An interview with Philippe Constantin : Artistic Director and founder of Maison Insens

01st February, 2017

Philippe Constantin with Ainslie Walker

Many people the world over, especially Asia and the Middle East burn incense year round. In the West ‘peak incense season,’ being christmas, has just passed. However the northern hemisphere is still cold, candles and incense are burning, incense is still wavers in the air.

The rise in niche fragrances and ‘niche designer’ fragrances has led to ‘incense’ in perfume becoming increasingly common, more recognised and appreciated by the masses. (think Tom Ford Sahara Noir, Comme Des Garcons - Avignon etc) Strictly speaking ‘incense’ is aromatic, raw materials which release aromatic smoke when burnt. Incense is the raw material, not the smoke itself. In perfumery, however it can refer to frankincense, myrrh, styrax, smoke, resins, oud, woods in naturals and a plethora of synthetics and isolates!

Tastes have altered to appreciate drier, woodier, heavier and smokier fragrances in recent years. The expanding ‘woods’ family section in the Fragrances of the World book by Michael Edwards is indicative of this. With the word ‘perfume’ deriving from latin ‘per fumus’ meaning ‘through smoke’, perhaps this is a natural progression? Timing has been perfect for incense fragrances in most collections, however is there place for a whole fragrance collection based on incense?

Recently I met with Philippe Constantin of Maison Insens in Grasse to find out!

Philippe is the artistic director and founder of Maison Insens, which consists of 10 smouldering fragrances launched between 2014 and 2016. The perfumer is Jean- Claude Gigodot who Phillipe works closely with.

Advertisement — article continues below

What inspired the collection?

My father wrote a novel 7 years ago about a different civilization, a universe we don’t know, the past and future, all linked to a power. I wanted to create a niche fragrance collection, one I was sure would make my father proud. Authenticity, creativity , craftsmanship - doing something

unique and breaking away from trends is important to me. Niche should be about being different, about standing out from the crowd – and that is what I try to achieve.

I like this sentence from Serge Lutens when he speaks about l’incendiaire

“The fire is not within the perfume but within me. I want to ignite the smouldering embers of the perfume world, to put the fire” back in perfume!”

Let’s smell them together!

Firstly you will see the two collections are packaged very differently.

I want to create new smells and unconventional fragrances, if we compare the perfumes to a painting it has a sense if it is different and personal.

The first collection is packaged with wooden lids:

Figue Eleii - A tangy fig leaf with tuberose, musk, tonka accord, cedar and iris.

Figue Aoudii - Ylang ylang, fig, violet, oud, leather, cedar, sandalwood, orange blossom and bergamot. This one is all about seduction.

Musk Kalirii - Animalic. Bergamot, orange, rose, jasmine, leather and sandalwood.

Cuir Erindil - The original formulation was a mistake and came about as part of creation. Iris, sandalwood, myrrh, lerather, musk, vanilla and cinnamon. The leather is the smell of dragon’s leather - from the rider of dragons!

Best seller : Tabac Licori

Tabac Licori - The current best seller features star anise, licorice, tobacco, violet, seawater, musk, and ambroxan

Neroli Animalis - Is the most animalic featuring neroli, bergamot, orange blossom and animalis notes. We experimented. We asked “what can we do with neroli?” Make it leather? Make it animalic?

Oud Deneii - Oud! Oud! Oud!

The Les Incencees Collection bottles are wrapped in stone and have metallic lids.


Couer de Rose - The scent of a single rose in the desert. A metallic rose. A stone rose. I grew up in Morocco, spending my first 17 years there.Spices are important there. Dried roses. When crossing the desert they stop in the night and make tea in a stone cup. Sometimes if they have found ambergris on the shore they add it. The smell is metallic, sand, wind, rose and of the desert.

Coeur de Musc - animalic notes, musc, honey, amber and indolic jasmine. Again my time in Morocco has influenced me. Smells of horses. Animalic. Sweet and spices of my years there.


Couer de Oud - Cedar, oud, myrrh, sandalwood, patchouli,vanilla, animalic notes. This one is interesting, a real oud but a wearable oud. Dirty but the flower facet you can still smell due to the combination of patchouli.

Where can we buy the fragrances?

Forty stores worldwide - 25 in Italy, 8 in Russia, USA, CHina, Macao, UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Romania, Lithuania Spain and online on our website

Tell us more about the unique packaging:

When the box opens it contains samples inside in a section so one tries the others in the collection when they buy a full bottle. Sample sets are also available separately.

The Les Incencees collection is hand covered in stone. Bottles have a hand pressed ‘wax seal’ Lids are cut wood. We have put a lot of time and money into the look, for it to be original and unique.

An insight into Maison Insens leads me to believe we really do have a place on the shelves for such a smouldering number of scents. From deep and dark animalics, indolic notes and dragons leather I couldn’t help feeling like scenting the characters from Game of Thrones with them in my mind!! Have you experienced the brand? I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Share this

About the author: Ainslie Walker

Ainslie Walker is a Jasmine Award winning freelance fragrance journalist and blogger. She has a background in spa skincare product development in London and after studying perfumery in three countries she now also creates fragrances for brands, individuals and products, teaches fragrance workshops and is currently based in Sydney, Australia.



    Advertisement — comments are below


      • hednic | 1st February 2017 12:06

        Love this house and enjoy all their offerings.