Monday Question – What Is Your Favorite Incense Perfume?

Which perfume featuring a prominent incense note is on your favorite list?

Which incense perfumes do you love, like, hate?

What do you associate with incense?

My Answer:

Incense, for me, has strong associations with the catholic church. I grew up going to church every Sunday and it was not always what I wanted, but I’m still grateful for the socialization and education I received there.

It was only through perfume that I started to break that strong connection between incense and church with all its attendant emotions. Andy Tauer’s Incense Extreme and Incense Rosé introduced me to the idea of incense representing wide open spaces and Laurie Erickson cemented that revelation with her gorgeous Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure.

Of course there are the church incenses too (Heeley Cardinal, Comme de Garcons Avignon), they are welcome on days when I need to see the bigger picture to get away from the petty worries of everyday life.

My favorites in the incense category are Armani Privé Bois d’Encens and Comme de Garcons Kyoto. Both are utterly serene and calm. Like a drug, but safer, they work to unwind my nerves and put a cooling hand on my feverish, racing mind.

I look forward to discovering all your incense favorites!

Thanks to Julie L. for the idea to this MQ!

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106 Responses to Monday Question – What Is Your Favorite Incense Perfume?

  1. Tatiana says:

    I like Armani Privé Bois d’Encens, too. I also like Kilian Incense Oud. I grew up catholic as well and loved Christmas and Easter time for the ceremony and incense. I was always jealous of my older brothers who were altar boys and thus got to fill and light the censer.

  2. Sandra says:

    Oh I look forward to reading the comments today. I find incense very soothing as well. My favorites are By Kilian Incense Oud and Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient.

  3. My favourites are Oud Luban by Aftelier, and as you said, Incense Rose by Tauer – closely followed by Avignon and Lutens’ Gris Clair.
    Another worthy mention would be Classic Myrrh by Von Eusersdorff because I love the powdery violet paired with incense.

  4. lucasai says:

    As much as I don’t like incense in perfume I really fancy Comme des Garcons Kyoto of their Incense Series. To my nose it’s the most fresh and transparent incense possible, almost smells like the incense wasn’t there, an incense without incense ;)

  5. Lady Jane Grey says:

    I’m not an avid fan of Incense parfums. Whilest I have no problems with incense per se, I don’t necessarily want to smell like it. And still, there is one incense scent in my collection : L’Artisan’s Dzongkha – which I think of as my meditative, spiritual scent.

  6. Gogol says:

    Zagorsk. It’s a realistic representation of a Russian orthodox church – whenever I close my eyes it takes me back to my cool childhood summers, the wooden steps of a little chasovnya made of rough pine. A lake in the foreground, very dark spruces in the background.

  7. Undina says:

    No particular church-related memories for me. I like incense (as in burning-smelling) but I’m indifferent to that note in perfumes. There are so many different types of incense that I’m not even sure what is called by this term in perfumery or if it has a distinct scent – or if it’s just a generic term.

  8. Zazie says:

    This post is so timely! :)
    I was feeling the urge to gush about my scent of the day: Encens flamboyant by Annick Goutal!!!
    That is my absolute favorite incense, and a favorite frangrance tout-court, because of it’s peculiar smoky, warm and cozy qualities.
    My husband loves it (and wears it) too: it’s a family affair.
    I also like Etro’s Shaal Nuur, with it’s citrusy and oriental ornaments.
    And I’d love to try SSS Incense pure (and also many other of her scents), but unfortunately SSS does not ship to Europe :(
    I have to admit, however, that I am not a fan of the overly dry and streamlined incense fragrances that abund in the niche market: I guess the note by itself does not really smell like a “real perfume” for me…
    But back to my encens flamboyant…mmmmhhhh….swoon….

    • Olfactoria says:

      Ah, Encens Flamboyant, I think that was the first incense perfume I ever smelled, it is very cosy and comforting. I’m glad you are enjoying to so much.

      SSS does not ship to Europe? Is that a recent development? Because I’ve ordered a few times without a hitch… must investigate.

      • Zazie says:

        Oh, I don’t know about the full bottles, I am talking about samples.
        We placed the order and were told by SSS to refer to a german retailer, that also has an online boutique – but we could see just full bottles…and no samples… and I am not really a blind buyer (besides, I wanted to try several SSS perfumes and good range of samples was the best to get to know the line!)

