Profumum Olibanum

Concentrated simplicity is the hallmark of Profumum Roma, an Italian perfume house that takes a few olfactory notes, and then ramps them up with the richest amount of perfume oils on the market. In the case of Olibanum, the focus is incense, infused with citruses and piney resins in a play between light and dark.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

Olibanum is an eau de parfum that was released in 2006. The name may refer to myrrh, a cool, white, dusty sort of incense used in church rituals, but the fragrance also celebrates the black smokiness of frankincense, while simultaneously playing a little shell-game with citruses. Profumum‘s website describes the perfume very simply:

Sacred and profane, mistery and shade
Wax guttering, someone praying
Steps, echoing through the gothic and ancient archways
to the cathedral of Saint Michel.

[Notes:] Incense, Myrrh, Orange flowers, Sandalwood

"Abstract Pines" by Chris Shepherd at Shepherdpics.com

“Abstract Pines” by Chris Shepherd at Shepherdpics.com

I’ve noticed that Profumum tends to brush over the details or specifics in their perfume lists, and Olibanum is no exception. I’d bet that there are a number of ingredients missing from that cursory summary. Olibanum opens on my skin with lemon and herbs, then a powerful blast of a resinous, aged, green pine note. On its heels is myrrh and something distinctly medicinal, infused with a breath of orange sweetness. There is also a soapy element, along with dry woods, and they both feel very oily in nature. Something about the overall effect reminds me of face cream or a tonic with herbal elements, countered by that lemoned oil.

I really disliked Olibanum upon my first wearing some months ago, but it’s easier the second time around, even if it my description thus far may lead you to think otherwise. It’s still hard, however, to summon up wild enthusiasm for an opening that really starts off as lemon oil with green, resinous, herbal notes, along with amorphous woods and cold, soapy incense. It’s not Nivea or lemon furniture polish, nor green, piney medicine either, but it is some combination of things in all three of those genres, put together. And, yes, I repeat, this is a much kinder take on Olibanum’s start than I had initially when it seemed merely like extremely acrid, dusty soapiness. (I think applying a larger quantity helps.) Bottom line: Olibanum’s opening moments are not a joy, though the bouquet is thankfully light and sheer in weight.

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com (Website link embedded within.)

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com (Website link embedded within.)

Things soon change, however, and for the better. About 5 minutes later, a fruity element arrives on the scene, though it’s abstract and indistinct at first. At best, it conjures up the image of a green, unripened orange. Lurking in the base is something very leathered, like a dark resin from a juniper tree. Slowly, the medicinal overtones start to fade, and the frankincense rises to the top. Olibanum turns into a fresh, but deep, lemon, pine, incense fragrance with unsweetened fruitiness. It smells nothing like Pine-Sol, if that is your fear, and it is thanks to the sharp bite of the smoke. If anything, the forest, green notes make Olibanum feel more like a herbal take on a traditional myrrh fragrance. There is hardly any of the cold, ancient dustiness that such scents usually carry. Instead, Olibanum feels increasingly rich and warm. The initial gauzy thinness changes, the perfume solidifies with some heft, and the notes grow in strength.

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

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

Olibanum continues to morph by small degrees. 15 minutes in, a black and somewhat peppered sort of smokiness weaves its way through the top notes, while a surprising creaminess grow in the base. The primary bouquet is now of frankincense as much as the myrrh, both infused with lemons, a slightly leathered pine resin, amorphous woodiness, and some creaminess in texture. The tiniest whisper of oranges flits about, growing more distinct and sweetened with time. The thing that strikes me more, however, is that peppered woodiness. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Olibanum contained a good dose of cedar to go along with the juniper-pine elements.

Olibanum has an unexpected trajectory in its development for a few reasons. The most noticeable is how Olibanum seems to grow in concentration at the end of the first hour. It is very far in terms of both feel and smell from how it was in the opening minutes. It suddenly has the signature Profumum heft and body, and it is growing smokier by the minute as well. The piney resin becomes stronger too, evoking the scent of freshly crushed needles and woody cones on a forest floor. Olibanum doesn’t have a super-complex bouquet, but it stands out for its richness, as well as for the lemony creaminess underlying it all.

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

The second really strange thing is the interplay of the secondary notes. Profumum fragrances are really well-blended, but Olibanum has an unusual peekaboo situation going on with the lemon and pine. Every single time over the next four hours that I think the pine has replaced the lemons, that the lemons have superseded the resins, or that the oranges have disappeared, the situation somehow reverses itself.

