Sunday, 28 June 2015

Aargee Stamford Moods

Selection packs or gift packs are becoming increasingly popular. This one is titled Moods, and is branded Stamford, Aargee's mainstream brand. It contains six popular aromas, and their accompanying "moods": Sandalwood (Meditation), Aloe Vera (Healing), Frankincense (Spirituality), Jasmine (Divinity), Lavender (Anti Stress), and Vanilla (Calming). All sticks are perfume dipped onto a hand rolled charcoal base, and are of a decent quality. Perfume dipped are not "artisanal" or traditional incense sticks, but are popular in both India and the West, as they are cheap, pleasant, quick and easy to make, and the scents can be more modern, and fine-tuned to the tastes of the target audience. They are also less likely to induce allergic reactions.

This is fairly sweet and moderately heady. There's a pleasant weight to it. But it doesn't really smell much of sandalwood, and is quite obviously chemical based. Not an incense to use for meditation, but acceptable as a cheap everyday room freshener.
Score: 25

Aloe Vera
Fairly faint aroma, inclining toward moist nettle and gentle white flowers. Inoffensive, but so lacking in presence as to be almost pointless.
Score: 20


This is a pleasant dipped perfume incense. The aroma is candy sweet frankincense. As frankincense is one of my favourite scents, I'm predisposed to like it.




Other ratings of incense by Aargee

Friday, 5 June 2015

Ancient Wisdom Red Dragon Incense Tibetan Musk

I actually like this. I wasn't expecting to because of my previous experiences with Ancient Wisdom incense, but this is delicate and pleasant, and a modern take on the traditional musk scent. 

Score: 31

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Zam Zam Black Velvet

This doesn't work for me. It smells of fresh Virginia tobacco. To be precise, it smells of St Julien's Empire Blend, which used Virginia tobacco grown in South Africa. There is a limited charm to having your room smell of cheap pipe tobacco.

The sticks are made by Zam Zam International, an Islamic company formed in the UK 30 years ago.  They have a range of fragrances which they sell online at £1.20 a pack. They also have a shop in Green Street in London.

Score: 18

Tree of Life Opium

initially this is pretty much like the other Tree of Life scent, fairly modest and pleasant. This is, however, the one I like the least. As it burns it becomes a little hot, and a little sharp, with a fragrance like old ladies knickers: scented with cheap artificial rose scented perfume. It catches in the throat. I am not enjoying this.

Score: 20

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Tree of Life Cannabis

Gorgeous aroma on the stick. Very yummy. Candyfloss sweet. Sandalwood base with a delicate floral perfume. On burning the scent is quite light; and, though very pleasant, is not as yummy as the scent on the stick. I do like this, but as with other Tree of Life incense, I would prefer a bit more presence when burning.

Score: 33

Monday, 1 June 2015

Padmini Gold Statue

Aargee have two Gold Statue incenses, one directly under the Aargee name, and this one, made for them by Goloka under the Padmini brand name. It is a subtle and pleasant scent with sandalwood, rose, vanilla, bergamot, and the merest hint of halmaddi. I like this.

Score: 34


Other ratings of incense by Aargee

Mystic Incense Pink Sugar

Mystic Incense is Cha Cha Dum Dum's foil wrapped range. This is similar to the Baby Powder - they are both long sticks, machine extruded, with a healthy amount of light brown masala powder covering a thin charcoal core, and then dipped in a modern perfume. The result is a long burning, subtle, modern, refined, and very pleasant incense. The scent is sweet, innocent, gentle, clean, modern, and a bit like candy floss. I find it very attractive. There is sandalwood, vanilla, some bergamot, hints of musk, and all very lightly done. I do like these modern incenses.

Score: 35

Cha Cha Dum Dum

Regent House Angel Wings

25 sticks for £2 from Incense Essentials. The sticks are about average length, though only just over half of the stick is incense. There is a charcoal core, and then a decent layer of light brown masala powder which is dipped into a modern scent. On the stick the modern scent notes are quite clear, with apple tones, and a sense of alcohol solvent with a touch of cat pee. Not inviting. The sticks are made by Aroma World Ltd in Yorkshire, who are trading as Regent House. They are appear to be a small company making fragrance related products, room fresheners, etc, and the "Angel Wings" scent used in this incense is their main product, which they use on most of their range.

