Hall of Fame: Indian Incense

This page is a list of the finest in Indian incenses, generally those in the masala, durbar, champa and flora styles. It will be periodically edited to add and remove incenses with the goal that the list improves over time, only featuring the very best of the style. Recommendations for this page are very welcome, there are dozens of incenses in this style and my exploration is by no means complete. There are no price breakdowns for these incenses as nearly all of them are well under $10 and usually less than $5 a package, unless one is buying in bulk. Certain incense styles are common across companies and virtually 90-95% similar among brands; when this occurs, they will be listed on the same bullet.

where x=a common letter, *x denotes incenses of very similar qualities.
+ is a charcoal incense. These are rare on this list, so are only added when particularly special (and usually these will be very expensive).

53 Comments

  1. Jim Burkhart said,

    August 26, 2015 at 10:14 am

    I have used up all my Lakshmi Brand frankincense sticks. The ones that I have tried as replacements haven’t worked out well. I really liked the density of the smoke (as a visual thing) as well as the nice, not perfumey smell. If anyone has suggestions for a replacement?

  2. John said,

    September 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Hello, i am new to this site but i burn incense for quite a few years, they are not popular in Greece so i order most of them from online shops.
    I feel sad to read that Indian incense quality is dropping, indian smells are my favorite.
    Pakeezah by Padmini is my all time favorite, what do you think about this incense?

    Thanks

    • Mike said,

      September 10, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Hi John thanks for writing. I think there is an incense tradition in Greece with some of the monasteries there that do their own style of nonstick incenses that are quite beautiful. I have tried Pakeezah, although it has been a while, but I do remember it being pleasant.

      • John said,

        September 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm

        Hi Mike, yes there is this kind of tradition, they mix frankincense and other substances, they make it at a pea size, very concentrated and are burned on charcoal, like the resins.
        Tbh, i haven’t tried many of them, just 1 or 2, very “heavy” and sweet smells.
        When i sometimes use charcoal i like to burn “stone frankincense”, which i think it is something like this http://www.scents-of-earth.com/jawee.html.
        This site also sells traditional monastery incense.

        Right now i have a Khoobsurat Satya burning, it is very floral and overpowering, oil dipped i think, not my type exactly but not bad either.

        I have noticed that there are many types, especially those that come in hex packs, that the fragrance does not have any depth at all, does that also mean that the quality is bad?

        I am asking because i like some padmini and sandesh hex and some of them look like they contain substances of at least some decent quality.

        • Mike said,

          September 11, 2014 at 9:32 am

          Re: the monastery incenses, yes I think it probably depends on the quality of the oils that are used, if they are well-picked and natural then the style will be a success. The few that I tried I actually liked a lot, one was a spikenard version that was very beautiful.

          As to Indian incenses, for one thing almost all of them are oil or perfume based and so you can usually get a good idea about the quality from the price of the stick. The ones in hex packs usually are very affordable, which to my nose means you want to stay away from the florals as they’ll usually be very synthetic in order to keep them on the market. On the other hand, something like patchouli or cedarwood will be very low price and so if you like those scents, it won’t matter so much if they’re cheap. And some of the Indian packages actually go back a really long way and have a formula that has been tried and true. But then sometimes this formula will be altered when a particular oil or perfume becomes too expensive and you usually won’t be alerted to the change. Sai Baba Nag Champa managed to do this without a lot of casual users even noticing. The trick is always the nose first. If you’re burning something you love but then after some time you start to feel edgy about it, that’s usually a good sign things have changed.

          • John said,

            September 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm

            Thanks for the info Mike

  3. spinningstars said,

    April 16, 2014 at 11:07 am

    I just got my first jar of Scent of Samadhi body incense and I LOVE it!!!…just takes a tiny bit and it is just lovely!!!…such a pleasant relaxing scent.

  4. Billy Degeyter said,

    July 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for all the wonderful reviews and recommendations! Olfactory Rescue Service has become my go to source for amazing incense.

