Cleansing Smoke – Review: Naomi Goodsir Bois d’Ascese

By Tara

I really enjoy smoky aromas but I fully expected not to take to Bois d’Ascese (Ascetic Wood) because it sounded like the equivalent of a bushfire on the smokiness scale. However, while I may not be about to purchase a bottle, I did get caught up in its burning invocation.

There’s something enveloping and almost sensual about it (though I may be on my own with the latter). Some seem to find it too austere for comfort but I find that sinuous cloud of smoke and incense transporting.

bois d ascese

Naomi Goodsir is an Australian milliner who released her first collection of fragrances in 2012. Bois d’Ascese was composed by perfumer Julien Rasquinet and contains notes of tobacco, whiskey, cinnamon, amber, cistus labdanum, oakmoss, smoked cade wood and Somalian incense.

The overarching accord is tarry and smoky but it’s a blazing campfire out in the middle of nowhere rather than the harsh phenols pumping out from a tannery. The incense is very much wrapped up in the cade wood smoke.

Cade wood oil or “juniper tar” derives from the distillation of the twigs and branches of the juniper shrub. The result is a more forest-y kind of tar/smoke aroma.

Bois d’Ascese is extremely punchy and pungent in the early stages. As well as tangy and peaty facets, there’s a sticky, slightly sweet, labdanum resin that oozes golden amber out of the smoky blackness.


After the first hour or so, it mellows out considerably into a spare, tinder-dry, lingering smoulder. I find it much easier to wear after this point.

It clings to the body and feels surprisingly weightless. Lasting power is outstanding as it seems to adhere to the skin.

In the traditional sense, it’s certainly masculine in character and I imagine it could be knock-out on a guy.

Bois d’Ascese may not be everyone’s idea of a pleasing personal fragrance but I think it’s more wearable than the thick birch tar smoke of Le Labo’s Patchouli 24. It’s smoother and much more contemplative. It transplants you to a landscape far away from modern life…

Above the campfire, the starry firmament stretches away so endlessly you get “sky awe”. You feel tiny – just a speck in this infinite universe.


Instead of making you feel pointless, your insignificance has the opposite effect. You feel immensely comforted and liberated by the fact that nothing is as important as you thought it was. Everything gets quiet and still. All is assigned to its rightful place.

This feeling is very calming for a habitual over-thinker like me.

For all its charred timber and billowing smoke, there is something haunting about Bois d’Ascese. It seems to have been crafted as a considered aesthetic statement as opposed to a crude smoke bomb.

The reference to asceticism in its name implies monastic abstinence in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. Bois d’Ascese is a holy smoke that will coat and cleanse you, exorcising your demons from your very pores: a purification ritual.


About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
This entry was posted in By Tara, Fragrance Reviews, Incense and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Cleansing Smoke – Review: Naomi Goodsir Bois d’Ascese

  1. cookie queen says:

    Interesting review. I have a few mls of this and have worn it several times, albeit in the one wristed dab style. I am a bit wary of going The Full Monty with it. It is a very haunting fragrance. xxx

  2. marjo56 says:

    Thank you very much for this great review. I received a sample of Bois d’Ascese some months ago and I really love it. I do find it comforting and soothing and consider purchasing a full bottle!

    • Tara says:

      I’m so glad you liked the review marjo56! I think it’s a very affecting fragrance. I admire it a lot. I hope you enjoy your full bottle if/when you get it.

  3. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Oh, I’d need some serious exorcising – knowing my tastes would you recommand it? I like Val’s description with “haunting”, I think these days i have the right mood for something haunting…

    • Tara says:

      Ha! I think you could pull this one off well, LJG. It packs a punch in the beginning but the burning embers drydown is very haunting, as Val says.

      See you Monday!!!

