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.

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Mayraj / Loban Bathi; Pradhan Perfumers / Royal Life; Saranya Traders / Saranya Supreme; Sree Trading Co. / Sree Sidhi Ganesh; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Cottage Industries / No. 14 Sandalwood; Unknown / Mysore Sandalwood

In addition to the range of Meena Perfume Industries incenses Everest Traders sent me, included were a varying batch of Indian scents as well as a varying batch of Bhutanese incenses, the latter of which I will cover in the next installment. The following are incenses from a number of different suppliers, some of which I don’t believe I have seen imported here, at least not often.

Loban incenses are an unusual breed. As far as I’ve been able to tell loban can mean benzoin or frankincense or resin mixes and you’re not usually told which; however, I’ve tried enough Indian frankincense sticks to know most of those don’t smell like lobans. The Absolute Benzoin at Temple of Incense or the Asana Sutra from Happy Hari are examples of pure charcoal benzoins and these are a bit closer to the loban but also not exact. The TOI Big Cleansing incense is probably the closest although in this case there’s more of an herbal quality to that incense that won’t often be found in a pure loban. And the Loban Bathi from Mayraj (I think that’s the company but the package is so thin it’s hard to tell) is about as down the middle of a loban as you will find. The thing about lobans to me is that if you’re familiar with lower grade resins you may know they can have scents that smell like heated stone or even gravel. It’s something I became familiar with through inexpensive Catholic church mixes, which are far and away from like the great frankincense you can get through Mermade Magickal Arts. On the other hand a brilliant high end loban like Vedic Vaani’s Kawadi Golden Loban can move away from this into almost candy-like sweetness and a definite resin presence. This one is more in the middle, it may be one of the most definition perfect loban incenses you will find, there’s some gravel/stone in the mix but there’s also a very nice resin note in the mix and yes a hint of the candy that gets more refined as the quality goes up the scale. It looks largely like a dusted charcoal but it’s a tiny bit softer than I would expected. I’ve never been the hugest fan of the style but outside the VV I just mentioned, this is one of the best I’ve tried and certainly a pleasant burn. Maybe the only issue is these are thin packages with maybe 5-6 sticks, so they’re about a dollar a stick.

Pradhan Perfumer’s Royal Life is a beautiful mix of perfumes for sure. The sticks are much smaller than the average but they pack an aromatic punch that is closer to a champa style incense. This is what I consider a traditional perfume in that it has some elements of the way some Indian incenses have been for decades and if they have moved or changed any ingredients it still seems like a wonderful, nostalgic mix. There’s a touch of licorice or something in the aroma which has always been an element I love in certain Indian incenses (the short-lived Ascendance that Mystic Temple used to bring in one was like this), but this also has some level of wood in the mix among with a lot of sweetness and a big floral bouquet. The stick is a little soft so there’s probably a bit of halmaddi in the masala. Very nice overall and it makes me wonder if the company has it in a longer stick. This one I’d certainly consider purchasing on my own.

Saranya Supreme takes us back into the flora/fluxo category, very much a cousin to the Sai Flora with the thick sticks. Unlike some floras/fluxos this one seems like a thick dusted charcoal stick from its firmness, but it ultimately does a similar thing to most incenses in this style. This mix seems to lean a bit to a smoother sort of aroma which I assume in part because it doesn’t seem to have additional ingredients like most floras/fluxos and there’s a bit of a resin fruitiness in the middle that is a touch loban-like. There is also a touch of a strange woody note that is hard to get my nose around on the outsides that I don’t tend to detect in floras/fluxos usually. Ultimately it’s definitely a different take on the style, a description that’s hard to define further as these types seem to be complex and loud (and this one stings my eyes a little bit), but when I brought out the next incense I was quickly reminded that the central floras and fluxos are much wetter scented and not nearly as dry as this one. For newcomers I’d start with Sai Flora because it’s somewhat more generally available than many of these incenses and acts as a good central base from where to understand the style.

