What our dear customers say in December

What our dear customers say in December warms our hearts and fills us with gratitude. Their feedback is a true gift during this festive season. It is so pleasing and soul-nourishing to receive reviews like these. It is like bathing in the sun during the cold winter. Thank you all. We love you.

The incense sticks arrived on Dec 11th. Shipping really fast. Thank you very much for the sample incense sticks and the extra goodies. The smell of the purchased chopsticks is simply indescribable. Even a day later (after airing a 25 sq. m room) this fragrance is discreetly present. I can recommend him to everyone. Thank you very much for your work behind it. It won’t be the last time I’ll get something for my soul from you. Thank you very much. I wish you peaceful days (ps.to Germany no customs duties).

Franco, Germany

Great quality and great service! Incense is of high, long lasting quality. Package is beautiful and seller included ‘thank you’ note as well as few free samples. Great price for great product!

Tea, Croatia

The same applies to Oudh Masala: the one we received from you in September had a dominant mint note and is truly as described on your website – a little too much mint to our taste actually – but we ordered it again because it did remind us of the original Oudh Masala from Paul Eagle from 10 years ago, although that one had more barnyard notes, and an ambergris note; we only have a few sticks of those left.

Gezina, Netherlands

I’m in love with the warmth of Woody Champa. It creates such a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. The scent is balanced; sweet and spicy with just the right amount of champaca florality. I don’t want to ever miss this scent in my collection!

Irene, Germany 

What the experts say about us

The Olfactory Rescue Service, or ORS as many know it, is the oldest and most respected incense review website, covering quality incense from all over the world.

Taken from the review of our Oudh Majestic incense: 

“It’s been a long time since there was a real contender to the Oud Masala from the Happy Hari family, that nearly perfect blend of masala base and at least an approximation of a decent oud to complement it. There are also a number of charcoal based ouds out there that one might not be able to pick out a specific aroma in a line up. Pure Incense have provided a wide and almost dizzying array of oud and aloeswood incenses from Madhavadas and often the issue is less the top oils than the base. I’m not sure where Oudh Majestic came from but it’s a really good charcoal oudh and has an oil mix on top that seems constructed to display something a bit better than the usual oudh tinged colognes.”

Balsamic Amber just absolutely impressed immediately, it’s an instant hall of famer. It’s interesting but when we talk about good incenses we can spend so much time in areas (usually the woods) where resources are precious and rewards only given to the expensive, so Balsamic Amber reminds me that you can still create something excellent without having to go there.”

Rauchfahne is an upcoming, next generation blog on incense of all kinds, written by Irene, a German incense enthusiast who not just has a rich knowledge about the topic but also makes her own incense from natural ingredients.

“Practically out of nowhere, a new own brand appears in 2023 – Bhagwan Incense – with a considerable range of high-quality incense sticks and at comparably low prices. It uses the renowned name Happy Hari to advertise its quality and also seems to repeat the story of the person behind Happy Hari – Paul Eagle: a man who travels to India to find the best manufacturers of incense sticks and these to sell to the West under its own brand name.”

Oudh Masala: In Search of the Original

As the autumn weather sets in and more rains are on the way, it is a great time to lighten up an incense, make a cup of tea or coffee and look back to the journey we have traveled. It is a time for reflection and contemplation and it is very sweet, and a bit nostalgic, to look back and see your life events through some perspective.
We have been busy packing and sending orders in September and even more so in October, and I am pleased to share some customer feedback and communication with you.

First of all, I shall thank all our beloved customers for their feedback, suggestions and giving us a chance to improve. Please do not hesitate to share more, we are here for you.

We have been getting quite a bit of customer feedback about Oudh Masala we sell. It is one of the most popular sticks, and many people are ordering it.

We have two variants of Oudh Masala in stock – an old time proven stick, which was sold by a late Happy Harri, Absolute Bliss Incense and which is best known to be the “original” Oudh Masala. We also have a more recent variant of the same stick, made by the same supplier, with added pine and mint notes, that makes the stick a more rounded, richer, full bodied version of the old Oudh Masala Incense.

Where it was possible, we have been offering our customers a choice between the two and many people prefer a more updated, recent variant of Oudh Masala with pine and mint notes.

