Incense has been used over the centuries in a variety of religious, spiritual and cultural practices from China and Japan to India and Arabia. The smell of burning incense and the waft of its smoke continues to enchant perfume-lovers. As you would expect, incense fragrances tend to have an oriental vibe. Discover our picks for the best incense perfumes.
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We’ve included a variety of incense fragrances on this list, from those where it is the dominant note to those where there’s just a hint of it. Not everyone goes for the full incense experience.
We haven’t included them here, but make sure to sniff out well-known modern classics in the genre such as Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense (Kyoto, Avignon, Jaisalmer, Ouarzazate) and Heeley Cardinal. Where known, the name of the perfumer is included in brackets after the name of the fragrance.
10 Best Incense-Infused Fragrances
Our Top Pick: Guerlain Shalimar EDP (Jacques Guerlain)
There are many reasons to always have a bottle of Guerlain Shalimar* in your fragrance wardrobe. Some of these include:
- It’s an all-time classic that has lost none of its magnificence since its launch in 1925.
- It’s widely celebrated as the first oriental perfume.
- Inspired by the great love between Indian Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, it’s gorgeously romantic.
It will take you on an olfactory journey through bergamot, iris, jasmine, rose vanilla, and tonka bean. The incense in the drydown is smoky and sensual. It makes its presence felt without spelling it out. Read our full review.
Zadig Et Voltaire Just Rock! Pour Lui EDT (Nathalie Lorson & Aurelien Guichard)
The French fashion label is popular for its rock-chic aesthetic. What’s less well-known is that it has several reasonably priced, quality fragrances. Officially marketed at men, but perfectly unisex, in our opinion, Just Rock! Pour Lui* is one of their best. This 2017 release opens with the warm, vanilla-ish overtones of tonka bean, which is further enhanced by a black vanilla note.
The incense note makes its presence felt early in the fragrance’s progression. Sophisticated yet accessible, it’s complemented by a twist of spice, settling on a base of earthy patchouli. A simple, but highly effective composition, this oriental woody fragrance is also well priced.
Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermes EDT (Jean Claude Ellena)
If you’re looking for a refined scent that you can wear anywhere you can’t go wrong with this 2005 release from the House of Hermes. Lotus, green mango, grapefruit, and sycamore with a dry down of incense and cinnamon is what Un Jardin Sur Le Nil* delivers that in abundance.
It doesn’t take long for the smoky incense to come through. Deep stuff! Cinamon adds just the right amount of spice. It’s a classic and elegant fragrance that sets the scene for a walk through a rich garden by the Nile with its earthy aromas. Still, this eau de toilette is unobtrusive and good for any occasion during the day or night.
Orto Parisi Terroni Parfum (Alessandro Gualtieri)
Maverick Italian perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri prefers to explain the distinctive creations from his niche fragrance brand through story-telling, instead of notes. While some perfume stories tell you nothing, the one for this 2017 release says it all.
Inspired by the volcanic land surrounding Mount Vesuvius, Orto Parisi Terroni’s* suitably earthy and fiery with stand-out notes of dark cocoa, berries, vetiver and patchouli. Dark and smoky incense weaves its way throughout the scent.
This is a potent parfum, so spray lightly when applying it, as it lasts forever and a day. Also look out for Gualtieri’s infamous cannabis-infused Black Afgano from his other niche fragrance company, Nasomatto, which has a strong incense element.
Memo Siwa EDP (Alienor Massenet)
Paris-based niche fragrance house Memo is highly regarded for their leather range, Cuir Nomades, which includes African, French and Irish versions. From their Graines Vagabondes collection, Siwa is also worthy of your attention. It’s inspired by the Siwa urban oasis in the Egyptian part of the Sahara Desert.
This 2007 release opens in spicy mode with a note of cinnamon leaf oil, followed by slightly sweet notes of narcissus absolute and freesia, featuring green nuances. Vanilla dominates the dry down, while a gentle take on the incense theme accentuates the oriental mood. For a heavier take on incense, sniff out Memo Tiger’s Nest.
Roos & Roos Mentha Religiosa EDP (Fabrice Pellegrin)
French niche fragrance house Roos & Roos was founded in 2014 by beauty industry veteran Chantal Roos and her daughter, Alexandra. Mentha Religiosa won the Fragrance Foundation’s best independent perfume award in 2017 for good reason. It’s full of intriguing contrasts.
It makes a cool and fresh first impression with sharp notes of citrusy bergamot and peppery mint. Things warm up in the drydown where incense takes the leading role. It’s the kind you’d smell at a Catholic mass. Notes of patchouli and cedar provide earthy and woody support. We also recommend that you try the brand’s Purple Leather and Pale Blue Eyes EDPs.
L’artisan Parfumeur Passage D’enfer EDT (Olivia Giacobetti)
Founded in the 1970s in Paris, L’Artisan Parfumeur* is one of the niche fragrance industry’s pioneers. Its well-earned reputation is based on top-quality classics such as Passage d’Enfer, which was launched in 1999. A tribute to the company’s original office and a play on words (“hell’s passage”), it makes the most of the religious connotations of the genre with pronounced notes of cedar and incense evoking a peaceful ambiance.
Incense fragrances can sometimes be too austere. This one avoids that in the drydown. White lily and amber add sweetness to the blend, while white musk softens the edges. For an EDT, this is surprisingly powerful stuff and lingers on the skin and clothing many hours after application.
Ex Nihilo Oud Vendome EDP (Olivier Pescheux)
The Paris-based niche brand specialises in luxurious fragrances made from the best ingredients, and Oud Vendôme* is typical of its modern approach to perfumery. The intro is delicately spicy with notes of ginger and saffron, transitioning to a heart that balances green galbanum and woody cedar.
The combo of precious agarwood and soothing incense in the drydown is super-smooth and sophisticated. A big dose of musk brings cosiness to the mix. This 2014 woody oriental has a decidedly Western feel. Nothing wrong with that when it’s this chic.
Ella K Baiser De Florence EDP (Sonia Constant)
From Jean Paul Gaultier La Belle and Montblanc Lady Emblem L’Eau to Narciso Rodriguez Pure Musc for Her and Tom Ford Orchid Soleil, Sonia Constant is one of our favorite perfumers. The Parisian founded her own niche fragrance company in 2017 and Baiser de Florence, inspired by a visit to a Florentine church, was one of her first releases.
Ella K Baiser De Florence is primarily an iris fragrance, a suitably powdery and cool one at that, but it’s the trail of incense that keeps us coming back for more. Wood and musk complete the soft and romantic mood.
Armani Prive Encens Satin EDP
The fragrances from Armani’s private collection don’t come cheap, but for the price you’re undoubtedly getting the best quality. Launched in 2014, Prive Encens Satin EDP lives up to its name with a focus on frankincense from Somaliland. Holy smoke indeed!
A handful of spice, in particular ginger and cardamom, and woody notes bring further depth to the composition, while amber adds a pleasing sweetness. Bois Encens is another highly recommended incense-oriented option from the Armani Privé range.