Unknown / Heritage, Pilgrim

Readers of ORS will likely be familiar with Yog Sadhana incense, a site Hall of Fame pick (be sure to scroll down and read the comments on this page for more info) and one of Nepal’s best incenses. Unfortunately little seems to be known about the company who makes this incense, there appears to be little information on the wrappers. However, we do know by the way the “series” looks that there are two more incenses in the same line, a deep red stick called Heritage and a green one called Pilgrim. While Yog Sadhana is certainly the crowning achievement of the line, the maker’s other two incenses are worthy of attention.

My favorite of the two is the deep red Heritage. You could easily see this as an analog to the Mandala Trading Himalayan Herbal incense, as it strikes the same sort of heavy clove and cinnamon based spice stick mixed with a tangy, herbal nature. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this aroma was partially made with essential oils or extracts as the spice nature is very strong. It’s not quite the polyherbal masterwork the Himalayan Herbal is, with a much more consonant blend of spice and funk and less complexity, but it’s also a little more ancient and mysterious. It’s also quite a bit less smoky than Yog Sadhana.

Pilgrim is an incense in what appears to be a very common Tibetan style, a thick and evergreen stick based on sandalwood. The closest analog I can think of off hand is the Mandala Arts Green Tara, although Pilgrim is slightly less distinctive and refined. The description has this incense as spicy and floral, although it’s the least spicy of the three sticks in the line and the floral nature is quite restrained. Mostly it strikes me as a sweet and very Himalayan wood incense. While it’s not the sort of incense I’d be compelled to burn often, it’s still very pleasant and friendly, with some slight resin content, a bit of herbal musk and even some slight oceanic hints. Like Yog Sadhana it’s possible much more will be revealed as I continue to use it.

All in all the three incenses that make up this unknown line are all very high quality for the price, with ingredients that give the blends an uncommon richness. However, it should be noted that given the thickness of the sticks, the count will be a little bit lower in a package, although most of these are well suited to breaking 2-3 inch fragments.

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Mandala Trading / Ribo Sangtsheo, The Earth, Tibetan Peace

Nepalese company Mandala Trading are the creators of two of the finest and most accessible Tibetan incenses on the market, their long stick Tibetan Monastery and Himalayan Herbal blends, the former an unparalleled spice blend, the latter a minty evergreen breeze. If you haven’t had a chance to check these excellent and affordable incenses out I highly recommend doing so before tackling the three, shorter incenses (all five MT incenses are on this page mixed in with others, the three in review are down the page a ways) in question here. While they’re certainly nice incenses, the three in this review aren’t quite in the same league.

As with the two previously mentioned incenses, these three under consideration also have their ingredients lists listed on the inner wrapper. Ribo Sangtsheo is comprised of Spike Nard (Jattamansi) 20%, Other Medicinal Herbs 20%, Natural Glue (Lac) 20%, Sandal Wood 10%, Agarwood 10%, Spices (Clove, Cinamon, Cardamon) 10%, Beddelium (Gokul Dhoop) 5%, and Ambergriss (Sal Dhoop) 5%. Of the three incenses in question here, Ribo Sangtsheo is the most similar incense to the Tibetan Monastery and Himalayan Herbal blends, although not quite as complex. Ribo Sangtsheo has a very unusual, coppery vibe for an incense. For one thing, it’s one of the few blends that is comprised of this much spikenard and it’s a fairly noticeable element overall, although unlike Japanese incenses that accentuate the sweetness, Ribo Sangtsheo also brings out more of the herbal and muskier notes. The agarwood, while not at the Japanese levels, actually does add something of a contour to the scent, preventing the incense from becoming too sweet or spicy by its obvious woody note. The entire blend has a slight fruitiness to it reminiscent of wine, but overall it’s that sort of dry, coppery vibe that sets it apart from the rest of the incenses in the line. If you’re over the moon with the HH and TM blends, this one is probably worth checking out even if it’s not quite up to those aromatic heights.

The Earth is comprised of Beddelium (Gokul Dhoop) 20%, Natural Glue (Lac) 20%, Holy Basil (Tulsi) 15%, Other Medicinal Herbs 15%, Juniper (Dhupi) 10%, Valeriana (Suganhaval) 10%, Spices (Cinamon, Safron) 10%, and Mugwort (Tittepati) 5%. Strangely this and the next incense actually add up to 105%, which implies some rounding up. The Earth absolutely does what it says on the package, it’s one of the most rough, gravelly and earthy incenses imaginable and not only earth in the soil sense, but this one reminds me of granite and the like. As such it’s not a friendly incense by Western standards, with the juniper being accentuated. Strangely enough for an incense that lists its first ingredient as a resin, it’s not a big feature of this aroma, which is often very “campfire” like with off woody hints of rubber, tire and such. With each stick, I do tend to get a little closer to liking this one mostly because it really is earthy in all of its characteristics and it’s quite grounding.

Tibetan Peace (note: this is the first of two on the above linked page) is created from Sandalwood 25%, Other Medicinal Herbs 20%, Natural Glue (Lac) 20%, Anthopogon (Soonpati) 15%, Roopkeshar 5%, Kusum Flower 5%, Spices (Cloves, Safron) 5%, Holy Basil (Tulsi) 5%, and Calmus (Bojho) 5%. Overall it strikes a fairly common blend in Tibetan incenses, a slightly sweet and very thick sandalwood-based stick that’s colored green with some variation. It’s very similar to the Green Tara on this page, if not quite as thick or refined, and as such it’s an incense that’s pleasant, inoffensive and maybe a little boring at times, not terribly far from the Himalayan Herbal incense without all the potent spices. If you can think of something like Dzongsar or White Pigeon being at the more difficult end of an axis, Tibetan Peace lies at the other.

Unlike Tibetan Monastery and Himalayan Herbal incenses, none of these three are likely to make you stock deeply, but those who do like them may get some mileage, particularly out of the unusual Ribo Sangtsheo, which is different enough from the usuals to be worth a sample. At the same time, all are affordable enough to make the risk a low one. However you’re likely to find similar but friendlier incenses than The Earth in the Dhoop Factory line and I’d recommend the above Green Tara before Tibetan Peace.