About 90 minutes in, the pine seemed to retreat, but then 40 minutes later, Olibanum suddenly took on a Pine Sap Absolute sort of aroma. It actually felt like a less-sweetened, drier version of Profumum‘s Arso, only with a very different sort of smokiness centered on frankincense instead of campfire aromas. By the same token, just when I was certain that the lemon was a mere hint and fading away, it suddenly returned and seemed to overtake the pine. Back and forth we go, for at least four more hours. The sillage continues to drop, but the perfume’s smokiness seems to grow.

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

At the end of 5 hours, Olibanum changes again. It now hovers right on the skin, though it is still extremely potent and powerful when smelled up close. The more interesting thing, though, is the undercurrent of darkness. There are definite traces of something both leathered and burnt underlying Olibanum’s interplay on frankincense and myrrh. At times, it smells almost like raw tobacco juice, along with a burnt sweetness. At other times, it smells like singed leather, singed woods, or tarry resins. Either way, the darkness takes over, the creaminess fades away, and Olibanum turns very dry.

What I don’t detect — now or ever — are orange blossoms in the floral, sweet way to which we are all accustomed. There is, however, a definite touch of mentholated rubberiness in the base that I suspect comes from the flowers.

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

As a whole, Olibanum is now just various forms of smokiness, infused with abstract, dry woodiness, a subtle sweetness, and teasing, fluctuating levels of pine and lemons. Speaking of lemons, the note suddenly makes a big comeback in the 9th hour (literally), and Olibanum becomes a lemon-incense-smoke fragrance all of a sudden. (I told you those notes played peekaboo!) It fades after 40 minutes, leaving Olibanum as an abstract blur of dry smokiness and frankincense, which is how the perfume remains until its very end. All in all, Olibanum lasted a hair over 13.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with 3 small dabs.

I’m not the only one who noticed the odd relay race involving the citrus notes, as someone made a very similar comment on Luckyscent:

Opens with a strong, sharp, clean green citrus. Drys down to a smokey refined incense. But on the way the citrus and incense seem to trade places a few times creating a very non linear and interesting dry down.

The other comments on the side are generally positive, though there are a number who are distinctly unenthused, whether by Olibanum’s difficult opening or the intensity of the incense. A random sampling of responses:

  • I didn’t care for the first sniff. But when I put it on. Magic. Lemongrass, Incense, and Oud accented perfectly. An unusual combination that keeps surprising me.
  • it took me a little while to warm up to this strange perfume, but now it’s my go-to citrus! I get frankincense and nonspecific citrus-rind. it’s not one of those seductive niche scents on first application… but it grows on you as one of those scents that is just right for skin!
  • Frankincense, frankincense, frankincense…no thanks
  • It’s the hint of orange blossom that makes the scent a year-round one for me. Plus, it has none of the cumin or curry notes that ruin many other incense scents. It feels perfect on me – it smells like nothing else I’ve tried (and I’ve tried MANY scents!). While LuckyScent rates this as a masculine scent I think it’s strongly a unisex scent. The Olibanum is prominent but not powdery like some other scents. How I wish I could afford a full bottle. Thankfully a little goes a long way with this scent as I have been living off decants and samples for several years. I’ll wear it at work and I find patients and coworkers are not bothered by it as it tends to meld with my skin if I keep the amount to a small spray. Large sprays = a large silliage monster. It is much better to keep this to one or two sprays at a time. It lasts a long while (at least 6 hours or more). It’s my favorite incense ever[.]

An interesting point is how Olibanum stacks up to some other incense fragrances, as there are a few posters who mention Olivier Durbano‘s Rock Crystal and Avignon. I haven’t tried either fragrance to be able to compare, so perhaps you’ll find the comments to be useful:

  • A lovely, dry, woody incense with none of the (cloying, in my opinion) sweetness of scents like Avignon and Red Palisander. A little too strong and bitter on first application, but it quickly mellows into long-lasting goodness.
  • Too strong for my taste. It gave off this rich incense-resinous scent which nauseated me. I’ll stick to Comme de Garcone’s: Avignon.
  • Dry, dry, dry. After two hours on my wrist, I am still waiting for those white flowers to bloom. I was hoping that the orange blossom would round out Olibanum’s edges, much like the lily does to L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer, but it just isn’t happening for me. It’s a nice enough scent, but not for everyday. And it smells almost exactly like Olivier Durbano Rock Crystal… though Rock Crystal is a little more complex with its coriander and cumin. Given that Olibanum is twice the price, buy Rock Crystal instead and spend that extra $100 in your wallet on another bottle of perfume.
  • This is a fantastic scent! Similar to Rock Crystal, but without the (for me) unpleasant “sticky”, musty notes from cumin and coriander in the drydown after a few hours. Olibanum is “cleaner”. The incense note appeared not instantly, but only after half an hour. [Emphasis and bolding to other perfume names added by me.]

