Kilian Incense Oud

By March

Old bidness: These are the folks who won the Miriam giveaway, selected via – send a message to “contact us” and congrats, Patty will send them to you:  Pam, Meg, Ms Christian, Samberg, Maureen, Gisela, Joanna, Nozknoz.

Okay, onward.  For some reason I – the original incense freak – am not really feeling the incense right now.  My bottles and decants of incense frags sit on my shelves, neglected.  Sadface.  But then… as usual… someone (let’s blame Louise) comes along with a taste of something new and different to love – Kilian Incense Oud.

It took me awhile to come around to the Kilian line, partly because their fancy-cask branding annoys me irrationally, and partly because I hate many of the fragrance names, all of which sound something like Stairway to Heaven, so I can’t ever remember which scent is which.  The tuberose one is pretty freaking great (Straight to Heaven?  Taste of Heaven?), and if I were being gifted a bottle I’d want the delicious honey-tobacco of Back in Black, unless it’s Back to Black.  But as usual I digress.

What do I like about the Kilians?  They smell expensive.   Fancy bottles and marketing spew aside, their scents (even the ones I loathe, like that marshmallow one) don’t smell like a million other things, they don’t smell like laundry musk, and they don’t smell like the perfumer’s brief said: your budget is sixty cents a bottle for the juice.

Oud is the new pink pepper, apparently – how many ouds have we seen in the last year?  When Jo Malone’s doing an oud, we’ve reached saturation point.  Who’s next, Beyonce?  Anyhoodle, Kilian did a rose oud which I hear is great and I’ll take your word for it, because I’d rather stick a firecracker up my nose.  According to LuckyScent, notes for Incense Oud are Guatemala cardamom, pink pepper, Turkish rose, Egyptian geranium, grapefruit, Virginia cedarwood, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, Somalia incense (oil and absolute), sandalwood, Macedonian oakmoss, Spanish cistus labdanum, musks.

I’m guessing oud fans aren’t feeling the love, because that weird, raspy oud note in Incense Oud is undetectable.  The LuckyScent blurb points out that “the fragrance boasts no actual oud in its list of materials. If Incense Oud lives up to the second half of its name” it’s through the interplay of half the list of notes, blah blah blah, and … well, it kind of doesn’t.  So if you’re looking for oud, look somewhere else – like Montale – or you’re destined for disappointment.

If you love incense, though, this is definitely worth a sniff.  The first impression was oooh, Chaos! …. No, wait, something more like that Uncle Serge that smells like pine forest … no, wait …. one of those CDGs….

I love its kaleidoscopic nature.  Incense frags can be pretty static, but Incense Oud shifts constantly among the adjectives.  Sweet.  Smoky.  Spicy (hellooo, cardamom!)  Earthy.  Resiny.  Did you notice rose listed in the notes?  On my skin it registers as honeyed sweetness in the background, and since I’m almost as much a honey freak as I am an incense freak, I couldn’t be happier.  There’s something cozy about it – like the Bottega Veneta, it seems like it belongs in a room, along with the smell of furniture polish and old papers, indoors rather than outdoors, and not a bit churchy.  My only gripe is I found its lasting power kind of average, and given that I’m the scent-sponge, I wonder if longevity is an issue for normal people.  Incense is one of those smells that tends to cling in perfumery.  But it was very much worth the ride.

We could play the what’s-you-favorite-incense game, but that’s almost like picking your favorite kid.  I love ’em all.  Feel free to name some of your favorites, though.


  • nozknoz says:

    Good to see your post, March!

    My fav incense is Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain (except for the name, which I can’t spell), followed closely by Armani Prive Bois d’Encens. Would like to try some of the other incenses mentioned here.

    I love the two Calice Becker BK ouds, Rose Oud and Pure Oud, and most of her other BKs. Not crazy about the other lady, unfortunately. Denyse mentioned earlier in the year that BK was going to have a new perfumer, and (separately) that Sandrine Videault (Manoumalia) was going to be composing more, and I keep hoping that BK will hire her.

