Satya (BNG) - Nag Champa

Satya (BNG and Mumbai)

Let me say this right up front: Satya is a brand that I don’t get along well with.
I got this bunch of samples through an incense exchange. I had asked for them specifically because I wanted to test my opinion of Satya without having to buy several packs and wasting money on it.
My opinion on Satya: They’re highly overrated.

Satya is immensely popular and they actually invented Nag Champa. They became famous with their Nag Champa and the distinctive blue packaging of those, and they continue to enjoy this fame to this day.

Due to economic influences (keyword: scarcity of resources and increases in prices), their recipes have undergone several changes over the years and decades. To the negative – at least that’s the opinion of many who are old enough to know what they smelled like in the “good old days”.
I, a child of the 80s, basically only witnessed the beginning of the end. I remember finding them fantastic as a teenager (around the turn of the millennium).
On Reddit r/Incense I noticed how many people are (still) complaining about fakes and asking where they can get “real” Satya Nag Champa. This taught me that there are actually two Satyas – two real ones.
The original founder of Shrinivas Sugandhalaya (founded in 1964), Shri Satyam Setty died in 1999 and passed on the company to his two sons. They were already involved in the company beforehand.
Legend has it that the two brothers could not agree on how they wanted to continue running the company; one insisted on continuing to produce incense sticks using the most traditional recipes and methods possible, using high-quality ingredients, and the other wanted to take a more cost-effective route. They split up and so, there are now two companies who legally produce and sell the Satya branded incense, but of different quality.
One is in Bengaluru (Bangalore) and the other is in Mumbai.
If you want to delve a little deeper into the story, you can read this posthere is another interesting article.
Another important factor that led to recipe adjustments even before the split was the scarcity of the raw material Halmaddi – a gum resin that serves as a binding agent but also has an aromatic quality. Its popularity in the 1970s severely threatened the trees’ populations until the Indian government stepped in and banned harvesting. It only recently has it been made available to the market again through targeted cultivation and a relaxation of the ban.
The same applies to sandalwood, which is classified as endangered. Here is an interesting video about sandalwood.

Satya (M) - Super hit

The inner bag from Satya Mumbai – Super Hit

So how do you tell whether a pack of Satya incense sticks is from Bengaluru or Mumbai?
More detailed image examples can be found in the article linked above, here [if you click on the link in the post, you will be warned about an insecure connection, apparently the site’s certificate has expired, which is only a formality. It is the private domain of one of the former moderators of r/Incense, there is no danger. ;)] is another very useful Reddit post that illustrates the differences, short and sweet.
I’ll summarize the most important points:

  • Real Satya incense packs have a sticky tape seal at both ends
    • BNG has 3 colours: “gold”, Blue, Red
    • Mumbai only has 2 colours: blue, red
  • In addition to the company logo, BNG has a green, square “Earth” logo, which the Mumbai boxes never have.
  • A box made in BNG only has a Bengaluru address written on it,
    the company inscription reads “Shrinavas Sugandahlaya (BNG) LLP TM
  • A Mumbai box also has Mumbai in the address and
    the company name is written as “Shrinivas Sugandhalaya LLP TM
  • There are 3 different company logos, one that both companies use and 2 that only one of each company uses:
    • A monogram with two square S’s that overlap each other can be found on packages from both companies
    • The Bengaluru production facility has a monogram of 2 curved S’s that are slightly offset from one another – if in printed in colour, the upper one is red, the lower one is blue (seen in the cover photo)
    • A monogram-like logo of two interlocking “c” shapes (when printed in colour, one red, one blue, the blue mirrored) belongs to the Mumbai company (seen in the image above).
  • The incense sticks from Bengaluru have “BNG” stamped on the inside of one of the flaps.

 Attention! There are still old packs in circulation to which these points do not apply, or only apply to a some extent!

Satya BNG is commonly considered “the good” brand. However, recently (for about six months or a little longer) voices have become louder saying that they like the Mumbai products better, and since the pandemic we have heard from time to time about apparent drops in quality.
Generally, it is said that the company in Bengaluru produces hand-rolled incense sticks while in Mumbai, it is made by machine.
I wrote with someone on r/Incense not long ago who was looking for special incense sticks made in Mumbai and said that they do both machine-made and hand-rolled incense (and the hand-rolled ones are significantly better). A short time later, I found an article that confirmed this, but I can’t find it nor the post in question. If I come across it again, I will add it.