The Sree Trading Co.s’s Siddhi Ganesh works much better as a flora to my nose than either the Sarayna Supreme or Sai Flora. Over the years I’ve often seen floras fall into two categories by sight, the lighter toned sticks like Sai Flora and then those like this one that are colored dark brown and have a different sort of scent profile as a result, while still being unquestionably “flora.” That sort of crystalline brassy top note which always seems to be present in this style merges with a slightly softer base that seems to have a bit of halmaddi mixed in with the charcoal and dampens that top a little bit in a way that often balances it a little. This does have the sort of crayon-like notes I tend to find fairly often in floral incenses and the base is very similar to probably a half dozen or more incenses in the Vedic Vaani catalog who often just change the top note. There’s some level of something like plum or prunes in the mix, but also an interesting spice mix that balances it on the other side. This is a neat incense overall, with some brightness that helps ensure the oil mixes don’t bog this one down too much, which is something I find occasional with dark brown masalas like this one. However, I would say a full stick might go too long a way so I’d test this at a half stick first as it’s very fragrant. But it’s certainly one of the better fluxo/floras I’ve tried.

I believe I received a sample of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Cottage Industries #14, Sandalwood from Padma Store some months ago and getting a full package from Everest Traders reminded me of one thing in particular, that often one or two stick samples are often not enough to really get into an incense. I found after my third stick from this package I started to like this one a little more than on my initial take. My initial take on the whole line was that most of the ones I had tried were very average incenses so keep this comment in mind.

As the history goes, in India, sandalwood trees were overharvested leading to shortages, which also led to a more careful cultivation program in more recent times. However even though this is happening, there is a lot of evidence that scents like sandalwood are actually created synthetically now. Short of actually looking over the shoulders of the incense creators in India, which I would unlikely be allowed to do, it’s difficult to tell what is in sandalwood incenses these days, sometimes Indian sandalwood is used but Australian sandalwood and wood from other countries is also used. You can have sandalwood incenses that are mixed with the other woods and more lower quality. Overall a whole range of different sandalwood scents are available. For me the high end sandalwood incenses that remind me of the old days tend to be a few that Temple of Incense or Absolute Bliss, or if you like the Madhavadas style, Pure Incense has a few as well.

So with that in mind I would place this #14 in a more inexpensive category in that it does not have much of a real sandalwood note to it, but feels like maybe cheaper wood or wood that has had some of the oil extracted might be the base for this incense. It comes across a bit more like a floral mix and the note on top will be different from what you have experience. Back in the day some of the Incense from india drier masalas used to have aromas quite like this and they’re usually really inexpensive. This Cottage Industries line is actually pretty large and while it looks like Everest Traders also have an Amber and a Mattipal, I believe if you’re in Europe, Padma Store has quite a number of different blends from this company in addition to these.

The last Indian incense package I was sent was 100g of something labelled as Temple Grade Mysore Sandalwood; however, I do not detect any sandalwood, scent or otherwise, in this incense at all. For $4 for 100g batch you would basically not expect it to, but since this is an incredibly inexpensive incense I decided to just evaluate it on its own. There’s something intriguing about the incense for sure. It’s a dusted charcoal with maybe a tiny bit of softness to it. It seems sort of like a mix of a sort of sweet champa-like base with a note I remember from previous Asta Sughanda incenses from long ago, a bit like that paper meets vanilla smell, but also there’s something like a rubber tire note to it that flirts between being a kind of weird subnote and a bit too intrusive. In fact given the number of sticks in this I burned at least five before I started writing this. I would guess that the intention of this batch was to give a sandalwood note but the mix was off in some way, it’s something I think importers run into occasionally. And so there seem to be some components in the mix that are kind of interesting. But ultimately I don’t think this one works and it reminds me in ways of some accidents I’ve been able to check out.

