a review of Andy Tauer’s “Incense Extrème”
Imagine – a film noir Friday night in November, with rain-slick streets full of people out for a good time, the kind of Friday night you just know something will happen. You can taste the possibilities in the air.
Imagine a woman – not old, not young, disillusioned with her life and all the hopes she has been forced to leave behind her, sitting in a near-deserted blues café in Copenhagen over a glass of mulled wine near midnight, thinking about the one-knight stand she just left. She’s also thinking about the one thing that gives her any hope for a future of her choosing, thinking about making that hope a reality. But if she knows anything, she knows the deck is stacked against her. She’s too old, too jaded, too guarded against the vicissitudes of life to really, truly believe in that one, last hope.
Which is when the Devil arrives to make a deal, to make her dream come true. He doesn’t show up with horns and hooves in a cloud of sulphur and brimstone, he doesn’t look anything like those stereotypical monster images of ‘The Devil’. Instead, he’s dangerous bait – a dead ringer for one of her own favorite erotic fantasies, and even so, she knows…he’s the Devil. How does she know?
She can smell it.
The Devil, you see, emanates a scent. And the woman in that Copenhagen café is a diehard perfumoholic, so she knows to take that scent apart. There’s frankincense in it and labdanum, something dark and bitter, something highly erotic and very, very dangerous.
The perfect recipe for trouble!
When I wrote a nothing little short story called “Midnight at the Crossroads Café” some time ago, it happened by ghostly dictation. I sat down in front of my laptop with an itch to write, inspired by a picture that really got my motor running – and wrote. I didn’t think, didn’t analyze, didn’t weigh my words at all. Somewhere along the line in the two hours it took to write it, the Devil’s scent arrived and never left, weaving the seductive trail of its character in and out of the storyline that followed just as other perfumes did, because that’s the kind of woman the protagonist is and that’s the kind of woman I am, too.
I’ve been hunting for that scent ever since. In that quest, I came across Andy Tauer’s “Incense Extrème”. One of the ultimate incense scents along with the Comme des Garçons line, so the story went, and it went on the shortlist of Things To Try.
On a trip to Copenhagen, I drove my sister nuts by hauling her to a shop and proceeding to try out the Comme des Garçons incenses – Avignon, Zagorsk and Kyoto. I liked all of them, but they were too…orthodox in their approach, too literal in their interpretation. They are all exceptional incenses in each their own ways, but no Devil resides in those bottles, no intimations of taboo drip from those liturgical nozzles of sanctity.
Incense Extrème shares the same evocative sense of sacred space with its three cousins, but I’m delighted to say there’s nothing in the slightest liturgical about it.
In this cynical age, we’re all too likely to forget that for our ancestors, incense was what divinity…smelled like.
With that first, potent spray, Incense Extrème takes you…there. Not beneath the soaring Gothic arches of some venerable cathedral, but there, far out in the desert beneath the light of a million stars, the sands whispering their nocturnal secrets as an old, spiky Boswellia bleeds its fragrant tears.
This is no shy, retiring incense that flirts and hints before it retreats, yet neither does it bludgeon you with dogma as the CdG’s are apt to do.
Like the tree that is its focus, Incense Extrème is timeless. The cedar and juniper, the coriander and a suggestion of petitgrain leap out of the bottle shocking you awake and aware. Orris is listed as one of the notes, but if that’s true, this is no relation to any other orris I’ve been privileged to meet. No carroty, buttery iris, no suggestion of anything the slightest bit floral. Instead, that radioactive cedar/juniper blend evolves from an aria at the beginning to a low, vibrant thrum, underpinned by a bitter, smoky labdanum and ambergris that keeps the incense floating and weaving throughout the top notes all the way to the far drydown that doesn’t arrive until a good six to eight hours later.
It is linear but not boring, dry as a desert wind, and thanks to that cedar and juniper, the brittle green-brown of desert sage. Very contemplative and serene, in fact I’ll go so far as to say this is my kind of chill pill. Wearing Incense Extréme, I can handle nearly anything life might throw my way.
Yet it is not the Devil’s scent. It’s very clean, very refined, very…civilized. With a touch of animal, slightly less cedar and more labdanum, a faint but distinct whiff of, well, goat, it could have been.
I don’t care. For the days when I need stainless steel armor for protection, for an evening I need serenity, for the nights I need to focus, I need Incense Extrème.
Yesterday, if I can get it!
Notes according to Basenotes:
Orris, cedar, Indian frankincense, ambergris, myrrh, labdanum, coriander, cumin, lavender