Guerlain Encens Mythique and the Thrill of Discovery, Perfumista-Style

It came to my attention a few weeks ago that I’d never reviewed one of my heavy-rotation favorites, Guerlain’s Encens Mythique d’Orient, an oversight I’m correcting today. And this review is also about the experience of discovering a fragrance you love so much, when you least expect it.

Encens Mythique was released in 2012 as part of a fancy trio of tall bottles called Les Deserts d’Orient, set out on counter in the Guerlain boutique in my local Saks next to the tall L’Art et la Matiere bottles. All three were done by Thierry Wasser: Rose Nacrée du Désert, Encens Mythique d’Orient, and Songe d’un Bois d’Été.

I’m pretty sure they were initially for the Middle Eastern boutiques and eventually made their way to Europe and the U.S. I’m near a big Saks in the D.C. area that seems unusually well stocked, and I don’t think I had to wait as long as some folks. I’d heard about the scents, but I was coming off a jag of overly sweet or wan Guerlain disappointments and nothing about what I’d read of Les Deserts excited me.

The Rose Nacrée was the Saks SA’s favorite, but I’m a horrible philistine and not a huge fan of rose as the dominant note in fragrances. Anyway, she sprayed it for me first and I sniffed and shrugged. I mean, sure, it’s pretty. The Bois d’Ete was more interesting (saffron! cardamom!) and the most “masculine” of the three, but I can’t get past the oud and a start that I find vaguely like burning rubber. It’s weird, and not in a way I like. Anyway, my mind started to wander at that point and my feet were about to follow when the SA sprayed a bit of the Encens for me as an afterthought. I should point out that I love incense perfumes, but the SA said it was built around (and a riff on) the rose in Nacrée, so I was destined for disappointment.

This list of notes seems plausible: Persian rose, aldehydes, saffron, neroli, vetiver, patchouli, ambergris, frankincense, woods.

Separate from its beauty, the first thing I find remarkable about Encens Mythique is that I don’t experience it as a typical development of top notes fading into heart and base notes. Instead, it emerges from the bottle and blooms, polished and smooth and complete and radiant, one beautiful glowing orb of smell. It’s mesmerizing. I can pick out the individual notes if I really work at it – particularly the aldehydes, the saffron, the incense, even (yes) the rose, but it doesn’t wear like that.

I need to talk about the sillage, which is also remarkable. It’s one of those “aura” fragrances that surrounds you, so to speak, rather than following along behind you like a trail. It lasts a full day on my skin and, as far as I can tell, forever on clothing. (A significant part of my wardrobe smells faintly of Encens Mythique at this point.) It’s not particularly heavy, but it’s clearly noticeable to bystanders — I get endless compliments when I wear it. It’s the single most complimented fragrance I wear, but let that be a heads up if you’re trying it on — one spray will do, and it tends to permeate the space ten feet around you.  As the hours wear on it’s got a vague whiff of snuffed-out candle I adore, and I’m sorry I can’t explain it better – not so much the smoke, but while the wax is still warm.

I couldn’t pay for that bottle fast enough (I think I forgot to ask! good thing it wasn’t $1,000), and I ran out of the store with it like I was afraid they’d realize what they’d done and make me give it back.

Bois de Jasmin loved it too (you can read Victoria’s informed review here) although she experiences it, I think, more as a conventional sequence of notes, albeit just as compelling. I don’t know what sorcery Thierry Wasser was up to with this, but it’s an experience I like to repeat as often as possible.

Encens Mythique can be found at various Guerlain counters and online, 2.5 ounces for $275ish. It’s tippy like the Serge Lutens bottles (I live in terror of one of my obnoxious SLs like Miel de Bois hitting the floor and shattering.) I generally don’t care that much about the bottles but the design detail on these Guerlains, with that gold cascade and Arabic on the side, is strikingly attractive.




  • Musette says:

    Mals, I think you would LOVE this!

  • malsnano86 says:

    Huh. Here I am on Nov. 2, having not visited the Posse in several days at least… just yesterday I was dinking around on ebay, putting samples in my cart and then not buying them — but one of them was this.

    I’m not much of a Guerlainophile, truth be told, and not always an incense fan. To be further brutally honest, I *really* love that just-pretty pink blob of Floral Romantique, but I think I might just go ahead and order that set of manufacturer samples of Songe, Rose Nacree, and Encens Mythique.

  • Musette says:

    didn’t I send you the scrab in my bottle? I love that stuff but found it more overwhelming on me than I was comfortable with (don’t ask). However, given your Coco thang, I can well understand it sweeping you off your nose – and keeping that nose swept all the time!

    Those bottles (the originals) are gorgeous, aren’t they?


    • March says:

      LOL I think at least ….. three? people fobbed their decants off on me because they hated them and they knew I loved it!

