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Thread: Incense Note

  1. #1

    Default Incense Note

    I read about an incense note, but when I think about it, there really is no such thing as an incense note. Incense is a delivery method for fragrance, just like perfume is. And just like perfume, incense can contain things like vanilla, sage, musk, rose, lavender, patchouli, sandalwood, benzoin, labdanum, frankincense, amber, and even coconut. But I doubt that coconut and lavender would ever be used by a perfumer as an "incense note."

    So I'm wondering what fragrance range is used by perfumers to represent an "incense note." Maybe a combination of the most common wood or resin notes found in incense? Or a synthetic that gives the impression of this combination?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Incense Note

    Yes, "incense" generally means frankincense and other resins when you're speaking of the fragrance note. I agree that descriptions should be more accurate. But that's what you should be looking/smelling for in various forms(e.g. in Nemo, Passage D'Enfer, Kouros).
    What you're referring to as a delivery method is a common way of referring to
    the act of *burning* incense sticks. Yes, other scents (lavender, rose, "moonlight", B.S., etc.) are used in the burning form but that's not necessarily incense. Most of the time it's not even scented incense and there's really no incense in them. They're just smoky alternatives to air fresheners. It's only a common use the word to describe all burning sticks. Like using the word "Kleenex" when you want to say "tissue."
    True frankincense naturally comes in [dried] drops and is burnt over coal.
    Currently wearing: Zen for Men by Shiseido

  3. #3
    trumpet_guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Incense Note

    Norma Kamali's Incense fragrance is, I am told, heavy on copal. There's
    another incense note for you. Kamali's fragrance is decent, if not quite
    as good as some others. Worth smelling if you are ever in New York City.
    Stop by her boutique.
    Currently wearing: JF by Floris

  4. #4

    Default Re: Incense Note

    "Incense" note or scent just came to me lately. I meant that it's a recent olfactory taste that just developed over time. I had the chance to visit Scent Bar this week and smelled Avignon by Comme de Garcons. I also tested "Fvmidvs" by Profumum Roma and I liked--smokey and definitely has incense notes it but I still preferred Norma Kamali incense. Here's a link to other incense fragrance and their breakdowns.

    Hope it helps.
    "A great perfume is a work of art, it can lift our days, haunt our nights and create the milestones of our memories. Fragrance is liquid emotion. And that never goes out of fashion. " MICHAEL EDWARDS

  5. #5

    Default Re: Incense Note

    True incense is made by Frankinscense and is the one burned in burners over coals in the roman catholic and orthodox church.I t is in little lumps that if you press them in your hands they have some go, they're kinda gummy.
    I like it and burn some in my house whenever I can. (buy it from monasteries)
    Has no relation whatsoever with those dreaded incense sticks which usually smell nothing but incense.

    When perfumers talk about an incense note, they refer to resinous notes that are used for aromatizing incense (myyrh, labdanum etc), but the exact nuance is anyone's guess (and sampling).

    I suggest you explore the Comme des Garcons Incense series for a good take on incense and its differences if you haven't already.
    The closest of them to true ecclesiastical incense is Avignon.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Incense Note

    Of course there is an incense note! Anything that is traditionally burned as incense qualifies. I find that in perfumes, an incense note is usually a resin like frankincense or myrrh but it is a real note.

    I just tried a new incense scent called Cardinal by Heeley. It compares very closely to Avignon by CDG. It is a striking fragrance with frankincense and patchouli. I found it very long lasting with great sillage. I also tried their new scent that is supposed to smell like Tiger Balm. Very interesting as well.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Incense Note

    Oliban by Keiko Mecheri is the most like Frankincense to me. And I guess the incense note in Dia is somewhat close to Frankincense. But the incense in CdG Avignon and CdG Ouarzazate seems to have none of this feel. More like spicy woody, and possibly closer to some of the incense from Eastern traditions.

    Anyway, I've been thinking about this more. And maybe the incense note in perfume is any of a number of odors that remind the consumer of incense, be it from the Western or Eastern traditions. And I guess this makes incense a real note, just like there can be a green note.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Incense Note

    Quote Originally Posted by aubrgene
    Here's a link to other incense fragrance and their breakdowns.
    Interesting article. Thanks.

    BTW, recently got samples for the CdG incense series. I fail to connect Kyoto to incense. But maybe that association is there for others.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Incense Note

    I agree, the term "incense" is too vague. If they mean frankincense, they should just say it... There are some very high quality incenses, mostly out of japan, some of which is very expensive. Check out the japanese products over at Dharma craft:

    If you enjoy rich, complicated scents, you should def. try some of these. They are very much like perfumes in that they blend scents in order to achieve different "feels" of smell. With many of the incenses, the name refers to the image that is brought about by the scent, not what it smells like.

