Perfume Pen Pals: Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyante vs. Armani Prive Bois d'Encens


My Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant arrived in the mail this afternoon and it smelled differently than I had expected it to, more crisp autumn woods than priest swinging a censer. Why did I think I was getting a priest swinging a censer?

I re-watched your review and re-read Tania Sanchez's review and neither of you mentioned any priests.

Anyway, it's lovely, it duplicates nothing in my collection, and I can totally understand why it would work well with exercise, because it has none of that priest-y oppressiveness.

Yes, I'm talking to you, Comme des Garçons Avignon. And you too, Father Feely. (Can you believe my childhood priest was named "Feely"? Though the only thing we saw him feel for were bottles of wine. He was an old drunk.)

So while Encens Flamboyant surprised me, it wasn't an unwelcome surprise because, all things considered, I'd rather be outside than in church.



Yeah! What part of "Smokey the Bear in a pine forest" did you not you understand? Encens F is so wonderful! I wanted to buy it immediately upon first smelling it, and employed great willpower not to. I figured I already had a million incenses.

But EF does that marvelous pine/ash/sweet thing, not priest-y, like you say, and it hums along forever. It's a very warm -- yet crisp -- and friendly incense.

Hooray for a successful horizontal purchase.



I had forgotten! You have, what, a thousand videos now?

Oh, and it's "Smokey Bear", and not "Smokey the Bear." Look it up.

One of the (many) ways I was annoying as a child (and now an adult), was that I'd correct people when they'd say "Smokey the Bear." Like I was the arbiter of fictional-character names.



Wow, even that Smokey Bear Wikipedia entry was pedantic. But you inspired me to track down a bunch of old Smokey Bear PSAs on YouTube, and a lot of them are really disturbing. Like this one:

All this incense talk nudged me to get out my Armani Privé Bois d'Encens samp, and that one also lives in Encens Flamboyante's cedar forest, rather than the priest dorm. Bois d'Encens seems to fade out pretty fast, though, and doesn't have the nice sweet warmth of the Goutal. But I would definitely buy it if I found it at T.J. Maxx, the way all those Basenoters keep bragging that they do.



I've got a T.J. Maxx two blocks from me and the only thing I've ever found there are damaged Polo gift sets. I've read those Basenotes braggarts, too, and apparently all the good stuff is getting funneled out to the boonies. Which is fine. The boonies need love like everyone else does.



I wore Armani Bois d'Encens again yesterday at Pilates, and decided that I agree with the "hamster cage" complaints I read on the boards. It's a little too uncomplicatedly cedar-chippy.



Hamster cage is the same as pencil shavings, right? I kind of like hamster cage, though it does tend to take over. Imagine what it's like for the poor hamsters. It's not like they can just take a shower and hop into a different-smelling cage.

A freshly-showered hamster.

Though if a hamster ever moved out of its cage, I bet it would eventually like cedar perfumes because they'd remind it of home. Unless it moved out under difficult circumstances. I guess it all depends on the hamster.


Sad hamster via


  1. I can honestly say that I have absolutely no idea what incense smels like (or vetiver for that matter). Would burnt matches plus hamster be a fair description? Plus a pine tree, perhaps? Just for educational purposes.

  2. Oh man, incense fragrances? Don't get me started. Although, for my money - the greatest of all time has to be Andy Tauer's Incense Extreme.

    Much in the way that Shalimar is the scent of dusk, Incense Extreme is the smell of a winter's day when it's completely dead silent and huge, fat, swirling snowflakes are descending all around you. The slo-mo kind of snow. Narnia snow.

    Completely off-topic, though - yesterday I went to Nordstrom and discovered they carry Jo Malone now, whose work I'd never had a chance to sample. Well, Nordstrom took care of me! Went home with a tidy JM bag filled with several samples - Black Vetyver Cafe, Mandarin Lime Basil, Sweet Lime and Cedar, Sweet Mint and Sweet Lemon and Pomegranate Noir.

    Amazing, amazing stuff - anyone who can blend this well has my loyalty.

