Armani Prive Bois d’Encens : Perfume Review

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Churchwindows

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Experiencing Armani Prive Bois d’Encens is like stepping inside a dark cavernous church, where the first sensory impression is of incense. The smell of incense burning inside golden censers, embracing the stones, and creating a pale mist over the altar. The resinous richness of incense is almost overwhelming, yet suddenly as one gets used to it, the scent begins to appear as a soft comforting presence; something that retreats into the background, yet remains near.

Similar transformation takes place in Bois d’Encens, a fragrance created in 2004 by Michel Almairac. The layering of notes results in their gentle peeling away in order to reveal a sweet base of silky cedarwood. …

While the initial resinous dryness accented by black pepper fades like a cloud of smoke, smooth, unctuous flow of frankincense is cut through by its characteristic, almost hesperidic element. The composition assumes a sweet luminous quality, which lights up the wood notes, lending them a soft glow.

If the brief to the perfumer by Giorgio Armani was to recreate a smell of the Catholic mass, which he as a child would attend with his grandmother, the result is quite successful.  Yet, a composition has an interesting airy quality which prevents it from being dark and resinous.

This luminous, soaring quality is what distinguishes Bois d’Encens from heavier Comme des Garçons Incense Series Avignon. The fragrance rises up like gentle wisps of pale smoke, rather than clings to the skin like Avignon tends to do.  However, for those who prefer a more subtle incense composition lightened by lily, L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer would be the best option. On the other hand, for an unexpected, yet beautiful pairing of incense and peach, Bond No. 9 Chinatown cannot be rivaled.

Along with Ambre Soie, Eau de Jade, and Pierre de Lune, Bois d’Encens is available at Giorgio Armani boutiques, Saks 5th Avenue, and Harrods in the UK as well as directly from Giorgio Armani website. Its presentation of a black square topped with a lid resembling a stone is very streamlined and elegant.

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42 Comments

  • parislondres: I received a decant of this from a dear friend and I must say that it is beautiful. I think I prefer this to the others. Great review as always dear V! November 8, 2005 at 4:40am Reply

  • Laura: Oh,V, that photograph is ….words aren’t coming here. Just so spectacularly beautiful. I’ll have to go back and retry this–you get a cool little box of vials of all four scents when you buy one of the Prive fragrances. I guess I’m just not a bois et encens kind of woman, though. At least not at the moment. Who knows what tomorrow will bring ;D. Please review Eau de Jade, now that you’ve had a chance to try it more completely. Pretty please?? November 8, 2005 at 5:34am Reply

  • Judith (lilybp): I do love this; it’s one of my favorites right now! And the bottle is so beautiful (although when I bought it–at Saks–I didn’t receive the “little box of vials of all four scents” that Laura describes; perhaps you need to go to an Armani boutique for that?). The transformation that you describe so well makes this fragrances particularly fascinating. But I must admit that I seem to be attracted to all incense scents at the moment. I really enjoy all the ones you mentioned. And (although I realize it is not as “incensey” as the others, and more vanillic-floral), I really adore Angelique Encens; there’s something about it that makes it truly addictive for me. Do you not care for it?

    Wonderful review in any case. Have a lovely day. November 8, 2005 at 7:14am Reply

  • Marina: Oh, V., this sounds stunning…I have a decant coming and now I am all a-flutter. 🙂 Would you say this is your favourite Prive scent? “Sweet luminous quality”…softly glowing woods…can’t wait to experience this for myself. Thank you for the great review! November 8, 2005 at 9:23am Reply

  • linda: Beautiful review as always! I wear Bois d’Encens once in a while, but I guess I would like this sort of ‘fume better in a candle form. Some incense is just too churchy for me. November 8, 2005 at 11:20am Reply

  • Helena: I have been following your blog since August. I want to thank you for your beautiful writing and lovely imagery.

    I finally decided to comment, because Bois d’Encens is one of my favorite fragrances. I already went through 2 bottles. Like Mr. Armani’s grandmother, mine attended mass every Sunday and took me along. Bois d’Encens reminds me of those childhood memories. November 8, 2005 at 1:16pm Reply

  • Helena: Oops, I am sorry for multiple postings. Not sure what happened. I like Bois d’Encens that much! 😀 November 8, 2005 at 1:26pm Reply

  • Robin: V, just snagged a sample of this over the weekend and now very anxious to try it. It didn’t do much for me on a paper test strip, but of course that means nothing. November 8, 2005 at 1:26pm Reply

  • linda: V, I just put Bois d’Encens in your honor! 🙂 It is so perfect today. Scratch too churchy comment. I am getting a full bottle of this asap! November 8, 2005 at 2:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, yes, it is a lovely fragrance, and I only wish that it were less expensive. I would be curious what you think after you revisit. Please let me know if it smells of Notre Dame. 🙂 November 8, 2005 at 3:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, I loved the photograph when I saw it. Unfortunately, I cannot find the original source, and if you can please let me know. I would so like to attribute it properly. The play of light is simply breathtaking!

