Friday, March 15, 2013

My Top 12 Incense Perfumes

I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do a "Best Of" list for incense perfumes, because so many of my favorite incensy perfumes were already covered under other categories: amber, smoke... even lavender. Not to mention that an "incense" note is incredibly multifaceted and can come from various resins as well as from frankincense (olibanum). I had  a draft for a list that I kept changing. After all, so many of my favorite perfumes are based on some kind of an incense note. My own collection is bursting with them (or maybe wafting is a better term in this case). Current events had me go back to the beginning and come up with a list of my very personal top 12(ish) incense perfumes, and here it is.

But first I wanted to begin where I usually end these lists: Honorable Mention. Some of these were already part of previous lists, others are wonderful but I have trouble wearing them, and one is impossible to find. So, here are the incense perfumes worthy of an honorable mention and more:
Aftelier Oud Luban (manages to be spiritual while smelling like a million dollars), Idole de Lubin (the bishop had a little too much to drink),  L'Occitane Eau d'Iparie (used to be a cheap trill, its discontinuation is a reason for frag-rage), Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande (forget everything you know about lavender), L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer (brilliant on a blotter, hates my skin), Juozas Statkevicius (an ambery incense, an incensy amber. Beyond sexy), Etat Libre d’Orange- Encens et Bubblegum (the weirdest in this list. Exactly what it says. I'd wear it happily if the husband weren't so repulsed).

Now to the list itself, in no particular order:

  • Tauer Perfumes- Incense Rose and Incense Extreme. Opposite sides of the incense spectrum, one is warm and fuzzy, the other austere to the, well, extreme.
  • Heeley- Cardinal. Somewher in the Sistine Chapel there's a stash of these bottles.
  • Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense. All five of them. My personal favorite is the smoky and chilly Zagorsk, but each and every one of them is a gem.
  • Armani Prive - Bois d'Encens. As elegant as the red Prada shoes of the former pope.
  • Parfum d'Empire- Wazamba. So beautiful it could have been a Serge Lutens perfume.
  • Serge Lutens- Fille en Aiguilles. Piney and nostalgic. 

  • Donna Karan- Black Cashmere and Chaos. Black smoke and white smoke, respectively. Were too complex for the mainstream, now only available in limited distribution.
  • Annick Goutal- Encens Flamboyant. Soft and comforting. I think I'll wear it to bed tonight.
  • YSL- Nu. A not so distant cousin of the Donna Karan perfumes above, and like them is now repackaged and sold in few locations.
  • L'Artisan- Seville a l'Aube. One of the best perfume releases from last year, a brilliant interpretation of orange blossom, lavender and incense in the air of night.
  • By Kilian- Incense Oud. An orientalist's fantasy.
  • Jovoy Paris- La Lithurgie des Heures. I'm feeling blasphemous just looking at the bottle.

Your turn: what's missing from this list? Do you see incense as a centering/spiritual fragrance? 

Charles Demuth- Incense of a New Church, 1921
Fernand Khnopff- Incense, 1898
John Singer Sargent- Fumee d'Ambre Gris, 1880


  1. you always have the most beautiful, intelligent illustrations on your posts (barring some celebs, of course). these are goregous! I love Heely Cardinal (wore it this week, ha ha), and Bond No 9 Silver Factory. Keep up the good work! Suzanne, FL

  2. My favorites -
    1. Chanel 22
    2. By Kilian Sweet Redemption
    3. l'Occitane Eau des Beaux
    I also love the incense in the extreme dry down of Chanel 1932, although from the sound of the reviews, I don't think anyone wore it long enough to get to the incense aspect!

  3. Caron's Nuit de Noel; would you agree?

  4. My list would include most of these along with Tribute Attar, SSS Incense Pure, and Timbuktu.

    ~Amy Bella

  5. If it was my list, I would add little something: Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline (black soul) and Rock Crystal (purest of all angels). Great list, and I love all of it :)

  6. Would Neela Vermeire's Trayee qualify as an incense perfume - incense is one of the notes. It is an uplifting and spiritual scent- glorious, I think.

  7. My all time favourite incense perfume is by far Ambre Noir by SSS! Then come:
    Black Cashmere
    Armani Prive Bois d'Encens
    Mystra by Aesop
    Aftelier Ancient Resins

    May all of you have a lovely weekend- this coming Monday is Clean (Ash) Monday in Greece! An incense based perfume will emphasise the spirituality of the day!

  8. I do love that Goutal Encens --- I must buy a bottle !!!!!!

  9. An incense list without a single Amouage?!

  10. Thank you Gaia, your post is beautiful & precious, and I love what you say about Oud Luban!
    xo Mandy

  11. Passage d'Enfer de l'Artisan Parfumeur ??
    It smells like Church incense to me.


  12. i cant believe no Profumum olibanum, it is exquisite in its execution

  13. I miss messe de menuit by etro on your list.

  14. Zefiro from Xerjoff and Olibanum from Profumum.

  15. 1740 Eau de Parfum by Histoires de Parfums
    La Liturgie Des Heures Eau de Parfum by Jovoy Paris
    Cristal de Roche (Rock Crystal) from Olivier Durbano

  16. Incense Flash by Tauer.

  17. Sahara Noir - Tom Ford (Discontinued but still available online on ebay, Surrender to Chance & The Perfumed Court)
    Sanctum - Ramón Béjar
    Epic Man - Amouage
    Journey Man - Amouage
    Interlude Man - Amouage
    Pour Le Soir - Kurkdjian

  18. I just want to say that I'm a lover of the incense note in fragrances and have several. I am constantly looking for new ones to try out. I've tried all on the list above and agree that they, with the exception of two, are very good or exceptional. The two that I sampled on the list that left me horrified - and I mean HORRIFIED! - were Annick Goutal- Encens Flamboyant and L'Artisan- Seville a l'Aube. They are both so synthetic that trying to wash them off was impossible. I could still smell them on my after scrubbing and then even after a shower. I rarely ever feel the need to call a fragrance a 'scrubber' but these two definitely are exactly that. Just my opinion.

  19. Bois D'Ascese by Naomi Goodsir. This one is just incredible and one of my top five favorite fragrances.

  20. Kilian Back to Black has incense note in it

  21. Jubilation Man XXV by Amouage is incredible.

  22. Eau Sacree by Heeley.

  23. Heeley Cardinal. Always the best.
    Parfumerie Generale Bois Blond - love this, but hard to get. I think the cedar and sandalwood qualify it as incense.
    Armani Prive - Bois D'Encens, not a great laster and not as sweet as the Cardinal.
    Franck Boclet - Incense - only the name gets this one on the list. It's a beautiful cardamom.
    Baccarat - Les Larmes Sacrees de Thebes - yesss, my preciousss! This one has so much going on, but definitely incense riding high there over the rich, gourmandy pink peppery amber and musk. Lucky for me I can't buy any more.

  24. Caron's Parfum Sacré. My new fascination! Was delighted to see Channel No. 22 show up on your list, first place, no less. I've been thinking Parfum Sacré smells like 22 did to me in the 70s and before. Number 22 was my beloved signature scent until what I think must have been a sad reformulation. Happy to have discovered your lists!


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