  5. 2336jloretta said,

    November 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    favorite for years has been Transcendence…Kamala discontinued….does anyone know if Mystic Incense also stopped carrying it?…is there a close substitute, even if essential oil?…thanks

    • Mike said,

      November 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Loretta, I’ve always liked that one a lot too but haven’t ordered it ages (Transcendence lasts forever, even 10 years later it was a very good incense). I’d check with MT and let us know what you find!

  6. Richie said,

    November 18, 2012 at 4:27 am

    I would take off Ranga Rao Woods off the list, its since been reformulated and its BAD now, no sandalwood and no patchouli

  7. Nirupama said,

    October 10, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Hi Mike,
    Not sure if you have this already. If not can you include links to the manufacturing company’s website/ contact detail. To start with for the hall of fame category..

    • Mike said,

      October 10, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Hi Nirupama. The way these links are set up is to take you to the review of the product, and via that product review you should be able to find a place to purchase the product.

  8. John. said,

    August 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Ok, within 3 hours of finding this site, I went nuts and ordered about 15 different selections from your Hall of Fame pages…can’t wait for them to arrive!

  9. Chris E said,

    April 24, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Thanks to ORS and especially to Mike for this list and all of the past commentary. This labor of love has been an incredible resource for me as I expand my understanding of incense. I realize now that charcoals and ‘smoke shop’ scents had turned me off for years without me understanding why.

    I’ve been working my way through this Hall of Fame list with some excellent results as well as some surprises – namely being decidedly underwhelmed by a pair of the Dhuni offerings. As far as successes go, Shroff Pearl, Pure Connoisseur Blue Lotus, and Dhuni Bhakti have all made my old standby, the blue box Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa, seem pale in comparison.

    Thanks again!

  10. Becky K. said,

    March 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Hi, I am ordering my first incense from the lists here. I am so happy to have discovered this site. I have always liked incense, but have had trouble finding one that are memorable. I use to burn an old Primo rose in the 70’s that is no longer around, then the old blue box nag champa (now not as good), and later stumbled upon Shikobai, I gave up and started just to simmer water with fresh lemon grass and anice stars, etc….am just thrilled to find this site!!. My starter list is baieido Kobunboku, happy hari oud masala and Tibetan medical collage holy land. I am so looking forward to my new and ongoing discoveries, thanks to you all here.

  11. Justin Cobley said,

    January 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    You have missed my personal favorite!
    This hall of fame is incomplete without it. It’s “India Temple Incense”. The smell is simply meditative! Whenever I light it up at my yoga studio, all my students love it. So much so, that if I burn anything else, they ask me to put the old incense back. Now, many of my students burn it at their homes too!
    If you have tried it and not liked it, trust me and try it again! If you haven’t tried it, you are missing the most heavenly incense.

    • glennjf said,

      January 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Mike has reviewed India Temple Incense back in May 20, 2008. Here below is the URL link to that review. It’s not a favorable review which is why “India Temple Incense” is not to be found in the Hall of Fame: Indian Incense.

      Have a read of his review…

      https://olfactoryrescueservice.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/incense-from-india-1-song-of-india-india-temple-damascus-cedar-golden-sandalwood-shimmer-russian-rose/

      Read also down through the comments on this page since Mike has responded to an earlier comment made by another after their mention of this incense.

      R-Expo makes the incense. Bam Champa was the only incense of theirs I ever tried that I managed a small liking for but after they changed the formula radically making it an inferior product so it was that I lost my liking for it, further, Mike removed that incense from the Hall of Fame.

      It’s very personal this scent appreciation stuff. As a gross exaggeration, what might smell like bliss to one might smell like a wet dog to another. I’m happy for you that you’re drawn to the incense you’ve mentioned but for me I probably would never reach out to try it since I have collected a number of the Hall if Fame incenses which I burn regularly.

      • Mike said,

        January 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

        Glenn, I’d probably say with this incense that I might be one of the few dissenters, I occasionally run across positive comments about it. I guess that puts me in the wet dog category here lol.