As one customer from the Netherlands put it: “The same applies to Oudh Masala: the one we received from you in September had a dominant mint note and is truly as described on your website – a little too much mint to our taste actually – but we ordered it again because it did remind us of the original Oudh Masala from Paul Eagle from 10 years ago, although that one had more barnyard notes, and an ambergris note; we only have a few sticks of those left.”

So, when placing your order that includes Oudh Masala, please indicate which version you would like to receive. We have a very limited quantity of an old Oudh Masala left and we will not be selling it in the future, but will offer a new variant of Oudh Masala with pine and mint notes.
We love both variants, but our heart lies with the more updated version without a slight cologne note attributed to an old version of Oudh Masala. I hope it will work well for both of us.

Otherwise, we are getting ready for our January trip to India and we have very high hopes for the visit, that could generate some sensations. We have located one more small incense maker in India, that makes an exceptional incense and we are longing to offer their incense to you in the Spring 2024. It is a small family run business and incense is not made in huge quantities, which means more challenges for us to supply it if we get more demand. Fingers crossed, it will work out well.

Incredible Music of Estas Tonne and Mystery of the Incense

In the serendipitous year of 2018, my world was forever altered when I stumbled upon the enchanting music of Estas Tonne in the depths of YouTube. What initially seemed ordinary soon revealed itself as a tapestry of extraordinary emotions woven by a solitary maestro, armed with nothing but his guitar. His music bore the stamp of passion, an inner fortitude, and a nostalgia that, rather than plunging into melancholy, danced with poignant memories. It was as if he sought something profound through his music, an ardent quest for answers, with emotions flowing not from him but through him. Onstage, he entered a trance, conjuring a delightful restlessness in the hearts of those who listened, inspiring a passionate and conscious embrace of each moment, a life steeped in gratitude for the divine Here and Now.

My days soon revolved around his videos, perpetually on loop. Gradually, an epiphany emerged – there was more to his music than met the ear. Struggling to articulate it, I found myself describing it as “a river of life,” an invisible force that surged forth with each strum. From the stage, it radiated, a potent epicenter, traversing the space and enveloping those nearby in profound meditation, as if collectively transported to another realm.

My thoughts meandered to the realm of qawwali and the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He, too, would ignite the stage with his love for the divine, conjuring waves of sound and ishq (love), punctuated by the graceful sway of his head and hands. The stage buzzed with activity, yet the audience wore tranquil expressions, lost in muraqabah (Sufi meditation), their eyes wide open, glowing as if in prayer. It was the same phenomenon, that invisible force transcending from the performer to the audience. Was the qawwal’s performance technically flawless? Perhaps not, but it mattered not; the result eclipsed the process, and the result was nothing short of sublime.

Then, a captivating detail caught my eye: an incense stick gracing Estas’s guitar’s neck. It burned with grace, its tendrils of smoke mirroring the grace in his movements. In every performance, this incense played a role, inseparable from the music, each enhancing the other.

An insatiable curiosity stirred within me – what was the incense that accompanied Estas’s performances? For some inexplicable reason, my thoughts turned to Myrrh and Amber, fragrances that held a special place in my heart, often kindling them during my creative endeavors. Amber bolstered concentration, while Myrrh exuded mystical depths with its ethereal resonance. However, it appeared my guess was wide of the mark.

Estas had chosen an incense that perfectly complemented his artistry, crafting an ambiance where his creative spirit soared unencumbered. His choice? Sandalwood and Rose. What a splendid selection, accentuating the elegance of his music and the artistic essence of his being. While Amber and Myrrh were earthy and grounding, Estas had opted for scents that provided structure (sandalwood) without the weight of resin, and the ethereal lightness of rose, an ethereal companion for his inner flights of fancy.

It became evident that his choice of incense was a mere reflection of his character – a blend of strength, gentleness, and kindness, seamlessly interwoven. “There is no conflict if you embrace life as it is and do not fight with it,” Estas often professed. These words, golden truths, evoked memories of Sufi mystics who navigated the bustling world while keeping their hearts attuned to prayer: “Dil ba eru dast ba kor” – “Heart with God, hands in work.”

