I've got less than a month left in Philadelphia so I thought I'd give it a whirl at figuring out the good incense spots in the city. The short answer is that like most places in America, there aren't many good ones. It's very difficult to find any places that sell incense at all.
Where is there incense? Well it looks like Philly's famous South Street is the only place you can consistently find SOME incense. It's not up to par for the selection and quality that I would like, but at least you can find a smattering of incense sticks to choose from. South Street's collection of Rastafarian and Bohemian shops are to thank for the presence of any incense at all. These shops dominate the general vibe of the street and boast a wide selection of apparatuses used to innovatively smoke whatever anyone could possibly want to smoke. However, there is only so much shelf space that these contraptions, cool hats and multi-flavored tobacco can take up. Enter incense. Incense helps fill out the product offering in these laid back, quasi-spiritual Rastafarian-Philadelphian shops, and I am quite certain that it is used to fragrance more than a few of these shops.
At "One of a Kind" on South Street, I found a meager selection which included a few titles by mainstream heavy-weight, Hem, but came away with a couple of incense stick packs from lesser known fragrancer, Blunteffects. Yes, I said Blunteffects. I tried the scent "Black Love" by Blunteffects, and well, it was quite good. It has a light, fruity undertone which doesn't dominate the space but leaves you feeling relaxed and at ease. You could almost say happy. I'm not entirely sure if "Black Love" refers to the black color of the incense stick or to something else entirely...or maybe both! I also picked up a pack of "Jamaican Fruit" by Blunteffects. I thought these were decent but not quite as good as "Black Love" (let's face it, not much is). Decidedly more overtly fruity than "Black Love", it nevertheless had a harsher, smokier body to it. In the grand scale of things, I would not necessarily call it overly smoky, but it didn't possess the balance of "Black Love". Winner Black Love.
In a random, non-descript market store, I found the most substantial shelf dedicated to incense, but was generally disappointed by the selection. It was basically all Hem (see for yourself below). I picked up a zip lock packet of "Gardenia Type" by Madina, and was somewhat excited by the promise of a more niche Brooklyn-based brand. Some promises are left unfulfilled however, and Madina's "Gardenia Type" is one of them. I found disappointment upon burning it, as it proved to be nothing to write home about (or write a blog about). The Gardenia scent evident before lighting all but vaporized upon burning. It proved to be nothing more than ordinary.
Hope this helps any Philadelphia incense lovers!