    • Becky K. said,

      March 2, 2012 at 12:12 am

      is it song of India? I want to get some

  12. sandra levin said,

    December 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Iam looking for Satya Royal incense ( It is a lavander box , around the box says Satya Saybaba Nagchampa) I like this incense very much, do you change the name ? or do you have something similar to it, I live in Austin Texas. Thank for your reply.

    sandra L.

    • Malchus said,

      January 4, 2012 at 2:39 am

      Satya Royal is widely available, you can buy them in most incense stores and online (Eby, Toms Incense Store, etc). It’s also cheap. If you use the search, there’s a review for it and you can find other similar incense.

      Malchus

  13. Jan van Westland said,

    November 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    What would be the top 3 with best value for money on this list?

    • clairsight said,

      November 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      I think you need to look through the reviews we have posted on the site. That is what I do when I am looking for something new. Also, given the (relatively) low cost of Indian style incense, not to mention personal preferences and the style and raw material changes that are going through the industry right now these sort of questions are changing all the time and are almost impossible to nail down.

      • Mike said,

        November 7, 2011 at 11:29 am

        What Ross said. Too many variables at work for the kind of math you’re asking for, not to mention that with a few exceptions most of these are all within the same price range. You can make quick math of this yourself if you assume that a gram is equivalent to a stick or two.

  14. Mike said,

    August 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Removed Shroff Akash Ganga from list, latest batch is inferior, much less refined. Removed both Krishna incenses, just don’t think they’re up to snuff anymore. Removed several Golden Champa incenses mostly because I haven’t tried them in too long, so I may readd them if I get a chance to. Added Oud Masala at bottom, review forthcoming. Removed Bhakti Nagchampa from list, mostly a refinement. Debating removing the Shroff charcoals, even though these are probably the best four charcoals on the market, I have severe trouble with the bases. Also debating refining the Pure Incense list.

    • Carrie said,

      August 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      I just got my first box of Shroff Akash Ganga last week and I like it very much!

      If it used to be better it must have been amazing! Sorry I missed it.

  15. Mike said,

    August 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Based on several comments regarding Saffron & Rose and personal experience with the new formulation of Shanti, I’ve taken all the Purelands Bhakti Yoga incenses off the hall of fame.

  16. July 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Love your NAG CHAMPA would be interested in your poatchouli and jasmine ole’ factory smells….

    Janice 🙂

  17. KeesKoh said,

    May 9, 2011 at 1:39 am

    Wow, this weeken we tried about 10 different Shroff incenses,
    they arrived well packed I couldn’t waith….but It was totaly different ecense that I would have ever expected and my first impression is… it is not for me…..

    my wife did like some of them but would not call it her favorite either,

    I’ve reed on this forum that you can’t compare it with Mother’s that is abosolute true, totaly different.

    I would not say it is bad, the opposite, these are incenses I never did smell before so I will give it time and will try it again, maybe there is a learning curve.

    another 10 to go, and if it is still nothing for me 😦 I will try to trade it with someone from Europe.

    Don’t get upsaid, this how it goes, maybe I am more of a Japan incense guy anyway!

  18. Mike said,

    January 13, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Major update 1/13 to add new Mother’s, Dhuni and Shroff scents. Some trimming done to raise overall quality level some.

  19. connie said,

    November 1, 2009 at 9:16 am

    wher can i buye them in germanny????

  20. Robert Green said,

    October 12, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Hello. I just discovered you [this site]today, but you can bet that I will be around for a while as I would strongly consider myself an incense officianado[pronounced ADDICT] lol right? Anyway I wanted to share a real favorite of mine in hopes that you have not already tried it and I’ve just introduced you to your new favorite, it is by”Song of India” And the particular favorite of mine is “India Temple Incense” it is very powerful, but not overwhelming in any of its’ attributes. Let me know what you think and I’ll be back. Sincerely ,Robert Green

    • Mike said,

      October 13, 2009 at 7:20 am

      Hi Robert, thanks for dropping by and contributing. I have a mini review of Song of India somewhere on the site, it’s not for me personally but I’ve definitely run across people who like it.

    • Janet said,

      October 19, 2009 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks, Robert….
      Heard of it but haven’t tried it – gotta put that one the list!

