Once you are past Thanksgiving, it is officially Christmas, yes? Close enough. That must make it time to talk about frankincense and myrrh perfumes – two of my favorite incense notes and ones we will all need desperately over the next month to keep breathing deeply through all the Holiday Hoopla that threatens to overtake what we all really desire – love, family, friends, peace and great company.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Incense dates back to the time when man fearfully tossed his new discovery, fire, on some resin and delicious smoke came billowing out. Used for a multitude of religious or cultural ceremonies over thousands of years, incense smoke is a common point of spirituality.
Long before the three wise men showed up by the manger with frankincense, gold and myrrh, Egyptians used myrrh for embalming, the Hebrews used frankincense and myrrh in the Temple as sacred anointing oil, and myrrh was used to purify and beautify women in the ancient Persian Empire.
Frankincense & myrrh perfumes inhabit a unique space in the perfume pantheon – a scent that can be deeply meditative, warming, comforting and sometimes disturbing.
We absolutely will be doing a giveaway or two sets of most of the perfume referenced in this post – rules and how to enter are at the bottom of the post.
Give it to me Straight Frankincense and Myrrh Perfumes
If you want to sniff these notes with no frills, AbdesSalaam Attar Frankincense and AbdesSalaam Attar Myrrh are the perfect choices. These are both the excellent, high quality single-note examples and will help clarify what these two notes smell like without any distractions. The budget choice is Demeter Myrrh, a fairly straight up myrrh fragrance, though there’s more sweetness in it and perhaps other notes. Tesori d’Oriente Mirra is another budget myrrh perfume choice, but, again, this is a myrrh fragrance, not a single note fragrance.
There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. – Buddha
Let’s begin by traveling through just the myrrh perfumes. Annick Goutal Myrrhe Ardente is a woods-infused myrrh smoky-tonk dream. Warm, soft, silky, there aren’t any rough medicinal edges to jar you out of your chanting for calm time, but this isn’t a small perfume. Apply with some zen restraint. Prada Myrrhe is part of their exclusives collection – you know, the one nobody can ever find and you almost need an Act of Congress to convince a Prada salesperson to sell it to you? This is myrrh infused with a wee bit of lavender and laying on a woodsy bed. It’s a great straight-up myrrh scent that almost nobody knows about. How does that happen do you think? Pricier, but it is a parfum, and $160 or so for 30 mls is a pretty great pure parfum deal that may help you restore some pocketbook calm. Or not.
Guerlain Myrrhe et Delires is plump myrrh, all fattened up with Guerlain magic dust, which makes it beautiful beyond words. It also is a domesticated myrrh that’s been sitting on an overstuffed couch eating bonbons all of its life – no life of sorrow and suffering. Calming may not be a word you use either once you have them ring it up (above $200 for 75 mls). Huitieme Art Parfums Myrrhiad is a spectacular warmed myrrh scent, sweetened into a rich, slightly burnt vanilla/licorice base with black tea notes to smoke it up. While this isn’t a ground-breaking myrrh scent, it is one I love to wear. A loved, well-worn fragrance is not a small thing.
Cristiano Fissore Cashmere is a unique myrrh scent – fruity myrrh! Apricot adds a wonderful charm, and this is the kind of incense scent you want on to leave in your favorite cashmere sweater.
L’Artisan Mechant Loupe – myrrh ashes burning next to the whiskey and cigar on the Big Bad Wolf’s table. Mmmm, lean in closer… the Big Bad Wolf also smells like toasted hazelnuts, slightly caramelized molasses and myrrh. Hey, Mr. Wolf, I’m gonna eat you up!
Laura Tonatto Amir (Rat Money Smell for me) brings in amber and other things that go bump in the night with the myrrh. Heady, slightly sinister for much of the open, it dries down to comfort after lots of discomfort. L’Erbolario Myrrhae is myrrh, sage and ginger. It comes closest to capturing that slightly antiseptic tonality of myrrh clearly. Myrrhae provides an interesting contrast with sage. Best news! A decent price point peeping its head up in this field of Budget Busters.
