In July, I picked 5 great incense fragrances for summer wear, and I followed that in October with 5 perfumes: incense fragrances for fall. Now that we've moved on from "a decent chill" to "polar vortex warning", it's time for the winter version. As always, do add your own picks in the comments!
Comme des Garçons Avignon ~ as I've said here before, Avignon is my gold standard for church incense. Developed by perfumer Mark Buxton, Avignon starts out foreboding but ends up meditative; it's also wearable and makes a great layering agent. If you want something churchy but not quite that churchy, try Bois d'Encens from the Armani Privé line. For the budget version, try Demeter Holy Smoke. If none of those are quite gothic enough for you, try Etro Messe de Minuit. I admire it but don't love it; Victoria at Bois de Jasmin wrote a perfect review here.
Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline ~ if Avignon is too refined for you, do try Black Tourmaline, which ups the ante on the spice, the woods, the smoke, all of it. It's not the easiest fragrance to wear and my bottle (kindly passed on by someone who did not adore it) has a tendency to work its way to the back of the cupboard in warmer months. This time of year, it's perfect.
Amouage Jubilation XXV ~ still, after all these years, my favorite offering from Amouage, this honeyed blend of fruits, spices, woods and resins is both warming and uplifting. It's also expensive, and I still can't believe I didn't buy a cheap travel size years ago when they could be found at several online discounters. Oh well. I collect samples and dig one out every so often.
Donna Karan Black Cashmere ~ long a perfumista favorite, and the reference for spiced sandalwood incense. The lovely stone-shaped bottle is gone (it comes in what looks like a shampoo bottle now) and I have not smelled a recent version (do comment if you have) but at least they still make it; Pink Cashmere, a more typical designer offering, probably outsells it by miles. If you want something cheaper and quieter, try Pacifica's Tibetan Mountain Temple.
Aedes de Venustas Copal Azur ~ Aedes has begun to rival Comme des Garçons and Olivier Durbano as a go-to niche house for incense. Copal Azur is the latest, and while you could probably wear it year-round, its creamy vanillic dry down makes it an ideal cozy-comfort scent for the sort of gloomy winter day that makes you wonder just how many days it is until spring.
Do share your picks!