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.
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.