The scent is light, modern, and attractive. Clearly synthetic, but then so are the world's most expensive and desired perfumes. Natural is not in itself a guarantee of quality or pleasantness: dog shit is natural, Chanel No 5 is synthetic. I know which I'd prefer to smell. But it's each to their own. My ideal would be to smell something natural and pleasant, but next in line, given a choice of natural and unpleasant or synthetic and pleasant, I'd choose the synthetic. There is much about this scent that reminds me of Cha Cha Dum Dum's Mystic Incense range - Pink Sugar and Baby Powder, and Tree of Life's Shalimar. in that all of them are going for modern, light, subtle scents. Nothing earthy, heavy, or blunt, but delicate, uplifting, refined, and sophisticated. This is a distinct step away from traditional Indian incense, both the ancient tradition of heavy, resin (especially halmaddi) led masala incense, typified by Satya and Mother's India Fragrances, and the modern tradition of perfume dipped incense which relies on the common scents of Rose, Jasmine, White Musk, etc.  The delicacy of these incenses, and the subtle attractiveness of their scents is more in tune with Japanese incense.

I like this scent. I'm not excited by it - it doesn't thrill me or lift me up, but it does intrigue me. I think there are flaws in it - too much of the civet inspired notes, and a little too obviously synthetic with traces of plastic and solvent, but these are not heavy flaws, and I'm liking this rather more than I thought I would. Do I like it enough to buy again? Hmmm. With the Mystic Incense Baby Powder, I kind of liked it, but wasn't overwhelmed and thought that would be the end of it when I finished the pack. But the scent remained in my memory, and I do miss it and want to smell it again. I suspect that could also be the case here.

Score: 35

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Forbidden Fruit Glitter Incense Variety Pack 1

A variety pack of three fragrances: Jasmine, Lavender, and Nag Champa. These have been made in India for Cha Cha. I bought these a little while ago, and this variety pack appears not to be available at the moment, though Variety Pack 3 can be bought for around £1.20 for a pack of six sticks. They do look lovely. Almost too lovely to be burned.The sticks are chunky and firm, and quite hard. There is a slight scent on each, but nothing impressive. It seems they are all perfume dipped, but the perfume scent has mostly evaporated, or wasn't able to successfully penetrate the glitter covered charcoal paste, as there is little aroma other than burning charcoal and sawdust.

Style above substance. They look good,
but smell of old coal and sawdust.

Nag Champa
This has the least scent. Low grade sandalwood powder and some tar notes from the charcoal. It's not offensive, but it is fairly pointless.
Score: 20

There is a faint suggestion of something floral here, and there are sharper notes than with the other two.
Score: 22

A little hot and smoky, but with some powdery rose.
Score: 21

I like the idea of these, and some consideration has been given in my scoring to the appearance, as well as an awareness that these are not fresh; but essentially they are pointless as incense. The scents are very faint, and mostly of the base material.

Average score: 21

Cha Cha Dum Dum

Happy Hari's Nag Champa Gold

A traditional masala incense made with halmaddi and gold sprinkles.  Made in India for the Happy Hari brand, which is owned by Small Happy Eagle, a London based alternative lifestyle business, founded in 1992. They sell a range of traditional masala incenses online.

This is softer and less heady than The Mother's India Fragrance Nag Champa, and also a little lighter than Goloka's Nagchampa, but it still has enough halmaddi to dry out my eyes and make me feel uncomfortable. The scent is a warm soft creamy sandalwood, and is very pleasant. It is probably the most likeable Nag Champa after Satya. It is such a shame I have an adverse reaction to the halmaddi resin - or that some of the more interesting incenses make such use of it. Ah well.

Score: 35

Nag Champa

Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa Agarbatti

I love this. For years I had been buying cheap incense - the cheaper the better. Big job lots of 120 sticks in a packet for 75p - yep, I'll have that. Then one day, and I don't know why, I got some Satya Nag Champa. My world changed instantly. Wow! Incense could not only smell nice, but it could smell awesome! What other incense was out there that I had missed. So I set out on a personal journey to explore incense. That's when I started this blog. And over two years later I have found incense from all around the world, and I now know so much more. I know how incense is made, and what ingredients go into it. But, until today, I hadn't actually got around to reviewing the incense that started me off on this journey.

