Happy New Year! Welcome 2017!

First, let me apologize for the lack of posts– my job and my family commitments got overwhelming during the holidays and I had no time to blog. And of course now that things are back to normal, I’ve still got a stuffed up nose due to a nasty, lingering cold.

How annoying!

But I’m sure 2017 is going to be a terrific year and I can’t wait to start exploring Japanese incense and continuing my journey with Indian incense. As I’ve mentioned before, I have 2 sample sets from Gladmo full of Japanese sandalwood and aloeswood incense. Very excited to start burning them, but I have to wait until my nose is clear.

Please be patient with me– new reviews will be here soon as I get over my cold!

HAPPY NEW YEAR and may you have a productive, prosperous, and very joyous 2017!

Posted in meta/housekeeping | 4 Comments

Triloka Amber

I apologize for all these negative reviews and hate to add yet another one to the mix but Amber from Triloka is a miss. It smelled promising unlit and was hand rolled very evenly– always a good sign– so I was a bit surprised that the fragrance turned to cardboard once I lit it. I could hardly make out anything at all besides the cardboard-y smell. I’m starting to feel like I need to take a break from Indians and start smelling more Japanese stuff. I just got 2 Japanese samplers from Gladmo– one aloeswood, one sandalwood–  so I think I’ll start cracking into them for my next reviews.

Posted in amber, incense, India, Triloka | Tagged | 3 Comments

Sree Gajanana Sandal Flora

My order from Exotic Incense came today so I picked out Sandal Flora from Sree Gajanana Perfumery Works to try out even tho it’s late and I’ve got a stuffy nose. Sadly even with my cold the only thing I could smell from this one was petroleum/crude oil. Smelled fine in stick form but you know how deceiving that can be. Currently burning Baikundo Lavender (less smoke) so my room doesn’t smell like a refinery.

Posted in incense, India, sandalwood, Sree Gajanana | Tagged | 2 Comments

Baieido Kokonoe (regular)

Kokonoe from Baieido is comes in both a regular and a smokeless version. Tonight I am burning the regular Kokonoe and I can’t say I’m enjoying it. I’ve never been fond of the smell of daffodils or narcissus which are the inspirations for Kokonoe. Oddly pollen-y and  musky-musty, the scent which in China is strangely called “the fragrance of a thousand heads” as has always been challenging to me.

While Kokonoe fails to resemble the peculiar scent daffodils directly, apparently just the association with the flower was enough to put me off. It is more wood smoke than anything else, but there is an unattractive Band-Aid element lurking around that I do not like. I think I will have to revist this one once my nose has become more educated. At the moment I’m not getting much of anything.

Posted in Baieido, incense, Japan | Tagged | 7 Comments

The Mother’s Yajna Nag Champa

Such a disappointment! Reader Terra warned me that she had a bad experience with The Mother’s Nag Champa line– and now so have I. Yajna Nag Champa smells great as an unlit stick– forestry and cool with a slight lit of spice and a dash of earthy fresh patchouli. Once it’s lit tho, that oily, petroleum smell which I have a sensitivity to comes out and ruins the whole thing. What a shame. I was really looking forward to the The Mother’s Nag Champa line but it looks like they may be formulated differently from the Golden Line.

Posted in incense, India, nag champa, The Mother's | Tagged | 4 Comments

Satya Supreme Vanilla

When I was ordering a few of  Natural line incenses, I threw in Satya Supreme Vanilla just to see what it was like. Vanillin, which is the primary chemical that makes vanilla smell like vanilla, is pretty cheap so I thought there was a good chance that this incense would be ok despite the low price point. Spoiler: I was wrong!

The Supreme line that Satya puts out is cheaper than the already very inexpensive Natural line (of which Chandan and Lavender are ok, but Jasmine is not).  Mysteriously named Supreme Vanilla, this is an oddly cardboard-y and  powdery floral-ish  flop that is blessedly weak. I let it burn for a good five minutes before I couldn’t stand it any longer and put it out. It’s like a bad aftertaste in stick form… unpleasant and bland at the same time. There is no vanilla in this to my nose. Again, it is a vague mash up of faded floral notes and dusty cardboard that manages to be distinctly repellent.  Oh well.

