There is no better note that embodies both light and warmth than ancient frankincense. One of the first perfume materials ever used in the form of incense, frankincense is simultaneously fresh and dusky, citrusy and incensey, current yet redolent of times past.
For this winter list edition, I bring you some of my favourite scents that bring an uplifting feeling during the darkest days - one for each hour of darkness in Vancouver, where our night is 16 hours long at this time of the year. So here is something fragrant for each and every dark hour. And you might just notice that many of the items on this list are incense themed. That is because I'm on a bit of a frankincense roll, and also because I will be visiting Jerusalem on Christmas eve and I intend to savour every incense encounter I find in the ancient city while I'm there and soak up some smoky inspiration!
1. Bois d'Encens
One of the most realistic frankincense scents ever. Rather than smelling like the oil, it brings to mind the burst of citrus and dust that occurs when you place a pellet of frankincense resin on a hot charcoal, followed by an explosion of essential oils released in thick smoke. So far, the only Armani that ever spoke to me.
2. Diamond Incense Sticks
From Shoyeido's Jeweld Series, this is frankincense incense ready to be burnt in sticks, and also accented with ginger lily and hints of cinnamon.
3. Encense Blanc
Smoky yet delicate, from Rebel & Mercury. Burning wands of white sage (aka artemisia) and white florals.
With a hint of frankincense, and an ample dosage of citrus to chase away whichever quantities of winter gloom that might have built up since the fall. Etrog's lemony floral burst is balanced with the warmth of frankincense and balsam poplar buds.
5. Fête d'Hiver
Way back when in 2001, I designed this little number to celebrate precisely this time of the year. Incense laden with bitter orange, roses, tropical gardenia notes and a hint of spice (nutmeg and allspice, to be exact).
6. Fig Leaf & Sage
Shiny and new from Kiehl's, this is a very approachable yet surprisingly fascinating cross between a scented ancillary product (body spray) and perfume.Simultaneously fruity yet not exactly sweet, with herbaceous-dry sage notes and a certain tart, almost green undertones.
7. Fleur d'Oranger
Serge Lutens' interpretation of this otherwise very spring-like citrus blossom renders it a very dusky, with an air of evening extravagance.
8. Gourmet Frankincense
Soft, soothing frankincense with hints of ambrette seed's muskiness. It's not so much edible as it is addictive.
9. Incense Pure
Incense, musk and ambery labdanum with a resinous, slightly woodsy presence are the core of this balanced, well-made perfume from Sonoma Scent Studio.
Labdanum and galbanum resins are at the core of Lorenzo Villoresi's incense fest. Rather than smoldering church incense, it's more so resinous and thick, syrupy amber with hints of green sweetness.
11. Parfum Sacré
Winter classic that won't leave my boudoir anytime soon if I can help it. There is enough pepper in it to keep one awake during Midnight Mass!
12. Prada Amber Intense Pour Homme
Beautifully balances between warmth and freshness with amber and patchouli and a crisp veil of bergamot.
13. Oud Abu Dabi
Perfume oil that I found at the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem many years ago and am really enjoying this winter. It's not so much a single note oud, and more of a chypre-rose with oud, and feels more perfumey as it wears on.
14. Poivre Samarcand
Pepper madness is one of the ways I can describe this scent. And I'm talking black pepper, of course (I felt that the green bell pepper notes in Paprika Brazil were befittin the role of a nightmarish smell track for the film Brazil). But I digress: Poivre Samarcand is arguably one of the best Hermessences, and is particularly appealing thanks to the dry mossy base notes and bold, hot nature.
15. Rose Chai
Tea bags by Wisotzky that smell and taste like perfume, and I say this fondly. Assam tea scented with roses, almonds and chai spices. You should also check out this Rose Chai Malabi recipe.
16. Rosewater & Vanilla
Jo Malone dives into a Middle Eastern dessert full of rosewater, orange flower water, vanilla and powdery musk. A little over the top but sometimes that's precisely what you want.
What are your favourite scents, teas, incense and spices this winter? Post a comment and enter to win a care package with some of the perfumes, incense and teas mentioned in above!