        • Olfactoria says:

          I’m talking about samples too. I just tried to put samples in my basket at the SSS online store, and it was not a problem. Just select the international shipping option (there are two, first class and priority). I’m astounded at the info you got from SSS, maybe there was a misunderstanding…
          The perfumes are really worth a try.

          • Zazie says:

            Oh, you can put them into the basket and finalize the purchase!
            …But your order will be cancelled after a few days. :( Yep.
            At least that’s what happened to us last year: my husband wanted to make me a small present (well, we chose the samples together :) ) so we placed the order and everything: imagine our disappointment when we received an email few days later, apologizing and telling us to refer to the german retailer and explaining that our order would be canceled.
            It hasn’t turned me from wanting to try SSS fragrances, but, the experience was a bit confusing…
            I could have ordered the samples from other US-based sample and decants sites, but I was distracted by other things, fell in love with other scents, placed orders to companies that would ship to Italy, and I almost forgot all about my SSS lemmings…

          • Olfactoria says:

            That is very unfortunate indeed. :(
            I guess she doesn’t want to take away business from the German retailer, but I still don’t like it…

        • Marie says:

          Oh, it’s not about SSS not wanting to ship to Germany but about German customs. Laurie told me that there have been problems with shipping to Germany and Italy before, hence she refers to the local retailers ;)

  9. Rose says:

    I really love most all incense, i love frankincense particulary. Some of the ones I love include CDG Kyoto, Avignon & Zagorsk, Memoire liquide Encens, montale full incense & so many others! I would say I least like the really acrid, sharp pepper & patchouli notes, I prefer soft sweet smoke.

  10. Civava says:

    I like Kyoto and for some strange reason Avignon too. It has some high quality incense in it and it is so soft and gentle. Kyoto is more dry and different from classic incense. It doesn’t remind me of church do much like Avignon.

  11. Alexandra says:

    The Comme de Garcon incense series does provide some wonderful examples of the note: Avignon takes me straight back to cathedral school (and has been my choice on Christmas day) as a true church incense scent and then I also love Kyoto, but for me is smells of the strength of cold grey rock standing firm against the battering of a cold sea (must be something to do with childhood holidays to Scotland).

    My weekend discovery was MFK Absolue Pour le Soir which also has a wonderful, and prominent, incense note; but the intense intimacy of the scent stands in beautiful contrast to the perfumes mentioned above!

    • Olfactoria says:

      I read about your impulse purchase on FB! Congratulations! I like APLS a lot, but now and again it turns super-cuminy on me, which keeps me from going for a full bottle.
      The musk always distracts the nose, but you are right, there is a lovely incense note in it.

  12. poodle says:

    I love incense. It oftentimes reminds me of church and many years of catholic school. I love Avignon, Incense Rose, Incense Pure, and generally if it has the word incense in the name I want to try it. I also love when incense is used as more of a supporting role in a perfume like Trayee.

  13. By far my favorite is By Kilian Incense Oud as the incense is not overbearing. I had a problem with Avignon because it was just too smoky. I’m with Poodle, I like it when it has a supporting role in a perfume and is not the dominant character.

  14. Tony says:

    I love incense scents! My favs are black Afgano , incense oud and interlude for man!

  15. ginzaintherain says:

    It’s funny. Last night we were trying Black Amber by Agonist, and although the initial frankincense note was very beautiful, and I was vaguely intrigued by the saltiness of the seaweed note, I realized just how sick I am of all that liturgical, in your face dryness. This Agonist perfume was convincing, and very church-like, but still had that depressing coldness that a lot of these incense scents have.

    I think I still like the original best, L’Eau du Navigateur by L’Artisan, with its coffee note, as it has heart and soul and warmth, and I think of it, strangely, almost as a male Chamade, which is really up there for me in the pantheon.

  16. Tara says:

    Like you my favourites are Bois d’Encens (which I associate with the outdoors) and CdG Kyoto (which I associate with Buddhist temples). I feel my fragrance wardrobe would be incomplete without an incense. I hope to have full bottle of BdE at some point.