The packet is not impressive. It's a dull cardboard blue with red writing. There's no pictures, no images, nothing seductive, interesting, appealing or aesthetic about it at all. Rather plain and uninviting. There are warnings, and a holographic tape sealing the end. When you break the tape and get inside, you see that the inside of the box is also printed. There's been a considerable amount of time and money gone into ensuring that fakers can't copy the box, and pass off a different incense as Satya Nag Champa. Why's that? Because Satya Nag Champa is the best selling incense in the world. At the volumes that Satya Nag Champa is sold in, a forger could make a fortune.

So why does it sell so well? That is partly down to the aroma, which is divine. And partly down to its reputation. People talk in hushed whispers about how great it is. So people are curious and buy it, and so it goes on. Chinese whispers down the market place. But, deservedly so. This is an incense that stands head and shoulders above all others.

When you take the sticks out of the packet you'll notice that the appearance is different to most other incense sticks you've seen. It's not black and shiny or black and powdery. It's a soft brown. And that soft brown appearance is made up of a very fine powder. like flower pollen. Rub it with your fingers and the powder will come off. This is not a perfume dipped incense, this is a traditional masala incense. The core of the stick is made the same way as other Indian incense sticks (or agarbattit) - there is a sandalwood and charcoal paste which is rolled by hand onto a bamboo stick.

The majority of other incense sticks are then dipped into a perfume solvent. Sometimes the perfume solvent will be made from natural ingredients, but usually it is made from chemicals - synthetic perfumes blended to make the aroma you'll experience when burning. Some of these perfume dipped incenses are delightful - the perfumes being as well made, refined and enchanting as the ones you buy in a bottle to dab behind your ear. But they can also be rather cheap and nasty. The bulk of Indian perfume dipped incense falls somewhere in the middle. It's OK, but it doesn't excite.

Satya Nag Champa is not perfume dipped. The perfume comes from fragrant ingredients, various herbs, flowers and resins, which are crushed and blended into a fine powder. The bamboo stick with its damp sandalwood paste is rolled in the powder, and it's that powder which is like the fine brown pollen that rubs off on your fingers.

The scent is very gentle and refined, but it has a big impact. It's warm, evocative, mystical, dreamy, and very sensual. There's sandalwood - those warm woody notes, like fresh cut trees, and this is over-scored with sharp-sweet balsamic vinegar, hints of heady jasmine flowers, warm lamb's wool, some fresh perspiration, evocative lime, and more. It's soothing yet stimulating at the same time. It's a scent that gets you excited that such a scent could exist. You'll want to rave about it, and share it with your friends. And that's why it's the world's best seller.

There's been talk over the years about how the scent has diminished since the good old days of the 70s. It is speculated that this is because halmaddi, a tree resin like amber and frankincense, which is used in traditional Indian incense as a binder, is no longer used in Satya Nag Champa. This is certainly quite possible. I have a reaction to halmaddi. It gives me a headache. It makes my eyes smart, and it pricks the soft palate at the back of my mouth. When I burn Satya Nag Champa none of that happens. I get the aroma of lamb's wool and sweat notes of halmaddi, but I don't get the negative reaction. Either halmaddi is used in very small proportions, or a substitute is used which smells like it, but doesn't give customers a headache.

I adored this incense when I discovered it over two years ago, and I still love it today. It's world class. Nothing comes close.

Score: 50

Nag Champa

Satya (Shrinivas Sugandhalaya of Bangalore)

The Mother's India Fragrances Shanti Nag Champa

Mother's Fragrances was established in 1975 in South India by Westerners to make and sell traditional masala incense to Western markets.  They are imported into the UK by Greater Goods. I acquired this sampler of the India Fragrances range, which is headier and more intense than the regular Mother's Fragrances range, a little while ago. As with a number of masala incense makers, there is a potency that I find a little too strong, which I associate with halmaddi, a tree resin used as a binder and fixative in traditional Indian incense. It pricks at the soft palate at the back of my mouth. I burned one stick when I got the sampler, then put it to one side. I do like the aroma, it is sweet, heady, with pangs of sandalwood, and sharp-sweet notes of balsamic vinegar, and it is sensual and refined. But I find it more of an incense to be used when I am not in the same room so I can appreciate the way it has left a lingering church incense aroma.

Would I buy this one again? I very much doubt it. It's too heavy going for me personally. I am developing a headache, even though I have placed the stick on the other side of the room, and after ten minutes have had to remove the incense from the room altogether. I will try the rest of the India Fragrances range, but I feel I am more suited to the milder more Western orientated Mother's Fragrances range and will give those a try.

Score: 32

Nag Champa