Monday, April 26, 2010

Sonoma Scent Studio: Incense Pure

I hate the smell of incense burning. I've been over that new age scene since 1994. In perfumery, however, incense is an entirely different experience. The incense fragrances I own and love are YSL Nu (edp only, never, ever (ever!) bother with the edt), Parfum d'Empire Wazamba, Bond No. 9's Silver Factory and Etro Shaal Nur. I also have the Comme des Garcon's incense series but over time have grown bored with them. The CdG incense scents seem too realistic, too austere and too 'religious ceremony' for my own personal use.

If you've been reading me, you know that I'm a huge Sonoma Scent Studio fan-girl. I think everything Ms. Erickson creates is exceptional. I don't mean "exceptional for a small independent perfumer," I mean exceptional in the grand scheme of all perfume houses. I often think that if one were to slap some Serge Lutens labels on Ms. Erickson's work the entire perfume-fanatic world would be aflutter and her bottles would sell so fast, far and wide she'd never be able to keep up with production needs. Oh, and include some of that vaguely mysterious, must-try-to-decipher the hidden meaning Lutens pre-release marketing copy and Erickson would have to hire throngs of help otherwise her business would implode from success.

Incense Pure is another one of Erickson's brilliant creations. In fact, I think it's within my top 3 favorites from Sonoma Scent Studio (please don't ask me to list my top 3 favorites because this list of 3 is surely 6 in reality). OK, but now it feels like a dare so let me try:
1. Tabac Aurea
2. Vintage Rose
3. Winter Woods
4. Voile de Violette
5. Ambre Noir
6. Champagne de Bois (speaking of which reminds me of Chanel Bois de Iles but better. There's more sandalwood in CdB and zero turpentine. Apologies to BdI fans, and I do love BdI myself, it's just that Champagne de Bois is beautiful from the start while BdI takes at least an hour to warm up from turpentine to nice sandalwood on me).

And now I must insert Incense Pure into this list - I guess I'd wedge it between Winter Woods and Vintage Rose so it's within the top 3 as I suggested.

Anyway, I have the pleasure of occasionally sniffing Erickson's work while it's still in progress. With Incense Pure, I found the final perfume to be strikingly and beautifully different from the last in-progress vial I sniffed. Sometimes I'm not so sure Erickson is able to incorporate the various comments she receives from her in-progress sniff team. What does one do when the comments are all over the place? For the same perfume, she surely receives this set of feedback: "too sweet," "not sweet enough," "too dry," "too peppery," "not spicy enough..." and so on. Somehow Erickson manages to take all of these oftentimes opposing points of view and craft a final fragrance that knocks everyone off their feet. Maybe she casts a spell over us, I dunno.

Incense Pure is a clean, dry, refreshing, relaxing and natural world fragrance. It is all about incense yet it is not musty, smoky, dusty or dirty at all. Incense Pure (IP) makes me feel refreshed, as if I'm hiking in a nearby state park smelling fresh air, coniferous trees, bark, and the fresh smells of nature. Like I wrote about Wazamba, there is an inherently peaceful, meditative and self renewing feeling from smelling IP. While IP seems chock-full of dry, resinous incense and woods, I need to impress upon you how utterly airy and wearable it is. Somehow IP does not form a scent "wall" but an impression of airy permanence. Erickson definitely included dashes of vanilla and labdanum for a teensy amount of sweetness which gives IP a comforting and approachability factor. But if I didn't know vanilla was there, I can't say I smell it. I mostly smell frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood (and other woods) and a fresh coniferous quality. There are elements of IP that remind me of two of my favorite fragrances; the myrrh is reminiscent of the gorgeously dry yet sweet myrrh in Diptyque L'eau Trois and the frankincense reminds me of the drop dead gorgeous Amouage Lyric.

The notes for Incense Pure include frankincense, myrrh, cistus oil, labdanum absolute, sandalwood, natural oakmoss absolute, aged Indian patchouli, cedar, ambergris, orris, angelica root absolute, elemi oil, and vanilla absolute.


Marko said...

Abigail -
You got me started on this line with the glorious Voile de Violette (in fact, I was thinking I would wear Amaranthine today, but now I'm doubting my choice.....maybe it's time for a little SSS....) - and Incense Pure sounds like something up my alley (boy, my "alley" has become rather large the last few years...).

Anyway, thanks for the heads up on this scent - I'll place a sample order with SSS later today.


Prosetry said...

Oh excellent! I've been eying Sonoma Scent Studio for a while, but didn't know where to start! Like DSH oils, I can never find enough information or reviews about the houses to know which are considered the most successful. I'll probably be grabbing a few out of your top ten now. So thanks!

Incense Pure sounds lovely. I get tired of woody incense scents, but with added vanilla and labdanum and a certain airiness, it might be the incense I've been looking for.

Nathan Branch said...

Abigail -- I've been waiting to read your reaction to Incense Pure, as I know you're an Erickson fan and this latest release falls along a similar path as her Tabac Aurea, which you loved (similar meaning "dry, singular, unlike anything else" and not "the same as").

I get little to no sweetness from Incense Pure, which made it difficult for me to get a grasp on it initially, but after repeated wearings, its austere nature grew on me.

It's like the buddha of incense fragrances, stripped of excess though still somehow complex. And exceptionally dry.

Norma said...

Oh no! Shoot. I do *not* need another bottle of perfume. But, I'm the Shaal Nur girl (fount.ain.girl on POL) and now I'm convinced I need to at least try this.

You totally had me at 'sweet myrrh.' I am helpless before sweet myrrh.

Rappleyea said...

Hi! I was directed over here from Laurie's own blog. I just wanted to say that I'm another huge fan of her work, and I agree with your assessment that she's extremely talented and not "just for a small indie perfumer". Great review, and I think you captured the essence of the scent perfectly.

For anyone reading these comments and thinking about testing Incense Pure, I personally didn't find it nearly as dry as Nathan does. It had what I would call a certain chewy sweetness to it, without being even remotely gourmand. It is definitely one of my favorite fragrances.


ScentScelf said...

Looking at my sample now...remembering my first hit...

I'm another one that gets a sweet element from Incense Pure. YSL Nu is dry, as is the Diptyque incense offering. In my nose, at least, this one has that undercurrent of resiny sweetness.

I don't blame you for being a fan girl. I have a secret plan to find a way to get as much as I can from her line before she gets discovered and her prices put me in begging-for-a-split land.

Laurie's work and feedback process amazes me. I respect either approach...the artist deciding it is time to create, and going off to their garret and not returning until it is done; or the artist going off to their studio, inviting you over to see the work in process, workshopping it a bit, and then retiring to make it be done. There is a unique talent required for the latter approach, and Laurie's got it.

ScentScelf said...

Gah! Let me be clear...right now, Laurie's prices are an OUTSTANDING value! What I meant to say, and hope was heard as saying, is "when she is discovered and her prices go correspondingly higher."

OperaFan said...

Ditto on your acquisition strategy! I absolutely agree with your assessments. Not only is she extremely talented, but also an equally nice person.
I generally avoid dry, brittle "textured" fragrances. IP is drier than the original Encense Tranquille, but not parched in the burning or smoking sense. I also agree with Abigail that if I didn't know there was vanilla in the mix, I would never have guessed. This is a wonderful scent and effectively brings you into the naural world that Abigail described.