Meena Perfumery Industries / Meena Supreme, Meena Flora, Meena Indian King, Meena Nag Champa, Siddanth, Meena Sambrani Stems

It wasn’t long ago I bought what I thought was Meena Supreme, but when I took it out, I was somewhat nonplussed. ORS has been around a while and I was originally introduced to Meena Supreme by Paul Eagle when it ended up being Happy Hari’s second incense to distribute after the Gold Nagchampa. I received a surprising number of samples at the time and some of these incenses came in Happy Hari style labels but quite a few also came in little boxes like the ones pictured here. Meena Supreme, I would guess, has to be one of the top five “name” incenses known well inside and outside India, with maybe Nag Champa and Sai Flora at the top and this one right after it. And there is a reason why, it’s a very distinctive incense, a unique combination of materials and perfumes that I reviewed way back in the day and archived on this post.

So imagine my surprise when I heard from Everest Traders on Ebay who said they were the distributor for the Kabadi family’s Meena Supreme Incense from Bangalore, India. I was very glad to hear this as this hasn’t been carried by Absolute Bliss for a while and you basically have to order overseas for it. Also, Everest Traders is California based! The box I received for review is exactly how I remember it looking all those many years ago and the aroma is as well. In fact my original review in the above link is still so in point I’m going to repeat it here first and include a link to this new source…

“But even if you can’t count on incense nirvana, usually something so prized is usually going to be quite good and for the most part Meena Supreme succeeds from just about every angle and if it may not be the best incense ever created, I’d definitely say it’s one of the more unique and desirable of Indian incenses and certainly one I’m going to add to our Hall of Fame. Meena Supreme is a fluxo incense which means it’s solidly in the genre inhabited by Sai Flora, Sai Deep, Sai Leela and the like, which also means it’s a big stick, highly aromatic and something of a major smoke producer. This is perfect for me, especially during the dawning of spring where various allergies often make smelling Japanese incense very difficult, but if Indian incense smoke is too much for you, Meena Supreme will likely be too. In fact during the first two sticks, I wasn’t even sure if I would end up liking it, but it was likely because it was just too much at the time.

Since my initial foray into Meena Supreme, I think I’ve burned three to four boxes of it if not more (the size box I got fit about 6-8 sticks I believe). It is a highly addictive scent once you get it, as most signature scents are, and is also very hard to describe. Meena Supreme starts with the same earthy, almost stable-like background tones of Sai Flora but that’s where the similarity between incenses ends. Where Sai Flora goes in a bright, heavily floral, brassy direction, Meena Supreme is much more sultry with a mix of woods, rose, cocoa, coffee (with milk) and most importantly a feeling that all the subscents have been blended and aged. Most importantly Meena Supreme had the ability to make me think about it a lot when I wasn’t burning it, which has led to a lot of impromptu reaches.”

I would only add here in 2022 that the sticks may be a bit smaller (and maybe less smokier?) than I remember (which may of course be more my memory than the stick) but I love that all the notes I listed here are still completely relevant. I came to love the mix of earthiness and sweetness almost like a mix of fresh soil and brown sugar. So anyway if you love Indian incense and haven’t tried this yet now’s your chance!

Everest Traders also sent over some other Meena Perfumery Industries incenses, which also were a lot of fun (and I would mention here the ET packaging is really nice, very cognizant of protecting all the incenses from damage). One thing I came to find out rather quickly is other than the Sambrani Stems, which I will get to last, all of the other Meena incenses share a similar base to the Supreme and share a lot of the same aromatic notes, which makes it a little harder to separate one from the other. You might want to think of these in the sense that there’s probably a top perfume mix that differs from incense to incense. So the first one of these is Meena Flora, described as a “fluxo incense.” We have, of course, reviewed several from this style over the years, the most famous being the red package Sai Flora, but we, perhaps most recently, took a look at a couple of El incenses in the same category, These are thick stick, very distinctive incenses and so you might not only consider the Meena base for the Meena Flora but the flora/fluxo style as well and consider it a mix of those things. It still has a lot of the cocoa/coffee/brown sugar/earthy base to it, but it’s a bit more heavily aromatic than the Supreme with some of the same aspects that Sai Flora has. It’s not quite that brassy or sparkly, in fact it’s quite subdued compared to a lot of other incenses in this style. My most recent personal burning has been the Vedic Vaani Sai Flora which is much more refined and well on the other side of the red packet on the earthiness-to-refined axis. It’s actually probably more different as a flora than it is as a Meena incense.