  3. Do you know what the note is in Encens F that for me, makes it almost identical to EL's Estee? It's not incense, but it's sharp and almost hurts my nose. Thank you.

  4. Incense will always remind me of the hippie headshops in the 70's -- I don't know what they all burned, but it smelled great and I've never found a modern incense that smells as good. Or maybe it was just the associations! Some of the out-front incenses, like Avignon, simply don't seem to belong on skin, at least my skin. But as an ingredient in a fragrance mix they can be great. Nu is one of my favorite vintages.

    1. it was grass man :) that's what they burned in the 70's, no wonder it made you feel good!

  5. Stefush's comments about Narnia snow scents remind me of Guerlain AA Winter Delice, which features fir trees, scotch pine, balsam, somalian incense, sugar and vanilla. It's such a winter scent, or really a Christmas scent, that I would be embarrassed to wear it after mid-January.

    In fact, as good as it smells (kind of like overdosing on gingerbread then shoving your head into the Christmas tree) I'm not sure that it should be worn at all. Probably just spritzed around the house as a room spray, as some Basenoters have commented. But I wear it for a few days around the holidays and get a lot of compliments, despite my ambivalence.

  6. Melisand61 - I would wear the living hell out of that! ANYTHING that reeks of living trees - anything with fir, pine, cypress, balsam, you name it. I love stuff like that.

    In fact, if you do the scented soap trip, you have to get Dante Nesti's Cipresso soap. Epically redolent of fresh trees and one of the all-time greatest ways to wake up while showering ever given to Man.

  7. Stefush-Yup, it's tree-scented, but it's also incense and gingerbread scented. It's so winter-y that it makes me giggle. Some people can't tolerate it.

  8. Last night I was thinking - if you had to choose only five perfumes to live with forever what would you choose? Shalimar, L'Air de Rien, L'Ombre Dans L'Eau, Fleurs de Bulgarie, and Encens Flamboyante.

    And yeah, ask me that same question in a few months...I'm so fickle!

  9. I had a hamster as a young teenager. There, I admit it. But I always thought it smelled like peanut butter. So does this perfume (or any?) smell like peanut butter? Good to know what I should avoid.

    Katie, I loved your pic of the freshly-washed hamster. He looks a little startled by his closeup. And consequently, a lot bigger than I remember mine to be. Sure that isn't a guinea pig?

  10. SoS - we had a hamster too - named "Hamlet". I freaked when he escaped and we thought it went down the drain in the basement - thankfully it was only a piece of rag ...phew!

  11. Junelady,

    There are different kinds of incenses, depending on the trees or shrubs which produces the resin. But frankincense starts off smelling sharp, piney, and little lemony, and then more woody-smokey. No hamster inflection, or indeed any animalic aspect, which makes it ideal for keeping worshipers' minds on the spiritual as they meditate.

  12. Stefush,

    "Narnia snow!" Perfect. You have a way with a phrase.

    The Jo Malone line does have some real winners in there. I used to have a bottle of Lime Basil Mandarin (in my other life when I wore "fresh" fragrances), and not only does it smell great, but it's oddly persistent for a citrus scent. I plan to do a video review of that one. I like Red Roses and Orange Blossom, too.

  13. Katie, I'm relieved to hear that hamster notes are not part of the frankincense experiende.
    Are there any mainstream fragrances available that feature frank(incense)?

  14. stagnantki,

    I haven't smelled Estée, so I couldn't guess at the smell-alike note. Anyone else?


    I'm thinking the official 70s headshop incense was probably Nag Champa, which is pretty distinctive and does smell great. It strikes me as quite rich and fruity, as opposed to pine-resiny.

    I love a Nag Champa note in a perfume. It's there in Parfumerie Generale Intrigant Patchouli, Lolita Lempicka Fleur de Corail, and Jean Deprez Bal à Versailles. I've explored a few straight up Nag Champa oils, but they're too unsubtle for me.

    I never got to try Nu.

  15. melisand61 & Stefush,

    Don't know Winter Delice! But Stefush, do you know Satellite Padparadscha? That's a whole resiny "foresty tree" smell right there, along with mmmm sandalwood. Sap-y, not sappy.

