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  1. #1
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    mikeperez23's Avatar
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    Default How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    A friend of mine is becoming more and more interested in fragrances - and I'm helping him get his 'feet wet' by making him samples of scents from my wardrobe and talking to him about scents a lot. He has a pretty good nose already - but tonight he was complaining about his Gucci Pour Homme which he recently purchased because he said 'the tobacco was too strong in it.' This surprised me for a few reasons: 1) This guy used to be a smoker and why the hell would tobacco bother him 2) He loves Guerlain Vetiver and that scent has a LOT of tobacco 3) I don't think Gucci Pour Homme has tobacco in it.

    I asked him if GPH smelled like cedar to him? He said no. Pencil shavings? No, he said. Does it smell like leather to you (it does to me...)? No. Then I said, 'well GPH has incense in it!'.

    I happened to be wearing Avignon by Comme des Garcons tonight. I asked him to smell me and tell me if he smelled incense...he leaned it, took a good whiff of my neck and his eyes brightened. 'Incense! Yes, you smell just like incense', he said.

    He and I made a breakthrough for him. His nose (maybe due to his smoking) was interpreting incense as tobacco - when in fact, it was a realistic incense note that CdG Incense series is known for, including frankincense, and many other elements. I got to thinking...maybe some Basenoters (including me) make the same mistake.

    So - how would you describe incense, smoke and tobacco - and what differentiates them from each other?
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

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  2. #2

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Incense tends to be dark and rich, and most closely associated in my ex-Catholic mind, with aloes wood, frankincense and myrrh. Benzoin too, of course, and sometimes copal. (Had I been brought up Greek Orthodox, I might have said much of the same plus orange blossom, cinnamon, geranium, rose and more. Had I been brought up Buddhist, my idea of incense would lean far more heavily on the aloes wood, the sandalwood etc.)

    "Smoke" to me indicates burning wood smoke, or sometimes burning leaves, but this is only my first thought. As we all know, smoke can run the olfactory gamut.

    Tobacco? Depends. You have fresh, pure tobacco (e.g., Feuilles de Tabac, The Dreamer) and stale, dirty tobacco (e.g., Sung pour Homme).
    Last edited by tvlampboy; 23rd October 2007 at 03:34 AM.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Maybe the noses of us fragrance newbs smell things differently from someone who's experienced? I'm having a similar problem getting a hold on what a "leather" note is; though I can spot a broad similarity between that type of fragrance, I cannot identify the unifying note. Tabac Blond, Cuiron Pour Homme and Knize Ten are all supposedly leather, but smell miles apart to my nose.
    Personally, incense to me is sandalwood, frankincense, myrhh, copal and benzoin. I've never been fortunate enough to smell Oud, so I can't comment there. I've smelled conifer resins burnt as incense, but they aren't "incense" to me; I'd class them more as forest or wood scents.
    Smoke would be anything that smelled like burning; almost always present in charcoal burnt incense, not very much in the stick kind. Anything can be burnt, so I suppose anything can have a smoky edge.
    Though I know what different kinds of tobacco smell like - most of my family were smokers - I don't know how this is rendered in perfume.

  4. #4

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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Incense gives an instant church/temple association, tobacco notes are rich and warm and remind me of the delicious smell of someone smoking pipe, smoke... that's the hardest to describe, it's, well, smoky.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    If I recall correctly, according to Scentemental Czech & Speake Frankincense & Myrrh (I havent had a chance to try it yet) contains the highest quality incense note in any of the currently available niche fragrances.
    -