I hold the fervent wish that one day, you will have the chance to witness Estas’s enrapturing performance in your own city. If such an opportunity arises, immerse yourself in this once-in-a-lifetime manifestation of life’s essence on stage. It will transform you, cleanse your heart, and leave you with a newfound lightness that lingers for countless days, a testament to the enduring power of love and art.

 

Saffron Encounter and the Mysterious Sage: My Journey to Kashmir

As September comes to an end, I find myself frequently reminiscing about my trip to Kashmir last year. It’s a recurring pattern for me; when a particular time of the year arrives, memories of what transpired in the previous year flood my mind. This can happen not only for the previous year but also for moments from years past. Sometimes it’s triggered by a specific weather condition, a familiar fragrance in the air, or even seemingly random moments. These memories often haunt me, resurfacing during my meditation sessions or while I take leisurely walks in the park, gazing at the moon’s gentle glow through the scattered clouds in the night sky.

My desire to visit Kashmir had long been a plan in the making. It all began when I had a vivid dream of a magnificent shrine dedicated to Hazrat Makhdoom Sahib (RA), one of the greatest saints of the valley. In my dream, I stood inside his shrine, surrounded by people engaged in a sufi dhikr, their voices harmoniously chanting a beautiful prayer. Amidst them, I noticed a man with a short white beard, a common sight among Kashmiri men. He wore an unusual expression, seemingly pretending to be mad. Yet, I couldn’t dismiss him, for an overwhelming sense of bliss and blessings radiated from him with an irresistible force. I felt compelled to embrace him, even if he were the maddest of men. I knew he wasn’t insane; it was as if the Divine spoke through him, almost against his will. As I gazed at him in my dream, enchanted by the melodious dhikr, a dark woman suddenly appeared before me. She spoke loudly and urgently, attempting to convey something to me. Who was she? I couldn’t discern, but her persistence succeeded in rousing me from my dream, back to the realm of reality, to my mundane life. I woke up, pondering the mysterious encounter.

You might wonder if I encountered this man in reality during my visit to Srinagar last year. To my disappointment, I did not cross paths with him, despite spending long hours at the shrine daily, hoping for his appearance. Was he real, or was he a product of my imagination? It’s impossible to say, as many saints prefer to remain hidden from the public eye.

This dream served as my “invitation” to Kashmir, and I’ve never regretted embarking on the journey to this beautiful valley with its unique people, cuisine, and fragrances. During my time there, mingling with the locals, exploring the mountains, and visiting ancient temples and shrines in remote locations, one aspect remained constant – a profound and enchanting silence that pervaded every corner I ventured into. Silence enveloped everything, both externally and internally, in people and animals, in the mountains and the tranquil waters of Dal Lake. The people of Kashmir carried this serene silence with them, and it was this sense of peace that resonated deeply with me. There was no trace of violence on the streets or any signs of aggression in the people I encountered. Everyone welcomed me warmly, and their kindness and hospitality made me understand why Kashmir is often referred to as “Heaven on Earth.”

And then, there was my encounter with the majesty of Saffron. It marked my first time witnessing how saffron is cultivated and experiencing the fragrance of its blossoms. The saffron flower, with its inherent strength and beauty drawn from the mountains, left an indelible impression on me. It exuded a unique potency akin to that of medicine. But I’ll delve into that in my next post…

Picture: Author (Eugene) together with renowned Kashmiri writer Mohammad Ashraf Fazili

​Exploring the Mystical and Metaphysical Qualities of Incense

When we encounter incense sticks labeled with names like “Gold” or “Silver,” it’s tempting to smile at the idea of their magical properties. However, the true essence of incense goes beyond these whimsical titles. In this discussion, I aim to delve into how incense has the power to attract and transform individuals, shedding light on the diverse range of people who find solace in its fragrant embrace.

One common misconception I’ve held, and perhaps you have too, is that incense is primarily reserved for meditators and yoga practitioners – those devoted souls who seek to enrich their sacred spaces. Recent encounters, particularly through reading an esteemed incense blog, have opened my eyes to the multitude of incense enthusiasts with varying backgrounds and interests. It’s become clear that while incense can be profoundly spiritual, it cannot instantaneously alter a person’s character. To expect such a miracle from incense would be unrealistic. Genuine transformation requires a deeper commitment to spiritual practice.

