Thursday, June 28, 2007

Champaca Flowers vs. Nag Champa Incense

Michelia champaca details, originally uploaded by Amethist.

There is often confusion betweenchampaca flowers and the Nag Champa incense. A current project that involves the champaca as a note engouraged me to both look into the matter, as well as sample a few different champaca essences, and further deepened my intrigue by champaca. I hope you’ll find the following information useful.

Michelia Champaca, also known as “golden champaca” or “red champaca” is a flowering tree from the Magnoliceae family (magnolia alba is another species used for its essential oils in perfumery – from both the flowers and the leaves). It is native to India, Java and the Phillipines. Traditionally, Indian women would wear the buds behind their ears until the bud will open up and release its own scent.

Champaca is also related to Star Anise, and its scent in a way shares the spicy characteristics of star anise as well as the floral-fruitiness of magnolia. Unlike white magnolia, which is peach-like and very light, champaca has a penetrating, smooth and rich aroma that is reminiscent of tea, spices, and a floral note that is often compared to orange blossom. I personally think it is so unique it cannot truly be compared to orange blossom at all. Stephen Arctander describes champaca as similar to guiacwood (a waxy, smoky, tea-rose like wood from South America), yet at the same time mentniones that it is also used to adulterate champaca and therefore is not a very good way to describe champaca… I feel that until champaca is experienced, it is really difficult to describe it or imagine it.

I have experienced various champaca essences, including Champaca CO2, Champaca Absolute and Champaca Concrete. The champaca absolutes I have sampled varied a bit, one being more fruity and reminiscent of magnolia, and the other being more full-bodied, spicy and wine-like. In both cases they were intensely warm and rich but not in overpowering way. There is something really soothing and exoticly elegant about champaca in my opinion. Champaca CO2 is similar to the absolute, but with a less complex presence, and it feels a bit flatter, thin in comparison to the other essences. The lasting power and intensity was not to my satisfaction, but if combined with white magnolia and champaca concrete it creates a lovely champaca profile. The champaca concrete is by far my favourite, having a rich, complex tea-like undertones, a sweet body note, and minty-herbal-spicy overtones.

Those who are familiar with the Nag Champa incense may find champaca scent to be somewhat similar. The reason being that Nag Champa incense incorporates halmaddi, a grey, semi-liquid resin taken from the Alianthus tree, which smells very similar to champaca flower.

The champaca flowers may have been used in the traditional recipes for Nag Champa, but I doubt that any champaca flowers would be found in the myriads of champaca joss sticks that are sold at a very low price across the world. Considering that the going price for champaca absolute is between 3,000-5,000 a kilo, it seems very unlikely. The price is predicted to go only higher, as development in India is booming due to the growth of the high-tech industry there, making land more and more precious. Farmers of exotic oils in India are going to be asking for a much higher price for their fragrant goods to justify not selling their lands.

Because of its price, champaca is rarely used in mainstream perfumery. I have seen it mentioned as a note sporadically, i.e. in Calvin Klein’s Euphoria (can’t say I’ve noticed it though…), and in Patou most recent Sira des Indes. It is also found in a couple of niche fragrances, such as Commes de Garcons Guerilla 1, and of course the infamous Champaca by Ormonde Jayne. But it is most dear to natural perfumers, and I believe it is there where you will find the most intriguing use of champaca, as in the smoky Tango by Aftelier, or the sultry exotic beach scent Fairchild by Anya’s Garden. Over the course of the next few days I will do my best to review these perfumes.

*Many thanks to Christopher MacMahon of White Lotus Aromatics who shared with me his knowledge about Champaca and its current position in India.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


At July 05, 2007 9:28 PM, Anonymous Morticia Addams said...

Nag champa incense has a funky sweet aroma to it. It's attractive in it's odd way but nothing I'd want to smell often. Is the true essence in the perfumes you've mentioned, Ayala? If so I am going to be hunting down Sira des Indes.