  6. #6

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    My take is, tobacco is an unmistakable single note while incense and smoke are composite/subjective notes. I realize there can be fresh tobacco, tobacco flower, etc. But tobacco is all about tobacco resin.
    Last edited by Kevin Guyer; 24th October 2007 at 05:44 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Incense is easily ingrained into my head after visiting a buddhist temple or two back in the day. Smoke is easy enough to refer to given any type of burning wood. And tobacco is the one I would associate with just wanting to bite down into it as far as nasal passage sensations are concerned. Always associated the secondhand of it as a flavor.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    For me, incense is primarily a sweet, resiny smell. It should have some overtones of sap, and be slightly green or bitter. Incense in fragrances never smells burnt, like the burnt-gum residue of spent frankincense in a thurible, but more like the essential oil of the oleoresin. For me the classic incense note is the gum resin: frankincense, myrrh, opopanax, benzoin, copal, maybe even camphor or elemi. The gum is right out of the picture; it's the oil of the resin component that is isolated for the perfumer's use. The commonplace referents for this: the CdG series, Villoresi Incensi (minus the apple note), Messe de Minuit, Passage d'Enfer.

    On the other hand, my take on fresh tobacco leaf is that it evokes a leafier smell, a slightly drier note than green leaves, with a bit of the floral remaining in the background. To me, a perfumer's tobacco doesn't smell like sniffing an unlit cigarette or cigar, but rather has something in it reminiscent of the kind of basenote fixative we have in orris root, slightly earthy with overtones of a rounder, milder pungency. Some referents for tobacco: basenote in Guerlain Vétiver, Very Valentino Homme, Feuilles de Tabac.

    Smoke, in my book, is a wood tar smell, birch tar most typically, and is characteristic of some leather or leather-chypre scents. For this some reference indices would be Etro Palais Jamais, MPG Eau des Îles. In something like Fumerie Turque or
    Caron Tabac Blond, the tobacco and the smoke notes are played off against each other; the tobacco is sweeter and fresher, the smoke darker and more tar-like.

    These darker basenotes do get used together in a certain number of scents. It may help to try to identify them where they are used more in isolation in order to get a clearer scent profile.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 23rd October 2007 at 06:00 AM.
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  9. #9

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Hmmmm, what scents have a smoke smell to them? I must investigate. Is there anything in my wardrobe currently that has smoke associated with it?

    TNMA
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  10. #10

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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    When I think of tabacco I think of pipe tabacco before it goes into the pipe. Totally different from the already smoked tabacco.

    Things get more complicated with smoke/ incense since a lot of associations are with the smell of incense as it burns i.e. from smoke. C&S Frankinense and Myrrh, Messe de Minuit and Monk all have a cool resinous unburnt smell of incense that I like alot. Avignon and Zagorsk smell like traditional cgurch incense--too site specific and literal for me.

    One of favs is Dzongkha and it smells like smokey incense. Others might just say it smells like charred twigs or smoke without associating it with incense per se.

    on my list to try Kamali Cremony or Incense and LV incensi.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Quote Originally Posted by thenmarcher View Post
    Hmmmm, what scents have a smoke smell to them? I must investigate. Is there anything in my wardrobe currently that has smoke associated with it?

    TNMA
    I think your wardrobe is smoke-less TNMA, well...except for the 'smoky' vibe you might get from M7 (to me it smells like burning rubber...but not everyone get's this)
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

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  12. #12

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    How do you not differentiate between these? Even where there is room for interpretation, they're three different things, with distinct smells.

    Of course, if you don't know what those smells are, it would be impossible to identify them and I suspect that's the OP's friend's problem. Tobacco is probably the hardest one since it often refers to the fresh material which most people are never exposed to and which only smells somewhat like the dried material (and that before anything is added to scent or flavor the tobacco). As always, the best way to learn is to find the unblended materials and smell them, but I suppose this isn't always practical...

  13. #13

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I think your wardrobe is smoke-less TNMA, well...except for the 'smoky' vibe you might get from M7 (to me it smells like burning rubber...but not everyone get's this)
    Interesting, what scents have smoke in them? I'm actually recalling a Tauer scent that I think was supposed to be smoky. I'm not so sure I'd want to smell like smoke though.

