Our thanks go to the fine folks who package and import the Incense from India line for educating us on incense, so we can pass that information on to you. =)
Just like fine wines, Incense from India scents are categorized into the following methods of manufacture:
Masalas are usually made by blending solid ingredients into a paste and rolling them on a stick. These usually do not contain liquid perfumes.
Charcoal incenses are usually very dark or black in color. The blank sticks usually will contain a charcoal, and perhaps sandalwood or other resins. Then the stick is dipped into rich perfumes to absorb the scent.
Durbars (and champas) are made with a mixture of both solid and liquid fragrances. Typically these are wet or moist to the touch (sometimes you can 'dent' them with a fingernail) and usually they contain exotic spices, resins and perfumes that aren't used in the West.
Combination incense are Masala base incenses that have then been dipped into fragrances to produce a unique scent with a lot of depth. Typically these are very highly fragranced incense whose scent lingers after burning.
Woodbase incense are fairly self-explanatory, but may also include ambers. Technically they are Masala incense, but since the wood scent can be very strong, this category was created.
We include this information so that, for example, if you're looking for a very strong Amber incense, you will know that a charcoal will probably contain the most amber oil, a Durbar will be a wet amber champa, etc.
In our quest at Amphigory to describe incense to you we use the following terms.
Dry - this is the opposite of sweet. Typically these are incenses that are somewhat woody or contain ingredients that are described as 'crisp' or 'clean'. Usually florals, ambers, fruits and champas are sweet, look for this description for ones that are more unusual and crisp smelling.
Sweet - this can describe anything from one that smells like cotton candy to one that smells like flowers.
Resinous - we use this when we smell frankincense, myrrh, amber or other 'rich' resins. Although Pinon and Benzoin are resins, typically we'll use this when it's a sweeter resin or what people may consider a 'church' incense smell.
Afterscent - the incense aroma that lingers in the room after burning.
Green - very hard to explain, because it's somewhat personal from nose to nose. Green Durbar and Red Cloud both have it. This is a undertone to a scent that almost makes you salivate, it smells fresh, somewhat floral and is light. Generally incenses that contain this are very fresh smelling and the tone is a topnote that dissipates upon burning and doesn't carry into the afterscent.
Indian style - although all of the scents are from India, there's a very perfumed and strong incense type that characterizes Indian incense to most people. Scents described as this may be very overwhelming when burnt and almost certainly leave a lingering afterscent. They are usually just wonderful and complex scents, but may overwhelm a small area.
Incense from India brand incenses *are not* manufactured using Punk sticks. Punk sticks are typically from China and are manufactured to be used as firework punks. They contain untreated wood which can be very abrasive to the nose and can in some cases cause throat irritation and headaches. Many very cheap incenses are manufactured with these types of sticks, so its no wonder that some people think that all incense causes them a sore throat or headache!