    When I think of incense notes, I usually think of a scented smoke. Smokiness is critical IMO if it is going to be called an incense note.


  10. #10
    Aiona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Incense Note

    I too am a little confused about the word "incense" as a note.

    When I think of incense, I think of that little metal ball that our Roman Catholic priest would swing back and forth as he walked up the aisle on Good Friday. Stanky stuff. But I've smelled this in some perfumes, and it adds a really interesting touch. I'm guessing that this particular incense is the "frankincense" people are talking about.

    I smell this in Montana Parfum d'Homme (red box) (vintage). I also smell it in CDG 2 Man (not Man). I also smell it in John Varvatos John Varvatos (for men) although I just now figured out what I'm really smelling is cedar.

    Contrast that with Messe de Minuit, which everyone keeps saying smells of incense. If so, maybe it's a myrrh incense? Cuz I don't get the frankincense kind of incense out of it.

    And then there's the Berkeley/Haight Ashbury kind of incense. That's all patchouli or nag champa to me. Completely different kind of incense, and one I'm not particularly fond of, as it tended to be associated with other unpleasant smells.

    I recently bought some sandalwood incense for my godsister. I really like sandalwood incense too. But I don't consider sandalwood fragrances to be "incense" fragrances.
    Last edited by Aiona; 18th January 2009 at 01:42 AM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Incense Note

    Perfume -> Through smoke.

    The most traditional forms of incense share some common notes and ingredients. Many resins used in incenses are actually too similar to distinguish between, so some of us have a hard time discerning between Myrrh, Frankincense and plain Cedar resin. Given these circumstances, I think it is valid to say there is an "incense" note*. I have an uncle who has collection of incenses he has bought around the world (CdG, you are not as original as you think). The curious thing is that I cannot deconstruct the notes of his incenses like he does (it's not like I can do a side by side comparison), and he cannot deconstruct perfumes like I do. A possible explanation is that we are just a pair of posers and we know jack about notes, but lets assume that is not the case .

    Some of the most prominent and common ingredients for incense are:
    Frankincense, Myrrh, Cedar, Bensoin, Nutmeg, Opoponax, Dragon's blood, (Not sure what this is and it smells more spicy than woody) and Copal (I am not sure how to translate this, but this is the el cheapo version of Frankincense used in Mexico). So eventhough coconut can be used in incense, it is not as widely used and not as smelly as most of these wood resins.

    Aiona, perhaps part of the differences you smell between the sandalwood used for incense and the sandalwood used for perfumes is the method of extraction. The first may be a resin (probably) and the essential oil is obtained through steamed distillation.

    *Some newbies say that there is a "perfumey" note, when they refer to aldehydes, which I think it is justified since their prominent use in feminine perfumes. Moreover, when we say aldehydes, most of us refer to a very specific set of aromachemicals used to create soft-floral and floral-oriental notes. In reality, aldehydes are a chemical family with a relative wide range of scents.
    Last edited by irish; 18th January 2009 at 03:08 AM.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Incense Note

    From what I understand now (if I'm correct), strong geranium can create a very "perfumey" quality, but some might say this about frags that are loaded with aldehydes. Think Kouros vs. Iquitos here. As to incense, there are joss stick frags, like Jacomo Rouge, and then there are resinous insense frags, like Visit for him (which reminds me of a stack of clothing from people who haven't bathed in a long time, and who had worn those clothes for weeks). Then there's Barbara Bui, which is somewhat joss stick, but also like a sharp yet heavy dust, possibly due to a strong sandalwood note in there. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Bigsly; 18th January 2009 at 03:40 AM.

  13. #13
    Aiona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Incense Note

    Quote Originally Posted by irish View Post
    Aiona, perhaps part of the differences you smell between the sandalwood used for incense and the sandalwood used for perfumes is the method of extraction. The first may be a resin (probably) and the essential oil is obtained through steamed distillation.
    Thanks for the list of incensey notes, Irish.

    The sandalwood I smell in incense *is* the same as the sandalwood I smell in fragrances. It's just that semantically, incense != sandalwood to me. I think of "frankincense" when I hear the word "incense" as a listed note. I guess that's where my confusion comes in, because perhaps others are referring to myrrh or even oud when they say "incense." Because isn't oud wood burned as incense?

  14. #14
    Aiona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Incense Note

    Just as a marker, here's another thread started by chloefpuff about frankincense versus "incense," with links to a web log that reviews a lot of incense-containing scents.


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