  • Shiva-Woman says:

    I was so delighted when you mentioned Ensens Mythique in a post a few weeks ago. At the time when it came out it was actually not getting very good reviews from a variety of sources–or just ignored. But based on the notes I took a plunge and ordered it directly from Guerlain overseas–unsniffed. There was no store here in California that was selling it, near me anyway, and it was already disappearing from the market. I actually had to really struggle to find a way to purchase it because even the Guerlain online store were not prominently featuring, and I think I had to contact the French online, but when it arrived I was not disappointed. This is one of the most fabulous amazing scents out there. It was instant love. And like you I also get compliments every single time I wear it. While I don’t consider it a true incense 100%, it certainly is built around incense with a subtle sweet smoke. It is not acrid, burning smoke, but ethereal– a dreamy, wafting, light, gauzy always there lovely scent that trails beautifully.
    About a year ago I noticed that it was not on the US online Guerlain site at all, and only a few exorbitantly priced Ebay bottles were turning up, but discounters were starting to sell it. (Btw, I paid a pretty hefty price for the original bottle, about twice a Serge Lutens– the most I’ve paid, even more than Amouage. Totally worth it!). I panicked then.

    I now have a backup bottle that does have the Arabic writing. So I have both bottles, one with the Arabic and one without Arabic writing. I can detect a slight difference in the juice, but I think it might just be a batch difference. Both perfums smell lovely and both pretty much settle into the same place within 5 or 10 minutes. The Arabic one seemed initially thinner to me, but I also tried immediately after its long journey.
    I have not checked in the last year or so since I purchased my backup bottle if this is a readily available perfume. So I don’t know if it’s easier now to get or more difficult. But it’s a must try for the incense lover– it’s really beautiful and different. Do not think Heeley or Tauer or CdG (though I enjoy those too). This is my no. 1 incense.

  • Austenfan says:

    I got samples of Rose Nacrée and Songe a while ago when I visited the wonderful perfume heaven that is Place Vendôme in Belgium. Those two utterly enchanted me, and I ended up buying the rose some time later. Encens M d’O has always eluded me, I can’t say I dislike it, but I just never fell for it as hard as I have for the other two.

    On the subject of Guerlain I’ve grown rather fond of their Mon Guerlain, I know it’s not great but I do really like it, mind you I’m nuts about all things lavender.

    • March says:

      See, this makes sense to me, though. If you loved the Rose and the Songe, I totally understand being underwhelmed by the Encens. It’s much quieter. And you can have my share of Mon Guerlain, hehe.

  • eldarwen22 says:

    I tried the rose one a few years ago and I was not impressed. I was at Saks 3 years ago and the Guerlain lady had small decants to spray on those who wanted to try them but didn’t have samples of them to give out.

    • March says:

      I will say, the Saks near me almost never has samples, even though they have full bottles of whatever I am trying in stock. But having small decants for people to sample seems…. weak.

  • Sapphire says:

    Somewhere, I have some tiny samples of the trio. I remember trying all three and liking at least one of them, but I had gotten a whole lot of samples that time and the ADD kicked in. I moved on to trying the other samples and forgot about them. Must dig them out and re-try.

  • Kandice says:

    My favorite fragrances come from the house of Guerlain, but somehow I’ve never tried this one. I will have to remedy this ASAP. It sounds absolutely beautiful! Thanks for the review 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I wore this to bed last night. I woke up to just a trace of it-mostly a hint of ambergris and something faintly spicy. I like and own Rose Nacre, but Encens Mythique just stuns me with its beauty.

    • March says:

      Oh yeah, wearing it to bed and you wake up and you can smell it and (even better) your bed linens smell vaguely of it as well. Also, “ambergris and something faintly spicy” would get me running to try a fragrance every.single.time.

  • Jo says:

    I have wanted to try Encens Mythique for so long. Finally got a chance to test it… And it’s a rather bland, seriously weak rose and incense on my skin. 🙁 Gone in a few hours as well, I was gutted. Glad I didn’t blind buy it, the notes seemed perfect for me but it was just so “MEH.”

    • March says:

      LOL and that could be the OTHER kind of post that gets written — I tried this thang and I was sure I was gonna love it and it was made for me and ….. nope! In fact I could do a post titled I Was Gutted. It would have a lot of the other recent-ish Guerlains on there, hehe. There have been times when I thought Guerlain is actively trolling me, their #1 fangirl.

  • Tara C says:

    I have and love Encens Mythique as well. It is definitely an aura scent. At first I thought it was a bit weak, but I could smell it wafting gently around me all day long. I agree it is the best of the three.

    • March says:

      Oooh, Encens Mythique fans coming out of the woodwork! Yeah, particularly if you’re trying it for the first time along with the other two, it’s so much less in your face. But eeeeee it’s so beautiful!

  • GrandmaGaga says:

    My new (er) bottle has no Arabic writing on the side and comes with a sealed integral sprayer…I wonder if it has been reformulated when the bottle changed?

    • March says:

      That’s interesting — I’ve not seen the non-Arabic bottle! Reformulations — I don’t know…. Guerlain isn’t any worse than anyone else I don’t think in terms of not admitting they’ve tweaked something. I’ve heard vague grumblings about Encens in terms of reformulations, and/but I’ve tried various iterations via decants old and new, and I’m not detecting anything dire. One of my bottles came with a spray atomizer and one didn’t (yep, I have a backup bottle, lol) and I don’t know if that was a mistake or a change…