Arte Profumi Ecclesiae

Greek Orthodox CenserThere is a small church nestled in a pine forest clearing, a church whose wooden pews are covered by the dust of ages and whose stony floors echo the footsteps of monks swinging a thurible censer. White smoke from myrrh fills the air like a thin wall of purification, but that is not unexpected in such a traditional place. What is different is the bridge outside, a bridge made of creamy, honeyed beeswax and sweet myrrh. It links the stony, dusty Catholic church to its polar opposite on the far side of the world, an oriental temple filled with black smoke, not white olibanum. It is a temple where spicy patchouli sweetness and dry woods are offered to the gods alongside the frankincense, swirling together in a haze of great warmth. Two sides of the same coin, two very different worlds, and two very different perfumed aromas. But they’ve been bottled into one fragrance, Ecclesiae.

The Arte Profumi line. Source: Profumo.net

The Arte Profumi line. Source: Profumo.net

Ecclesiae is an eau de parfum from the Italian perfume house, Arte Profumi. The company, whose name translates to The Art of Perfume, is based in Rome and seems to have been founded around 2013, the year when it launched all its fragrances. I first encountered the line at Jovoy in Paris, though I never gave them a proper testing. The name stuck in my mind, however, so when Surrender to Chance suddenly started to carry a few of the scents, I seized the opportunity. Arte Profumi’s website isn’t very detailed or helpful, but the one thing that it makes clear is that its founders are passionate about art:

The passion for modern art and, at the same time the world of essences, as well as the need for combining them has led to the organization of multi-sensorial events.

By extraction, you get the concept of perfume as works of art, capable of replacing visual impressions through the perception of olfactory consent.

A source of inspiration for this implementation was the distant recollection of an old dressmaker’s shop where the choice of cloths, original patterns and precious trimmings stood for a lifestyle.

Source: Profumo.net

Source: Profumo.net

Arte Profumi’s website doesn’t provide the official description or notes for Ecclesiae, but I found the details on First in Fragrance:

A touch of eternity in the hallowed stone halls of a medieval cathedral where prayer and hymns along with incense soar heavenwards – in fragrant clouds of smoke, circling choirs of angels in reverence and devotion.

Arte Profumi pays homage to frankincense with their sacred scent aptly named “Ecclesiae”. Spicy elemi paves the way for the protagonist frankincense and a heart of sandalwood. Smoky, earthy patchouly and vetiver lend the composition depth and volume, a choir with many voices that intone the same harmony.

Friends of church fragrances and frankincense, but also lovers of oriental fragrances will welcome this creation from Arte Profumi as a blessing. 

Top Note: Elemi
Heart Note: Frankincense, Sandalwood
Base Note: Patchouly, Vetiver

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Judging by what appeared on my skin, I think those notes are a bit incomplete or lacking in detail, because Ecclesiae opens with a heavy amount of olibanum or myrrh. The white smoke is infused with elemi that reflects both its piney and its lemony characteristics. The patchouli arrives quietly on the sidelines, casting a tiny millimeter of spice to the cool, dusty, chilly notes. An equally muted hint of woodiness lurks in the base, evoking the pews in an old church. Much more significant, however, is another element not mentioned on the list — sweet myrrh or opoponax — which adds a honeyed touch to the bouquet. The overall effect evokes a cool, austere church in the middle of a forest and one whose wooden pews haven’t been dusted in months (or years).

Yet, even from the start, Ecclesiae may be the warmest, churchy, olibanum fragrance that I’ve ever tested. This is no brittle, High Mass fragrance with soapy, dusty, cold notes like Heeley‘s Cardinal, a fragrance that I personally found to be well-nigh unbearable with its piercing white musk and cotton. I haven’t tried the seminal Commes des Garcons‘ Avignon to compare, primarily because I generally find the “High Church” coldness, dustiness and soapiness of olibanum to be extremely difficult to handle. It doesn’t help that my skin often turns myrrh into soap by the end of a fragrance’s development as well.