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe is the King of the Myrrh Hill. An unusual pairing of myrrh and aldehydes creates crystalline myrrh that reflects light. Myrrh can do this? Under the coaxing hands of Christopher Sheldrake, yeah, it sure can.
L’Occitane Eau d’Iparie is now discontinued, but I’m going to break my rule and mention it here because it’s pretty freaking great, like a few other L’Occitane fragrances that are now discontinued. It’s straight up frankincense and myrrh. It was cheap when it was actively made, about $60 for 100 mls, smells great, a great contrast between medicinal myrrh and warmth, and it is exactly what it says it is. Hey, L’Occitane, can you bring back some of these discontinued fragrances that have so many fans?
Lorenzo Villoresi Incensi is myrrh and apple pie on the open with spices that eventually swell up and choke that apple. It’s not my favorite incense perfume, but it has a lot of fans out there that this combination speaks to; it’s worth trying to see if you are one of them.
Caron Parfum Sacre is rose, myrrh and pepper, and there’s really nothing else that smells like it. Take the trip to a beautiful myrrh/vanilla/woods happy ending that you will love having on your clothes the morning after. If you have a plump bank account, hunt down the Caron Parfum Sacre extrait – discontinued, of course.
Speaking of plump bank accounts… Baccarat Les Larmes Sacrees du Thebes is almost impossible to get, ridiculously priced, and it can’t be worth it for such a fleeting scent? Period, ? no question mark??? WTF with the??? Stop that??? I mean, it, no question marks!…? Grrrr. Sandalwood and myrrh that takes the most beautiful parts of Caron Parfum Sacre extrait and mixes in a tidge of ambergris just to break your heart. And your wallet. Worth it? No, of course not. Really, Pshaw, tooooooo…much…money. or maybe not
Who cares if you’re enlightened forever? Can you just get it in this moment, now? – Byron Katie
Frankincense and Myrrh Zen Stew
CB I Hate Perfume Fire from Heaven is a frankincense/myrrh blend of soft smoke, warm resin and a joy to wear without getting too “churchy.” Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir does frankincense and myrrh… with a side of iris. Giving myrrh an earth-bound lightness it so often needs to keep it from brooding in the corner. Orris Noir is perfect if you want your myrrh to find its happy place. Eau d’Italie Baume de Doge is one I’m doing on memory and quite angry that I don’t have some around – where is that? Do I really not have even a sample? Must fix. Spiced orange, frankincense and myrrh over vanilla and saffron. I remember loving this for its lovely spiced warmth that’s not just a little addictive. Inhale, exhale, inhale — wait, are we huffing? This is definitely a frankincense & myrrh perfume that you should try. The Eau d’Italie line is expertly done, and this one was crafted by Duchaufour, which is all the reason you need.
Profumum Olibdanum is a beautiful frankincense and myrrh scent, infused with some lovely orange blossom rays of sunshine to warm all that incense. Incredibly easy to wear, no mildewy dark cathedral basement or sackcloth and ashes included. Olivier Durbano Rock Crystal always shocks me with how freaking great it is when I haven’t smelled it for a while. With the cuminy open transforming into a rich churchy fragrance, it embraces sinner and saint in equal measure and holds them in tension with neither giving ground to the other. Christian Dior Bois d’Argent. The silver woods, it is infused with frankincense and sweetened by a vanilla-honey-iris combo that’s unique and understated in its elegance. There aren’t a lot of discrete notes; it is well-blended incense perfection, maneuvering between shadow and light, coolness and warmth. Every time you get annoyed with Dior’s current roster of perfumes, just grab this, and you’ll remember why Dior has a comeback in them, if they choose to use it.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Cathedral has a little rougher frankincense and myrrh ride, but no less beautiful, and the spot of mildew feels not just like a church, but Etro Messe di Minuit. Speaking of which, incense, mildew, church basement, crypts full of dead bodies. I have a love/hate relationship with Messe di Minuit. When it works on me, it is amazing. When it doesn’t, Cryptkeeper. Or, according to the fine folks at Reddit, Pirates of the Caribbean.
