Yes, he’s back. March was no fluke, Merlin has some definite opinions on incense he needs to share for April, as well. But first we need to clarify something. Although Merlin is associated with Eye of Horus, he is an independent contractor and keeps his offices in a separate location. You will not find him physically in the store . . . ever. Not that he hasn’t lobbied strenuously to be a shop cat, with easy access to all the incense on a daily basis, but we prefer to keep our incense on display and in a condition that people would like to buy. If we let him in the store, he would quickly, shall we say, re-arrange the section, scattering incense all over the floor for his tasting habits, ahem . . . efforts. Some of you came in and were disappointed not to find him in attendance. But he is here in spirit, and is a valued member of our away team. Now on to the April choice…
It was an exciting contest this time. We selected two versions of Patchouli for Merlin to compare. The first selection was from Japan–Morningstar Patchouli Incense–the same brand as March, but with a different scent. The second was from India–Sarathi Gopala Incense–a masala blend of Patchouli and Vanilla. So it was blend vs. single-note, Indian Sarathi Sri Govinda vs. Japanese Morningstar. We figured it would be close. There were only eight sticks in the Sarathi Gopala box, versus the 50 of the Morningstar Patchouli. I had been concerned that would be an issue, that just because of the extra number of sticks kicking out scent, it would be an unfair contest. I needn’t have worried.
As you can see from the images, he did a quick rub of the Morningstar Patchouli, and then went for a long, deep rub, grasp & roll with the Sarathi Gopala Patchouli-Vanilla blend. We expected him to review his choice again, but it was clear that this was one of those “Blink” decisions experts can come to when presented with all the variables. With little more than a cursory glance, he made his choice. Then no thought was required, just the deep experience and gut-level commitment of a true Connoisseur. He quickly claimed the box of Indian Gopala incense, leaving the Japanese Patchouli Incense abandoned.
He was, in fact, speechless, and strove to examine and access the Gopala in every way he could. To rub, to hold, to hug from every angle imaginable became Merlin’s entire focus. It was a stunning route to the formerly favorite Morningstar brand. Indian masala incense carried the day, and lead to an entire dance of ecstasy between Merlin and Gopala.
It was like watching Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers. Entirely new twists and moves were invented with his new partner. It was the Kama Sutra of incense tasting. There were points when we couldn’t even see the box, he had hugged it so close. I struggle to get an angle with the camera where we could see just a bit of the Gopala, or where Merlin’s head wasn’t tucked completely underneath, or his eyes closed in ecstasy. Though I called to him, he clearly couldn’t hear any better than he could speak. It was a moment. All I could do was be patient and wait for it to pass.
The saying goes, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over,’ but in the case of Morningstar Patchouli vs. Sarathi Gopala Patchouli and Vanilla Incense, it was over in less than a second. It was over but for the dance. Clearly, Merlin had found his bliss and all was right with the world.
He did, in fact, eventually come up for air, and I got the final shot. The incense was removed, to be later burned and enjoyed in a whole other sensory experience for Merlin to savor.