewood incense I’ve sampled has been quite different, so I’ve never been able to guess at what could be the standard, however it’s not difficult to think of Pure-Incense’s two versions as among the best I’ve tried. Even at the Absolute version this is a floral incense that’s as sweet as a durbar and suffice it to say, this doesn’t appear to be a mixture of, say, rose and sandalwood. The rose or floral element that dominates the incense has hints of ripe or even tart cherries and one can detect behind this powerful scent a rather mild wood backing. At the Connoisseur strength these elements turn even more elegant with the tarter elements of the top floral oil mellowed out a slight amount and perhaps a bit more in the way of a woody character. I’ve really yet to get into either deeply but found both really impressive and in this case even at the Absolute level there’s quite a bit of potency at work here. Only the Pink Sayli could be described as prettier.

Finally, Pure-Incense also has the classic Sandalwood oil masala in both Absolute and Connoisseur versions and as one might have experienced if one has dealt with better grades of sandalwood, the Connoisseur is the real treasure here with a really high quality sandalwood oil at the center that does exhibit elements of the heartwood. While the oil is at a strength level that it perhaps obscures certain aspects of the wood itself, I tend to like to think of this as a different experience overall and there’s a real almost antique-like side aroma that comes out of high quality oil at this strength. At the Absolute level we’re almost dealing as much with the vanilla base and thus more of a vanilla sandalwood mix than something purely woody. At this strength it’s a scent that’s almost a dime a dozen, one that can be found in nearly every Indian incense line. The Pure-Incense Absolute version does indeed hold up quite well in comparison to similar scents from other companies, but only the Connoisseur level is truly special here.

Anyway that takes the Pure-Incense overview through the Connoisseur line and thus the next few installments will get into the Absolute only lines. At this point one will notice in many cases that the Absolute versions are at strength levels more comparable to the Connoisseurs in some cases, likely due to more inexpensive ingredients making it possible. Next up I intend to cover some of the Absolute champas and Vrindavan scents, many of which I find the most pleasant in the Absolute line.