  4. Ana-Maria says:

    Hi Tara,
    I liked your take on the fragrance it describes it nicely. I was talking sometime ago to the lady who stocks it here in Prague and she told me a bit about the story behind it: Naomi wanted to recreate the smell of a burning church during a fire that had taken place in her childhood in her native Australia. This impression was strong and stuck to her brain so she wanted to make it into a perfume, and this is Bois d’Incense :). Ana from

  5. Sandra says:

    I love her Cuir Velours and now I can’t wait to explore more. Have a safe trip! Looking forward to seeing you.

  6. Sabine says:

    Interesting. I might like that, I certainly like the way you describe it. And the added burning church from Ana Maria makes it even more intriguing. See you tonight my dear?

    • Tara says:

      Hi Sabine, I think you would like this, especially as you get on well with Patchouli 24. The inspiration of the burning church is great isn’t it?

      Hopefully I will see you tonight.

  7. I wonder how it will compare to Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories? I would find this hard to wear given my current preferences for softer, easy-to-wear fragrances. But an interesting olfactory exercise nevertheless!

    • Tara says:

      Hi J!
      It’s been years since I tried LM but I recall it being full of greasy birch tar and more of a biker scent to me. Nowhere near as sinuous and atmospheric as BdA.

  8. Annette says:

    Hi Tara, a lovely review, Is Naomi Goodsir available in London?

    • Tara says:

      Thanks very much Annette. Sadly Naomi Goodsir is not available in the UK from what I gather, but you can buy samples online from First in Fragrance if you’re really interested.

  9. anitathepianist says:

    Such an interesting review, Tara. Thanks for the tip about where one can buy samples.

  10. Suzanne says:

    Tara, I had to laugh when reading your review, for here is a perfume that seems like it would be just my thing – and one that I would never have pegged you as being a fan of – and in fact, it turns out that you love it and I’m not too wild about it (too austerely smoky for me). Proves you never can know how a perfume will sit with you until you actually try it.

    At any rate, I might have to give it another chance, and the next time, I’ll wear it while reading your review, for it really seems to speak to you and I love your description in which you say, “Above the campfire, the starry firmament stretches away so endlessly you get ‘sky awe’. You feel tiny – just a speck in this infinite universe.” Beautiful – I love that feeling.

    • Tara says:

      Well Suzanne, I’d say I admire it more than love it. That opening is too much for me and I’m not sure if I want to walk around smelling of a burning church! It’s a great piece of work though.

      Too bad it wasn’t all you hoped for.

  11. Sun Mi says:

    Thanks for your review Tara! I can’t tell if this would work for me – though I’m not necessarily big on smoky scents. That being said, I do rather enjoy Memoirs of a Trespasser, which is definitely camp-firey, so who knows! 🙂

  12. Asali says:

    Funny, I just read Sunzannes’s comment, and had the same thought. I think this one wasn’t for me although it sounds like it should be, and I should never have seen it coming that it would evoke so many pictures for you. I feel like giving it a ‘skin-chance’ now. I know you say it will probably not be a bottle for you, but I feel that if it does calm your mind and make you feel insignificant in that comforting way, perhaps you should reconsider that 😉 Beautifully written as always, but particularly poetic today. ❤

  13. Vanessa says:

    Yet again, I am impressed at how beautifully you render a perfume, even one that isn’t quite ‘you’, which is true of quite a few of the scents you review – it is a challenge to which you rise eloquently every time. I am reminded of that quote about Baudelaire turning ‘mud into gold’. Or birch tar in the present case. 😉 I am very wary of tarry scents, but this does sound haunting, as you say!

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, V. I rarely feel a fragrance is really me, but luckily I can appreciate quite a few and see the poetry in them.
      I doubt you’d get pass the opening of this one.

  14. Undina says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen this brand or tried any of their perfumes but the list of notes and your description sound good so I’ll give it a try. Eventually. Those that are too smoky on me might wear well on my vSO – so I have an extra chance of liking a perfume 😉

  15. leathermountain says:

    What a beautiful review!

  16. Pingback: Cuir Velours by Naomi Goodsir   | A Bottled Rose

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s