  • Ann says:

    Late to the party, March, but so lovely to see you on here. I, too, like the Kilian Incense Oud precisely because there’s really no oud to be found in it (oud or whatever synthetic is passing as it has never agreed with me). Love Chaos and the Bois d’Encens as well. Hugs to you!!

  • sweetlife says:

    You make me want to try this again, M., in fact I’m going to march (ha!) over to my perfume drawer right after I finish this comment and fish out my sample. I think I am hypernosmic to the frankincense note, because when I’ve worn it before that’s pretty much all I get. It’s gorgeous, but just the one note. Will report back…

    • March says:

      Hmmmmm…. well, I can think of worse things than straight-up frankincense, although I’ve got a wee bottle o’ essential oil for that. I hope you got something more interesting this time around.

      • sweetlife says:

        Welp, I’ve been wearing and thoroughly enjoying it all day. It is gorgeous, no doubt about it. But I am pretty sure something about the sweet, resinous, piny myrrh/frankincense in the opening breaks my nose. I can smell some of the rest of what you describe, but only in whispers. I bet if someone had been handy they’d have smelled something quite different. Still quite enjoyable anyway. Thanks for the inspiration!

      • sweetlife says:

        P.S. My all time favorite incense is Black Cashmere, which doesn’t quite qualify until the drydown. But–love. More than one back-up bottle love. It just feels like a part of me now.

  • Julie says:

    Actual incense often gives me me a headache, and most incense fragrances do too. The only one I really like is Pacifica’s Tibetan Mountain Temple – it’s a little sweeter than most incenses so that must be why I like it.

  • tammy says:

    I’m trying to understand incense perfumes at the moment….I grew up in a fundamentalist Protestant church, completely devoid of anything as elegant as incense, so I had never smelled any til I moved to California, and then it was the hippie/Indian kind.

    I really enjoyed those, so when I found the blogs and started reading about all these incense fragrances, I bought a bunch o’ samples, and was shocked that none of them smelled like my beloved Spiritual Journey! My Catholic husband did instantly recognize most of them, though, especially the Avignon.

    I like the Jovan Frankincense and Myrrh oil, and Rose Maroc perfume oil by Regina Harris but as with the other incense perfumes, I think they’re something I’d prefer my home to smell of, rather than my person.

    I do want to try Bois D’Armenie, which sounds fabulous.

    • March says:

      I kind of like the fact that I have no religious associations with incense from childhood, which ends up having the opposite effect and putting a lot of perfumistas off the scent.

      Bois d’Armenie papers are pretty cheap online and fun to burn. They’re supposed to chase away bad juju or something, but I just like the smell.

      • Francesca says:

        Papiers d’armenie are also wonderful when the dogs are overdue for a bath.

        • Joanna says:

          I do have the association with religion, (Avignon espeically) but it’s a good association and doesn’t turn me off at all. I grew up in the Catholic church. My brother and sister and I were little kids when my dad died and my mom was diagnosed with cancer within a year of each other. I remember the priests being at our home all the time. I had no idea that the priests didn’t attend every kids birthday party! They helped my mom and our family out a lot. My mom then got a job working in the church rectory and we, (My siblings and I) were there running around the church and the rectory all the time. I have great memories of playing hide and go seek in our huge, empty church. In first grade on the first day of school the teacher had us stand in front of the class and say talk about ourselves. She asked me what my father’s name was and what he did and I said, “Father Suprenaut, Father Theseus and Father Berry! They run the church!” They really were like family and the church was like home. Incense is as homey in my mind as the scent of bread.

  • Gina says:

    I love incense and reading all these comments made me run to my room and sniff a couple of my loves. I think it’s going to be a Juoazas Statkevicius day. Pure joy for me.

  • (Ms.) Christian says:

    Does anyone remember, going back more than 6 years, when 10 Corso Como came out? I custom ordered it from the UK and the woman who purchased it for me warned me about the “petrol smell” of it-which was the oudh. And she was right.

    I think it’s been reformulated (have not smelled the current juice) because no one mentions petrol and believe me, you cannot miss it with the bottle I have. No, it’s not “off,” and it changes with wearing, but the first few minutes are rubbery, vehicular and up your nose/in your face.

