How are incenses usually made? You may ask? They are made from
1) Saw dust base glued in sticks which has no scent,
2) Then dipped into formulated fragrance oil such as nag champa, or frankincense.
Similar to pizza ordering, the base is usually the same, but the topping. We have experienced so called "agarwood incense" , "sandawood incense" , "nag champa" all for $4 per pack.
We carried out an experiment by drying them under the sun for 4 hours, to be exact, from 9 am to 2 pm for 2 days (put away overnight). In the second day, after the fragrant oil evaporated, there is very little scent left from the incense stick. Adhesive were melted leaving only saw dust.
For quality incenses, there is a different approach. Firstly, there is never any oil added to the incense to create fragrance as this will create an appalling burning smell . The smoke was so thick, it could actually trigger a fire alarm for several incenses used oil as fragrance.
To achieve an enjoyable experience, incenses should be made with real ingredients. If it is claimed as agarwood incense, then it must have agarwood in its ingredient or other which usually in powder form, when heated, should give you a true fragrance of its own before blending anything extra to make a complete incense.
The binding agent is important, it should be scentless when burning, this is a trade secret.
Last but not least, after drying, incenses are hardened (please note for high-end incenses, usually contains no wooden stick as the ingredients are solid enough to stand), and left fermented for a period of time (range from weeks to months, similar to fine perfume).
Don't get us wrong, there are good nag champa and frankincese with real ingredients, not the one dipped into fragrance oil. You could search Shoyeido for that.
An analogy for this would be "fruit juice", genuine one contains real fruit while so-called "fruit juice" contains only 5% of real fruit, and the rest are sugar water and artificial flavor.
Please check out the price too. If something is too cheap to be true, then it is.