An example image of an actual imitation can be found here.

RatingSatya BNG
2.0Super Hit are incredibly popular, probably the most popular after Nag Champa. I bought a box of them in “Jovi’s Asialaden” in Braunau sometime in 2021. I was able to smell them through the mask I was waiting – she had just received a fresh delivery of incense, and the tiny shop smelled of nothing else.
The raw smell is really fantastic.
Unfortunately, when lit, they smell incredibly cloying, sweet and intrusive.
Someone (who likes it) once compared it to crème brûlée, and I can relate. There is also a note in it that reminds me of nutmeg, which I hate.
The after smell is again quite pleasant, although still very sweet. But if I can’t stand the smell while it’s burning, it’s not worth much to me.
2.0Reiki are also very popular. The person who made the crème brûlée comparison later mentioned that they were very similar to Super Hit, which unfortunately I read too late. These incense sticks were also not part of the sample exchange; I bought a pack of them at the beginning of 2022. They have solidified my negative opinion of Satya.
At first, I found it more pleasant than Super Hit, less cloying. They smell as well creamy and sweet, but have a light, fruity freshness that lightens the smell. Unfortunately, I found the after-smell rather unpleasant and something bothered me.
When I lit it in the garden some time later, I suddenly realized what:
The smell reminds me of cold hookah smoke, especially one with the aroma of honeydew melon, which once gave me a bad migraine attack and after that, smelling hookah made me sick.
1.2Black Crystal was on my curiosity list. I deleted it after a Satya fan on Reddit told me that if I like Super Hit, I’ll definitely like those.
I thought it was great that my incense exchange partner had them in his collection, and therefore had the opportunity to try them.
I find them indeed terrible.
For a very brief moment they smell sweet, floral and woody, then a horrible bitter note sets in. The bitter note, which I describe as “burnt sugar” and which I also notice to a much lesser extent in many Satyas. If Black Crystal doesn’t smell bitter to you – but rather pleasant – the chances are high that you will also like other Satyas.
3.0To me, Black Champa smells surprisingly similar in character to varieties from the Mother’s Nagchampa line. They don’t come close to their quality, but they create an association to it.
They are quite intense and as the smell builds up it quickly becomes unpleasant, but I actually find them good.
The aroma is bright, floral and cinnamony. Sweet, like cinnamon candy, and it has a woody base note, or a certain cedarwood oil smell.
In addition to the cinnamon candy, I notice an aspect that makes me think of AXE deodorant.
This sounds like a wild combination, but it actually works really well for me in this case because it contrasts the bright, high-toned sweetness. What’s interesting is that Nag Darshan by Vijayshree also has this “men’s fragrance + cinnamon concept” in my opinion, but with them, it doesn’t work for me at all.
I suspect that opinions will differ on this scent as well.
2.6Red Champa – It took me a while to get to terms with Red Champa.
I find it has a tendency to get really overpowering quickly, but in smaller doses, if you just let a stick burn for a short time, the smell can be actually good.
It is floral-tart and somewhat tangy or fruity. There’s a certain musk note underneath that only comes to the fore every now and then. They seem a little perfumey to me, but that doesn’t bother me.
In fact, today I realized that they have a slight resemblance to Golden Nag Champa by Vijayshree. They are more perfumey than these, and Golden Nag Champa is woodier and has a richer musk tone. They also have a typical Nag Champa note that Red Champa lacks. Maybe it’s frangipani.
2.5Nag Champa – the classic and Satya‘s flagship.
They smell typically of Nag Champa, extremely creamy, but the floral aspect is lacking for me, or rather feels a bit blurry. I think I can recognize frangipani, but somehow it’s thin and, at least today, the smell strangely reminds me of anise or fennel. Very strange.
I think Red Champa have a much more pronounced character, but are more intrusive. Nag Champa is understated but also bland, which makes it well suited for the background.
2.0Benzoin – Here we have the most intense burnt sugar note after Black Crystal. Nevertheless, it is also the one fragrance on this list that smells most like its namesake, with its intense vanilla sweetness.
This variety also needs a lot of fresh air so that it doesn’t turn unpleasant.
They have a slightly woody note and an interesting freshness, which is quickly lost when the smell builds up.