Frankly, My Dear, I just want the FrankinZENse
Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant is another entry in the incense market more centered on frankincense – resin, burning incense, surrounded with pepper, spices and fir. Have some patience through that full-in frankincense open, this has a gorgeous finish that you really don’t want to miss. Aesop Mystra was created from a historical perspective, you know, of the embalming kind done in ancient cultures. Don’t expect this to move much beyond that, it stays pretty much right there – antiseptic and harsh. This is for the “incense with no gilding of the incense lily” crowd.
Amouage is the King of Frankincense in fragrances, and I think everything they make is loaded with it. Instead of going through the whole line, I’ll highlight a few. Amouage Lyric Woman is a beautiful rose wonder, but on me it’s all about the incense and very little about the rose. Amouage Jubilation Man and Amouage Jubilation Woman are great examples of the use of frankincense in Amouage fragrances as well. Amouage Tribute Attar, though, is frankincense perfection – smoky, rich, leathered diesel frankincense. Expect serious wafting from just a drop.
Regina Harris Frankincense Myrrh Rose Maroc is frankincense through a dark filter. A beautifully blended oil, it’s close to the skin and wonderfully warm. Worth the price tag of 100+ for 15 mls? Who knows? If you love it, sure, it only takes a drop to scent you.
It’s not in my bag of things to carry in this life – it belongs to other people, not me, so I left it for the waves to carry away, along with a lot of other crap I don’t need or want anymore. – Patty White
Okay, okay, I promised, I know, no hard to get scents, but I can’t do a frankincense and myrrh perfumes post without throwing in Armani Prive Bois d’Encens. It is still made, I think, or at least still available in Europe. They seem to have cut the Prive supply line over the ocean for reasons I’ll never know. Regardless, for any incense perfume lover, it’s worth all the hoops and sexual favors you may have to provide to get your hands on some. It takes the heavy quality of incense and then sends it soaring infused with air and light. It is hard to choose if it is my favorite incense fragrance or — crap, picking favorites tortures me. Speaking of favorites, Comme des Garcons incense series are some of the best incense scents available. Those cradle Catholics that break out in hives at the smell of frankincense should avoid Comme des Garcons Avignon, which is High Church incense. I adore it from the beginning to end; it is deeply meditative on me, similar to the Armani, but denser.
L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer is probably one of my other all-time favorite frankincense fragrances. Olivia Giacobetti paired incense with lilies, and there is really nothing else quite like it as the brightness and sweetness of the lily intertwine with the meditative and earthy aspects of the frankincense. Serge Lutens de Profundis is centered more on chrysanthemum and tagetes, but the earthy smell of incense pervades this fragrance. For me de Profundis is longing, loss, hope and earthy enjoyment all wrapped together. After the funeral sex basically.
Cartier XII L’Heure Mystérieuse combines incense, elemi, patchouli and spice to form something dense and dark, but the night is warmed. Strange Invisible Perfumes Fire and Cream is frankincense and hay. Sure, there’s other stuff in there, but that’s what I get, and it is just glorious, my two favorite meditative notes.
Erik Kormann Eau de Froehliche takes on frankincense in an unexpected twist – it makes it fun. Like throwing a big old party in the Cathedral with chocolates and raspberries. I saved this one for last, because I’d never smelled it before, and I was quite dreading it when I saw the list of notes. But for a first-time scent from a Berlin soap shop, I’m quite enchanted by this dumb thing!
This is a great place to end our journey through frankincense and myrrh perfumes. And the pesky rules to be entered for the giveaway. You must leave a comment here to be entered at all. You can get additional entries by doing any/all of the activities in the little widget below! Entries will be taken through Monday noon, December 3, 2012.
So your favorite frankincense and myrrh perfume? Either, both or a combo is great. I’ve missed some, I’m sure, so it’s your turn to tell me what a chowderhead I am for overlooking X.
Samples used in this review and donated for the drawing provided from my private perfume collection and Surrender to Chance.