Incense is like wine, there are broad extremes in quality from the very cheap to costing more than your likely to ever want to pay.
You can get 100 sticks for a $1, or Japanese Aloeswood incense such as Translucent Path for $1500 for 90 sticks.
In the West incense culture is close to non-existent so we buy at the “plonk” end of the market mostly.
In my opinion the cheaper incense we use is close to being a poison though.
It maybe cheap, but you're getting more a novelty purchase. Because you're no going to get a quality product, made from natural materials for a pittance.
Cheap incense, is referred to as “punk dipped” and it's made by dipping sticks into synthetic scents.
When it's a higher quality and made with essential oils, the oils themselves are pushed to the max with solvents.
If you get a “headache” from incense this stuff is the culprit. It's not good or life enhancing. It might be labelled “hand made” but it's hand made by dipping it in a toxic bath of chemicals.
This is the kind of incense commonly found on the street. It’s Incense that's lurid in colour, designed to attract your attention, that comes with enticing names such “Sensual Violet” or “Electric Musk”.
Furthermore it's the incense most of us think of, if we think of it at all.
It's made and mass produced by big companies. They mass market and distribute it through highly efficient distribution networks, ensuring it is everywhere to be seen. Keeping the cost of production low means it's at a price suited to an impulse purchase.
While all things have a right exist the some of us can give it a miss.
Higher quality incense on the other hand will bring you pleasure, that stimulates and enhances an awakening of your senses.
It will bring refinement, unexpected pleasure and sensual enrichment into your home.
That's because the better quality scents of the world are all hand made using natural oils resins herbs and woods and are free from solvents.
Indian Incense is where we find the most flamboyant and complex incense in world in my opinion.
There are a select number of boutique makers who're devoted to the pursuit of a connoisseur level of production.
India incense sticks are made using a bamboo core and a paste made up of natural ingredients that is bonded to the stick while wet and then dried in the sun.
Because of the cost of quality ingredients many Indian incense makers have dropped their quality. They get their costs down to achieve mass market appeal. So the real traditional Masla incense of India is now more difficult to find than ever.
It's the best of the best that I can hunt down in India that I offer here.
There is a 2000 year long history of Tibetan incense. It's a tradition that goes back to the arrival an incense tradition from India.
Tibetan Incense reflects the unique qualities of Tibetan culture and it’s usually more earthy and more herbal in character.
When Tibetan incense is at it’s best it's made with pure herbs woods spices and flowers.
Sometimes a particular incense will contain contain over 30 ingredients and some it may have medicinal benefit in mind.
All ingredients are simply ground down into a wet paste and left to dry usually in the form of sticks.
Tibetan incense is very particular in character and I offer an above average grade of it in store.
Japanese incense is super refined like much of the Japanese cultural output.
Good quality Japanese incense is mold-made. Aloeswood or Sandalwood pastes are often the main ingredient. But the real stuff is always very expensive.
Japanese incense makers have decided to maintain quality in the face of rising costs without compromising on price.
I have never stocked Japanese incense because I like to offer something that's out of the ordinary. The only Japanese incense I can find you can already find everywhere.
I’ve contacted good Japanese incense makers but they're reluctant to offer any discount at all even on volume sales. If I was Harrods they might supply me but on the small scale of Jivada they have no interest in selling.
In the end of the day I prefer the more flamboyant and diverse style of Indian Incenses myself.
While Japanese Incense maybe considered the best in the world it is almost painfully refined and focused on the Woody side of the spectrum. So life goes on.
But if you want incense in your life it is well worth spending that little bit extra to access the higher grades and enjoy what they have to offer. Many of them can still be purchased for less than a pint of beer.