The after smell reminds me of sweet popcorn from the day before.
3.0Myrrh is one of the most unique in the entire list.
It doesn’t really smell like myrrh to me (at first); in fact, it reminds me a lot more of frankincense. It makes me think of Vijayshree – Meditation and also Mother’s Church Incense. (The latter is interesting in this context because I once had a conversation with someone, about whether Church Incense contains myrrh or not. I don’t think so – he does.) In any case, Satya‘s Myrrh smells very fresh, in an almost tangy way, what is very untypical for Myrrh. The smell also contains a pleasant, balsamic softness and a bitter note. This combination, on the other hand, does sounds like myrrh, and this aspect of the scent comes increasingly into the fore as it progresses. Since so many of the Satya varieties smell bitter to me, I remain sceptical.
2.7White Sage – Well, what can I say? These sticks definitely don’t smell like white sage (Salvia apiana). White sage has a smell that I don’t like, it reminds me slightly of marijuana. However, I find the smell of the sticks quite pleasant.
It’s a dry smell, quite strong, with an aromatic-green character that makes me think of men’s perfumes on the one hand, and of my grandma on the other. She always made an ointment with sage in it. – So there it is, the sage.
It definitely doesn’t smell like fresh or burnt white sage. Maybe this is what it’s essential oil smells like? I’ve never smelled that before. There is also a Sage by Mother’s in the Herbal Line that smells quite similar. Unfortunately, I don’t have any left to compare.
2.5Dragon’s Blood doesn’t smell like the resin either (neither like Daemenorops draco nor like Dracaena cinnabari) but it’s okay. The smell has a certain cosmetic freshness, is sweet and tart-fruity. If there is not enough ventilation, this again turns into a smell of burnt sugar.
Out of curiosity, I broke off some of the masala and put it in isopropyl alcohol to see if it would turn red. (Dragon’s blood is alcohol-soluble and was previously used to make red ink.) The solution is a rich yellow-brown.
2.5Dragon’s Fire smells different from Dragon’s Blood, but an almost identical vocabulary comes to mind anyway. Warm, rather deep, sweet, slightly fruity, cosmetically fresh. Again I have to mention the burnt sugar note. I liked Dragon’s Blood a little better the first time, but today it’s almost the opposite. Both are not really my taste and are relatively generic.
2.2When I first tried it, I found Namaste to be very similar to Reiki and Super Hit.
Maybe it’s because of the cool air blowing in from outside that I find it more pleasant today. They are still quite generic. Perfumey like a room freshener. It’s sweet, in a vaguely fruity direction and a little spicy-fresh, but nothing that can be identified in any way. The burnt sugar is also there again, in the background. Over time, the smell becomes unpleasant for me.
2.0Karma – This variety has a bitter note again, but I find it more herbaceous, almost like the bitterness of wormwood. The smell is also very creamy and sweet in a fruity way.
2.7Indian Rain Forest have a clear wood smoke note, especially shortly after lighting; the bitter note is there again. (I have to write this so often, it makes me feel like I sound incredibly monotonous.)
Then they become sweeter, powdery and fresh-floral, a bit cosmetic. The woodiness remains, without the unpleasant burning smell of smoke and, fortunately, the bitterness also disappears.
This smell also has a vague herbal association.
It’s a nice, soft scent.
2.6Arabian Musk smells like “White Musk” – a synthetic musk scent – ​​which I really like. It smells unmistakably powdery, soft and sweet. It’s a little messed up by a slight bitter smell of burnt sugar, but it’s not too intense with this variety. It’s definitely one of the better varieties for me.
Note: This is the favourite Satya-scent of the person who sent me the samples (from France) and he recently told me that he has great difficulty finding packs that smell identical (and, more importantly, equally good).
2.6Musk is a bit more complex than Arabian Musk, but I’m not sure if I like it better.
There’s that bitter note again. In addition to the soft musk aroma, I notice something fruity. If I had to give it a name, it might be “apple”.
Musk is slightly darker or heavier compared to Arabian Musk, but also has a powdery and mildly sweet quality.
The bitterness blends in relatively well with this composition after a while.
2.2Pyramids has a very generic, Satya-like smell. Creamy-sweet and the bitter note again. Today I find something fruity in the smell, the first time my nose interpreted it as rather herbaceous. The combination of sweetness with bitterness probably gives rise to a vague association to sage.