Where both the Supreme and the Flora are small 8 stick boxes, the Meena Indian King has a higher stick count (as do the rest of these incenses) and the incense itself is certainly less weighty than the Supreme and Flora. While you can still recognize the same base I have mentioned in the previous two incenses, the Indian King feels a bit drier. It’s described as a durbar bathi, which has often been a category incenses like champas fall under, and this one does feel a bit more like a Meena-style Nag Champa variant to me. I’m not sensing enough halmaddi to keep it soft but there may be a little in there, but it’s actually overall not quite as sweet as the Supreme. It’s kind of elegant in a way and very traditional. And a walk in and out of the room shows it dissipates quite nicely too with a slighty tangy-meets brown sugar edge on top. Given it’s not all that different from the Supreme, it could be considered a more price-conscious alternative given the stick count.

One of the reasons Indian King struck me as a champa type is because it’s not terribly far off from the Meena Nag Champa. Seriously the description of this, at least if you were familiar with Meena Supreme, is imagine Meena doing a Nag Champa. It feels like champas are so variant these days that we’ve almost lost what we might have considered the standard because the Satya Blue Box is such a shadow of what it used to be. And in that sense, the Meena isn’t terribly different from the more modern hard stick variants that tend to send most of the aroma up on a charcoal base. This is definitely still a masala base and may have a little halmaddi in it but most notable it’s a little sweeter than, say the Happy Hari/Temple of Incense Gold or the AB carried Vintage Nag Champa. Some of these vedic champas feel like they could pull rain out of the air with their driness and while the perfumes are probably a bit more in the pocket than this one, this stick’s combination of some aspects of Meena Supreme (like, say, the earthiness and brown sugar) make it just a bit more interesting. With so many champa variants out there and it basically a virtual impossibility to go back to the great stick of yesteryearm I lean towards wanting variation more, so I like the differences on this one.

So then there’s Meena Siddanth with a dude beaming om symbols, and, gulp, a couple of swastikas in the mix, probably not the most popular symbology in the west. As you might know this has a much different meaning in India than it does in the West so I’ll just move on to the incense itself. This style is considered a “dhoop bathi” although it’s really difficult to tell how all of these sticks vary in style from looking at them; however, this is just a wee touch softer than the previous incenses. This has a more diverse aroma, it’s still a Meena stick at heart but it has a mix of fruity, powdery, herbal, and a touch of wood oils that make it probably the most distinctive stick so far. In fact this seems like quite the lovely and complex incense with all sorts of things going on and it’s by far the least earthiest of five sticks. Perhaps if you have just tried the Supreme, this might be the one I’d recommend next.

Now the Meena Sambrani Stems are a completely different style of incense. Looking around on the net it seems like Sambrani Cups got a bit of notoriety for a bit when this style of using cow dung to heat up resins came to a bit greater attention and a search of these cups show some rather offputting visuals. However cow dung is not the only way to heat resins up and it looks like the outside of these dhoop-like cylinders are probably based on charcoal, although like any incense I can’t give a comprehensive list of what’s actually in these (and I can’t say I’ve every tried the straight up base note of cow dung to be informative). All I can say is this is possibly the most intriguing incense in this batch. Sambrani, like loban, is one of those terms that seems to shift in meaning depending on who is using it and both seem to be anything from resin mixes to specific resins like benzoin or frankincense). Ultimately the aroma is almost thoroughly resinous and intense with a lovely bit of spice and a touch of caramel. Unlike a lot of Indian masalas where the resins really get watered down with the stick base, the level of resin is really nice and strong here with a fruitiness you usually won’t find in a loban or other highly resinous stick. So yes this is a lovely batch of (sort of) cones, like many dhoops they’re really smoky and will fill up a large space fast.

So ultimately the new or casual browser is recommended to check out the Meena Supreme if you haven’t and certainly the Sambrani Stems and Siddanth next, but I enjoyed all of these. Nothing is quite like a Meena incense, they have a distinctive personal stamp to their style that is quite recognizable once you get to use. it. And we certainly encourage Everest Traders to bring more of this line to the west!