Yesterday I wore two discontinued favorites: L'Artisan's lovely Jacinthe des Bois and Gobin Daudé's Sous Le Buis. Layered, the combination was the perfect spring-time fragrance: happy, floral, and very green. But the cool evenings of spring are also perfect for incense fragrances. Here are four worth considering:
I loved Incense extrême by Tauer Perfumes, and I can't remember now why I took it into my head that I wouldn't like the newer Incense rosé nearly as well. Whatever the reason, I was quite wrong, as I like it even better. This is a simply lovely fragrance, not quite so bright and airy as the extrême, but still, not quite dark: it has the same soaring quality. The rose is subtle, in fact, the whole thing is simultaneously subtle (none of the notes scream) and strong (I found two sprays to be one spray too many).
The citrus in the opening is juicy, and the rose is a bit dewy in the early stages, but for the most part, it is a dry fragrance, and while it has more of a grounded, meditative feel than the extrême, like the extrême it has a rough-hewn, woody-earthy dryness that brings to mind a desert landscape rather than the high church atmosphere of scents like Comme des Garçons Avignon. A little whiff of orange seems to reappear at odd moments, long after you'd expect all the citrus to have evaporated away, and it has just the right amount of spice to warm a cool April night. Highly recommended. (The notes include clementine, bergamot, rose, castor, orris, frankincense, cedar wood, myrrh, patchouli, vetiver, labdanum and ambrein; in 50 ml Eau de Parfum; for buying information, see the listing for Tauer Perfumes under Perfume Houses.)
My favorite fragrances from Demeter are the little one-off oddities, like Gingerale, Thunderstorm, and my newest favorite, Beet Root. I wasn't sure I needed or wanted a Demeter Incense given how many perfect incense fragrances are already on the market, but it turns out they've done a pretty darned good job. Far from the straight-up snapshot of frankincense I expected, this is a middling sweet, creamy amber-y incense fragrance with hints of vanilla, slightly reminiscent of i Profumi di Firenze's wonderful Ambra del Nepal. It makes a nice comfort scent, and it's got more staying power than many in the Demeter line.
If you were hoping for something more straight-up frankincense, you need Demeter Holy Smoke, their rendition of church incense burning in the censor during Mass. It's all there, including a hefty dash of smoke. It can't beat the aforementioned Comme des Garçons Avignon, my own gold standard for church incense, but then, it costs a fraction of what you'd pay for the Avignon — a 15 ml mini is a mere $5, surely one of the last great bargains in perfume. (Demeter fragrances are also available in 30 & 120 ml Cologne Spray, and in matching bath & body products and Room Spray; for buying information, see the listing for Demeter under Perfume Houses.)
Last but not least, we've Matthew Williamson Incense. No, this is not the now-mythical Incense created for Matthew Williamson by Lyn Harris of Miller Harris as a limited edition (and long gone), but one of the four fragrances in the newer Matthew Williamson Collection, which focused on individual notes from Matthew Williamson's 2005 eponymous fragrance. Got that? This is a rather basic sort of scent — I think the Collection fragrances were designed to be layered, and Incense has an almost unfinished feel, as though it was meant to be the base for something else.
It's rather dark, but also soft and sheer, and while I can't get excited about it on its own, it might be worth having around for layering — it's just about perfectly linear, and has more body than say, L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer. (Matthew Williamson Incense was developed by perfumer Clement Gavarry; the notes include frankincense, patchouli and labdanum. It can be found easily online in the UK; to my knowledge, it is not sold in the US.)
See also: the perfect spring-time incense, Etro Shaal Nur.
Possibly of interest