In the "What's That Smell?" series, I'll explain some of the less obvious perfume notes that crop up in many indie perfumes. Keep in mind my descriptions and comparisons are based on my own experiences and your impressions may not be the same. Perfume notes are NOT ingredients. They can be natural essences, artificial isolated compounds that imitate the natural substance, blended accords, or a combination. Therefore, the note you like in one perfume may be unrecognizable in another. As with all sensory, subjective things, your mileage may vary.
Common companion to myrrh, frankincense is another luscious tree resin that's been in use for centuries. Unlike myrrh and amber notes, which have a sweet character, frankincense is characterized by its freshness. There is quite a bit of variation among frankincense notes. Some skew more green and pine-like. Some are more bright and zesty, almost like lemon. Though it can be used in a variety of ways, I find frankincense to be a unisex/masculine note in general. It has a scent reminiscent of old-fashioned aftershave- a bit fresh and a bit spicy at the same time. Not a warm smell, like other resins. There's a cooling sensation from frankincense that is very soothing- like a cool shower on a sweltering hot night.
Frankincense does of course have a woodsy-resin tone, as it is a tree resin, but it's not warm or sweet. It's a very stately, elegant, clean scent. I think frankincense is a wonderfully versatile note that most people can enjoy. It has no cloying sweet or heavy vibes, so it's a very likable intro to resinous scents. If you like herbal, green, aquatic, or citrusy perfumes, frankincense is like the grown-up, deeper version of those notes.
To sum it up, frankincense smells like a combination of: citrus, pine, cool water, and soft wood.
Perfumes featuring frankincense:
- Deconstructing Eden Gentian House: This definitely highlights the masculinity of frankincense, while tempering it with softer notes. The lavender and violets lend a lightly floral feel to the elegant gentlemanly cologne of the frankincense and vetiver. A great crossover between incense/resin and fresh scents.
- Haus of Gloi Snow Wolf: Very fresh and bracing, this scent uses the pine-like nature of frankincense as a backup to actual pine/evergreen notes. Instead of smelling thin and fading fast, the green zestiness in this scent lasts for ages, thanks to the frankincense's depth. Please note this is a seasonal fragrance from Haus of Gloi, only available for Yule/Winter.
- NAVA Frankincense Ombré #4: A pure but complex frankincense blend, this combines multiple resin notes for a celebration of both the murky depth and the bright zinginess of frankincense.