Spirit of Vinaiki - Ayurveda Sampler

Spirit of Vinaiki – Ayurvedic Single-Notes Sample Set

Purchased from Padma Store for €3.95.

This sample set was my first contact with Ayurvedic incense sticks. Admittedly, I didn’t think too much about what that might mean beforehand. Incense sticks are advertised with all sorts of things.
I am sure that there are enough incense sticks that take “Ayurveda” as their theme, just as there are “Reiki”, “Chakra”, “Angel” and “Zombie Defence” incense sticks, but actual Ayurvedic incense sticks are a thing of its own, it seems.
I would go as far as saying that they are the “Tibetan-style” incense sticks among Indian incense: Very natural, made according to ancient traditions (which don’t necessarily have the scent as the main focus) and something that will create strongly divided opinions.

The ingredients are understood here as active ingredients that have certain properties, for example Dammar (Shorea wiesneri) brings clarity, Frangipani (Plumeria alba) lifts the mood, Guggul (Indian myrrh – Commiphora mukul) protects against negative energies and is calming, Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata) supports meditation and deepens intuition, myrrh (Commiphora molmol) is grounding and cenetring, Nannari (Hemidesmus indicus) refreshes and clarifies and is suitable for energetic house cleaning, spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) has a calming, harmonizing and also grounding effect, sandalwood (Santalum album) reduces stress and has a soothing, relaxing effect, Styrax (Styrax benzoin) is for sensuality and Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is aura-cleansing and balancing.

The sticks are made in India, but the brand was created by two Germans. (For those interested, here is a link to the company portrait on the Padma Store website.)

Now to the nitty-gritty:
The sticks are THICK. Maybe the fattest ones I’ve come across so far. They are (as expected) very smoky, not just in terms of smoke production but also the smell.

I know Dammar very well as a raw material and have been using it for a long time. It has a resinous, slightly lemony smell that has something rather dry about it. I found the smoke from these sticks to be quite harsh, but unmistakably dammar-like. I also noticed that they develop a smell that I perceive as “masculine”, specifically it reminds me of male sweat, but not in an unpleasant way. I’ve often had this association with other incense sticks, and now I’m wondering whether this could actually be a clue that there is dammar in the recipe.

Frangipani was the variety I was most looking forward to, but unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Maybe my nose just isn’t sensitive enough to smell the scent within the smoke. It’s not a nasty smoke smell, more like when you smell smoke somewhere outside and think, “Oh, someone’s burning nice wood.”
It is quite similar to nard, nannari and tulsi. 
Nannari smells drier, perhaps like dry leaves being thrown into a campfire. 
Nard is a little sweeter, tart and earthy. 
Tulsi has a minerally pungent or cutting green note. All three are not my taste at all.

Sandalwood is a bit pungently smoky at first, but then quickly softens and develops a woody-spicy-sweet aroma that I find quite pleasant. Surprisingly mild, compared to the other scents, especially considering the thickness of the sticks.

Styrax is unmistakable. Vanilla-like sweet and a bit pungent. I am very surprised that the main ingredient is listed as Styrax benzoin (which can be found commercially under the name Benzoin Sumatra) and not as Liquidambar (orientalis or styraciflua), which is actually known to us by the name Styrax because that’s what the sticks smell like to me. Pure Styrax balsam (i.e. Liquidambar) has an almost acrid, gasoline-like smell, which turns into a light, lovely sweet note as it is properly diluted. With these Styrax sticks, I think I’m picking up some of that gasoline note, but maybe it’s just a bit of a bite from the smoke. In any case, Pure Sumatra Benzoin smells pungent vanilla-sweet, with a hint of cinnamon, which I don’t smell here.

Myrrh is recognizable for what it is. Tart, warm, balsamic, slightly sweet; but unfortunately, it also smells like when you burn raw myrrh on charcoal, and it gets too hot: smoky, somewhat bitter and burnt. Additionally, there is the smell of smoke from the sticks themselves, the base material and binder, which makes it rather unpleasant overall.

Indian Myrrh (Guggul) is also aromatic and tart and has a certain warmth about it. Unfortunately, it also smells very smoky. Not exactly unpleasant, at least better than Myrrh, but still too rough for my taste. Pure Guggul, gently heated, has a wonderfully warm, spicy and sweet scent, depending on the quality, it can even almost smell like a perfume.

Indian Frankincense is absolutely on point. My homemade sticks using Boswellia serrata don’t smell much different. Frankincense-like resinous, fresh, spicy and slightly sweet. The smell of smoke is present but doesn’t overwhelm. The overall aroma is distinct, but not overpowering or pungent.
Indian frankincense resin differs from other types of frankincense (there are around 25) most clearly in its special, spicy note. It has hardly any of the citrusy or minty freshness typical of many other varieties, and is rather sweet and somewhat oily in comparison. As a loose incense, I like it almost the least, but when used for incense sticks it takes the lead for me.

I have decided to forego my usual point rating in this review.
This category of sticks is simply too independent to be compared to other Indian incense sticks, and within the Ayurveda type incenses, I simply lack the bandwidth.
I rate the quality of the materials used and the design as very good, although most of them fail for me in terms of smell.
I think anyone who generally enjoys Tibetan style incense sticks or likes to burn herbs on charcoal and finds the typical Indian sticks too “loud”, too sweet and too artificial smelling might enjoy these too, but they are certainly not made for everyone nor really for me.

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