Incense: 63 posts

Malaysian Incense : Scents Around the World

Aromas play an important role in cultural practices around the world. In Malaysia, for instance, insense is part of the Chinese temples rituals. There is usually a large cauldron full of smoking joss sticks. The most popular blends are based on sandalwood, with anise, cinnamon, and a touch of camphor and rose.

I wonder what incense fragrance would match this combination.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

10 Virtues of Incense

Incense is the most democratic of all scent enjoyments, writes Kiyoko Morita in her short but comprehensive work titled The Book of Incense: Enjoying the Traditional Art of Japanese Scents. While distilling roses or gathering ambergris was as expensive in antiquity as it is now, blending spices and aromatic woods was much more accessible even to those with small budgets. Certainly, incense made with the finest grades of agarwood can cost its weight in gold, but even the inexpensive varieties are excellent and comparable to the best perfumes in terms of complexity, elegance and balance.

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Although incense for most European and American scent lovers is associated with the heavy sweetness of Indian nag champa, the world of combustible aromatics and their artisans is vast and diverse. My personal favorites come from Japan, and instead of sweetness, they place their accents on licorice and moss like notes. Sandalwood or various types of cedar provide the woody backdrop, and the rest is up to the blender’s imagination and your tastes. You can find Japanese incense with floral motifs, intertwining violets with woods, or edging towards mellow spices and ambers. Shoyeido is one of the most readily accessible Japanese brands in the US, and their website offers lots of choice (Autumn Leaves is especially recommended).

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Byredo Seven Veils Perfume Review

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Elisa takes a look at Byredo.

Is there anything new or interesting left to do with orientals? You’d be forgiven for thinking “I doubt it.” They’ve been around since at least the late 19th century, and their popularity hasn’t waned; we’ve probably seen thousands of variations on the basic structure of perfumes like Coty L’Origan and Guerlain Shalimar. But perfume will always surprise you – Thierry Mugler Angel came pretty late in the game (1992) and introduced a totally new idea to the oriental genre.

byredo

Byredo’s Seven Veils is one recent perfume that completely subverted my expectations. The name refers to the biblical story of Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” – an orientalist version of the striptease – and it’s fitting, because the perfume unfolds in layers. It opens with a classically rooty iris note, a big whoosh of raw, starchy carrots – which is, frankly, exactly the kind of thing I usually dislike. But I stuck with it, and within ten minutes I knew it wasn’t just another chalky iris soliflore. Rather, Seven Veils is a boozy oriental with a spicy root-vegetable twist.

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Terry de Gunzburg Rose Infernale : Perfume Review

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Terry de Gunzburg is the kind of person I admire. She quit a career in medicine to train as a makeup artist, and thanks to her vision and dedication to quality, she has become so successful that she’s regularly called the Steve Jobs of makeup. Sounds odd, except that many of the cosmetics she launched have remained best sellers for decades, such as the famous Touche Éclat, a highlighter-concealer pen she created for Yves Saint Laurent. When she announced a perfume line two years ago, I prepared for fireworks.

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But the first launch was disappointing, proving that a lot of money doesn’t instantly translate into great perfume. The names of the fragrances, Rêve Opulent, Parti Pris, Lumière d’Epices, Ombre Mercure and Flagrant Délice, were more memorable than the scents themselves. (After I wrote this article, I realized that de Gunzburg now has 12 perfumes in its collection, including the ubiquitous Oud.) The problem is typical of niche brands—the lack of editing.

Two subsequent launches, Rose Infernale and Rouge Nocturne, also lack editing—why have two similar oriental roses?—but here, the rose lover in me tells the pedant to be quiet and just enjoy the ride. And I do. Rose Infernale, in particular, is a striking fragrance, and I’m addicted to its dark roses smoked over incense and sandalwood.

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Serge Lutens L’Incendiaire : Fragrance Review

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It’s hard not to take a second look when a maestro of exclusive perfumery offers you something even more exceptional. When Serge Lutens presented L’Incendiaire last year, it promised ultra rarity (Paris only and maybe some distant Middle Eastern outpost), luxury and drama. How can it be anything but intriguing? I eagerly extended my wrist to be anointed with the precious potion.

Lincendiaire

My first impression was that L’Incendiaire should make any Serge Lutens’s fan feel giddy. It has enough incense to perfume all the souks of Arabia. Its amber and musk accords are prodigious. It takes dark to another level. It smolders. It heaves. But nothing about it made me want to swoon (much less part with the $600 that buys you 50ml of this fantasy). L’Incendiaire is beautiful, but it’s about as nuanced as a three hour Bollywood drama. At some point, you crave a break.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Safran in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: I’d second Encens et Lavande, great suggestion! June 28, 2017 at 4:47am

  • Tiamaria in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Hi Raquel, You might like Neela Vermiere Mohur. Rose and cardamom and lots of other lovely stuff. June 28, 2017 at 4:44am

  • john in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: I’d second Habit Rouge as being beautiful but not boring. Also (for me) in this category: Caron’s 3e Homme. On a totally different note, Yatagan in summer reminds me of… June 28, 2017 at 3:31am

  • Nick in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Dzongkha is wonderful in winter where its clean clear incense (Asian not Catholic) is warm and enveloping. In spring its brightness is fresh and almost sweet. In summer the incense… June 27, 2017 at 11:22pm

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