Sunday, 31 December 2017

Backflow cones from China

I've seen videos of backflow cones on YouTube, and they look great, so I bought a backflow burner, and some cones. I bought the cones on Amazon from a dealer called Gemini_mall for around £2 including delivery I get a pack from China of 50 coloured pieces which do exactly what they are supposed to do. They look great, and I made my own video.

The only problem is that they are pressed sawdust dipped in some really shitty chemical perfume. Whatever colour the cone, the scent is really bad. And, as it flows downward and goes over the furniture it stains it - so be careful of where you use these backflow cones, and make sure you rest them on something to protect the surface below.

I wondered for a while how the smoke flows down rather than up, so I searched around and found the answer. The cone has a hollow tube - as the cone burns the smoke comes out at the top (as normal) and - as the burning reaches the hollow tube inside the cone, the smoke goes into that as well. When the smoke is in the hollow tube it is below the heat source, so starts to cool. When it reaches ambient room temperature it starts to fall because smoke is heavier than air at ambient temperature because it contains dense particles. It then falls out of the hole at the bottom of the cone and through the hole in the cone holder, and so then flows into the supporting dish in whatever design the cone holder had made. Simples!

I absolutely love the idea. I love the flowing smoke. But I hate these crap cones from China. I've had a search around, and I can't see any named companies making these backflow cones. They tend to be nameless cones imported from China.

If anyone knows of a decent backflow cone maker, please, please let me know.

As it is, these cones are the worse I have ever known. And the staining is a serious nasty as well. Be warned!

Score: -2

Incense by Country

Vijayshree Golden Nag Champa Masala Cones

This is lovely. Sweet and musky, with an evocative retro feel. This reminds me of good incense from the Seventies. It is clean and gentle, yet with a deep and yummy scent.  I adore this. It is less complex and heady than other Nag Champa - relying more on the musky tones of fragipani.

Date: April 2018   Score: 41

I got this box of masala Nag Champa cones for £1.50 from mindbodyspiritonline. The shape is unusual, instead of the usual rounded cone, it is a four sided pyramid, formed and shaped by hand. It has a pleasant pungent note on the cone. When burning it is fairly sweet and musky. Very pleasant. It doesn't quite transport me, but it informs the room very gently, and creates a warm, seductive and welcoming atmosphere. I like it. The more I burn it the more I like it - there's an engaging jammy essence to the base muskiness. It's not what I would normally understand as a Nag Champa - it seems to contain plumeria or frangipani, rather than the magnolia or  champaca of Nag Champa. Normally such incenses are simply called Champa, but Vijayshree have chosen to call it Nag Champa, which expands my understanding of what is Nag Champa.

The  company was founded in 1990, and has three sites in Bangalore.  They use all natural ingredients, such as halmaddi (allanthus manbarca), nagchampa (mesua ferrea linn), sandalwood, and loban (boswellia sernata roxb).

Date: Dec 2017 Score: 38


Nag Champa

Hari Om Divine Incense Lavender

As I am working my way through my Hari Om collection for a second time, I am really impressed again by what a decent manufacturer they are. They are not an artisan or heavenly incense maker. They make everyday incense. But they are a quality everyday incense maker. The sticks are made to a consistently good standard - they burn evenly, with no off scents. There is no evidence of use of cheap charcoal or cheap bamboo, or cheap scent. They are at the top of the game for everyday incense, and some of their scents are so good, they can just nudge into heavenly, and be inspiring, even if perfume-dipped.  This lavender is crisp, clean, invigorating. It's not the same as fresh lavender by any means. It clearly is an essential oil incense, but is it very well done for what it is. It lifts and cleans a room, leaving a pleasant scent and a pleasant feeling. It gives energy and life. It's damn good.

Date: July 2018   Score: 38

Machine made perfume-dipped floral incense from Hari Om. It's a decent scent with the most authentic lavender aroma I've yet encountered on an incense stick. It has pine resin, rose, and sexual must in the mix. This is actually very attractive. I'm not much one for floral incense, but this one, with its inclination toward a deep sexuality as well as the heady pine notes of lavender,  is working on me.  I wasn't expecting to like this, but I do. A lot. It's a scent that is lively and invigorating, yet also has a powerful sexuality. It's not an obvious musky, seductive scent, this is oblique, yet very ballsy. It's a sexuality that is present without you being aware. Gosh, this is really good.