Posted in incense, India, Satya | Tagged | 2 Comments

Satya Natural Jasmine

This is the first Satya incense that I’ve reviewed… a little surprising because the Satya company makes some wildly popular incenses  like the famous blue box Nag Champa and Super Hit. The reason I’ve stayed away from Satya is because I keep hearing how bad their quality control is and the general cheapening  of their products.  However, After reading a glowing review of their Natural Chandan on Reddit I got too curious and picked a few boxes from the Natural line.

Floral incenses can be difficult because it is tricky to  balance the fresh smell of a flower with the smokiness of incense. In Satya Natural Jasmine, the makers appear to have attempted to cover up the incense section entirely with a huge amount of synthetic jasmine. This synthetic jasmine is not bad. It’s realistic enough with a fruity nature and a soapy edge. In low doses, it is very appealing. I hear such jasmine oils are very popular in India where people know jasmine (you can get garlands of the real flowers in any market place, it blooms in countless courtyards etc etc).

The problem in Natural Jasmine is that it is so suffocating, so dominating that the incense is impossible for me to enjoy. The intensity of the jasmine oil makes it seem more synthetic than it actually is. Like music that is played too loud, it becomes distorted and even painful. Additionally, the woody base has an inexplicable cigarette smell. This is not present in Natural Lavender or Natural Chandan so I wonder if the cigarette note is from the burning of the synthetic jasmine oil. Whatever is going on, it smells like an ashtray to me. Ugh.

You can get Satya Natural Jasmine from a number of vendors and it retails for a few dollars per a 15 gram box.

Posted in incense, India, jasmine, Satya | Tagged | 4 Comments

Happi Hari King of Amber

King of Amber by Happi Hari is not a Western style amber in the labdanum/rock rose vein or an Indian “pink amber”. I’m having hard time connecting this to amber at all but King of Amber immediately reminded me of a perfume oil (now long gone because of sourcing issues related to the botanicals) called Henna. Like Henna, it has a rich soapy-musk base overlaid with what I can only call an exotic floral because I’ve never smelled anything remotely like it. Very unique and in keeping with Happi Hari’s surprising, uncommon style.

The sticks are very heavily scented, even by Indian standards, and saturate the air quite quickly with scent. If you like strong incenses that really pack a punch, King of Amber (and the whole Happi Hari line, really) is for you. For me, King of Amber was too potent but it’s hard to criticize anyone for being extra generous with scented materials when so many manufacturers are skimping.

Since I’m not a fan of soapy florals in any format (incense, perfume, soap etc) I didn’t really connect with this one but it was exciting to burn because it’s really an unexpected thing to have a soapy smell wafting on smoke! A very cool thing to smell.


Posted in incense, India | Tagged | 5 Comments

Baieido Rose Sawayaka

I was interested to hear that Rose Sawayaka from Baieido actually uses rose attar, something I would have expected to be at odds with the Japanese concept of rose given how intense and dark it is*. Unsurprisingly ,the amount used is almost non existent.  The rose that I smell here is familiar to me from Japanese bath and body products: fruity, fresh and sweet with a clean, tidy feeling. There is very little complexity here and the fragrance feels a bit jejune or even childish. Instead of decadent, lush roses Rose Sawayaka is all about the  prim, light pink variety– girlish and naive in the extreme with no depth or mystery.

This is not a strong or assertive incense by any means but it is much more fragrant (and true to the flower) than its sister incense, the pallid Baieido Lavender Sawayaka. Sadly tho, it’s not something I’m particularly interested in smelling.

*The strange thing about real rose attars is that they do not smell like fresh roses. Rather the distillation process works all kinds of chemical magic and the essence that comes out is dense, jammy, and thick– a total 180 from the delicate fragrance of a dewy rose petal.

Posted in Baieido, incense, Japan, rose | Tagged | 2 Comments

Auroshikha Natural Resin (various)

I’m not giving these their own posts as they do not deserve to be mentioned outside of a warning to not buy them. These are some truly awful incenses. They all smell like bad, dirty  campfires but each has a special twist:

Gum Damar– dirty campfire with a flaming toupee

Gum Copal–  dirty campfire accented with a faint hint of tar

Frankincense and Myrrh– gross enough to merit its own, more in depth review here

Sandalwood– dirty campfire x2

Frankincense– dirty campfire paired with a turpentine  soaked rag

Siam Benzion– FILTHY campfire

Gum Benzion– staring into a dirty campfire and thinking of brunt cookies

In spite of this extraordinary lapse of quality I am not giving up on Auroshikha. They have a line that comes in marbled paper packaging (mysteriously similar to The Mother’s packaging) which have bought and will try in the near future as soon as it is shipped to me. I can’t imagine it would be any worse than the Natural Resin line!