The large incense thurible at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Source: catholicpilgrim.org

The large incense thurible at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Source: catholicpilgrim.org

So you can imagine my surprise at the difference here with Ecclesiae. This is a dusty, cool, white incense, yes, but there is something really lovely about how the notes are handled. It’s never too cool or barren, never too ancient and aloof in feel. There is the merest touch of warmth that ensures I never feel as though I were about to join some monks in a vow of silence in a very isolated, ancient church. At the same time, there is something honeyed about Ecclesiae that goes far beyond the usual waxy touches provided by sweet myrrh.

On the other hand, I don’t detect any sandalwood, and the patchouli isn’t at all distinct in its usual way at first. However, a few minutes in, there is a muted earthiness wafting around, along with the faintest flicker of something nuttied and vaguely chocolate-y. It wasn’t apparent in my first test when I only applied a small quantity of Ecclesiae, but 3 big dabs definitely bring out the perfume’s sweeter, richer undertones. As the warmer elements rise to the surface, the elemi’s lemon facets fade away, and its smell of chilled, fresh, pine needles soften.

FrankincenseTen minutes in, Ecclesiae is primarily an olibanum and sweet myrrh fragrance, lightly infused with muted patchouli and abstract woodiness. It hovers in a moderate, extremely lightweight, airy bouquet that wafts about 3 inches above the skin. I really like the scent, and find it to be very refined. There is a polished feel to Ecclesiae but, more importantly, it’s been perfectly calibrated so that the incense never feels ponderous, overly somber, or gloomy. My favorite part is the honeyed beeswax of the sweet myrrh which cuts through the dusty aspects of the myrrh, and thereby ensures that the perfume is never stony or icy.

"Javascapes" by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: http://devidsketchbook.com

“Javascapes” by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: http://devidsketchbook.com

Ecclesiae starts to slowly, very slowly, transform. The perfume grows warmer with every passing minute; the patchouli’s sweetness becomes more noticeable; and Ecclesiae takes on a creamy, beeswax softness as the sweet myrrh starts to build the bridge to the perfume’s second stage. Ecclesiae is also turning more indistinct and hazy in feel, as the notes start to overlap, and its sillage drops. At the end of 25 minutes, the fragrance is only about 1-2 inches above the skin.

Sometimes, I think I can detect patchouli proper, as there is an extremely subtle vein of earthiness that darts about. Most of the time, though, I wonder if it is my imagination, as the secondary, non-incense notes really lack clear delineation. There is something in the base that gives me a little bit of a temporary head twinge if I take really deep, prolonged sniffs, though it’s very minor and brief. It may be the slightly clean, soapy undertones to the myrrh, but perhaps it stems from the supposed “sandalwood.” I doubt it is the real stuff; I certainly smell nothing remotely like the Mysore wood in Ecclesiae. At best, the perfume has a generic creaminess in the base, though I think it results more from the truly lovely sweet myrrh.

Source: Robert.Maro.net

Source: Robert.Maro.net

The bridge that I mentioned at the start takes full shape at the end of the first hour, when the sweet myrrh starts to transform Ecclesiae. The perfume becomes creamier, smoother, and warmer, while the olibanum incense loses much of its remaining dustiness. Ecclesiae now feels like a very cozy church filled with candlelight from tapers dripping sweetened, creamy wax on soft floors, instead of a stony, barren, dusty place set in a forest. The sweet myrrh feels like a gateway into another world with a very different church dominated by entirely more oriental smells.

Beijing incense burning on Buddha's birthday. Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters via the WSJ

Beijing incense burning on Buddha’s birthday. Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters via the Wall Street Journal.

90 minutes in, Ecclesiae has suddenly turned into a spicy fragrance dominated by oriental frankincense smoke. It is thoroughly infused with an abstract woodiness, a peppered spiciness, and earthy touches. There is also something that most definitely smells like either bitter nutmeg or cloves, though I can’t explain why. The patchouli adds a reddish hue to the colour palette, while greenness arrives with the first hint of a dry, woody vetiver. The olibanum remains, but, as a whole, though, Ecclesiae is now dominated by black frankincense and warmth. It is a startling volte-face from the initial notes centered on white, dusty myrrh, to the point that you feel as though you’re in a very different place of worship. The notes are still blurry around the edges, but there is no mistaking that spicy, woody quality.