Date: Dec 2017  Score:  38

Hari Om Fragrance

Best of Lavender

Top Ten 
Perfume-Dipped Incense

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Asoka Trading

Love in Life / Asoka Incense Sticks

A pack of six different boxes each containing eight sticks, bought cheaply from a gift shop. The sticks are all made the same - very neatly rolled charcoal and sandalwood paste onto pink dyed bamboo sticks, and then dipped in perfume. These are your standard everyday budget sticks in which there is little sense of the named scent, and what you mainly get is the aroma of the burning base material.

Love in Life / Asoka Trading 
Bharath Darshan
Score: 37

Love in Life 
Bharath Darshan
Score: 28

 Love in Life 
Score: 25

Love in Life
 Score: 22

Love in Life
Score: 21

Love in Life
 Score: 20

Love in Life
 Score: 20

 Average score for pack: 23

Hari Om Fragrance

The Hari Om Fragrance company was brought to my attention by one of my UK readers, who said he'd had one of their masala incense sticks and it was very strong and very enjoyable. I had a look around, but Hari Om scents are not currently sold in the UK, so I got in touch with the company in Bangalore, who sent me a bunch for review. It was the masala sticks I was mainly interested in, but I ended up being quite impressed with some of their perfume dipped sticks as well.

The company was founded in 1990. They seem to be a good representative of the Indian incense market, as they carry a wide range of scents and types of incense, including masala and perfume-dipped, mainly aimed at the domestic market. They are, essentially, the quintessence of domestic Indian incense. They copy existing popular brands such as Moksh, Sugandha Swarna,  and Sri Sai Flora, but also have their own brands which are well established, such as Sai Bhajan, and some scents which appear to be original and quite divine, such as Hari Om Tez.

The quality of packaging is very good, and the incenses, be they perfume-dipped or masala, are also all of a good standard. I may not have liked all the scents, but they were all highly fragranced, long burning, and of a consistently high standard. There is something for everyone in the range they offer, and appear to be excellent value for money.  I'm perhaps a little biased toward the company as,  though I have to thank Clive Gilbert for drawing them to my attention, I've largely discovered and explored them myself. However, I do think Hari Om is an incense company that deserves to be better known in the West, and would do well in any incense shop. Contact details are on their website: here.

M=Masala  P=Perfume-dipped
(Scores from older reviews are in brackets)

Tez (P)
Score: 41  (38)

Hari Om Divine Incense 
Lavender (P)
Score: 38

Hari Om 
Vishwa Sai (Fluxo Incense) (M)
Score: 35

Pankudi (P)
Score: 35 (31)

Hari Om 
Fluxo Incense (M)
Score: 34

Hari Om 
Bhakti (M)
Score: 33

Hari Om 12/- 
Mangala Jyothi 3 in 1 Flora Sticks (M)
Score: 32 (28)

Hari Om Divine Incense 
Butmogra (P)
Score: 32  (32)

Gulab (P)
Score: 31 (29)

Hari Om Loban Incense
Score: 30

Hari Om Divine Incense
Rajanigandha (P)
Score: 30 (36)

Lovely (P)
Score: 29  (25)

Hari Om 
Sugandha Mala (P)
Score: 25

Score: 23 (30) (20)

Sandalrol (P)
Score: 20  (25)

Hari Om Divine Incense
Score: 19

Hari Om Divine Incense 
Chandan (P)
Score: 17

Scents reviewed: 17
Highest score: 41
Lowest Score: 17
Average score: 30


The Best Incense Makers

Hari Om Sugandha Mala

The first thing I noticed about this incense is the similarity to Sugandha Swarna by Aparanji Industries.  This is something that companies in all industries do - copy successful brands. Hari Om seem to do it quite a lot. In a way, it is saying: "If you like XXX brand then try this, it is similar, and you may like it as well". On the whole, when Hari Om do it, the comparisons are at least as good, and sometimes better.  Considering, though, that Aparanji Industries have copyrighted the design of their Sugandha Swarna, I'm surprised that Hari Om get away with such an obvious copy, because they must be taking business away from Aparanji.

Similar box design to Sugandha Swarna

This is a highly scented perfumed-dipped charcoal stick. I may not like all the scents in the Hari Om range, but fair play, they do use strong scents. This one is a combination, for me, of burning rubber and butter with rose petal and jasmine perfume. It is not a scent I find hugely attractive, but it is stronger than the fairly similar scent of Sugandha Swarna. If someone likes Sugandha Swarna, they may well like Sugandha Mala even more.

For me this is a highly scented low end everyday incense. It's OK, and will fill a room with scent quite quickly, but the chemical notes hold it back from being a scent I'd burn when having friends or guests in the house. Each to their own. Others may like the quirky burning oil notes that via with the floral notes for attention.