  21. Janet said,

    September 27, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Mike,
    I noticed a couple of additions above to the pure incense line, and wondered if you could help me out, without straying into ‘review’ territory.
    Of the many varieties I have tried, the Vrindivan Flower is the only one I have not at least liked almost immediately, and I’m wondering what I am missing. I love the green, camphorous flower type, but the perfume on this just seems thin and almost soapy to me, and overwhelmed by the woody base scent. I’m even wondering if I got an off batch! What are you getting from this one that makes it a hall of famer?
    Also, have you tried the Absolute Rosewood as well as the Connoisseur? I had a bit of a slow start with the Absolute (just because of pre-conceived notions), but really warmed to it, and would like to try the Connoisseur if there is an appreciable difference.
    Thanks, as always, for your help and guidance!

    • Mike said,

      September 28, 2009 at 8:04 am

      Hi Janet. First of all, I’ll be reviewing all of the Pure Incense line eventually, thanks to the company and Beth at Essence, so I’ll get into more specifics as I go. Hopefully the first installment will be up by the end of the week. As to hall of fame entries, it’s definitely a list in process, so there will be probably times I’ll jump the gun and add something prematurely, take it away and such. With the Vrindavan Flower, I was immediately impressed by it’s almost lime-like citrus nature, to my nose it smelled completely different than anything else, which is often a good reason for it to be featured (it also had an intensity and density I liked right off the bat). However, I think you’re probably right it has a soapy quality to it, although to my nose it wasn’t the sort of soapiness that has a bitterness to it so I didn’t start noticing it right away. So who knows if it will last – I doubt it’s an off batch. Perhaps, also, I found it quite superior to the Krishna incense of the same name.

      I have tried both the Rosewoods. One thing I’ll stress in my Pure Incense reviews is that the difference between the two lines, as they say, is the base quantity of charcoal and vanilla in the mix. With the Absolute range the vanilla in particular, is increased, and it blends with whatever scent is on tap and I think that this is as much of a factor in the differences as the increased oil content in the Connoisseur line. So with the Rosewood Absolute it’s definitely sharing more time with the vanilla than the Connoisseur is, which I thought was a lot more distinctly rosewood. I do like both and undoubtedly I’ll have more to say as I get used to them both, so far I haven’t burned enough to get a really distinct sense of either for review. But my general impression across the line is there’s always an appreciable difference in the Connoisseur line, I think down to the one they’re superior incenses.

      • Janet said,

        September 28, 2009 at 9:20 am

        Thanks so much, Mike!
        I will revisit the Vrindivan Flower again, I guess the intensity is what I have been missing, it actually seemed rather dull to me – maybe because I expected something very highly perfumed, and it didn’t strike me that way.

        Maybe it is the added vanilla that originally made the Absolute Rosewood seem like a variation, rather than true Rosewood, when I first tried it. I look forward to trying the other version.

        I appreciate your input, as always…..

  22. Pinjie said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Hi, Mike,

    I wonder if it’s possible to indicate whether a particular product has bamboo cores or not? I always wanted to try Indian incense but was intimidated by the cores and the synthetic fragrance. I guess people who know Indian incense know just by the name of the product.

    Pinjie

    • Mike said,

      June 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Pinjie – Well first of all, very very few Indian incenses don’t have a core stick of some kind and I’d assume they’re usually bamboo. I think that’s the defining difference between Indian incense and Japanese and Tibetan styles (the only Japanese line I can think of that uses them are one of the Nippon Kodo lines). But I think overall this is sort of a similar question to whether an incense is synthetic or not. The ultimate answer, unless we’re explicity told one way or another, is we don’t truly know, we can only guess. But I’d assume if the review has Indian as a category that it does indeed have a stick that the masala is rolled around rather than the spaghetti-like extrusion the Japanese and other South/East Asian countries use. Certainly every Indian incense I’ve reviewed here so far has a stick. – Mike

      • Pinjie said,

        June 8, 2009 at 5:45 pm

        Thanks for the reply, Mike! Do you ever smell the bamboo core when burning the incense stick?

