Chinatown Incense Experience


For the purpose of our Chinatown workshop experience we will be exploring authentic Chinese incense making with reference to local and regional ingredients. 

A summary of the materials and their characteristics as well as blending advice is contained in the table below:




Origin: Indonesia

Purpose: binder

Info: relatively odourless, it becomes sticky when water is added, used as a combustible binder unlike plant gums.


Origin: Taihang Mountain in Hebei province, China

Purpose: aromatic wood

Info: Thuja cypress from the Taihang mountain range in China.

Notes: woody, cool, camphor, green

Blends well with: mugwort, peppermint, lemongrass, patchouli


Origin: Western Australia

Purpose: Aromatic Wood

Info: Australian Sandalwood (santalum spicatum). Different species in the same family as true or Indian Sandalwood. Commercially farmed in western Australia, the species is not endangered like Indian Sandalwood, and more affordable (4x cheaper)

Notes: woody, greener, fresher than Indian sandalwood

Blends well with: generally all, but includes aloeswood, benzoin, cinnamon, clove, lavender, nutmeg, patchouli, star anise, turmeric


Origin: Vietnam

Purpose: Aromatic wood

Info: Aloeswood/agarwood/oud are trees from the species Aquilaria. The aromatic resin that is sought after is the result of a fungal infection. Farmed oud exists, but generally wild caught is considered to be better, as age improves the quality. Aloeswood can be found all over SEA, and recently plantations can be found in EA as well. 

Notes: different regions smell different. Ours is spicy, balsamic, sweet.

Blends well with: benzoin, cinnamon, clove, lavender, sandalwood, star anise, turmeric


Origin: Laos (Siam/Laos Benzoin)

Purpose: aromatic resin

Info: plant resin from styrax tonkinensis. Used throughout history and cultures in incense (catholic church incense, indian/hindu incense or sambrani, Arabic bakhoor). Also has uses in medicine, food and TCM

Notes: cinnamon-aromatic, balsamic, vanilla, 

Blends well with: aloeswood, cinnamon, clove, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, star anise


Origin: India (Boswellia serrata)

Purpose: Aromatic resin

Info: gum resin extracted from the shrubs in the Boswellia family. Used throughout history for incense (mentioned in the bible etc)

Notes: fresh, pine, lemon

Blends well with: benzoin, cinnamon, clove, ginger, lavender, lemongrass, myrrh


Origin: Somalia

Purpose: Aromatic resin

Info: gum resin extracted from the shrubs in the Commiphora family. Used throughout history for incense (mentioned in the bible etc), and in TCM

Notes: warm, earthy, bitter, balsamic, herbaceous

Blends well with: benzoin, cinnamon, cloves, frankincense, lavender, patchouli, star anise


Origin: Indonesia (Patchouli Light Essential) 

Purpose: Essential Oil

Info:  Oil extracted from leaves. Oil is more suited for incense, as leaves have a bad odour when burned. Historically used to ward off fabric pests, popularised in incense by the Hippie movement

Notes: intense, sweet, herbaceous, spicy, woody balsamic

Blends well with: thuja, benzoin, cinnamon, cloves, lavender, myrrh, nutmeg, sandalwood


Origin: France

Purpose: essential oil

Info: Oil extracted from flowers

Notes: sweet, floral, herbaceous

Blends well with: aloeswood, benzoin, cloves, frankincense, lemongrass, mugwort, myrrh, nutmeg, patchouli, star anise

Peppermint Oil

Origin: India

Purpose: essential oil

Info: oil extracted from leaves

Notes: cool, minty, and herbaceous

Blends well with: thuja, mugwort, frankincense, lemongrass


Origin: China

Purpose: Aromatic herb

Info: leaves of Artemisia vulgaris, also known as wormwood. Used often in older European religions, and in China. Also used to flavour food, and may also be smoked as a tobacco alternative

Notes: dry, woody, herbaceous, leather-like

Blends well with: lavender, patchouli, thuja


Origin: Indonesia

Purpose: Aromatic spice

Info:  A tropical Asian perennial plant with aromatic rhizomes (roots). Used in food, flavourings and traditional medicine

Notes: warm, spicy, sweet, camphor

Blends well with: frankincense, sandalwood, turmeric


Origin: India

Purpose: Aromatic spice

Info: roots of Curcuma longa. Used as a dye, pigment, flavouring, medicine.

Notes: spicy, fresh, peppery, woody, pungent and bitter

Blends well with: aloeswood, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sandalwood, star anise


Origin: Indonesia

Purpose: Aromatic spice

Info: Dried flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum. Contains a chemical called eugenol, which gives them their characteristic aroma. One of the primary ingredients in Buddhist incense.

Notes: intense, spicy, warming

Blends well with: aloeswood, benzoin, cinnamon, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, nutmeg, patchouli, sandalwood, star anise, turmeric


Origin: China (cassia cinnamon)

Purpose:  Aromatic spice

Info: Bark of tree.Cassia cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to humans and was first recorded in China in 2700 BC and in Egypt around 1600 BC. Cassia is one of the sacred oils in the old testament.

Notes: strong, spicy, warm, woody, sweet

Blends well with: aloeswood, benzoin, clove, frankincense, myrrh, nutmeg, patchouli, star anise, turmeric

Star Anise

Origin: China

Purpose: Aromatic Spice

Info: dried fruit from Illicium verum, magnolia family. Used in cooking and flavourings, component of 5 spice powder

Notes:  sweet, liquorice

Blends well with: aloeswood, benzoin, sandalwood, cloves, cinnamon, frankincense, ginger, myrrh, turmeric


Origin: India

Purpose: Aromatic herb

Info: Dried leaves of Cymbopogon citratus. Often used in cooking, cosmetics and perfumery

Notes: fresh, lemon, herbaceous, 

Blends well with: frankincense, lavender, thuja


Origin: Indonesia

Purpose: Aromatic spice

Info: seed of Myristica fragrans. Commonly used as a culinary spice.

Notes: warm, spicy, aromatic

Blends well with: cinnamon,clove, lavender, patchouli, sandalwood, turmeric