  16. Bloody Frida,

    I could probably live with your list for a good long while, as it happens. But at some stage, I'd need a little air in that stuffy musky/smokey/rosy room.

    Here's what I'd choose today:
    Amouage Ayoon al Maha
    L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant
    Parfumerie Generale Intrigant Patchouli
    Diptyque L'Eau Trois
    People of the Labyrinths A*Maze

    Okay, so it turns out that I'm still in a smokey/stuffy/rosy room.

    Stefush, you might go for L'eau Trois as another piney, living shrubs + myrrh to enjoy.

  17. SoS,

    Armani Bois d'Encens only conjured the cedar chips of the hamster cage on that particular wearing, and not the actual hamster. Although I just sprayed on a bit of my sample to check it out, and it does have a bit of a furry feel to it, edging towards the way Etro Messe de Minuit smells animalic. But no actual peanut buttery hamster.

    For peanut butter perfume, you'd have to go to L'Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine.

    Oh, and you can click on the Sad Hamster link at the bottom of the post to see a whole gaggle of adorable photos of this "Golden Syrian Hamster", as it apparently is, including this one:

  18. Junelady,

    I always struggle to come up with suggestions for mainstream incense perfumes, because we're currently living in a vanilla juicebox world when it comes to mall perfumes. But the following mainstream fumes do contain varying degrees of the smokey stuff:
    Lolita Lempicka Fleur de Corail (Nag Champa, not frankincense)
    Laura Mercier Minuit Enchante perfume oil (limited edition from a year or so ago)
    Gucci pour Homme (in the black & white checked box)
    Kenzo Flower Oriental

    Can anyone suggest other mainstream incense perfumes?

  19. Katie, thanks for clearing up the non-hamster smell of the perfume! I was a bit puzzled about that! I mean, you talk about animalic notes in perfumes, but I guess that would be taking it a bit far! Sadly, my hamster didn't last long. It seems any animal I had during that time frame seemed to disappear sometime between when I would leave for school and when I got home. Cats, hamsters, werenn't meant to be. We had a little poodle for a time and I guess because my Dad took a shine to him, he lasted alot longer.

    I think, just to satisfy my curiosity, I will track down a sniff of the L'Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine. And I agree that a cute picture of a hamster is preferable to a pic of some cedar chips from the cage to demonstrate the scent. CHeers!

  20. SoS,

    They carry the L'Artisan line at Art With Flowers at Tysons Galleria, but don't know if they have Bois Farine.

  21. Mainstream incense? Try Shangaijiva Encens Mystique by Crazy Libelulle And The Poppies (a mouthful I know!) perfume solid, dirt cheap, available everywhere online and smells like CdG Avignon. Also dirt cheap, Mathew Williamson Incense (the new one, not the fabled discontinued beast of yore). Frankincense, frankincense, frankincense and utterly lovely.

  22. For a mainstream incense: How about Donna Karan Essence Labdanum?

  23. Ooh, good choice Elisa. Or Donna Karan Black Cashmere, ash and incense smoke.

  24. I thought I recognized that actress in the Smokey Bear commercial - Joanna Cassidy! She is the most unsexy woman in the movies I have seen her in, but here she is doing her best "look at me, I'm a sex symbol" routine. Ah, Joanna, nice try.

  25. Thank you for all the good suggestions for mainstream incense choices. I was quite intrigued by Crazylibelulle etc. etc. from the name alone, but it appears not to be available online in Europe currently. But Matthew Wiliamson's Incense is, I found it on CheapSmells for a mere 12 pounds + reasonable shipping fees - so I've ordered it and am looking forward to broadening my horizon.

    I suddenly remebered that I had a sample of Etro Shall Nuur in a drawer somewhere, found it and am currently sniffing my arm to see how I like it. Right now I'm getting pencil shavings and something soft and sweet smelling below the shavings. Nothing too complicated. I suppose SN would qualify in this category, no?