Incense stick. Source: Stock footage and Shutterstock.com.

Incense stick. Source: Stock footage and Shutterstock.com.

In fact, Fragrantica labels Ecclesiae as an “Oriental Woody” fragrance, something that initially perplexed me when I smelled the perfume’s opening notes on my skin. “Oriental” carries a very different connotation in my mind than that created by the “High Mass” churchy olibanum note with its cold facade. But Fragrantica is absolutely right in its assessment. Ecclesiae has a warm oriental heart, dominated by woody notes as much as it is by frankincense. In truth, Ecclesiae is really like two perfumes (and churches) in one, with the honeyed beeswax acting as a bridge between the two.

Ecclesiae remains largely the same for the next few hours. It is a warm, oriental, spicy, woody fragrance dominated by frankincense, with patchouli spices and earthiness, followed then by lingering strains of olibanum smoke and sweet myrrh. The vetiver is never really more than a muted flicker on my skin, while the sandalwood never shows up at all. What does appear, however, is a powdery quality that creeps in at the end of the third hour. The sillage drops even further, and Ecclesiae becomes a complete skin scent about 2.75 hours into its development.

Source: Wikicommons.

Source: Wikicommons.

Ecclesiae eventually turns into a blur of lightly powdered myrrh and frankincense after 4.25 hours, and it stays that way until its very end. There are growing touches of soapiness flitting about, but that may be simply the result of what my skin always does to olibanum. Either way, Ecclesiae is pretty linear, and very soft — both in feel and sillage. It is one of those fragrances that is so intimate in its projection that you’re constantly surprised when you see that it is still hanging on. All in all, it lasted just short of 9.5 hours, though I had to put my nose right on my skin in order to detect it by the middle of the 6th hour.

I couldn’t find any blog reviews for Ecclesiae, and the fragrance has no comments listed on its Fragrantica page. There isn’t even a Basenotes entry for it. In fact, Ecclesiae is not a fragrance that is carried in the U.S. at all. Generally, I try to avoid reviewing scents that are so limited in distribution or unknown, but I liked Ecclesiae quite a bit. Given my usual leeriness about olibanum, how painfully soapy it can become on my skin, and my dislike of dusty, cold “High Church” fragrances, I think that says something.

Alas, even if one were to order Ecclesiae from First in Fragrance in Europe (or Jovoy for EU customers), it is very expensive. The 100 ml bottle costs €225 which, at today’s exchange rate, comes to roughly $304 — and this is not a perfume worth $304, in my personal opinion. The perfume is too lightweight and sheer, the sillage is too weak, and the longevity iffy unless you apply a lot. That’s not merely my perception, either. On the Parfumo website (which is a bit like a European Fragrantica), Ecclesiae has no reviews but I was interested to see some votes for sillage or longevity:

  • 2 votes give the Longevity a 63% ranking;
  • 2 votes give the Sillage a 38% ranking.

It’s obviously not outstanding as a whole, but it’s a lot more troubling for $304 or €225.

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

I cannot tell you how much I wish Ecclesiae had more heft, weight, projection and richness. It is a thoroughly enjoyable take on incense fragrances, and feels extremely polished. Something about it reflects Italy’s inimitable, elegant, refined style, though I’m less enthused about the quiet discreetness that goes along with it. I would definitely wear Ecclesiae on occasion if a bottle ever fell into my lap, but I would never consider buying it. Then again, I’m not one who loves white incense passionately, so perhaps things might be different if I were a hardcore olibanum fan. Price is a subjective matter, after all.

So, if you truly love Churchy fragrances, then I encourage you to order a sample of Ecclesiae from Surrender to Chance or First in Fragrance. It’s very lovely, and nicely done.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ecclesiae is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size and costs €225. There are no American distributors for the Arte Profumi line that I could find. Arte Profumi has a website, but not an e-shop or a Stockist/Retailers list, so your best bet in obtaining the scent is from two big European perfume sites. Paris’ Jovoy and Germany’s First in Fragrance both carry the scent. The latter also sells samples and ships internationally. I couldn’t find any retailers in the UK, the Netherlands, or outside of Europe. If you’re in Italy, however, the company has two boutiques in Rome. Samples: Surrender to Chance now sells Ecclesiae starting at $4.50 for a 1/2 ml vial. There is also an Arte Profumi Sample Set starting at $12.99 for 3 of its fragrance (including Ecclesiae) in a 1/2 ml size.

