Friday, April 3, 2009
A Clumsily-Written Love Letter to Encens Flamboyant
It’s been nearly two weeks since Julie turned me on to the magnificence that is Annick Goutal’s Encens Flamboyant. We had a little perfume party at her house a few Saturdays ago, after meeting up at the Zen Center we both attend. It was a good day, and I enjoyed it immensely. Julie lives out in the middle of nowhere, and you have to drive on all sorts of windy back roads through hills and farmland to get there. It’s a gorgeous drive that was all the more pleasurable because the weather was perfect – sunny and crisp, so that the cool March air blowing into my open car window just barely cut through my thin Army surplus jacket, teasing my skin awake. Like I said … perfect.
Once we got to Julie’s house, I got to smell dozens of really cool perfumes, many of which I’d love to spend more time sampling. I sniffed Safran Troublant and Arabie and Ambre Sultan and Jicky and Frapin 1270 and Passage d’Enfer and A.G.’s Neroli and Dzongka! and Dzing! and Timbuktu and so many other interesting fragrances. I made paper samples of them, and will probably try them all more extensively down the line. It was just really fun and exciting to expose my nose to so many new scent experiences. By far, though, the star of the day was Encens Flamboyant. It was the first thing Julie had me smell, and it’s what I was wearing when I left for the day. She was even kind enough to send me home with a largish spray sample (as well as a small bottle of Eau d’Orange Verte moisturizing lotion, which I’ve been enjoying along with my own bottle of the cologne – thanks!).
Encens Flamboyant was more than love at first sniff. It was absolute ecstatic bliss at first sniff. I can understand why Julie has been so anxious to read my review. She got to see the effect the stuff had on me … the way I couldn’t keep from pressing my nose to my wrist every few seconds, because it was just too damn good to resist. What I have been able to resist is writing about it. I find it much easier to write about things I hate or only marginally like than about things I love. Loving something creates pressure, makes me feel that whatever I write won’t be able to do justice to the beloved thing itself. How can mere words ever convey that quality that lifts a sense experience beyond “Yes, that is nice,” and into the territory of “Holy Christ, that’s unbelievable!”
The top of Encens Flamboyant is as close to perfect as I think any fragrance could be, with the rich, smoky frankincense, the freshness of the balsam fir, and the peppery spices that make the back of my throat tingle. I thought Terre d’Hermes smelled deep and meditative, but this has it beat, hands down. Encens Flamboyant smells like the most meticulously crafted incense imaginable being burnt under a clear starlit sky at the top the most secluded, pristine, coniferous mountaintop in the world. I wanted everything I own - no, everything I touch - to smell like Encens Flamboyant.
I don’t know why they called it “flamboyant,” which makes me think of the fabulousness of drag queens or the trashiness of Vegas. If I had named this, I would have called it Samadhi (“meditative absorption”), even though, just like Shiseido’s Zen and Guerlain’s Samsara, the name would have been mocked by Rod over at The Worst Horse (a great, funny blog that documents the intersection of Buddhism and popular culture, including the all-too-common crass misuse of Buddhist terminology and imagery in marketing). I don’t care. If satori had a smell, that smell would be Encens Flmaboyant.
I’m used to wearing colognes and eaux de toilette, so it was a surprise to me how long this eau de parfum lasts. I put some on yesterday afternoon, and I could still smell it when I woke up this morning. I think a trace of it may have even lingered after my shower. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t know. I put more on this morning, and am still loving it.
If I have any criticism of Encens Flamboyant at all, it’s that the base is a touch too smooth and sweet for me. I would prefer for some of that delicious pine to stay put through the drydown. If I’d made this, I would have put some cedar at the bottom, so it maintained a little bit of bite throughout. That said, even the somewhat powdery base of this composition smells wonderful. And the pine and peppery notes I like so much do hang around for quite a while. The heart of this fragrance probably lasts longer than the entire lifespan of many others I’ve tried.
Image note: A Shinto shrine clouded with incense smoke.