I once loved Jean Coutourier's Keora with it's exotic notes. Yet I think I couldn't carry it off at my current age. However there are whole classes of exotic perfume notes I think are disappearing in favour of the mass-marketed and accepted synthetics whic lack depth and magic.

At March 21, 2008 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi.. do you know where i can find nag champa incense?

At March 21, 2008 7:45 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Nag Champa incense is widely available - I've seen it in bookstores, dollar stores, and East Indian grocery shops.

At July 23, 2008 1:23 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Good Afternoon I had a tree of champaca I love the smell of the flower but my problem is I dont know how to plant or propogate the said tree I had attemped to propogate it but I always fail can you teach me or introduce other website that teach how to plant or propogate the said tree from

At August 05, 2008 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ayala I know plantations in India that are organic certified as per US and European norms [since 2004] and growing champaka for extraction. These would produce more complete products for aroma therapy I suppose.
Dr. Abhay

At October 20, 2009 9:25 AM, Blogger Peg said...

Hello :)
I am re-posting something I left previously at The Olfactory Rescue Service blog. Mike said I might receive more help at one of the perfume blogs ... so here I am. :)

~~~~ keeping mind that I originally asked the question in relation to Nag Champa incenses they were discussing- here is the post~~~

I am hoping that you can answer a question for me. Does the above information concerning nag champa incense also apply to the fragrance oils?? I am desperately seeking ‘my’ Nag Champa I have worn for 6 years now. The lady whom I purchase from has lost her supplier and what she has now neither one of us are happy with. “My” Nag was very deep and warm and had what my Western nose called a spicy hot cinnamon-y scent. I think there may also have been Amber. Ganesh and Shanti both sound like what I may have had maybe Ganesh more so.
If I use this information here what on earth do I ask for in an oil?
I am so addicted to this stuff that I have anxiety problems when it looks as though I am running out.


At January 15, 2010 11:31 PM, Anonymous Term papers said...

This blog is Useful for every one who wants to get a good Knowledge.
Many thanks to Christopher McMahon of White Lotus Aromatics who shared with me his knowledge about Champaca and its current position in India.

At January 16, 2010 5:55 AM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Thanks for posting!
Christopher McMahon is very generous with his knowledge, and India's natural perfume is certainly his specialty.

At November 28, 2010 11:13 PM, Anonymous Custom Essay said...

The Champaca Flowers vs. Nag Champa Incense is a very good competition to watch I think that the information about about both is really good to read about and to know about it.

At December 12, 2010 11:32 PM, Anonymous College research papers said...

Nag Champa became popular in modern Western Culture in the 60’s and 70’s when burned at the performances of Dylan, The Grateful Dead, and others. The heady fragrance became part of the concert experience for millions of music fans.

At January 06, 2011 9:34 PM, Anonymous Custom Home Detailing said...

Both flower are just beautiful. The smell of both flowers are very similar.

At April 16, 2011 4:16 AM, Anonymous Study in UK said...

I always learn something new from your post!Great article. I wish I could write so well.

At October 20, 2011 2:00 AM, Anonymous cctv karachi said...

I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with in valuable information... Regards

At January 24, 2012 11:36 PM, Blogger grincense said...

GR international is a reputed manufacturers and exporters of AIncense Sticks, INCIENSO, Natural Incense Manufacturers, Masala Incense, Amruthvani Incense, Agarbatti Exporters, Floral Incense India, Maya Nag Champa India, Gr Nag Champa, SandalWood Incense, Agarbatti, Sahumerio, Nag Champa, Incenso in India.

For more details visit

At January 24, 2012 11:50 PM, Blogger Darshan said...

Darshan International has been involved in this pure and sacred art of making forever 50 years and has experienced the growth of the importance of incense in every field. We are manufacturing like Agarbatti, Incense Sticks Manufacturers.
For more details visit

