Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Although I was baptized in the Methodist church and grew up knowing the cool press of Sunday-school metal folding chairs against the back of my thighs, for most of my life I have mostly been an accidental tourist in terms of religion. While I have observed and sometimes found myself deeply immersed in the services and ceremonies of a number of religions and religious denominations, when it comes to putting down stakes in any particular one, I’m simply not tribal enough; I move on.

Oddly enough, for someone who doesn’t have a strong religious affiliation, I do enjoy reading books that deal with spiritual matters, and for a number of years I was intrigued with the idea of building my own private chapel. I have a book on that too: Laura Chester’s wonderful Holy Personal: Looking for Small Private Places of Worship, with its beautiful photos of shrines and chapels assembled from every conceivable material and in every diverse space imaginable: from a root cellar chapel in Boston, to one made of tires in Alabama, to a straw-bale milagro chapel in Arizona. But where I have always felt closest to Spirit is outdoors, under the open sky – and the greatest cathedral on earth (for me, anyway) is Earth itself. I am a devoted outdoor walker; it's a reflective and meditative act for me, and like prayer, the thing that centers and rejuvenates me.

Given these leanings, you’ll understand how much I love the latest perfume offering from Sonoma Scent Studio – Incense Pure – a fragrance that smells like a forest of soaring balsam fir trees. Imagine lying on a bed of soft fir needles and staring up through the branches to where the points of the trees pierce the sky: you can smell the pine pitch, the warm wood of the trunk where the sun is leaning on it, and a lightly peaty whiff of the forest’s humus floor. And lingering somewhere in the trees – you can’t say where, for it is faint – is the light and creamy smell of a honey comb.

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.

Incense Pure is not an arid, smoky incense – at least not to my nose. And neither is it the opposite: it doesn’t capture the cool, musty smell of incense spiraling against the stone walls of an ancient church. As such, when I wear Incense Pure, I don’t picture the desert of Arabia (breathtaking as that is) or the cathedrals of Europe (magnificent as they are, too) – but rather, what I stated above: the incense of a natural cathedral – a pristine forest that is sweeping enough to be majestic, and sheltering enough to be intimate. There is a fullness to Incense Pure that is difficult to put into words; it is in large part due to the unstinting amount of precious resins that perfumer Laurie Erickson has endowed this fragrance with, and yet if I told you the fragrance was dense with these resins, that would give the wrong impression too, for that word does not convey the sense of spaciousness that the scent encompasses.

(And then again, how do I describe this fullness without giving you the impression that Incense Pure might be too imposing to wear? Because it's not at all. The softly sweet, almost beeswax-y notes of sandalwood and vanilla that gently couch its resinous accord make for an incredibly supple blend.)

I ended up ordering a small bottle of Incense Pure for myself within hours of trying on my sample. My bottle arrived on Monday, at the start of what has been an incredibly hectic week – so hectic, in fact, I didn't have a chance to slip outside for my five-mile walk; and in the strange ways that Spirit works, that missed walk became the impetus for this post. Every time I sniffed my wrist and breathed in the scent of Incense Pure, I was reminded of my communion with nature ... and connected to all that I hold Holy Personal.

April 7, 2010:


Incense Pure can be purchased from the Sonoma Scent Studio website, in prices currently ranging from $18 for a 5-ml purse spray to $80 for the 34-ml bottle pictured above. Sample vials of all of the Sonoma Scent Studio fragrances can also be purchased there as well.

Images: (top of page) "Northern White Cedar - Balsam Fir Swamp at Cape Horn State Forest," photographed by Dan Sperduto, is from; (bottom of page) photo of the 34-ml bottle of Jour Ensoleille is from

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