Average rating: 2.4

RatingSatya Mumbai
2.0Aruda (or Arruda) is rue. I have one in the garden, so I’m familiar with the smell. If you light a leaf, it first smells tart-spicy, slightly bitter and like burnt herbs, then suddenly a sweetness pops up, transforming the smell into something like coconut curry.
Aruda smell rather weak, they have a burnt smell and are sweetish, sometimes a tart, almost bitter note comes through.
Simply lighting the herb smells better, or more interesting at least.
2.6Aromatic Frankincense has a tart, fresh, aromatic smell that goes in a more musky direction and reminds me of men’s perfume or deodorant.
The smell has little in common with frankincense. However, it’s really not bad. A little powdery, slightly sweet, rather dark and maybe a little woody.
2.6Copal – The smell is resinous fresh, in a citrusy-fruity way. Not really like an actual resin, but it creates the association with citrusy smelling resins. Aside from that, it doesn’t smell like any Copal that I know of. They have an intersection with Myrrh and Aromatic Frankincense. I also find it really similar to Nag Breuzinho by Vijayshree (which doesn’t smell like copal either – Breuzinho is a black copal).
In the background, there is once again a slight bitter note.
At first, I didn’t think the scent was completely round. Either the storing them has done them good or I’m slowly getting used to the Satya base smell and starting to block it out.
2.5Egyptian Pyramid is very unobtrusive. A warm, slightly spicy woody smell, accompanied by a creamy sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm.
Friendly, pleasant, meaningless.
2.5Gold Gleam smells similarly unobtrusive, although slightly stronger than Egypitan Pyramid. Only instead of the woody warmth, this scent has a cosmetic freshness and a slightly tart fruitiness.
1.8Nirvana – I’m sure there are people who will like this smell – I find it terrible, I have to extinguish the stick after just a few moments.
It’s a tart, soapy smell that swings somewhere between herbaceous lavandin and bitter grapefruit.
This scent is very different in character from the previous ones.
2.5Sacred Ritual – I didn’t find it particularly special the first time I tried it. The smell seemed quite pungent to me.
I like it better today. I would describe it as a very calming, herbaceous-tart, but reserved, powdery-soft smell.
Roughly in the same direction as White Sage perhaps; I didn’t compare.
2.6Sensation – reminds me of Tanishtha by Goloka. Both have a character that is somewhat like freshly washed laundry, but Sensation is very fruity and creamy, while Tanishtha is woodier and significantly less sweet. I see the fruitiness as an orange/yellow colour.
Sensation is one of the varieties, in which I initially smelled the bitter note of burnt sugar clearly; Now I still find the smell to be somewhat tart, but it no longer irritates me.
2.5Super Hit smells different from what I remember from Super Hit (BNG). Unfortunately, I don’t have any left to compare. Maybe I can get another sample somewhere.
I would describe the Mumbai version as creamy-sweet with a pinch of vanilla. They are also woody, with a touch of cosmetic freshness. I find them to be far less sweet than BNG, or at least not as cloying and overpowering.

Average rating: 2.4

Overall average rating: 2.4

It seems to me as if I’m slowly getting used to the Satya base note and now automatically blocking out a good part of the smell that I initially found unpleasant. In any case, I initially rated them worse than I do now; except for the few that I liked better from the start. These are: Black ChampaMyrrhWhite SageIndian Rain Forest and Aromatic Frankincense – these have essentially remained the same. 
I originally rated the BNG varieties Super Hit and Reiki in the 1-range, but because I no longer have them and can’t see them in relation to the others, I rated them 2.0. Despite the occasional good review, I’m not really thinking about buying any of the varieties. Either because there is a comparable scent from another brand that I like better or because they are nice, but not nice enough.
Overall, I stick to my opinion about Satya, but I join those who no longer consider Satya Mumbai products to be inferior per se.

I also find it worth mentioning the strikingly dark, sometimes almost brown-black colour of the ash, which I find a bit suspicious. Vijayshree ash is also often very dark, but not as extreme as Satya.
The sticks themselves cannot be visually distinguished from one another. All have yellow dyed bamboo sticks, the masala is black, and the powder coating has a light tan wood colour, like the fur of a camel.

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