Berk - Blue Line 1 Secret Visions

Holy Smokes – Blue Line: Assortment 1 “Secret Visions”

[If you have already read one of the other Blue Line sampler reviews, you can jump straight to the table.]
The Blue Line by Holy Smokes is extremely extensive and is divided into three sample assortments: 1 Secret VisionsFlowery DreamsLoving Fantasies.
They contain 2 sticks of 9 varieties each. An assortment box costs around €6-7. The regular packs cost €3-3.50 (often offered at a higher price) for 10g.
I would categorize all of them as dry masala. The typical powder coating on these sticks is less a wood powder than a very fine powder, which sometimes makes the sticks look a bit marbled. They are 20.5cm long, the bare bamboo varies greatly in length from variety to variety – from approx. 2.5cm to 5cm.

II was able to get all 3 assortments second-hand but unopened for cheap over a year ago. It took me a lot longer to get to grips with all of them than I expected (and I’m still not completely through it) because I soon realized that there wasn’t much left of my previous enthusiasm for this brand.
From what I remember, the scents smelled much better. Has my taste changed, or the quality?

What I noticed overall is that I often found the sticks to smell very smoky, especially at the beginning. Another observation is the almost omnipresent vanilla sweetness, which almost all the incense sticks in this line have in common.

2.5Agarwood absolutely thrilled me back then. I still had no idea what exactly agarwood (also eaglewood, aloeswood) is. I actually found one of my old packs (at least 10 years old, 15 max.) and compared it with the samples: Even after this long time, the old sticks smell better than the new ones!
It has a soft, woody-warm, somewhat powdery smell. The typical spicy, fresh agarwood note is present in the new ones, but is significantly weaker. They seem warmer, and I find them a bit bitter, “tarry” if you will.
2.7Astral Sandal is much more of a fantasy scent than the line’s regular Sandalwood. I smell more sandalwood on the raw stick than when I burn it, although it smells more like an oil or attar than when you sniff a piece of high-quality sandalwood.
It’s sweet but not as vanilla-heavy as the other scents, it doesn’t make me think of pastry. The smell is a little deeper and more complex. Warm, woody and slightly earthy. Sometimes I smell a faint floral note. Nevertheless, I don’t find it to be very complex.
I’m reminded of the Sandalwood from Pure, which, however, smells significantly different when compared directly. Nevertheless, Astral Sandal is definitely one of the BERK varieties with the clearest Pure association for me.
2.7Sandalwood has the reoccurring vanilla sweetness, but it blends in quite well, although I find it a tad too dominant. If they were called “Sandalwood – Vanilla” it would be a perfect landing. You don’t have to look for the sandalwood, but occasionally the vanilla comes to the fore. For me, it falls into the “Nose Candy” category. A certain amount of benzoin feels obvious. If you like vanilla incense sticks, you will definitely like these and find them better than I do.
?Sandalwood – Musk – I don’t really know what to think about this scent. On the one hand, I would say it is one of the better ones, on the other hand, it just doesn’t suit my taste.
The smell is rather dry, warm, slightly tart but at the same time soft. It has something woody (without being able to smell the sandalwood) and a slightly sour aroma. A certain sweetness is present in the base, but not predominant. It reminds me of nutmeg, which I absolutely cannot stand.
Overall, the smell has a waxy-balsamic quality to it, which makes it appear strangely heavy.
I don’t smell the typical amber note of musk seed (ambrette) nor anything really “animalic” in it; nothing I would normally associate with the concept of “musk.”
2.9I remember Musk from before. This was one of my favourite scents as a teenager. I think these incense sticks contributed a lot to what I now find to be a typical Musk smell.
With these sticks, the vanilla note fits pleasantly into the overall concept.
The smell is sweet, aromatic and has a rather tart freshness that creates a slight contrast.
They need a little time to fully develop their aroma; at the beginning, they smell kinda burned.
It’s not quite enough for a 3 rating.
2.8I also know Nepali Grass from before. I remember being quite fascinated by the smell, but I found the after-smell better, or rather the smell while burning a bit too pungent/scratchy. But back then, I mostly burned incense with the windows closed…
I find the smell rather dry; it’s earthy, tart and has an interesting, sharp note that I can’t clearly define. It’s not really “green”, maybe “mineral”?
There is also the usual BERK sweetness, which goes well with it here.
In any case, it’s one of the more interesting, unique scents in the line.
Unfortunately, I had no success finding out which plant might be referred to as Nepali Grass.
2.9Frankincense – I can vividly remember my disappointment when I tried these incense sticks the first time because they didn’t smell a bit like Frankincense – something I’ve noticed with a couple of “Frankincense” incense sticks since then.
If I step back from my expectations, I can certainly get something out of the smell.
First and foremost, their aroma is sweet. They have a special sweet character that I like to call “smeary”: a very heavy, dense form of creaminess that easily becomes too much for me, but here it is kept within limits. Furthermore, they have something balsamic-spicy, almost tart. Very rarely, I get a citrusy top note.
Once again, there is a strong similarity to Pure; Absolute Frankincense in this case.
2.6Vanilla – What does the “vanilla” variety of a brand smell like, from which almost everything smells like vanilla?
It smells like vanilla. Surprise.
The sticks start out very unexciting, but develop positively, especially if you give them enough air. The scent is warm and friendly and after a few minutes, the typical bourbon vanilla aroma emerges.
If I wouldn’t find vanilla so boring as a single note incense, the rating would be higher.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any samples left from Mother’s Vanilla, I would have liked to compare. Based on my memory, I would say I like this better. They don’t remind me of cake cream.
2.4I also know Cinnamon from before, and I remember finding it terrible back then. Scratchy and smoky.
My current impression is much more positive. They are cinnamon-spicy, warm and sweet, but more towards benzoin than vanilla. It’s a deep, cosy smell. Sometimes, especially shortly after lighting, there is a slightly burnt note, but I don’t find it overly disturbing, more of an indication that there is actually cinnamon in the masala, not just oils. Unfortunately, it comes back in the after-smell, which I ultimately do find unpleasant.
As long as they burn, they are generally quite mild and unobtrusive.

Approximate average rating: 2.7

In this range, it seems to me as if the vanilla in the base blends in better overall, competing less with the namesake scents than within Flowery Dreams.
Nevertheless, it causes the individual varieties to blur together in my memory, giving me the impression that everything smells more or less the same.
Varieties that stand out are: FrankincenseNepali Grass and Sandalwood – Musk.
But none of them will probably have a permanent place in my collection.

The one set yet missing is the Loving Fantasies, whose varieties only have fantasy names.
I’ve already sniffed a few of them, with little enthusiasm. Everything appears very sweet and uniform.

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