  26. I agree that Encens Flamboyant is warm, crisp and friendly and I do wear it occasionally...but I consider Bois d'Encens a revelation. I adore it's ancient, primal resin smell; to borrow Tania Sanchez's description in The Guide, I find it "holy, beautiful, purifying." And "church-y" must be right up my alley since I also like Avignon. I am currently trying to track down L'Eau Trois and L'Air du Desert Marocain.

  27. ScentsofSmell,

    I think Joanna Cassidy has an Ann-Margret intensity in that Smokey (the) Bear PSA. It's pretty unnerving.

  28. I don't share the cultural references of Smokey Bear, but I think the video is quite effective: I get the sense that Joanna Cassidy isn't as much *asking* us to be careful as she is demanding it. There's almost a kind of "an offer you can't refuse"-feel to her appeal to the audience.

  29. Liam and Elisa,

    Wonderful incense suggestions all, but with "mainstream", I'm visualizing Sephora-level choices than the kind of high-end dept stores that carry Donna Karan's fab Black Cashmere and Labdanum.

    Though I've just confirmed that certain Sephoras do carry Paris indie line Crazylibellule And The Poppies after all, so I suppose different territories define "mainstream" slightly differently....

  30. diana,

    I really love ancient, resiny scents myself - not only for their actual smell, but also for the notion that you're wearing an "heirloom" perfume that resembles something a person could've worn 2000 years ago.

    Along those lines, I've been intrigued with my sample of Aesop Mystra. It's pretty subtle, doesn't have the throw of contemporary perfumes. I like its leathery quietness.

    Now you make me want to give Bois d'Encens another chance.

  31. Junelady,

    Liam's Matthew Williamson Incense suggestion is a great one, because its simple, uncomplicated frankincense will give you an incense baseline for reference.

    Re Shaal Nur: many years ago, fired up by all the talk that Shaal Nur was an incense, I tried it, liked it, bought it, and happily wore it. But if I was honest with myself, I could never smell any incense. I could smell your pencil shavings cedar, and the soft sweet lemony-ness, and a grassy/herbal-y vetiver. And yet I keep reading the fumiverse categorize it as an incense.

    For what it's worth, the Etro perfume booklet that came with my Shaal Nur doesn't list any incense in SN's ingredients. So given all that, I'll fly in the face of common wisdom and say that Shaal Nur does not qualify as a frankincense example.

  32. The defintion of mainstream (and niche) does vary quite a bit. By mainstream I mean *really* mainstream, as department stores in Denmark with few exceptions only carry your run of the mill stuff. I'm trying to make a virtue of a necessity and putting an effort into finding the really good mainstream fragrances. They do exist. Occasionally, I will try and get some niche (whatever that means) samples to broaden the aforementioned horizon. My impression of mainstream fragrances varies - sometimes I can smell why a certain fragrances is indeed something special, sometimes I'm less impressed and the fragrance in question could just as well be something I could ride my bike downtown and get where I live.

    Katie, thanks for info on Shaal Nur. I do quite like it from today's arm-sniffing. It didn't last long, but while it was there it was quite pleasant and inoffensive. I could, however, imagine days where the cedar would annoy me a bit. But it would be good for everyday office wear.

    I'm looking forward to getting the Matthew Williamson fragrance. It appears that it's part of a collection where one can mix and match. I read one review that expressed annoyance at the concept: Why can't the fragrance company be bothered to mix the scent and have it over with. I can definitely relate to that. However, I am, predictably, also curious as to how that would work. Anyone tried the Matthew Williamson Build-a-Fragrance?

  33. Thanks, Liam!
    I just ordered two of the Shangaijiva Encens Mystique "sticks", because I just KNOW I am going to fall in love with that stuff! Found them on Amazon for only $10.

    Liam and Elisa,
    I am also a huge DK Black Cashmere fan, and though I have a tidy stash of the stuff, I know one day it will run out. I found that the etsy shop "SuzyQsbathandbody" does a pretty nice dupe for mere pennies. She'll scent soap, body butter, etc. with her version of the fab BC fragrance. =]

    As for the smoke wafting from the head shops... yup, it was Nag Champa (Satya sai Baba Nag Champa, to be specific) I have this on good authority. (wink) But even though I still burn that classic hippy incense a LOT, my absolute fave incense to burn is called "Super Hit", also by Satya sai Baba.
    mmmmmmmmmmm...... Sweet smoky bliss! Far out!