Posted in Auroshikha, incense, India | Tagged | 12 Comments

The Mother’s Golden Amber

Despite being inexpensive The Mother’s Golden Amber is terrific. It’s not a resinous labdanum/rock rose smell (which is what amber normally means in Western perfumery) but rather a sweet, warm, almost creamy smell without any resin at all. Mike over at Olfactory Rescue Service has referred to certain Indian ambers as being “pink ambers” and I can’t think of a better term. Pink amber is the perfect way to describe this sugary, cheerful incense enriched with a touch of soft, creamy musk and a hint of vanilla.

While Golden Amber is not particularly layered or complex, it smells delightful just the same. It’s easy to enjoy this sweet and playful incense and it in many ways exemplifies the best aspects of good Indian incenses: affordable, accessible, and agreeable.

It’s easy for anyone to enjoy– you do not need to be an expert or have an experienced nose to appreciate Golden Amber. It immediately charms with a sweet aroma enriched with a mild, velvety musk. There is a floral undertone that has a faint touch of rose, but it is the rich, smooth musk that is the most dominant, after the the sweet pink amber. There is also a very small suggestion of cool cinnamon, but again the focus is the unique pink amber note accented by creamy musk.

It’s incenses like this that make the $5 a stick and up Japanese stuff seem pretentious and exhausting.

Posted in amber, incense, India, The Mother's | Tagged | 8 Comments

Baieido Lavender Sawayaka

Baieido says that their Lavender Sawayaka contains French lavender oil but mysteriously it has no presence in the incense. Like Baikundo Lavender, it smells pleasant but I’m left wondering why they decided to name it lavender.

Instead of the refreshing, vibrant scent of the flower, there is a classic mix of woods with an indistinct floral element and a touch of cool camphor. The woody base makes up the largest part of the aroma and is generic in tone but still enjoyable. The floral notes have an oddly fresh-synthetic twist that I don’t like, but you can only smell it when you  but your nose right above the burning stick. Otherwise it’s just vaguely floral. I think the incense would have benefited from a larger dose of camphor– the little bit thrown in here left me wanting more.

Based on the aroma alone I would not recommend Lavender Sawayaka. It’s not a bad incense, but there are just so many wonderful ones out there that it’s hard to justify burning ones that are merely ok.

Additionally, this incense is very lightly scented and virtually smokeless. This may or may not be a drawback depending on your taste. Personally I found it too light.

You can get Baieido Lavender Sawayaka from a number of online retailers. A 30 gram box (about 45 sticks) retails for around $12.

Posted in Baieido, incense, Japan, lavender | Tagged | 3 Comments

Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory Silver Jubilee

Silver Jubilee by Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory is a mild musk incense. The sticks are hand rolled, thick, and a little soft. They put out a fair amount of smoke so they seem to be designed for larger, perhaps public spaces. I think most people would find them too smokey for regular sized rooms.

While the smoke output of Silver Jubilee is impressive, the scent is less so. Silver Jubilee is a pleasant but bland musk on a standard base of woods. Not much going on… the musk approaches the creamy, uniquely Indian “pink musk” style but is too undistinguished, too weak to make much of an impression beyond being nice but insipid. It’s not used heavily so the base woods make up a large portion of the scent which contributes to its beige tone.

Silver Jubilee isn’t bad– but in a world with so many wonderful, transporting incenses it’s not worth burning.

Posted in incense, India, musk, Mysore Sugandhi Dhoop Factory | Tagged | 4 Comments

Balaji Chandanam

Balaji’s Chandanam is a disappointment. Unlit, the wood powder coated stick is very smelly: creamy sandalwood with a big lime based toilet cleaner accord… Yikes! Burning of course did not improve things. I got that greasy petrochemical note I often find in some Indians (and a bunch of Fred Solls which are American) and gave up.

Oh well, they can’t all be Shroffs 😉

Posted in Balaji, incense, India, sandalwood | Tagged | 4 Comments

Auroshikha Frankincense and Myrrh

Auroshikha Natural Resin Incense in Frankincense and Myrrh does indeed smell natural. Unfortunately the quality of the resins is very poor and the resulting incense smells awful. It consists of mostly of bad frankincense which I would describe as being very acrid with touches of turpentine. I cannot detect any myrrh unless I am mistaken in attributing a bitter, bile like element to the frankincense. These sticks must be comprised of the absolute dross and dregs of resin manufacture… smokey and harsh, they have none of the loveliness of good frankincense. Miss me with this one.

