Overview of Incense Countries

This page is an attempt to give an overview of the main countries of incense and the positives and negatives associated with Indian, Japanese and Tibetan-style incenses.



  • Except for the really high end and directly-sourced incenses, Indian scents can be extremely inexpensive.
  • No struggle to experience the aroma due to the intense smoke and use of perfume and oils.
  • Incenses are extremely unlikely to have animal-sourced ingredients.
  • India is the home of the champa masala, which at its best includes halmaddi resin. They are not authentically made elsewhere.


  • The smokiest incenses on average. Can often be too much for many people, especially when poor quality.
  • The cheaper incenses can be very synthetic and possibly not healthy.
  • It can take some work to find the best Indian incenses. The market is dominated by cheaper incenses. Many Indian incenses are driven by corporate rather than artistic or aesthetic concerns
  • Incense may include unsustainable flora. Please refer to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for more information..



  • The thinner sticks release much milder amounts of smoke and there can be low smoke options.
  • The most gourmet, high-end incense sticks in the world. Particularly when it comes to aloeswood/agarwood incenses.
  • Huge range of different scents.
  • Japan Incense/Kohshi has generally increased availability of many Japanese lines in the United States, so these are currently widely available.
  • Japan has a long standing tradition of incense use, with deep cultural, spiritual and traditional history.


Tibet (Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal)


  • Overall, with exceptions, Tibetan incenses are the most natural incenses available and less prone to the use of synthetics or perfumes.
  • Supporting Tibetan incenses tends to support monasteries and small communities, rather than corporations or larger companies.
  • Most Tibetan incenses are in the affordable range, although overall they’re on average more expensive than Indian incenses, particularly at the higher end.
  • Tibetan incenses originate from a deep cultural, spiritual and traditional heritage.


  • Many commonly found Tibetan incenses use cheap filler wood and sometimes cheap perfumes or oils and can be akin to campfires and be hard on the eyes. Look for the high end monastery or traditional incenses from a seller that goes for deeper fare. The usual Tibetan incenses you will find in the US in stores and on line are not usually deep representatives of the cultural art.
  • Ingredients may include animal-sourced ingredients or unsustainable flora. Please refer to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for more information.
  • Sourcing the better Tibetan incenses can be intermittent.


  1. June 23, 2021 at 8:43 am

    duh…forgot the link. here tis

    • Mike said,

      June 23, 2021 at 8:55 am

      Ah yes I think I did review five of those incenses some time back. ISTR being lukewarm about them but it has been a long time. The Maharaj scent used to be absolutely unbelieavable in the heyday of Indian incense, but now I tend to find it unremarkable.

  2. musketman said,

    June 23, 2021 at 7:20 am

    A very useful summary – especially for someone very much focused on Japanese incense production. Thank you so much!

    Just one comment, if I may (more of a private one and you may choose not to publish it): Japan Incense/Kohshi is indeed a ‘positive’ – but only if you’re living in the US, as they don’t ship internationally. It can be frustrating for the rest of us to see them referenced frequently (here and elsewhere) but to be unable to benefit from their impressive catalogue! Anyway, just a private grumble.

    I’m so happy and grateful this blog is active again.

    • Mike said,

      June 23, 2021 at 7:25 am

      Yes this is true about Japan Incense and certainly worth pointing out. I’m probably not fully aware of what the importation is like in other countries, but anyone is welcome to share that here.

      I do know that there are guides at the Reddit incense forum that teach people how to order third party directly from Japan, it’s just that I also feel it’s incumbent on me to support our domestic importers first. I’ve seen cavalier comments that I have not passed through here that seem to forget that Japan Incense is also incredibly responsible for furthering incense education in the West and that a lot of the people ordering third party wouldn’t even necessary know about the incenses they’re checking out if it wasn’t for JI in the first place. So again for me it’s just about balance really, but yes if you can’t access their catalog I agree it would be very frustrating. But I can imagine some of that isn’t a lack of willingness and more of a contractual issue with the Japanese companies who may deal with different countries differently. Anyway thanks for your comment!

      • musketman said,

        June 23, 2021 at 8:16 am

        Your point that JI have had a huge influence on the hobby is surely right. I just wish I could support them by making purchases! As it is I buy in Japan directly, which also is fun in its own way.

  3. June 22, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    This is very helpful to me, and is truthful to my experience. Japanese incenses have some of the most pleasing odors, but they lack the “kick” that I want most of the time. Indian incenses tend to be more affordable, but I agree, a lot of them seem fake and gimmicky, and I tire of them pretty quickly. I have only recently started trying out some Tibetan incenses, and so far, as your description, they do seem more natural, and relatively satisfying, although I miss the sweet floral/fruity attributes in the ones I have tried so far. The Drizang is coming close. I’m not sure what I am looking for….natural, a bit sweet and smoky with a lot of lingering kick, but not too woodsy like Wildwood, or campfire-ish like a pinion incense. Maybe you could recommend one for me to try. Maybe something from Surya??? In a pinch, my favorite go-to is still Rieryo Koh. I just ordered some of the Rieryo-Koh Sandalwood. $15 a pack is about my high end limit.
    Thanks for this post. I am an elementary learner.

    • Mike said,

      June 22, 2021 at 2:56 pm

      Hey, I’m glad it’s helpful and I most appreciate your perspective as I’m trying to build in a bit more entry material because this site is so old now and the links on the left getting to be so long, I know I’d feel lost if I wasn’t responsible for it.

      I’m not familiar with Surya, do you have a link? At least I think so because I did do an Indian incense review by them many years ago but assume you are talking about another company. With Tibetan incenses there’s usually some level of campfire there although I think the better scents reduce it to the background, just the nature of using something like juniper or cedar in an incense.

      If your limit is about $15 then keep an eye out for when I redo the Hall of Fame lists as I try to arrange those by price tier. Since I originally did that page we’re finally seeing some of the Kunjudo incenses again which I think are really good at that range. I’m not sure if any of those are up your alley at this point, but it is in my plans to try and revisit the Karin range. A lot of those incenses were featured and reviewed as Florisens or Encens du Monde incense in the past and had a lot higher price range until Japan Incense. Karin Zuito was reviewed as Golden Waves, Karin Hien was reviewed as Swallows in Flight and I believe Karin Kifune was Royal Nave. These all have a bit of kick because they use oils but I always found them well balanced and yummy for the price range. Zuito is the higher end and is just a few dimes over $15. Tokusen Karin is also very inexpensive (it’s kind of an amber-ish scent) and at the low end at like $8 a roll. Like I said I’m not sure if you’ll like any of these but at least they’re low risk and I can heartily recommend trying them. Anyway you can find these at the Kunjudo link at Japan Incense.

      Thanks again for your feedback it is helpful!

      • June 23, 2021 at 8:43 am

        Thanks, I am going to order the Karin line.
        Also, here is a link to a Surya sampler pack I ordered. (You asked about it). Many years ago I remember liking one called Maharaj, but I have not seen the line in a long time. Thanks.

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