  34. Tina,

    Thanks for the Super Hit tip. I love that it's called "Super Hit". Right arm.


  35. Junelady, glad to be of help. The MW Incense really is amazingly good for something so cheap. Don't let the pink bottle fool you, it's definitely not a pink scent. Katie mentions the net perfumistas categorising Shaal Nur as an incense and not getting it, I kinda think people have different references for incense. For me it's frankincense with all those spiritual, ancient connotations that does it for me, and Bois D'Encens is my holy grail in this category. For others it's Nag Champa and other Indian incensed that are their base reference, and I think that's why incense presents so many problems when it comes to categorising it.
    I posted a thread on Basenotes a while back in an effort to save others the time nd money I've spent on my incense obsession, might interest you, my name on there is Liam1977 if you want to search for the post (hope it's allowed to mention this in comments, not self-promoting, just on iPhone and it's a bit fiddly to type out everything I want to say! Tweet me @liamdoherty as well if ya want to ask anything. Would talk incense perfumes till the cows come home!).
    Also, v glad Sephora has the Crazylibelulle, after I posted yesterday I searched and realised I couldn't find it here in the UK! Worried it was discontinued.

    Anyway, hope I was of some help!

  36. Tina, it's really beautiful, it smells exactly like the drydown of CdG Avignon (to my admittedly non-expert nose anyway!)

  37. Thanks Liam,

    I can't wait to try it! I also love that it's so travel-friendly, as all I do is travel for my job. Yay- no more leaky bottles.
    I have struggled and fought the desire to buy Avignon for a good long time, so perhaps this "super-dupe" will stave off my CdG Jones for a bit longer...


    I buy my incense from The prices are great and they ship fast.
    A big-ass box (100 grams) of Super Hit is only $6.49.
    They also carry Nag as well as many more, of course, including Paine's, the very first incense I ever burned! It comes in little logs and the burner is a log cabin and yes, the smoke comes out of the chimney. Best of all, it smells just like a fireplace, because they make this stuff out of Christmas tree trimmings. How cool is that? =]

  38. Liam, I will definitely check out your post - I'm pretty much still in the dark when it comes to incenses - but I hope that Matthew Williamson will help me become a bit smarter in that regard.

    I'm not on Twitter, but that can be helped, I suppose, and I'll be sure to find you when I need some help in the incense department.

  39. katie, I'm picking up what you're putting down. I can see the photog giving Joanna direction - just give me some Ann Margaret....

    That is probably the sexiest (?) role I have ever seen her in.

    Over and out.

  40. SoS,

    Yeah, Joanna peaked in a PSA.

  41. Narnia Snow! Please make this a perfume. Wouldn't it be fantastic?

  42. Awww. You GUYS! Make me all chuffed up with your suggestions about Narnia Snow. I actually do make my own scents as a hobby and if you like, I'll make up a batch of Narnia Snow for anyone who wants it. You have to tell me what you'd like in it though. (and no, I can't include any magical anything, nor any Mr. Tumnus accords...)

  43. Katie, once again this has very educational - and once again I have to take the longest detours to get my head around certain notes: My curiousity about incense lead me to try my Etro Shaal Nur sample - woody, very woody, hmmmm, like?, don't like? So, that's a really woody fragrance....And without really knowing why I grab YSL's Elle today and spray it on. You may not (I hope not) remember that I used to complain that it smelled like nail polish remover to me. It occurs to me during the day that it's not nail polish remover I'm smelling, but wood! And that I rather like it! Go figure. In my defense I will say that turpentine and wood might share some common petrochemical ground seen on a grander geological scale - or maybe not. Anyway, my nose has become a bit smarter today. And I've been enjoying the sweet, woody rose in Elle.

  44. Junelady,

    It's the perfume equivalent of seeing kissing heads in the inkblot instead of a butterfly. You revisit a scent after having been around the block a few times, and it's a whole different experience.