To cut to the chase: I’m not thrilled by Lavs.
Since its release, this scent has seen everything from serious praise to unenthused shrugs. In fact, when one of my friends who likes incense perfume as much as I do told me that he wasn't impressed by it, I thought he must have received the wrong sample given the scent’s buzz up until that point. For me, I think it gets a few things right, but not enough to win me over.
First, I’d be more inclined to describe this as a green-leaning soapy-clean scent with a tinge of metallic rootiness before I’d even utter the word “incense.” It's almost disinfectant-clean, but the cleanliness is closer to the laundry effect that you get from certain musks than the shampoo-in-the-mouth sensation that certain soapy accords can produce. It’s metallic and bitter, but it manages to stay on the right side of acerbic. What’s behind this is a specific aldehyde that’s used over and over in incense fragrances (as well as virtually all cleaning products that carry a “pine” smell). The aldehyde in question is immediately recognizable once you’ve smelled the note in isolation (C12 MNA), and it comes up in Avignon, Cardinal, La Liturgie des Heurres, Craft — pretty much every sharp, pine-ish incense fragrance on the market. It’s overdosed in Lavs to produce the clean effect as well as to bolster the green / metallic facets of the scent. But whereas an overdose of the stuff can easily send a fragrance into the realm of “pine car freshener,” here it’s mitigated by a wall of frankincense/olibanum’s distinct lemony facets and some elemi to further soften the sharp edges. Even though the dosage is far too high, the perfumer did a nice job of cushioning it within the scent.
For the first few hours (seriously), I find Lavs too sourly metallic to enjoy — almost to the point of scrubbing it off. But, over time, it softens up to reveal a nicely done, enduring amber-ish base that’s mainly ambrox-style chemicals merged with a smooth, anonymous resin accord. At this stage, Lavs is basically a good, durable incense without the harshness of the aldehyde. The cleanliness sticks around, and I can certainly see why this was used as a room / clothing spray in the past, but I don’t think it’s quite translated into a wearable incense perfume. There’s nothing smoky, nothing floral, nothing woody, nothing goth, nothing dramatic about it — it’s just a clean incense with a metallic tinge to it. The problem is that it takes hours to get to that point.
When compared to all the other fragrances in this style, it’s the cleanliness that makes it stand out. I wore Lavs for two consecutive days exclusively, and even in hot temperatures it kept its cool. And while there’s some depth to the scent, it’s got more than its fair share of the usual synthetic suspects in it as well. This isn’t a bad thing, but it really keeps the scent from elevating beyond Iso E / C12 hits like Bois d’Encens, Avignon, Cardinal etc. — it’s really just an elaboration of that same effect. In fact, Jo Malone (of all lines) just released a wholly unoriginal take on the same style, and I would harbor that it’s actually smoother than this. Also, I compared Lavs directly to Avignon (the touchstone, really), and I personally prefer Avignon simply because the patchouli note in that scent adds just the right earthy contrast to the bitterness of the C12. This has no contrast, and while it outperforms the CdG by a long stretch, I still prefer Avignon over this.
I don’t dislike Lavs, and I don’t think it’s a bad scent overall, but I think there are plenty of better options out there for incense fragrance (Sahara Noir, Avignon, Bois d’Encens etc). I’ve enjoyed spending time with this one and exploring its nuances, and I’m glad that I finally got to check it out, but ultimately it’s left me cold.