    TNMA
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Quote Originally Posted by thenmarcher View Post
    Interesting, what scents have smoke in them? I'm actually recalling a Tauer scent that I think was supposed to be smoky. I'm not so sure I'd want to smell like smoke though.

    TNMA
    This thread should answer your question TNMA: http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=187212

    I think the Tauer scent you're referring to is either Lonestar Memories (smoke and peat) and/or L Air du Desert Marocain (tar). A new lovely smoky scent is Black Tourmaline by Olivier Durbano.
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  15. #15

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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Pretty interesting thread...... I've been on an Incense kick of late and i'm slowly taking to the benzoin in Body Kouros which had instantly repelled me off earlier. I also love the Incense in Tumulte and CDG2.. both of which are sweet and calming (meditative?).

    My untrained nose even finds the use of the vanilla + musk + the dates accord in John Varvatos almost Incense like in it's implementation.


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  16. #16
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    of what i have so far in my wardrobe...the way i refer to....

    incense - Body Kouros, Gucci PH & Pour lui to an extent - i think the benzoin content is givin away tht feel...
    Smoky - declaration
    dirty Tobbaco - lagerfeld classic...i have trouble identifying tobacco leaf or clean tobacco...coz i have never smelled one in real life...only dried tobacco leaf...

  17. #17
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Incense I usually describe as an earthy resinous accord that is dry and "husky" at the back of the thoat.

    Smoke I often describe as something that has a sharp burnt carbon-infused quality(eg: the strains detected in Bvlgari Pour Homme).

    Tobacco is an accord in its own right - it is both dry and lush at the same time. More vegetal than smokey.
    Last edited by Sorcery of Scent; 29th May 2008 at 08:13 AM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Incense: has to deal with baslams and resins burnt, it's more of a high register like a metallic string sound, like a hit in the root of your nose.

    Smoke: has to deal with woody, mineral notes, it's a base register like a horn sound, with a thick primitive smell.

    Tobacco: probably the sweeter, warmer and rounder of the three notes, it has to deal with vegetal and aromatic notes and it's a heart note usually. It's like playing a cello.

  19. #19

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    This thread should answer your question TNMA: http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=187212

    I think the Tauer scent you're referring to is either Lonestar Memories (smoke and peat) and/or L Air du Desert Marocain (tar). A new lovely smoky scent is Black Tourmaline by Olivier Durbano.
    I'll second the Black Tourmaline - it's like someone lit CdG Avigon and captured the resultant smoke. Lonestar Memories is the smokey one in Andy Tauer's line.

    You could also try CB I Hate Perumes' Burning Leaves, or Diptyque's John Galliano (a room fragrance but very wearable).

    One of my favourite smokey scents is Fracas for Men, which is rich and smoke-tinged, but not like an ashtray or cold hearth.

  20. #20

    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    I didn't enjoy what I perceived to be incense in Memoire d'Homme, but I do like Gucci PH and Tumulte, which strike me as more woody than anything else. Does M d'H have a stronger incense note than the other two?
    Thanks.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: How do you differentiate incense, smoke and tobacco?

    Incense, to me, runs the gamut from the very austere pure frankincense of Avignon to the balsamic sweetness of Labdanum 18, with Timbuktu being somewhere in the middle (but generally closer to Avignon.)

    Tobacco is found in its unlit form in both Creed Tabaromes and in Jasmin et Cigarette, and the ashtray is in Bandit EdT.

    Smoke can run the whole gamut between Incense and Tobacco; for smoky tobacco, Fumerie Turque represents. The opening notes of Timbuktu smell like smoke from frankincense, though later there is more incense and less smoke.

    Black Tourmaline is like smoke from a wood fire and the best example I can think of of a non-incense, non-tobacco smoke scent.

    edit: GPH to me is frankincense and cedar, no tobacco at all.
    Last edited by zatarain; 29th May 2008 at 07:04 PM.
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