Score: 25

Hari Om Fragrance

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Indian Connection Nag Champa Gold

It didn't take that long. Somebody appears to have made an arrangement with the family company who made Happy Hari's Nag Champa Gold, and it's back. It is imported by the trade only company The Indian Connection. It looks like if you want Nag Champa Gold, you are going to have to go into your local incense supplier and ask them to buy it from The Indian Connection. I picked up mine from The Loft Ladder in Southampton.

We did a side by side comparison test. The Happy Hari was the winner, though the similarities were noted, and one of us felt that the differences, for her, were not significant. She liked them both. Happy Hari Gold was sweeter. To be fair, it was sweeter than when I last burned it. I think that aging may have something to do with that. In essence, this is as close to the original as you are going to get. It is soft, sweet, and easy going.

The two Golds side by side
The original Happy Hari at the top

Score: 35

Nag Champa

A.S Agarbathi Works Ayurvedic Agarwood

I've been burning a bunch of the incense I've imported for sale on my newly opened shop on  eBay,  IncenseInTheWind, and I just wanted to get a perspective on some other incense, so opened my drawer and pulled out the first thing I touched, which was some basic everyday perfumed stuff from SAC, which had lost some of its fragrance through evaporation. So I needed something a bit better as contrast. I originally reviewed this Agarwood last year, and had been burning it on and off recently. Being a proper job masala, the fragrance doesn't evaporate. I'm not sure if it improves or even changes over time, but in my experience masala incense tends to hold up well, while perfumed incense fades and fades....

This Agarwood by A.S. Agarbathi Works has a lovely sweet woody aroma. I'm not sure I would entirely pin it down to agarwood as there are creamy notes of sandalwood and crisp golden citric cedarwood, but woody it is without a doubt. And it has honey in there. And halmaddi. Though not aggressive or sharp halmaddi, but a rounded, sweet, balsamic halmaddi. There is the earthy warmth and  fresh night air excitement of a camp fire, and the nostalgic evocation of a Seventies music festival. Burning damp wood, and the smoke from joss sticks and joints drifting in the night air. I'm really enjoying this. It's not top end heavenly. Its range is limited and sort of predictable. There's no depths, no range, and no soaring heights of excitement and delusion. But it's a bloody solid job masala, and certainly an incense I want to burn again and again, so this is moving up to nudge into the bottom end of my Heavenly department.

Date: Oct 2018   Score: 40

I like agarwood. I picked this up in The Loft Ladder in Southampton. It is a proper job masala incense made by A. S. Agarbathi Works of Bangalore, who were founded in 1978.   They are members of the All India Agarbathi Manufacturers Association, which I have been intending to write about for some time.

Pleasant candy sweetness on the stick, with notes of beeswax and rose petals. As is often the case with masala incense containing halmaddi, the aroma on burning is different, with prickly warm wool dominating. There is also some honey notes, and some woody notes. The woody notes lean toward agarwood, but also contain beechwood, and I think it is the beechwood that comes more to the fore. It is a very attractive, fairly masculine scent. As with many of the best proper job masala, the scent continues to inform the room for around 24 hours afterwards.

I like this. It doesn't lift or transcend me, but is a solid proper job masala incense that should please most people.

Date: Dec 2017  Score: 33

The best agarwood incense

Thursday, 28 December 2017

(Ancient Wisdom) Golden Tree Nag Champa Temple Blend

The aroma on the sticks is quite nostalgic - reminds me of my hippy days. This is a proper job masala, but not the best. On burning it comes over as a bit crude and hot and sharp. If it burned how it smells on the stick this would be great, but as it is, it's a bit crude and limited.

Date: May 2019   Score: 28

Picked this up in a local Southampton hippy shop, The Loft Ladder, upstairs at Marlands.  There's nothing about who makes it on the box, but I found out that Golden Tree Nag Champa is brand name of UK distributor  Ancient Wisdom. It's a masala incense with some prickly woolly halmaddi in the ingredients - but not so much that it irritates me unduly.  On the stick there's a candy shop aroma - really sweet and jammy, quite lovely. It's somewhat more woody when burning - but fairly thin and acidic. It says there are eleven different ingredients including frankincense and amber; and I don't doubt that, but it's mostly an acidic fairly vinegary note that dominates. Some musty sandalwood underneath, but not quality sandalwood. It's a little bit sawdusty. Some damp beech wood. It's OK, but just a little too sharp for me. If it burned like it smells on the stick, or if it had a more prominent frankincense and amber aroma, I would like it a lot more. As it is, it's not a failure, but it's not one to really excite me.  Decent job though.

Date: Dec 2017  Score: 30

Ancient Wisdom