On Basenotes, the perfume is generally very well-liked with 8 positive reviews, 2 neutrals, and 1 negative one. The latter merely says, “Incense shouldn’t smell like sandy tobacco.” Everyone else seems to love Olibanum, with one calling it a “masterpiece.” The poster, “Dollar & Scents,” provides a wonderfully detailed description of Olibanum’s many, unusual nuances:

Upon application, one is treated to a medicinally resinous myrrh, at once cooling and green, but sharply sour, with a slightly moist, mushroom-like mustiness. And, a somewhat dark, orange blossom infuses its sweet fruity, earthy and indolic aspects. This dank, green melange meanders to the middle, where a pure olibanum, reminiscent of an infusing frankincense during the celebration of a High Mass, envelops the bitter greenness with its alluring splendor. A faint, rustic tabacco undercurrent, like a freshly-opened pack of cigarettes, drifts in and out. Transitioning to the comforting base, a smooth and creamy sandalwood lifts the frankincense, while a slightly terpene, conifer nuance presents. A sublime drydown ensues. An exalted scent to be sure, this masculine composition is an all-season fragrance, with average projection and good longevity.

For “Alfarom,” Olibanum is a worthy and real alternative to Avignon, the leader in the incense category. He writes:

This is a real alternative to seminal scents like Avignon or Incense Extreme. Olibanum is great if you like smoky incense based fragrances but it’s quite different form the well known antagonist scents of the same family. Together with the usual liturgic vibe Profumum introduced a sealing wax effect that make Olibanum irresistible. While the opening is still quite severe and chilling, the drydown turns dry-and-warm, meditative and comfortable. A terrific woody-green option. Highly recommended!

Source: journeytoorthodoxy.com

Source: journeytoorthodoxy.com

Personally, I think Olibanum differs from those liturgical scents that I’ve tried. It never once evoked the dustiness of an old church with stony steps and cold chilliness. There are no dustbeams in the air, no waxy pews or piercing myrrh chilliness. And, thankfully, the soapy touches of the start fade away. For me, Olibanum is about citruses and smoke with darkly leathered, pine resins, not church rituals or the alienating dust of ages. Then again, as I said, I’m not really an aficionado of the High Church, liturgical style of incense fragrances, so I hope the view of experts quoted above helps you a little. 

One thing I can tell you clearly, however, is that Profumum’s fragrances seem to consistently reflect a very Italian signature. Their approach is very similar to that of luxury fashion designers, like Giorgio Armani or Valentino, who intentionally opt for fluid, minimalistic, clean lines, but always put together with great refinement and the most opulent fabrics. Profumum’s perfumes are very much the same: they have just a handful of notes done in a simple, generally linear manner, but with great richness and at the most concentrated levels. 

The downside to that is that the fragrances are easily, and with some justification, accused of being… well, too simple and linear. They are. No question about that at all. None of them are edgy, revolutionary, or complicated. If anything, they really verge on comfort scents, for whatever notes they decide to highlight. All of that makes Profumum’s  prices far too high for some people. Again, I won’t argue, though price can be a very subjective issue.

Right now, Profumum’s fragrances are generally priced at $240 or €179 for 100 ml of what is really a super-concentrated perfume. Given the reported 43%-46% fragrance oils that the company uses in each scent, their fragrances really amount to an Extrait or Pure Parfum. Is it worth it? Well, it depends on whether you love the notes in question. Incense lovers seem to adore Olibanum! While I think the perfume becomes much better after its difficult start, I’m not so enthused simply because I’m not one for this category or type of incense fragrance as a whole. However, I love Profumum’s Ambra Aurea and Patchouly, and think those are very worth it. I also enjoy their Acqua di Sale salty-beach fragrance, and think their gourmand vanilla, Dulcis in Fundo, is nicely done. In short, it’s all subjective and dependent on your personal tastes. The quality is unquestionably and definitely there throughout, which is why Profumum is one of my favorite lines.

I must add that I’ve heard Profumum will be increasing its prices in February or March 2014. I think $260 was the number being bandied about. So, if you’ve longed to buy a Profumum fragrance — whether Olibanum or another one — now might be the time. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Olibanum is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. (There is also an accompanying, concentrated body oil, and a shower gel.) Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Olibanum is available at Luckyscent, but it is back-ordered until March. If you buy it now, you would probably save on the upcoming price increase for the Profumum line. Olibanum is also sold at OsswaldNYC. In addition, they have a special phone deal for samples if you’re in the U.S.: any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials for $10 with free domestic shipping. You have to call, though, to order the samples, and there may be brand exceptions. Their number is (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find the line at Paris’ Printemps store, Switzerland’s OsswaldPremiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180, along with the shower gel), Hungary’s Neroli, and Russia’s Lenoma boutiques. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Olibanum starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

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.