    I promise that the review of Eau de Jade will be coming soon! November 8, 2005 at 3:57pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, thank you! I find the change from dark and resinous to smooth and sweet incense is particularly appealing. I have not received four sample vials either! Hmm, perhaps, you are right–they need to be purchased from the boutique.

    I find something rather odd in certain Creed fragrances, and Angelique Encens is one of them. It gives me such unpleasant allergies that I prefer to avoid it altogether. November 8, 2005 at 4:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, thank you! I find it a dry incense, with a nice touch of cedarwood. I am not sure whether you like cedar or not, but this will be a determining factor in whether you will like Bois d’Encens. November 8, 2005 at 4:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, thank you. There are certainly incenses that are too churchy. Another incense I should mention is Messe de Minuit by Etro–interesting, but ultimately unwearable. November 8, 2005 at 4:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Helena, thank you for your compliment. I am glad that you shared such a lovely memory. I have never attended church as a child, but this fragrance makes me think I did. Of course, Orthodox incense is slightly different from Catholic. I would say that it is sweeter. November 8, 2005 at 4:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, another incense comes to mind–Parfum Sacre by Caron, a very subtle incense hidden without a rich floral and spicy accord. November 8, 2005 at 4:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I think that you will find it very interesting. Cannot wait for you to try it! November 8, 2005 at 4:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, thank you! 🙂 I am glad that you liked it more upon revisiting. It is such a beautiful incense. That being said, I would also love a candle in this scent. I believe that there exists a CdG Avignon candle, but I never tried it. November 8, 2005 at 4:24pm Reply

  • Tania: Ah, my comment didn’t post earlier! I only meant to say this review made me want more than ever to go back to Saks specifically to get a good test spray of this and stay with it through the drydown.

    It is so interesting that even I, whose church memories are of sterile carpeted suburban spaces, associate the smell of frankincense with something holy, incorporeal, that insists on reverential silence. November 8, 2005 at 4:31pm Reply

  • Diane: Ack, I have tried to post the following at least 5x!!

    Like Laura, I sigh at the photograph. I am–eh-hem–hardly one to call myself Catholic due to my undisciplined ways, but I was baptized, received First Communion, and raised as such, etc. Still, I must say that I have always appreciated Catholicism for the awe that its architectural wonders inspire, the beauty of the stained glass windows and hymns, the solace found in divine ritual. That said, yep, I have issues with the Church, to say the least.

    I haven’t tried any of the Armani scents yet. Bois d’Encens sounds lovely and almost delicate as far as incenses go and I just adore the aroma of cedarwood. The other Armani scents sound interesting as well. I’m especially intrigued by the name, Eau de Jade.

    Lovely review, as always, dear V! November 8, 2005 at 5:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, sorry, the comments were down for a good part of the day.

    I also find it curious about frankincense. Traditionally, it has been used to induce concentration. I imagine Fra Angelico burning it in his studio as he painted his delicate Madonnas. November 8, 2005 at 5:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, thank you very much! The beauty of services is what drew me to church, to begin with. The light and the stained windows–all of those things you expressed. My favourite memory is of exploring religious architecture of Bologna with a professor of art history. It was cold and dreary, even more so inside stone churches, yet the beauty of the surroundings was uplifting and awe-inspiring. November 8, 2005 at 5:31pm Reply

  • Tara: I like this one very much, but it is definitely not delicate on me! In fact it is quite insistent, even strident, and I find I get fatigued by it after 6-8 hours. I need to apply this one sparingly or it gets overwhelming. That said, it is one of my favorite incense scents, along with the CdG series and Passage d’Enfer, not to mention the dearly departed Matthew Williamson Incense. November 8, 2005 at 6:03pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, it is not delicate on me either, but it is still more airy than CdG Avignon. That being said, I apply Bois d’Encens fairly lightly, because the atomizer releases much more scent than needed. In fact, it works much better in a roll-on decant. I am also sad over the discontinuation of Matthew Williamson Incense. November 8, 2005 at 7:35pm Reply

  • Patty: Wonderful review, you said everything that I’m sure I was thinking about this scent, but your description soared, like the Cathedral it reminds me of! 🙂 I call this one one of my “down low” scents. I always apply it behind the knees or much further down the body. It’s just too heady to put anywhere near my face. But wafting up, it’s really lovely. November 9, 2005 at 7:36am Reply

  • Evan: I’ll see if I can stop at Bloomingdales and apply some of this on my way to the Met this weekend to see the Fra Angelico exhibit (the first large exhibit of Brother Angelico’s work since 1955!). I remember inquiring the price of Bois d’Encens when we were at Saks and thinking it wasn’t all that expensive, as top of the line fragrances go, though I no longer remember how much it was. Are the Armani Privé perfumes made in different concentrations? Maybe what was around 130 dollars was eau de cologne!