    • Masha says:

      I have vials of the old and new and I can say, I think it has definitely been reformulated, a LOT! And not for the better.

      • (Ms.) Christian says:

        Thanks for confirming my suspicion, Masha. Sad, isn’t it?!

        Some months ago I was posting about 10 CC’s heavy oud smell on a forum and people where basically backing away from me and giving me the sign against the Evil Eye-and I effing KNEW I wasn’t crazy.

        • March says:

          I think it’s definitely different and I like the new version better. Which is fine. :”> But I hate it when they mess with my favorite frags….

          • Masha says:

            I’m glad to hear you like it. It’s definitely more wearable! I have to say I prefer the old, uncomfortable version, though. But maybe that’s because of my incipient curmudgeon-itude.

          • nozknoz says:

            LOL – or curmudginity? Not that one is likely to lose it, once it sets in. ;-)

        • Masha says:

          No, not crazy, just old perfumistas who REMEMBER….;-)

          • (Ms.) Christian says:

            At age 59, my curmudgeon-itude has settled in, and is definitely not incipient. Having said that, though, I will not launch a tirade of “I remember when…” EXCEPT for my beloved and utterly trashed Balmain Vent Vert. :((

            Back to incense-I am still enraptured by the whole CdG Incense series. And my very precious bottle of Matthew Williamson’s Incense.

      • sweetlife says:

        Oh my lord. The 10 Corso Como reformulation was the first one to really affect me as a newish perfumista. I got a sample that brought me to my knees. Ordered another one and it was nice, but not the same. I’ve been looking for the old stuff ever since, to no avail.

  • Musette says:

    Hey, doll! I always regret incense after the first 3 minutes. Except for Chaos. Dunno why…:-? And like you, I cannae keep the Killians straight – they are all Stairway to Heaven for me. But I do like the tuberose one.

    I’ve been craving that old Ubar, though. Is that considered an incense? If so, I’m :”> . I should know that, right?

    xo >-)

  • Joanna says:

    After reading this I was sad because it reminded me I can’t find Ava Luxe Incense Noir anymore and that my friends is a sad, sad, very sad thing. It is my favorite incense, even if it doesn’t exist in my world anymore.
    I do love CdG Kyoto almost as much as I love/loved Ava Luxe Incense Noir.
    I liked the sample of Incense Oud that I tried. Not quite as much as I like Kilian’s Cruel Intentions but if it weren’t so darn expensive I’d be tempted to put it on the fb list.

    And GOSH THANKS! I feel a little guilty for winning another sample. You are all so great!

    • March says:

      Hey, you’re welcome, although I didn’t do anything…. I know, I miss that Ava Luxe too. Kyoto is pretty fab. Cruel Intentions I can’t remember!

  • mals86 says:

    The BK tuberose is Beyond Love. Very nice. I swapped away my travel bottle because I am Beyond Stocked UP on tuberose, and it twarn’t gettin’ any love, beyond or otherwise, at my house.

    I like my incense not-so-pure, and while I like Chaos fairly well, I much prefer something like Lyric Woman.

  • pam says:

    Always great to hear from you!
    I haven’t tried the Killian line, but this sounds so good. I love incense, and sometimes burn it during my midday break (I work out of home–don’t think the last bank I worked at would have been thrilled in the breakroom). Love Bois d’Encens, but can’t afford a FB. Does YSL Nu edp count as an incense frag? I love it. And currently testing Gucci Pour Homme, which Turin describes as an incense, but I mainly get heavy woods, which is still great. Also, I get a hint of it in Chopard Madness.

  • Lavanya says:

    This was my favorite from the killian ouds.. Comforting, verrrrrry incensey..

    Btw..lovely to see you posting!!

  • Sherri M. says:

    March, it is so great to hear from you!!

    You don’t have to be an oud or even an incense (generally too church-y for me) fan to appreciate this fragrance. It’s gorgeous and wearable (I like that about the Kilians).

