These are happy times for lovers of incense fragrances: there are lots of new choices on the market, in fact, incense rivals iris as the latest "it" note, at least in the niche sector. Over the past year, I've fallen for quite a few, including Juozas Statkevicius, Bond no. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory and Amouage Jubilation XXV.
The first three fragrances from Olivier Durbano's relatively new line of "Bijoux de Pierres Poèmes" (Stone Poem Jewels) are all based around incense, and I can only hope that the four left to come will be too, as I like what I've sniffed so far. Rock Crystal doesn't quite suit me, but I thought it well-done; Amethyste is a soft incense with peppery fruit, and more to my personal taste.
Black Tourmaline is the newest of the three (it launched last fall), and the churchiest of the lot. The opening is a rush of spices, with plenty of pepper and cumin (other notes: cardamom, coriander, frankincense, smoked wood, oud, leather, precious woods, musk, amber, moss and patchouli). The dry down is dusty-smoky and dry, and smells like incense, smoldering logs and warm earth. There is a touch of leather, slightly scorched, and a touch of human sweat, and the slightest hint of something vaguely medicinal. Only a perfumista (or a crazy person), I suppose, could write those last two sentences and then follow with how absolutely wonderful Black Tourmaline smells?
I said Black Tourmaline was churchy, but it is a deeper and darker scent than Comme des Garçons Avignon (my own gold standard for church incense), in fact, it is more of everything than Avignon: more spice, more smoke, more wood; and while there is nothing feminine about Avignon, Black Tourmaline has a rougher, more obviously masculine slant. Black Tourmaline has a kind of swagger about it that is in stark contrast to Avignon's austerity, and I wouldn't be surprised if many people found it to be just too much.
I love it, but I'm not sure it's something I'd wear just anywhere. A little dab over a rich vanilla lotion might soften it up enough for public consumption? And if you know of a really wonderful rich vanilla lotion, please comment, I need one.
Olivier Durbano is available in 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($125). For buying information, see the listing for Olivier Durbano under Perfume Houses.
Tomorrow: Tauer Perfumes Incense extreme