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.