    Have you tried the new Mon Parfum Cheri par Camille? There is something in there that strikes me as incense-y, even though there is not incense in the fragrance as far as I know. I suppose it is the dusty, musty quality of the patchouli (there’s LOTS!) that is making me think Catholic church–hence “incense”.

    Great post—taking notes! :-)

    • March says:

      I haven’t tried the Camille, although it sounds like I definitely should. And thanks for another opinion on Incense Oud. It is really wearable, and if I’m being honest I can’t say that about all incense frags.

  • Francesca says:

    Great post, March, and thanks for the early morning laugh.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has trouble keeping the Kilian names straight, and I, too, often just think of all that first batch as Stairway to Heaven.

    Saint Louise sent me a nice samp of the incense oud, which smelled kind of oud-y through the closed bottle (I was at work at the time) but now I’ve got to go test it out.

    I love incense scents. I think I have mentioned before incense was only the ever thing I liked about going to church. Some faves: Avignon, Hinoki, Annayake Miyako, Annayake the autumn one (Stairway to Autumn?). It’s Fall! Break out the incenses! Currently I’m curious about Messe de Minuit after talking about it with one of our authors–I’d better get a sample before it disappears completely.

  • Masha says:

    The use of “oud” in the names of Western perfumes is sooooo annoying! L’Artisan has one, and it’s not oud, it’s cuming. Now Kilian has one and it’s incense and spice, not oud. I have some basic mid-range oud perfumes from the Emirates, which are still mostly synthetic ouds, but they do smell like actual oud, which is heavenly barnyard/forest/cigar shop and a million other things you don’t get to smell in Western perfumes, which these days are squeaky clean. I’ve also occasionally tried real oud, which is usually worn on its own, not mixed, and it’s pretty darned addictive…. About $400 per ml, though, so I’ll have to save my pennies a long time, or make some friends in the oil world!

    • March says:

      Tellin ya doll. The new pink pepper. Although oud’s not a note I ever thought everyone would be slinging around in Western perfumery. Of course, I never thought 70’s-inspired fashion would be back either. And as you point out, the “new oud” is veeeeeeery clean. I love your description – barnyard/forest/cigar shop is perfect.

    • Faylene says:

      Help! I’m confused! One of the notes listed for L’Artisan Al Oudh is agarwood; I thought that’s another name for oud. No? :o

      • Faylene says:

        Ooops! Wrong place. That was a reply to Masha’s comment, not March’s. Sorry,

        • Masha says:

          Yes, agarwood is another word for oud/oudh. But there’s no actual agarwood in L’Artisan’s Oudh. Nor much of the synthetics, either. Mona di Orio’s new Oud has real Cambodian oud in it, just a touch. It’s not really an “oud” perfume per se, but it’s really nice.

          • Faylene says:

            Just curious, Masha . . . how do you know there isn’t any actual agarwood in Al Oudh? In case that came out sounding wrong, I’m not trying to be a smartass with you; rather, although I know that a fragrance note isn’t always due to the inclusion of the “real thing”, I’m wondering how one knows when it does and when it doesn’t. Is it because, in the case of oud, you have smelled the real thing? Or . . .?

            Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I appreciate it. ^:)^

          • Masha says:

            The price for good quality oudh, just a basic level real oudh, is now in the hundreds of dollars per ml. And those batches are tiny and cannot be duplicated. So from the perspective of any company that’s making hundreds if not thousands of bottles and wants to keep quality consistent, real oud is not possible. Even the high quality synthetics from Givaudan and Firmenich are not cheap. Mona di Orio used real Cambodian oudh in her new perfume and stated up front that when this batch is gone, it’s gone. And of course, the price reflects the fact she used the real thing. Hope that helps! (Yeah, I’ve smelled most of the synthetics and some of the real thing in various forms over the years.)