At January 29, 2012 4:30 PM, Anonymous Window Cleaning Irvine said...

Very eductional about the Champaca & Champa. We will share this with the class.

At February 01, 2012 12:23 AM, Anonymous anaheim marriott hotel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At March 12, 2012 11:37 PM, Blogger Darshan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At March 12, 2012 11:42 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

Darshan, please stop spamming my blog!!!

At March 16, 2012 4:31 AM, Blogger rudrakshincense said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At June 11, 2012 12:43 AM, Blogger Velas Kesakes said...

This is such an interesting story at it gives in-depth information to the reader as well. Good thing you have it shared. herbal incense

At July 26, 2012 12:22 PM, Blogger Tone Dealings said...

Hi all,
Have a nice day.

spices of madurai

At May 08, 2013 12:50 AM, Blogger Suri cruise said...

Great post, thanks for all the valuable information that you have provided.

Buy legal herbal incense

At August 31, 2013 1:35 AM, Blogger Sidra shahid said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At October 08, 2013 3:17 AM, Blogger JAMES DEAN said...

It has relevant information. Thanks for posting this. Your blog is so interesting and very informative.Thanks sharing. Definitely a great piece of work Thanks for your work.
advertising agencies in pakistan | advertising agencies in Lahore | advertising agencies in Karachi

At January 13, 2014 4:54 AM, Blogger vijayashree S said...

I just read your website it’s really good and impressive having good information about the Incense sticks manufacturers and we also in same category. We are one the best exporters of Joss sticks, Joss sticks, Agarbathiand many other Incense sticks. For more details please visit our website

At January 21, 2014 2:10 AM, Blogger vijayashree S said...

I read your blog it’s really good and impressive having good information about the
Golden Nag Champa Incense,Nag Chandan Dhoop, Agarbathi Exporters In India
and many other Incense sticks. For more details please visit our website

At January 31, 2014 2:37 AM, Blogger vijayashree S said...

Hi thanks for good information about the nag champs incense
Golden Nag Champa Incense,Nag Chandan Dhoop, Agarbathi Exporters In India
and many other Incense sticks. For more details please visit our website

At February 11, 2014 11:04 PM, Blogger vijayashree S said...

i gone through your website its really good information, we are also using much similar PRODUCTS,YoucanvisitusRed Nag Champa Incense,Incense Sticks Manufacturers

At February 17, 2014 2:52 AM, Blogger Bharath darshan A said...

I just read your blog it’s really good and impressive having good information about the Incense Sticks Manufacturers & Exporters, Agarbathi Manufacturers & Exporters, and many other Incense sticks. For more details please visit our website

At March 11, 2014 4:51 AM, Blogger Vijayshreefragrance S said...

Nice information! Its useful for all. Thanks for sharing your information.
Golden Nag Champa Incense,Red Nag Champa Incense

At March 30, 2014 5:04 PM, Anonymous Buy herbal incense said...

very nice blog. incense can definately help relieve stress in your daily life

Visit For Potent Herbal Incense

At July 03, 2014 3:13 PM, Blogger K said...


I'm a natural perfumer and aromatherapist from Calgary, AB and I am attempting to make my own champa attar. I was wondering if you know of any reputable distributors for golden champa absolute, and if you could forward me that info. it is very difficult to come across. thnx, Katherine

At September 03, 2014 11:46 PM, Blogger Rajfragrances said...

Your post is really good. Useful content. Very helpful to me. i have similar products.
see my products also
Masala incense manufacturers

At February 10, 2015 1:26 AM, Blogger Bharath darshan A said...

Hi.. I read your blog its amazing, Nice to read. Thanks for sharing.
I have a page on Incense sticks manufacturers and exporters
Visit my page here
Agarbathi manufacturers and exporters

At February 18, 2015 8:36 PM, Blogger Legal Puffs said...

I just wanted to add a comment here to mention thanks for you very nice ideas. Blogs are troublesome to run and time consuming thus I appreciate when I see well written material. Your time isn’t going to waste with your posts. Thanks so much and stick with it No doubt you will definitely reach your goals! Have a great day!
Herbal Potpourri


Post a Comment

<< Home