Something to chase away the winter blues: a rich, addictive incense where the hero ingredient shines.
Incense, labdanum absolute, benzoin, coffee, vanilla.
Straight out of the bottle, it’s really clear that Encens Suave by Matiere Premiere is a very classy incense fragrance. Some incense scents can have that abrasive scratch of smoke that catches at the back of your throat as if a curled tendril has run a nail across the soft, delicate places that you use to sniff. Not here though, not at all. Immediately, even right after spraying, when a scent is usually peppered with the piquancy of alcohol, Encens Suave is utterly smooth and this silky, slinkiness is one of the hints that this fragrance is high calibre in many ways.
The idea of the Matiere Premiere line is that a hero ingredient is supported by other facets, but really allowed to shine as the star of the show. This concept is very much in evidence in Encens Suave which hits all the right notes as a very elegant incense, but one which isn’t stuffy or uptight. The smoky aspect is pure and sweet, and there is the warmth of a blonde woodiness underneath. These elements combined give a very peaceful, tranquil and meditative feeling to the scent, and one cannot help but feel calmed and comforted in the wearing.
It is possible to appreciate the beauty of this scent as an exercise in really nice quality ingredients well used, and there is a beguiling simplicity in the composition which really speaks to the skill and quality with which the perfumer has composed. The fragrance has room to breathe, it is uncluttered and the simplicity on display is the simplicity of someone who understands that less is more, and is confident enough to leave more out than he puts in. As a result, alongside the tranquility, there is a confidence in the way that this scent presents; it doesn’t overpower either with unnecessary frippery, potency or clutter. It just is. Very beautifully, very carefully, very deliberately. This isn’t a happy accident of a scent, it is an exercise in precision, the sort of precision that makes the heart beat just that little bit faster.
What starts off smoky and smooth does continues in much the same vein, but with a further mellowing and sense of melting about the fragrance. It many incense scents, it would be as if the smoke has been scattered on the breeze, but there is something more oozy about it than that here. Instead of scattering, it feels a bit like the melting of a candle, as if the components slide down instead of blow away. It is hard to inhale this scent without picturing the dark, candle-lit interior of an ornate church in some lesser-visited corner of a small European town, shadowed from the heat of the sun by thick walls and the close press of nearby buildings.
As Encens Suave wears, the coffee note begins to come to the fore alongside the smokier facets, and the two together are masterful. The roll and realism of the bitterness of the coffee bean against the sweet woodiness of the smoke, at times become impossible to differentiate, as intertwined as the limbs of lovers. And yes, this is the sort of fragrance that provokes poetic hyperbole, and rightly so. The smoked coffee and the smoked woods compliment each other perfectly, and this phase of the wear is particularly satisfying.
Although the incense itself never quits, the coffee is joined towards the latter phases of wear by a sweeter seam of vanilla. Neither the coffee nor the vanilla are overdone or overly prominent and you need to pay a certain degree of attention to notice them – undoubtedly some skins will bring this out more than others though – but the scent does shift towards a sweeter, mellower vibe. The balance of the scent is spot on throughout. The vanilla sneaks in through the door the coffee opened, bringing with it another way of conveying safety, cosiness, but also that sense of desire, of hunger, that works so well in this scent.
I found the juxtaposition of something old and sacred (the incense) with something more familiar (the coffee and vanilla) really interesting. It gives a relevance to the incense note and makes it touchable, modern, less austere, less sacred. There was something in that which really intrigued me and felt like a new take on an oft-used ingredient.
All in all it is difficult to find chinks in the composition of this scent, it is smooth, it’s classy, it wears beautifully and it’s rather sexy, drawing you in with hints and flirtations, but never quite surrendering itself fully. The first scent we have reviewed from the line has set the bar incredibly high and is most definitely a fragrance worthy of attention.
The other stuff
The longevity of Encens Suave is solid, lasting about eight hours or so from application.
Encens Suave feels like the sort of scent which really lends itself to the cooler months, when you need something to keep the chill away, and it does that really well. It is, though, easy to imagine this humming beautifully off skin in summer though, and as far as incense scents go, it’s light enough that you could probably wear it at least three seasons if not four (I’m basing that on UK weather though).
Encens Suave isn’t a scent which appears to project hugely. To around handshake distance or thereabouts, particularly a couple of hours into the wear when it stays quite conservative.
The vibe of Matiere Premiere is modern but classic, French elegance with a modern ease. The bottles are sleek, unfussy and will appeal to all genders with their well-designed minimalism. There’s nothing crass or blingy about the bottles and they appeal all the more for that.
As mentioned, the premise is that the perfumer, Aurelien Guichard, takes a hero note: incense, rose, sandalwood, and allows it to really star in the composition. I very much appreciate this approach, especially when coupled – as it is here – by beautiful, high quality materials. The hero note in each scent is held aloft by a supporting cast who act as counterpoints to whatever that star material is. At the same time though, Guichard manages to not only showcase a specific ingredient, but say something new with it too. The whole line is very admirable perfumery and the sort of scents that people note and recognise the quality of, even if they aren’t fragrance connoisseurs themselves.
Encens Suave is available from the Matiere Premiere web boutique where it is priced at 29 euros for 6ml (which comes in an adorable little splash bottle with additional spray attachment) or 190 euros for 100ml of EdP concentration.
Matiere Premiere kindly gifted a discovery set of their fragrances with no strings attached.
Header image by Max Michatz on Unsplash, bottle image by The Sniff.
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