This originally appeared on my older blog, Blessed Depth. Updated Sept 2020.
In July 2011 Marla at Perfume-Smellin’ Things blogged about perfumes featuring frankincense, a component of incense which, according to a 2008 research study that somehow completely missed me, is a psychoactive agent that can affect depression and anxiety.
Apparently history is full of censer-swinging dope fiends: the use of frankincense, aka oliban or olibanum, goes back all the way to the ancient Egyptians. In addition to the usual religious ceremonial uses, it has been used to “benumb the senses” of condemned prisoners, among other applications. We will ignore the research paper’s reference to an ancient Greek rumor about it causing madness.
As I read the discussion between Marla and her commenters about their favorite frankincense or incense scents, I realized that most of my favorite perfumes are of this type. Here’s a list of the ones they mention:
Avignon, Kyoto, and Cardinal (that’s three different scents) by Comme des Garcons
Encens Flamboyant by Annick Goutal
Encens et Lavande by Serge Lutens
Incense Pure by Sonoma Scent Studio
L’air du Desert Morocain by Tauer Perfumes
Oliban by Keiko Mecheri
Om by Miller et Bertaux
Messe de Minuit by Etro
Passage d’Enfer by L’Artisan
And here are two of my favorites:
Shaal Nur by Etro
Eau de Gloire by Parfum d’Empire
To my nose, incense scents are more unisex, so if you are or know an adventuresome male, you might want to give them a try. You can get small, inexpensive samples of most of the ones mentioned here at the Perfumed Court, a perfume decant seller. Samples average about $6 and come in wee little vials. Shipping is around $6 per order. YMMV. Larger-sized samples are also available, in case you find a perfume you like but don’t want to shell out $150 on a new bottle you won’t use up anyway.
I did not find Oliban or Incense Pure at the Perfumed Court. As of Sept 2020, the latter was available at Sonoma Scent Studio for $5 a sample.
The Perfumed Court also has a frankincense sampler set, or if you’re feeling independent you can do a site search for frankincense and/or incense and do your own exploring.