    And the bottle design for these 4 perfumes are beautiful, like a Brancusi sculpture on one of his dark pedestals:

    http://www.znanje.org/i/i20/00iv10/00iv1021r/sleepingMuse%5B1%5D.jpg November 9, 2005 at 9:53am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patty, thank you. I think that your technique is perfect. I have to try it myself. Near the face, it is definitely too much. I also love how comforting and serene it is. Perfect for times when one wants to feel relaxed. November 9, 2005 at 1:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: E, as far as I know, they are all in the same concentration, however composition differ in terms of intensity. The prices are closer to $185, which is on the expensive side (for 50ml). Bois d’Ences would be a perfect company for the Fra Angelico exhibit. I love his work, and I have to check for how long it is going to last, and whether I might have a chance to see it.

    What a perfect comparison to Brancusi! November 9, 2005 at 1:12pm Reply

  • Evan: 50ml for 180?! Ouch! It makes Malle’s prices seem on the Jovan musk level! I didn’t think about the fact that the bottle might be more wood than perfume. November 9, 2005 at 8:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, the bottles are hardly big. They are beautiful, just like the rest of the presentation. Yet, $180 is quite a lot! November 9, 2005 at 8:44pm Reply

  • Helena: I spent some time in Moscow several years ago, and I visited Orthodox churches there. The smell still haunts me. I wish I could return again. November 12, 2005 at 10:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Helena, oh, I would love to make a trip to Moscow as well. I have not been there since I was 11! November 13, 2005 at 11:33am Reply

  • Alam: Will someone tell me about the notes of Club Aficionado, by Jeanne Arthes, for men or the name of fragrances similar to the same? I am so keen to know about it. November 24, 2005 at 4:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Alam, the notes include: Top note: bergamot, clary sage, artemisia, apple, tarragon; middle note: jasmine, ozonic chord, rosewood, lily of the valley, cedarwood, patchouli, clove; base note: moss, sandalwood, vetyver, musk. November 24, 2005 at 7:57pm Reply

  • Loren: As a guy, I like to use this scent and my SO likes it as well. She does not particularly like burning incense but she says this is a warmer scent that is more wood than incense. This is more a hint of the inscense and not too agressive.

    I really like it but it is pricey. It is available at Nordstrom’s in Seattle for 185 plus tax pushing it over $200. What similar scents might I try. This product does not seem to bother my allergies as many do and the selection at the men’s counter is difficult to navigate. September 29, 2006 at 1:46pm Reply

  • Ami B: If anyone can tell me where to buy some Club Aficionado by Jeanne Arthes please let me know. I can’t resist this scent and I happened uppon it at some perfume outlet in Miami and now I can’t find it anywhere. It’s the most sensuous scent I have ever experienced. If I could know it’s ingredients I could possibly find something similar. But I have yet to find anything close. Please help July 8, 2007 at 8:07pm Reply

  • Carla: I recently compared this to Avignon, and your description put my abstract thoughts into words perfectly. I am sorry to see that it’s impossible to find Bois d’Encens anywhere to purchase at the moment. I hear it’s being re-packaged and possibly re-formulated. I cannot content myself with Avignon for an incense, even at less than half the price. Messe de Minuit doesn’t quite do it for me either. I would love to find Bois d’Encens on ebay. Meanwhile, is there anywhere I can buy Bois d’Encens, or any other similar perfume? March 7, 2011 at 9:40am Reply

  • Victoria: You know, I was recently trying several incense fragrances, and to me the best choices next to Bois d'Encens were Van Cleef et Arpels Cologne Noire and Serge Lutens Serge Noire. They have a stronger woody notes than Armani does, but the spirit and the harmony that I loved about Bois d'Encens is there. March 7, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Carla: Thank you so much! Except what I disliked about Avignon was the stronger woody notes. It’s what made the scent seem dryer to me. (I especially liked how you compared the two above.) Still, I am so grateful for your suggestion and will look into these! March 7, 2011 at 7:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, the woody notes in Avignon are totally different! I find both Cologne Noire and Serge Noire sweeter and easier to wear.
    Glad to help! :)) March 7, 2011 at 8:31pm Reply

  • Kat: Testing them side-by-side, Bois de’Encens seems a bit warmer and spicier while Avignon is drier, smokier and more linear. I love them both, though… 😉 August 5, 2014 at 6:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I know, it’s hard to pick just one. 🙂 August 5, 2014 at 10:19pm Reply

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