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May 17, 2020

All About Incense Fragrances!

Brown wooden table with candles and incense.

Thinking of incense, we connate it with something smoky, something that burns, which ironically is exactly the translation of its name from Latin, ‘incendere’,to burn’. Falling into either the group of ‘resins and balsams’, or the ‘woody’ family, when reading the notes of incense in perfume, it most commonly refers to Olibanum and Frankincense, and are considered a resinous balsamic facet of the group.

The addition of this ingredient into your perfume is tantalising and irresistible and would give your composition, originality, depth, and lingering quality. Bold, yet beautiful, waxy, woody, spicy, and even peppery; its scent is often reminiscent of wood bark, and fondly used in oriental fragrances.

A Little History

A hand lighting a stick of incense.

Mentioned even in the Old Testament, where it was revealed to be purchased from the Kingdom of Saba or Sheba, in southern Arabia, and the land of modern-day Yemen; it explained that incense was created from the precious gums and resins sourced and produced by male trees called Boswellia Sacra. With thousand-year-old relics still being uncovered all over the world, now it is found in Oman, Yemen, and Somalia.

As one of the oldest scents, it has touched and played a vast role in different cultures and religions and has travelled through centuries; with the discovery and admiration for this ingredient to have initially begun in ancient Egypt. There it played a prominent role in their religion, medicine, and even for magic, and protection against the evil spirits of the ancient world.

Closely associated with divinity; it was used, with great importance in the three daily services for the Gods, burned and used as an offering. Once at sunrise, once in the middle of the day, and once at sunset. Moreover, incense was fondly used at funeral rituals, where it was presented to the deceased as a powerful offering. For instance, when the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered, archaeologists had found incense around his mummified body.

Travelling across the Mediterranean, the ancient Greeks had a scientific approach and reasoning for the ingredient's use. Following the footsteps of Hippocrates (460-377 B.C), father of modern medicine; he recognised that the burning of certain aromatic materials, or plants, would provide protection against contagious diseases. Legend says that Hippocrates put this into practice with the use of incense burners when he fumigated and freed the streets of Athens from the plague.  

Contrastingly, the Japanese culture believed that the aroma of incense purifies the mind and body, whilst improving communication, bringing moments of peace, and treating depression and loneliness. In addition, during the 10th century, it was also used to perfume the hair and clothes of Japanese courtesans.

Travelling just slightly south, incense was first imported to China around 200AD, seemingly travelling along the Silk Road. During the period of the Tang dynasty (618-607), the use of incense essential oils slowly transitioned from a spiritual or medical tool to an everyday item used by the general public. It was, in fact, the Chinese, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who developed the first incense stick. Soon the practice of burning incense had widespread fame, and even China’s greatest philosopher, Confucius, believed that a perfect government “must inhale an odor of incense”.  With a great reputation in China, it was vastly influential in the south too, with even a city, ‘Hong Kong’, which from the Chinese, literally translates as “incense port”.  

Focusing on its impact on religion; for Buddhists specifically, incense symbolizes the fragrance of purity and moral conduct and is popularly used in Buddhist temples and monasteries during worship, as well as an offering. Even for Christians, incense is an emblem of the religion. For instance, taking the story of the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus after birth, they came bearing gifts, all of which had spiritual meaning; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Where Can I Find Incense?

With such an interesting story and history attached to the ingredient alone, it is no wonder why you can find it in the most iconic perfume compositions. From Shalimar by Guerlain, to Opium by YSL, or Nuit Tresor by Lancôme; there is no denying that incense, takes you on an olfactory journey, and plays a critical role in the sensuality and mysteriousness of the fragrances, whilst producing iconic, world-desired, and admired perfumes!

Our Recommended Mixes

Although some say incense can be too empowering, too heavy, or too deep, thus suggesting using it only as a base note; at Maison 21G we couldn’t disagree more! Be daring, be adventurous, and mix your desired ingredients along with our IMMORTAL INCENSE fragrance to produce the most divine custom perfumes!

A duo that works hand in hand for our ladies; IMMORTAL INCENSE and the VANILLA VENUS fragrance. Woody, and resinous, the natural sweetness enhances the femininity of the fragrance. A tempting sensual intoxication, that is complemented by a twist of spice, creating a voluminous perfume that will surely be your potent weapon of seduction!

If, however, you seek a scent that embodies sophistication, then IMMORTAL INCENSE and the scent of TUBEROSE TRIBUTE is the mix for you. Bold, clean, smoky, daring, and velvet-like; the white floralcy of the Tuberose softens the edges of the Incense. A single spray and you will find this fragrance as the force behind your confidence. A perfect wear for the everyday.  

Lastly, we couldn’t resist recommending the elixir of IMMORTAL INCENSE and our SAGE SUPREME perfume. The collaboration of untamed natural freshness, and warm, hypnotic spice, and yet, another every-day wear, is surely something that will turn heads. Clean, sexy, bold, and magnifique; what more do you need from your perfume?

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