Last Sunday, I took a late-afternoon walk and noticed a wonderful incense fragrance "accord" in the air, a mix of spring flowers (magnolias, English laurel, Oregon grape) and the scent of wood burning in fireplaces. I decided to wear an incense perfume the next day and selected a sample vial of Heeley Eau Sacrée.
I love the ritual of burning incense and watching curlicues of incense smoke move through my house. Prime spots for placing incense? In front of religious images and statues, especially my Ayutthaya crowned Buddha that I "adopted" in Chiang Mai, Indra from Nepal and many Ganesh statues from India (one given to me on my wedding day). I light a candle or burn incense on days a person or animal I loved was born...or died. Incense feels important, not simply a product to scent a space.
Then I read articles about how the smoke/particulate matter from burning incense can negatively affect the health of pets and people inside a closed house. Me? Who cares! But my cats and dogs were incense hostages and probably didn't enjoy the strong aromas or smoke, so I moved my incense outside...burning it on the porch or in the garden and smelling it on the air. I finally gave up incense and get my incense-scent fix from perfumes and candles — yes, they come with their own problems but I've made my peace! My huge incense collection now resides in a hefty 3 ft. long, antique wooden bear box, and I use the dry incense to scent closets, boxes or myself (ground to a powder and mixed with wax or oil, and applied as an ointment to my wrists and forearms).
As for incense fragrance, I've owned so many incense perfumes that just listing them would take up many paragraphs. Let me mention my all-time favorites — Etro Messe de Minuit (my first incense cologne); Comme des Garçons Series 3: Incense Avignon, Amouage Jubilation XXV, L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu and, perhaps my favorite, Armani Privé Bois d'Encens. I've owned more than one bottle of each of these and that's saying a lot for a perfume addict who seeks novelty (or did).
Eau Sacrée is Heeley's second incense perfume (Cardinal came first). Eau Sacrée lists fragrance notes of labdanum, frankincense, patchouli, musk, myrrh, vetiver, amber, nutmeg, clove, pepper, opoponax, sandalwood and cedar. Eau Sacrée starts by smelling like a sweet, liquor-y, spice-infused elixir (clove and pepper are prominent); then something a bit 'sweaty' arrives (rich cedar, I believe). Next up, and for the duration, is a silky smooth blend of labdanum, frankincense, vanillic amber and musk that produces a beautiful incense-ash aroma — not too smoky.
I wore Eau Sacrée next to Bois d'Encens, and Eau Sacrée triumphed (in the sillage/wattage/duration departments). Eau Sacrée is not as "church-y" as Avignon or Messe de Minuit but it's also not as original as Timbuktu or L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzongkha (another favorite incense perfume). My bottle of Bois d'Encens is almost empty; Eau Sacrée is a top contender as its replacement.
A few times a year, I do give in to an incense-urge and burn incense indoors. I open a window or door, dim the lights, put on some music (maybe Vivaldi or Handel, Max Richter...Marianne Faithful has a great "incense voice"). I relish every moment of scent magic the incense provides.
If you have any incense tips or incense perfume recommendations, please share.
Heeley Eau Sacrée Extrait de Parfum is $210 for 50 ml.
Note: top images of Indra (left) and Buddha (right) by the author.