Perfume Review: Jovoy Paris La Liturgie des Heures

Photo: StormchaserMike Photograph via Flickr (link to website embedded within.)

Photo: StormchaserMike Photograph via Flickr (link to website embedded within.)

A sea of pine trees as far as the eye can see, half covered with snow, half green-grey and reflecting the cold winter light. Pine cones and needles blanket the forest floor, releasing their fresh, pungent, resinous oil with every crunching footstep. A thin stream of white smoke issues from a nearby church, its ancient stones protecting its darkened, dusty inner sanctum where priests are getting ready for Mass. They light the candles for Vespers and burn the myrrh. It’s time for the one of the oldest canonical rituals of the Catholic Church, the Liturgy of the Hours.

That is the vision which comes to mind when I wear Jovoy Paris‘ fragrance, La Liturgie des Heures (hereinafter “Liturgie des Heures” or just “Liturgie.”) Most hardcore perfumistas have heard of Jovoy, a Paris boutique that is a mecca for buying the most high-end, exclusive or rare fragrances, but what many people don’t know is that Jovoy was once a perfume house. As Luckyscent explains, Jovoy was founded in 1923 by Blanche Arvoy and “was known for selling perfumes for the ‘gentlemen’s nieces’, a polite way Parisian dandies described buying gifts for their mistresses[.]” Amusingly, Jovoy itself candidly admits to this twist in its past:

The perfumes of the early hours of Jovoy were made for the mistresses of the Paris of the Roaring Twenties. In other world, opulent fragrance for women who wanted to be seen, using in quantities prohibited by modern law, raw material now often missing.

Jovoy Paris La Liturgie des Heures

Jovoy Paris La Liturgie des Heures

Though the house declined in the bleak years of the Depression and ended completely during WWII, it was resurrected in 2006 by Francois Hénin who launched a new range of fragrances. In 2011, La Liturgie des Heures joined their ranks. It is an eau de parfum that was created by Robertet perfumer, Jacques Flori, and which is described by Francois Hénin as evoking “the image of an old monastery where the scent of burning incense fills the air just like the chanting of daily prayers.” Fragrantica lists its notes as follows:

Top notes: fresh green notes, cypress
Heart notes: incense, olibanum [frankincense], cistus [labdanum], myrrh
Base notes: musk

Source: listofimages.com

Source: listofimages.com

pine-solLa Liturgie des Heures opens on my skin with a burst of pine trees, incense and green notes, followed by traces of a sweet, almost nutty myrrh, slightly leathered labdanum, and musk. One is transported to a cold, pine forest covered by crisp snow, but I have to admit, the notes are a little too reminiscent of pure pine oil and verge on a non-chemical version of Pine-Sol household cleaner. There is almost an oily feel to the pine, as if you had just mashed up the tree’s needles in your hands, leaving a strong, overly fragrant, concentrated oil behind. The aroma feels a little odd juxtaposed next to the leather undertones and the very cold, dry, vaguely dusty undertones of High Church incense. Yet, once you wrap your head around the combination, it almost feels pleasant.

As the minutes pass, the undertones of frankincense, myrrh and leather undulate, swaying from the foreground to the background. Sometimes, Liturgie smells like nothing more than a Christmas tree; at other times, the subtle touch of sweetness from the myrrh and churchy incense meet the pine notes head-on. Thirty minutes in, the base notes rise fully to the surface and the perfume becomes sweeter, more layered, and less like Pine-Sol oil. The myrrh turns the frankincense warmer, less dusty and arid, while the leather adds touches of a darker, almost leathery resin to the pine. A subtle, clean muskiness joins the trio and, flickering in the background, a subtle whiff of soapiness.

