Ispalla Palo Santo RENEWAL

3x Palo Santo Incense Sticks: Ispalla vs. Jiri & Friends

Ispalla Palo Santo RENEWAL
Ispalla - Renewal back

I got Ispalla – Palo Santo, now with the additional name “RENEWAL” and an entirely new packaging design, as samples directly from Ispalla Incense from Peru after I contacted them with criticism of their (now apparently much improved) recipe.
You can find details about the story in this article.

One pack contains 10 sticks, which is around 13-15g.
Ispalla lists ingredients: Bamboo sticks, Palo Santo powder, Palo Santo resin, distilled water.
There is no mention of a binding agent, but the Ispalla employee I’m in contact with told me that a Peruvian fruit is used for this – what exactly is of course their trade secret.

The incense sticks fly around a bit loosely in the pack, there would easily be space for twice as many. In that regard, I liked the old, slim packaging better. Apparently, the majority of customers associated these with cheap incense sticks, so Ispalla switched to the current size. The sticks themselves are visually nearly identical to the old ones.

Ispalla - RENEWAL inside
Ispalla - Palo Santo old vs. new

The new version above, the old version below.

For me, Ispalla – RENEWAL have a very authentic Palo Santo smell, for better or for worse: it is aromatically woody, has the typical sweetness that reminds me of coconut and the equally typical fresh notes; However, there is also a somewhat unpleasant smell that always makes me think of hot rubber. This is precisely the note I smell when I light a raw piece of Palo Santo wood. So this is absolutely natural and to be expected.
As always, good ventilation helps enormously to get a pleasant scent, then this unpleasant off-note is hardly noticeable anymore.

However, I have since discovered that the aroma of Palo Santo seems to be particularly responsive to atmospheric and environmental differences. (This applies to all three products discussed here.) Depending on the temperature and room in which I burn the sticks, the smell can vary enormously. The rubber note in question is quite strong and noticeable for a long time in my living room, while in the hallway it can only be found far in the background, even though the ventilation there is actually weaker. They also smell a lot woodier and fresher or cooler there. Furthermore, I found a kind of deadwood note (Palo Santo is deadwood, so again not surprising), which is earthy, slightly musty, but not at all unpleasant.

Whatever the mysterious fruit is, that serves as a natural binder, I can’t smell it. What I particularly
like about RENEWAL is the aftersmell, which has more of the sweetness of Palo Santo and lasts a pleasantly long time. The sticks also seem to burn slightly longer than Palo Santo Resin from Jiri & Friends. In any case, Ispalla have more incense dough on their bamboo splints.

Jiri & Friends - Palo Santo Resin

Jiri & Friends – Palo Santo Resin contain both the resin and the wood, which makes them most comparable to those of Ispalla.
Aside from the bamboo stick, the only other ingredient listed is “tree bark” – I suspect this is Laha (a natural binder).
They cost between €8.50 and €9.95 per pack. One pack contains 15 incense sticks, approximately 15g.
The brand has the WFTO Fair Trade certificate.
I received these 4 sticks (like all the others from this brand) from an incense exchange.

They smell just as natural as those from Ispalla, but seem more resinous to me and have a slightly warmer tone, which may be due to the tree bark. But I wouldn’t say that I can smell the binder.
They also have a bit of the “hot rubber” smell, but perhaps a little milder.
In terms of overall potency, they are on par with Ispalla, but stronger than J&F‘s Palo Santo Wood.
For what they are, I find them relatively low in smoke.
As mentioned above, they too smell slightly different depending on the room in which I burn them. In my hallway, they smell more woody, but retain their rather warm character.

Jiri & Friends - Palo Santo Wood

Palo Santo Wood has the mildest smell of the three and is the least smokey.
I think I can actually smell some of the tree bark in these incense sticks, but I don’t find it disturbing.
Their scent has the strongest emphasis on the sweet aspect of Palo Santo and has the warmest feel to it. The rubbery note is present again with these, but as already mentioned, it is a natural part of the scent profile.

I have a hard time picking a favourite. Today it is Palo Santo Wood, last time it was RENEWAL and before that, it was Palo Santo Resin. But to be completely honest: I still like my homemade ones best and my favourite way of using Palo Santo is raw Palo Santo, put on an incense heater where there is neither smoke nor the smell of hot rubber.
In terms of price alone, Ispalla probably has a clear advantage (I don’t know yet whether the new ones will cost as much as before, they currently cost around €3 in the old design), which is not surprising, considering that Jiri & Friends is Fair Trade certified and are produced in the EU.
Which smells better remains a question of personal taste.
I hope this review will help you a little to make a choice.

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