Incense: 64 posts

Incense and Poetry : Scent Diary

The smoke
Is now making
The first sky of the year.

Issa (1763 – 1828), a Japanese poet, whose name means simply “a cup of tea”

You can write about anything you wish in this thread, including your favorite poetry. For those who would like to use the Scent Diary to sharpen their sense of smell, I will give a short explanation. As I wrote in How to Improve Your Sense of Smell, the best way to do so is to smell and to pay attention to what you’re smelling. It doesn’t matter what you smell. The most important thing is to notice scents around you. It’s even better if you write it down. So please share your scents and perfumes with us.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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.


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


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’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


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.


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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