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Liturgie continues on for another two hours as a warm, slightly sweetened, incense-infused, resinous pine tree scent with fluctuating levels of soapiness and musk. By the third hour, however, the clean white musk has grown in strength. Sharp and synthetic, it makes Liturgie feel a lot like Heeley‘s Cardinal, especially now that the pine note has receded to the background. I truly can’t stand synthetic white musk, let alone soapiness, and both elements form a strong backdrop to the scent. By the middle of the sixth hour, La Liturgie des Heures is primarily centered around nutty myrrh, ambered labdanum, and the sweet church incense — all infused with soap and clean, white musk.

The fragrance sticks on its linear course for another few hours, until it fades away to an amorphous, abstract, musky, clean sweetness. All in all, Liturgie lasted 8.25 hours on my skin and with moderate-to-low sillage. Others, however, have reported significantly less time, with one commentator on Basenotes writing that “[p]rojection is on the low side of average and longevity is well below average at 2-3 hours on skin.”

Liturgie wasn’t my cup of tea, and my feelings for it strongly parallel those of Freddie from Smelly Thoughts whose brief review reads as follows:

La Liturgie des Heures opens not too dissimilar to April Aromatics’ Calling All Angels, with its dry woods and incense, only this is a touch more peppery, and more “sticky”. Along with the overload of bitter resins and incense – bits of harsh greenery cut through it: pine and cypress mainly… a mix of sticky, sweet forest floor, and more herbal coniferous greens.

It pretty much stays this way throughout it’s life. It’s totally not my kind of perfume and not how I like to smell (also very bored of the overload of foresty/incense fragrances)… but still, this is a solid enough example for people who like that kind of thing :) Not bad!

I agree. It is a solid perfume that should please those who like churchy, incense fragrances — if they don’t mind either soapiness, white musk, or smelling just like a Christmas tree.

There are a number of High Church-type fragrances out there, but I’m only familiar with Heeley’s Cardinal. I think Liturgie has some similarities, but primarily in terms of the synthetic white musk. A Fragrantica commentator, “magic gingerbread,” who has far greater knowledge of this genre of fragrances has some interesting comparisons which may prove useful to a few of you:

Quite beautyful incense and coniferous fragrance reminding me somewhat Hinoki by CdG. Especially at the beginning when I smell raw olibanum resin and balmy, cold and fresh cypress note. This stage is unfortunately of rather weak sillage. Drydown is much stronger in projection, but no suprise in that, it is pure labdanum and that’s the way labdanum behaves – here it’s slightly sour, thick and oily, kind of like in Norma Kamali’s Incense. Nice, but I prefer olibanum stage.

The name “Liturgy of the hours” clearly suggests a churchy fragrance, but I don’t see it that way. Most certainly I don’t see any churchy association in corniferous olibanum note. However labdanum brings me some images of deep, old catacombs from the early age of christianity. Anyway, this is not catholic catherdal type of fragrance like Avignon or Cardinal.

Again, I’m not an expert on churchy fragrances, so I can’t comment on the comparisons. All I can say is that I love labdanum but didn’t enjoy its manifestation here, thanks to the impact of the terribly clean, soapy accord; and I found it hard to muster up much enthusiasm for La Liturgie des Heures as a whole. I think that stems, in part, because of some notes I really dislike, and, in part, because of Liturgie’s linearity. But it’s not a terrible fragrance and, if you’re really into churchy scents, then you may want to keep it in mind.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: La Liturgie des Heures is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $180, €120, or  £100. It is available directly from Jovoy Paris which also offers a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for €80. In the U.S.: it is available at Luckyscent, MinNY, Aedes, and Aaron’s Apothecary. Outside the U.S.: in the UK, La Liturgie des Heures is available in both sizes from Bloom Perfume, with the smaller 1.7 oz bottle retailing for £70. The larger size is also available at Roullier White in the 100 ml size for £100, with a sample also available for purchase, along with Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. In Italy, Liturgie is sold at Vittoria Profumi and Sacro Cuoro Profumi for €120. In France, you can also purchase it from Soleil d’Or. In Russia, it is sold at iPerfume. For Germany and the rest of Europe, you can purchase it from First in Fragrance in Germany (which also ships worldwide and sells samples) but the price is €5 higher at €125 a bottle. Same story with Germany’s MeinduftSamples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial. Many of the retailers listed above also sell samples of Liturgie.