        Pinjie

        • Mike said,

          June 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

          Yes, but not particularly often, mostly on the poorer masalas. I think when Indian incense is heavily perfumed, like a lot of champas are, whatever impurities are completely drowned out.

  23. Mike said,

    December 9, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    A few recent additions to note:

    The Mother’s India Fragrances – Ganesh Nagchampa – possibly the best durbar I’ve tried in quite some time, with a lavender fused perfume that’s both mellow and rich. Can’t wait to get more than a small sample of this, it’s got a nice intuitive vibe to it.

    Nandi Divine Flora – Many Nandi’s are charcoal based florals, not particularly bad, but this champa-ish scent is truly divine and very different from most Indians I’ve tried.

    R-Expo Bam Champa – The closest I remember to the original Blue Box Nag Champa before the adulterations ruined it, this is a really great almost nostalgic experience. The company does some nice soaps as well.

    Shah Agarbatti Sai Deep – Very close to the Incense from India Shanti Sai Flora (I may combine the two), a richer and spicier variation on the original Sai Flora. Thick and potent.

    I also removed Incense from India Deja Vu, it wasn’t quite what I remembered which means I probably had it confused with something else. Confirmation on Amber Resin (very lovely), Enchanted Garden (a floral Nag Champa that puts Valley of the Roses to shame), Fantasy (sort of a saffron infused champa) and Golden Frankincense (indulgent and glorious).

    More to come as I continue to (re) explore this potent style. I think the Raj Laxmi Nag Champa might be up here soon too as well as Incense from India Silver Temple.

  24. Mike said,

    October 6, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Cool, thanks for sharing. That’s been my assumption with Shrinivas products: natural base, with combo of synthetic and natural essential oils. I burned a stick of Aastha over the weekend, still really like this one.

    Nectar has been around for seemingly forever, so it sounds like change in box isn’t a bad idea. With these guys I really wish they’d standardize their box weights though, it almost seems like every different incense has a different box size! Sometimes an incense with the same name will have at least two incarnations. Thankfully they’re all so inexpensive,

  25. Claire said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:59 am

    Got a reply this morning about the Shrinivas Sugandhalaya / Satya Nectar & Aastha incenses:

    Nectar is one of our old products and on checking, we find that none of our distributors in UK ordered it recently. However we are reintroducing the product in a new pack and we hope it will widely available once it is reintroduced.

    Regarding your query about the ingredients in ‘Nectar’ and ‘Aastha’, we use natural ingredients and the perfume is a blend of synthetic and natural essential oils.

  26. Claire said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks Steve, I’ve dropped them an email. If I get a reply I’ll post the details here so that other UK customers know where to look / what to look for.

  27. Steve said,

    October 4, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Hey Claire – strange, Aastha seems readily available there but I see what you mean about Nectar. Looking at their boxes, neither has any information on ingredients used. The Aastha box does have an email address for the head office in Mumbai: nagraj@bom3.vsnl.net.in

    Perhaps someone at the email address can be of help. Good luck!

    Steve

  28. Claire said,

    October 4, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I did a Google for the Shrinivas Sugandhalaya / Satya Nectar but got NO results at all for the UK. I wonder if it is marketed under a different name in the UK?

    Does anyone know if the Aastha & Nectar are made from all natural ingredients (i.e. no synthetic oils)?

  29. Steve said,

    September 18, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Aastha & Nectar – such awesome rich, sweet, vanilla treats. A stick of Nectar will fill the room like curtains of baked-cookie goodness 😀 These are 2 of the less than a dozen Indian incenses that survived my discovery of Japanese incense. Need to burn these more often, if I can stop burning Tibetan Medical College’s Nectar long enough – hmmmm, a good name for an incense blend, apparently. Wonder if Baieido or Shoyeido make a Nectar…

    Steve

  30. August 18, 2008 at 9:24 am

    […] Incense Notes/Samplers) I added a new page yesterday, which you can access just to your left or here, that’s sort of a starter page to recommend the best incenses in the Indian champa, durbar or […]


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