  17. One of my favourite incense perfumes is Mystra by Aesop… extremely natural, austere and ascetic, whose mastic note is reminiscent of the Greek ground. Lets sail to Byzantium!

  18. Dionne from BOTO recently gave me a generous Incense pure decant by SSS. Enraptured!!
    Smell Bent’s Incensed and Tibet Ur Bottom $ are also fairly regularly spritzed, Wazamba by Parfum d’Empire is another.
    Portia xx

  19. Not really an incense fan per se, but I did love Angelique Encens (a Creed eek!) and now like Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis. AE was a bit like SSS Incense Pure, but it did have that angelica note. Very elegant.

  20. Suzanne says:

    I really love incense, but your post made me realize that I love it as part of a more complex fragrance, where it comes in almost like a surprise, in fragrances like Chanel No. 22, Amouage Lyric, and the original YSL Nu. My favorite full-tilt incense perfume is SSS Incense Pure, and two other favorites where it is prominent are Maison Martin Margiela Untitled and Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant (and a wave to Zazie to thank her for reminding me of it!).

  21. Mel says:

    I’m not into incense fragrances, but a subtle hint is tolerable. I love Chanel no 22, mainly because the incense is in the base notes and therefore very subtle, yet calming and comforting

  22. Safran says:

    My current two favourite incense scents are kind of on the opposite ends of the incense scale, (if there would be such a thing) Kurkdjian’s Absolute pour le Soir, honeyed, thick, dense, rich – and L’Ether by Iunx, smoky, airy, luminous, refined and quite elegant, created by Olivia Giacobetti.

    Cheers
    Safran

  23. Dionne says:

    I love incense, and because my skin turns things sweeter, they don’t read as “dry” on me. My faves right now are Incense Pure, Incense Extreme and Incense Rosé, Avignon, Kyoto, Nu and Wazamba, plus I enjoy the incense note in my Black Cashmere, Parfum Sacre, Ambre Fétiche and Tibetan Mountain Temple. This winter I plan to explore the incense note in full, and the list includes Passage d’Enfer, Messe de Minuit, Timbuktu, Dzonghka, Shaal Nur and Mecca Balsam. It’s going to be fun. :)

  24. SonomaVelvet says:

    I have admit that I hardly wore any incense at all over the summer months but now with the temperatures dipping I’ve been wearing Incense Pure to bed, I love Kyoto too but more for day time and Epic Woman, though that is much more than incense to me, is my special ‘me’ time perfume.

  25. dremybluz says:

    My favorites are GdG 2 Man and Tauer’s Incense Rose

  26. Amy Bella says:

    Incense fragrances bring me back to young adulthood – discovering and burning incense in my dorm room and first apartment. I don’t burn as much these days because the smoke sometimes irritates my sinuses, but I more than make up for it with incense perfumes! I can’t bring to mind a single incense-dominant perfume that I dislike! Incense Pure, Kyoto, Wazamba, Tribute Attar, Timbuktu, Incense Oud, Taur Extreme… I could go on… so many favorites. There’s still a handful of great ones that I haven’t tried judging from the comments. I’ll remedy that soon! :)

  27. Bee says:

    (I think my first comment was swallowed by the net) so, I’m still looking for my favourite incense, not too churchy but noticeable – besides many of the above mentioned, I’ve tried L’eau froide (SL; too much of a good thing), the O. Durbanos (too subtle), Gypsy water (Byerdo, not much of a staying time), Around Midnight (Mark Buxton, on my “try again” list), Bubblegum & Incense (very playful take, ELDO), who knows, they might be good on someone else

  28. Nu! Nu! Nu! Nu!

    I have to have some white flowers with my incense ;)

  29. Laurie E says:

    Hi! I just wanted to clarify about international orders with SSS. I can ship to many countries and all you need to do is pick the international option at check-out. There are some countries I can not ship to, and if you are in one of those I have to send a refund and cancel. I ship to most countries in the EU, but not to Italy because their customs are very strict. I can ship samples to Germany, but not bottles. I ship a lot to France, UK, Australia, NZ, and others. I explain international shipping on my FAQ page. If you are unsure about your country just send me an email to inquire before placing an order. Thanks! –Laurie

  30. czahltine says:

    It isn’t what I’d call a full-on incense, but Kalimantan by Chantecaille pairs its so beautifully with rosemary and thyme that really sets it apart from the others for me. One day I’ll get a full bottle!