Now, let’s pivot to the brighter side of life. I’ve had the privilege of knowing incense artisans who embody spirituality in every aspect of their lives. Engaging in conversation with them is akin to an uplifting spiritual experience. For these individuals, incense is not just a business; it’s a form of creative expression that allows them to merge with the process of crafting these aromatic sticks. It’s as though they’ve found a conduit to the divine, a channel through which inspiration and guidance flow.

I take great pride in being able to offer incense created by these masters of fragrance. They may be advancing in years, but their passion remains undiminished. I pray that they continue to enjoy good health and longevity so that we can savor their aromatic creations for years to come. Interestingly, they do not sell their incense to just anyone. Prospective buyers must undergo a lengthy interview over a cup of chai, displaying a willingness to submit to their authority. They carry themselves like spiritual guides, and to purchase from them, one must adhere to their rules. There’s no phoning in an order from London or Paris and having it shipped via DHL. They insist on face-to-face interactions and spending quality time together. This is why we dedicate several months each year to travel to India, where we engage in a fruitful exchange of knowledge with these masters.

As I sit in their shops, I marvel at their creative process and the fervent discussions surrounding new fragrances. They involve their entire family in the decision-making process, occasionally soliciting my opinion. I often remark that incense has a distinct scent in the West due to differences in humidity and overall weather conditions. In India, incense must contend with a multitude of spices and aromas. After extensive testing, they introduce new incense at the local temple, closely monitoring the temple’s atmosphere for any shifts. This is a genuine experiment for them, with profound implications, as they believe. Consequently, they only present their finest offerings at the temple, sparing no expense. Once a new fragrance has passed the most rigorous spiritual test, they initiate mass production.

Picture: Author`s wife Olga at Arunachalesvara Temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu 

Dhuni Incense

There was an incense and there was The Incense, the only one and the best – Dhuni….

“Dhuni incense has been an intense labor of love from start to finish. As long term travelers to India we spent years scouring the heartland for incenses of all types, always coming close but never truly discovering something we felt was the real deal, an incense that would capture the very essence of a long tradition, now almost extinct in India. Finally, one unlikely day, the Eureka moment arrived. Sitting on a non descript street sipping chai we smelt the first waft of an incense that seemed too good to be true: woody, utterly pure and natural, a magical near mystical blend of oils, ground resins, fragrant botanicals and more. Instantly, we set about finding the origin and the rest…. is history.”

This is how Dhuni Incense came into existence. It enjoyed a great following in the West and received many positive reviews on Olfactory Rescue Service, the leading incense blog.

The founders of the brand, a young British couple, much like ourselves, spent a great deal of time traveling in India and trying thousands of sticks from different manufacturers. Until they found something raw, gigantic, fresh, out of the box: some Dhuni Sticks were massive and thick, with three sticks making a 15-gram packet. The incense was full of essential oils and fragrant resins, as if the person making it wanted to prove their devotion to God through each stick. The maker of the incense did not differentiate between incense making and their spiritual practice; they were absorbed into the creation of the incense, which was their prayer and meditation.

This is what founders of Dhuni were saying on their web-site in 2013: 

“Luxurious hand rolled natural incense sticks from India…

  • Blended by a legendary Indian master incense maker
  • Entirely handmade through every aspect of the process
  • No chemicals or glues of any kind
  • Sumptuous blends conveying the essence of traditional Indian agarbatti
  • Perhaps the last true artisan incense still being produced
  • Excellent customer service and shipping options
  • Quite simply the most extraordinary olfactory experience of your life

Why are you called dhuni?

The name dhuni means ‘sacred hearth’: the fireplace around which India’s holy men sit and offer plant materials to mother earth. dhuni Natural Incense is, we sincerely believe, the only place in the Western world where its possible to buy incense of this quality and, trust us, it’s almost impossible to find now in India either.

The Essence of Bhakti

These long burning joss sticks are a living tradition, the result of incredible plant knowledge, blending know-how, and artisanal skill. Conveying the essence of bhakti – devotion – these sticks convey a reverence for Mother Earth and all her creations, and to light a match to one is to recreate in miniature the sadhus fireplace, into which objects are thrown in consecration, and to purify the animate world.