Posted in Auroshikha, franincense, incense, India, myrrh | Tagged | 1 Comment

Shroff Vanilla Balsam take 2

The last time I reviewed Shroff Vanilla Balsam, it struck me as dry and didn’t really appeal to me. Now I find it delightfully light and crisp with a subtle sweetness and soft vanilla presence. The wood base is still the most apparent element in the incense but it takes on a pleasingly  austere quality when paired with the mildly sweet vanilla. There is an almost Japanese like tone in the simplicity and spareness of this blend.

The vanilla used in Vanilla Balsam is not a gooey, sugary type. Instead it has a dry timbre and is used with a restrained hand. Pleasingly free of boozy, caramel, or fruity notes, this plain, modest vanilla creates an airy, open feeling with fleeting glimpses of soft sweetness. It reminds me of an impossibly thin wafer cookie that shatters in the mouth: crisp, light, not too sweet, and wonderfully delicate.

Normally I don’t like incenses that are strong on the wood base, but here it’s done with such excellent judgement and refinement that the impression is elegant and mature rather than weak or under scented. Vanilla Balsam is an unexpectedly minimalist take on vanilla and shows the amount of skill and discernment the incense makers at Shroff have.

Posted in incense, India, Shroff, vanilla | Tagged | 8 Comments

Active again!

In case anyone is still reading, I’m back. Unfortunately I have depression and my illness required that I be hospitalized. I apologize for my abrupt disappearance.

New posts to follow!




Posted in meta/housekeeping | 6 Comments

Incense Traders is now up!

I’ve got some great news– we now have a place for trades, group buys, splits, and general discussion of incense: IncenseTraders on Wikidot!

I warn you the forum is pretty basic… but I hope it will grow into something helpful useful for the community. If you’d like to join, just make a Wikidot account (fast, easy, and free) or sign in with Facebook. Then head on over to IncenseTraders and click the join button. I’ll be checking for join requests frequently so you should have access to the site within 24 hours.

Hope to see you there!

If you have any questions feel free to  comment below or email me or post in the IncenseTraders help board.


Posted in incense, meta/housekeeping | 9 Comments

Happy Hari King of Myrrh

As much as love sweet things, I have always had a soft spot for myrrh which like coffee, has a kind of delicious bitterness. The smell of myrrh is sophisticated and balsamic-resinous in addition to being aromatically bitter. It’s gorgeous but in an era of Pink Sugar may not appeal to everyone.

So I was quite surprised when I lit up a stick of Happy Hari King of Myrrh to find that this austere resin had been married to a high quality cinnamon! Unusual and innovative, this blend is not for those seeking a straight myrrh incense. Rather I would recommend it to those who love cinnamon as the grade used here is top notch and having it paired with myrrh is particularly unique.

The cinnamon in King of Myrrh is rich and plush, having that distinctive spicy coolness and total lack of barky/woody notes– hallmarks of the finest cinnamon varieties. It mixes beautifully with the fragrantly bitter myrrh. There are also some floral notes in this which are hard to identify individually but add a unique flavor. If you’re looking for a surprising cinnamon, this is a must try.

Happy Hari King of Myrrh Incense starts at around $4 for a packet of 4 to 5 sticks. You can buy Happy Hari world wide from the Happi Hari website or Etsy  store. US buyers can also buy from Absolute Bliss Incense.

Posted in Happy Hari, incense, India, myrrh | 12 Comments

Awaji Island Forest by Shorindo

At last I can smell again! I thought I would get back into the swing of things with a soft incense: Forest made by Shorindo for Awaji Island.

The first thing that stuck me about Forest was the absolute lack of smoke. None of the incenses in the Awaji Island series are smokey, but this is the first one I’ve tried where I could see nothing coming off the stick.

As is typical with low smoke/no smoke incenses, the fragrance is light. It has a traditional feel to it with gently woody notes, faintly floral touches and maybe a hint of patchouli. The effect is mild and and somewhat bland as there is nothing in particular that stands out. It’s pleasant enough though but I would have a hard time recommending to anyone when there are so many other outstanding and interesting incenses out there.

Awaji Island Forest retails for around $19 for a box of 100 sticks. Several etailers stock it.

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