  31. Laurie E says:

    PS The reason I suggested Sundhaft to the customer in Italy is because it is easier to ship from one EU country to another than from the USA and I thought perhaps Sundhaft could help get an order through Italian customs. Most indie perfumers that I’ve talked with can’t ship to Italy either — when we try, the packages are either returned or disappear. If you write perfume or cosmetic samples or anything of that nature on the customs form, they will not allow entry. I just don’t have a way to do it. I always explain that dilemma in detail when I receive inquiries from Italy, but some of the story may be lost in translation. Anyway, I’m sorry that I can’t ship to Italy! I need to follow customs rules as best I can though and minimize my losses.

    And thank you so much, Birgit, for including Incense Pure in you post today! So glad people are enjoying it!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Of course, Incense Pure is a must-try in this category. :)

    • Zazie says:

      Thank you for your answer to my post.
      I know that for what concerns fragrances Italy has specific regulations about ingredients and there might be custom fees and so on.
      That said, I’ve received fragrances from sellers outside the EU and never experienced any problems – I had to pay the custom fee and that was it. But the seller was aware of the specific national regulations about fragrances.
      I have had no experience of packages (of perfumes or other goods coming from abroad) being lost but I understand that a EU-based retailer makes things easier for the buyer and for the seller.
      (too bad that suendhaft doen’t sell samples – or at least so it seemed to us, the website being in german!…So I hope you find an Italian retailer very soon! ;) )
      Thank you in any case for taking the time to explain.

  32. ringthing says:

    Incense is one of my very favorite notes in perfumery, so I have enjoyed all the comments very much! I share many loves with Dionne, above. I find that some incense reads *cool* to me, like Nu edp and Messe de Minuit; others read *hot*, like Wazamba and Black Cashmere. MdM is great in the summer. A few other favorites: Encens et Lavande (calm in a bottle; Kyoto is too), Bond 9 Silver Factory which has an effervescence to it, and frankincense in many scents like Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka. Thanks for another enjoyable post!

  33. Joe says:

    I love incense fragrances. My portable temples as I call them. Favourites for me are IUNX L’Ether, Guerlain Bois d’Armenie, Amouage Gold, Silver and Dia and Aqua Santa from profumo.it.

  34. Does L’Air du Desert Marocain count? If so, then that. I do love Incense Pure, too…. and Michael Storer’s Winter Star.

  35. susan says:

    Oh gosh- I’m an incense lover for sure. Maybe my favorites are Andy Tauer’s Incense Rose and Chanel No. 22. But there are so many great ones. I get incense from many of Andy Tauer’s fragrances – maybe even some of the ones that don’t have incense listed as a primary note.

  36. Cheri says:

    Norma Kamali Incense, Guerlain Bois D’Armenie, Profumum Olibanum, SSS Incense Pure, Czech and Speake Frankincense and Myrrh, Annayaki Miyako, Comme Des Garcons (all of them!), Etate Libre D’Orange Encens et Bubblegum, Josef Statkus – wow, I’ve barely scratched the surface of many favorites.

  37. Philipp says:

    I am not a big incense fan… but I am rather partial to the cold aura of Heeley’s Cardinal.

  38. Lyubov says:

    So hard to choose one…Insence is one of my favorite notes! The knock-down strength in Black Cashmere, Nu edp, Zagorsk and Kyoto, the pretty blended ingredients in John Galliano edp, Amouage Opus IV and Fille en Aiguilles and the subtlety of the thin smoke in Bois d`Iris from the Collection Extraordinaire…

  39. I don’t go for incense fragrances. However some of my favourite fragrances have it as a note – Seville a l’Aube and Prada Eau Ambree. I am also getting to know the Amouages bit by bit from the discovery kit and have fallen for Gold which also has a hint of incense. The problem with Gold is that it is a big fragrance – too big for everyday but glorious.

  40. Pingback: Monday Question – What Is Your Favorite Vanilla Perfume? | Olfactoria's Travels

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