Protecting an Endangered Tradition

We offer them to you with love, and with the hope that this endangered tradition find means of continuation in India. Overtaken by mass production, and a huge influx of low quality ecologically harmful imitations, the Indian agarbatti market is under threat. Traditional incense made properly is a real rarity now, and it’s our dream that Dhuni goes a small way to helping it survive. In the future we hope to do more for the protection and sustainability of this industry but for now, just buying these sticks will help.”

Dhuni started in 2010 and ended its magnificent existence in 2013. It was like a shooting star, so bright and enormous. We don’t know the reasons why the company ceased its operations but we are grateful to the founders of Dhuni for their service to humanity and a rare gift they brought to the West. 

 

What makes us different?

He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

Lao Tzu

A lot has been said about the different qualities of incense. Some brands claim their sticks are luxurious or for connoisseurs, but we proudly call ours Supreme. Why? Because we have complete confidence in our production process and know that our incense is crafted to the highest ecological, ethical, and production standards using the finest ingredients available.
Our production heavily relies on halmaddi, an exceptionally rare and expensive ingredient. We source the best halmaddi from independent producers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu who adhere to strict regulations set by the Indian Government.
Instead of using cheaper “agarbatti powder” from Vietnam, which is commonly used in commercial incense production, we utilize real sandalwood powder and genuine sandalwood oil. Both of these ingredients are precious and costly.
For our base material, we often incorporate coconut shell powder, which imparts a soft and creamy fragrance to our incense. Additionally, the coconut base emits minimal smoke, allowing the oils to fully manifest themselves.
To preserve the long-lasting aroma of our sticks, we exclusively use real essential oils (attars) obtained through distillation. We avoid synthetic or decomposed oils, as they do not meet our high standards. Although real essential oils are expensive, they ensure the fragrance of our incense endures for years to come.
You may have heard of the renowned Happy Hari brand and the legendary Paul Eagle, who extensively explored India in search of the highest quality incense. Like them, we have followed their path and established relationships with the same esteemed suppliers. We take pride in upholding their legacy by delivering the same exceptional quality.
And, finally, the price. We are trying our best to be as lean as possible, so we can pass on our savings to our customers.We like to think about ourselves that we are not greedy. Perhaps, we are not very humble.
We have managed to build a bulk of our wealth in other sectors of the economy, so there is no pressure for us to deliver. We are enjoying ourselves talking to our customers and discovering new fragrances on the way. We are enjoying being part of the TAO, this process of Life, Creation and Relaxation. Thank you for being a part of it with us.

Music of Incense

Let us talk about the music of incense and fragrance of the Earth. Sounds like a Zen Koan, doesn’t it?

When we visited Kannauj, a small town in Uttar Pradesh in the north of India, we were shown an attar (perfume oil) which resembled the fragrance of the soil. Yes, it smelled like soil, and we were surprised to learn that one can replicate the smell of the Earth using natural botanical ingredients.

Then we were shown fragrances that create joy and ecstasy or sorrow and sadness. How is this possible? We were shown fragrances that were named after famous qawwali singers (qawwali is a type of Sufi singing associated with Chishtiya Sufi tariqa). I remembered the world-famous guitarist Carlos Santana, who loved one particular incense, which is made using a perfume oil composition called Amber Kasturi – a mysterious temple smell of amber and musk.

Yes, incense is like music – it can create joy and happiness, can concentrate the mind, and can help with creativity, relaxation and peace. Incense can change the aura of a room within minutes, and it can change our state of the mind the same way as music does. Isn’t this wonderful?

There is an incense for everything, and every time of the year.
When it is cold, we tend to make a cup of hot tea and burn some myrrh or frankincense. When the spring comes, we might use some arabic oudh (agarwood) and patchouli that will dance in the wind. In the summer lemongrass and rose are great for freshening up a room and cooling it down, while some amber in the autumn can give a space a thoughtful mood. Incense is part of our life – it is our invisible companion.

At the same time, incense is the culmination of nature`s creation, and the ability of man to create fragrances that impact the world within us, and communicate with the world beyond us – something our ancestors have been doing for thousands of years.

If only they had known that one day, someone sitting in a city office would use amber incense, and a young lady who goes to a yoga class would come home and burn a stick of Nag Champa, just to bring a smile to her face….