Naomi Goodsir Bois d’Ascèse, 2012

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(image Erykah Badu in Naomi Goodsir hat)

Perfumer Julien Rasquinet.

Bois d’Ascese is a good, solid fragrance. It’s handsome. It smells like frankincense. I love frankincense. Most people do.

There’s the hazard.

Bois d’Ascese falls prey to the Amber Trap. Take a ‘ready-made’ botanical such as frankincense or labdanum (or rose, or vetiver…). Then build a fragrance around the central component by applying olfactory make-up. Enhance it. Detail it. Build a Greek chorus around it for christ’s sake. Just make sure it’s dead center and don’t stray off course. This style of sola-nota perfumery is conservative by definition. It’s what has lead every niche house to have an unmistakeable Amber which very often is nearly indistinguishable from any other house’s Amber

I can’t argue with the fragrance. It’s lovely and smells wonderful. But to say that the perfumer has made frankincense beautiful is like saying that the make-up artist made Cary Grant handsome. I know that it puts perfumer Julien Rasquinet and designer Naomi Goodsir in the spotlight, but releasing a frankincense perfume in the niche perfumery market is not far conceptually from making a fresh aquatic for the mainstream men’s perfume market.

Naomi Goodsir convinces me that niche in perfumery means the same thing that ‘young’ and ‘modern’ mean in fashion–code for the most recent iteration of an easily identified item.

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