          • Faylene says:

            Thanks, Masha, for sharing your experience and your expertise. What you say certainly makes sense. But it also raises questions about the philosophy of fragrance composition (natural vs. synthetic ingredients), particularly with respect to fragrance naming. Do we expect a fragrance which is named for its predominant note to contain “the real thing” and feel cheated if it doesn’t or do we just expect the note to smell like “the real thing”? Food for thought – and future discussion, I hope.:-@

  • Abdulla says:

    I’m really, really surprised NO ONE in the whole world wide web registered the similarity between Incense Oud and Costes! I mean, it has the cardamom, rose, incense, cedar…ummm the Giacobetti-esque transparency! I’ve yet to buy a FB though, probably because Costes is already in my collectioni :)

    I’m a sucker for incense and probably my favorite is Bois d’encens. I feel expensive when wearing it b-) Honorable discontinued mentions include the original Matthew Williamson Incense (sandalwood and incense) and the original Messe de Minuit (mold, candle wax, mass). Sigh…

    • March says:

      Well … okay, the notes are the same (and if it makes you feel any better, I thought of Costes when I first read them.) But then I got out my samp and I just don’t see (smell?) much similarity. Costes is MUCH rosier on me, spicier, and rougher. It smells more like a room spray (which I think is what it is?) and the Kilian’s much smoother and more blended.

      Love Bois d’Encens, I splashed out for the pebble bottle. Uncompromising incense. And I still have a teeny decant of MW. Messy Minute I own but frankly, it smells better on other people. A bit too much mold on me. 🙂

  • FragrantWitch says:

    You had me at Chaos…:x

  • Arwen says:

    March, I really love Incense Oud. It has become my favorite by Kilian and it is definitely in my top three incense perfumes. To me it smells more like rose water + incese. I wore it many timeslast month. I found it easy to wear, even for the office. Thanks for the lovely review.

    • March says:

      It sounds like it’s working for you — and you’re right, after the first five minutes or so, it’s soft enough for office wear. And it’s not so niche-incense that people wonder wth is that weird smell….

  • Catherine says:

    A fabulous review–it certainly makes me hope to smell this when in Paris. I’ve always liked the Kilian line, right from the start, but all the same I’ve not found his scents cozy. I can’t relax into them the way I want these days, but maybe this one is the ticket!

    A favorite incense . . . I’m not sure that either are traditional incense scents, but both of mine are Serge Lutens: Gris Clair (when I wear this, I don’t know why I have anything else) and Serge Noire (when I wear this, I basically want my man to wear it *every single day* so I can smell it all the time). YUM.

  • (Ms.) Christian says:

    What a wonderful day! As part of my 1 year work anniversary, I got a raise and 3 weeks paid vacation-and now I can read a post from you, March. Life can be pretty magnificent.

    I really love Norma Kamali’s Incense. Potent, take no prisoners, honest, real.

    • March says:

      Hey, congratulations! AND you won some kinda sample up there …. NK Incense is like the Godzilla of incense. Can you imagine if you broke a bottle in your home? 😮 Great stuff, although I prefer NK Ceremony, which is a little easier for me to wear.

      • (Ms.) Christian says:

        Funny-I am wearing Ceremony today, perhaps subconsciously inspired by your post because the East Bay weather is balmy, not autumnal. At least today.

        When Incense first came out, I got a sample from FiF. I used 3 or 4 spritzes before going out for dinner. No kidding-when I sat down in the restaurant, the conversations gradually stopped. Had no idea that 4 spritzes of NK Incense was toxic to the human nervous system. I dab it on in one spot with a toothpick now.

        I responded to the winning message but was unsuccessful in getting something I won some time ago. What do I do?!

        • March says:

          Three or four SPRAYS?!


          That should have emptied out the restaurant. Even Ceremony is pretty strong.

          Nag Patty at contact us, seriously. If you don’t hear back, nag me. I get the comments in my inbox. perfumediva at gmail dot com

          • (Ms.) Christian says:

            I meant well. If I’d been flush, I would have picked up everyone’s dinner tab for disturbing their peace. You learn, not always gracefully. :”>

            Tahnk you, March. Patty has contacted me re the sample so that is taken care of. Life is too short for nagging.

          • March says:

            She just gets a LOT of emails (part of her bizness) and occasionally things get lost in the shuffle. I’m an excellent nag, ask her. :d