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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Desert King: Tauer Perfumes Incense Extreme

By Donna

I have always associated the smell of wood with pleasant things and happy memories.

Perhaps I should explain.

When I was growing up, my father had a little woodworking shop set up in our barn. I loved the smell of freshly cut and planed wood, which he would fashion into decorative art objects. At Christmas, we usually had a Balsam Fir, the best tree of all, and it was so aromatic that even the wood of the trunk smelled better than that of other, inferior trees. Its soft needles were blissfully delicious. I also think of horses when I smell sawdust or wood chips, as both are often used as bedding in their stalls. The hot, sweet smell of a horse’s skin is just about my favorite smell in the world, so naturally the connection is a pleasing one. And of course, since I spent my childhood in the country, I equate trees with the freedom of being able to run wild in the nearby forest all summer. I wish every child could have that experience.

So what has this got to do with perfume? Andy Tauer has once again created a memory fragrance that brings me to another place and time. The very first thing I thought of when I smelled it was a place I once visited when I was a child. We went to see a young couple that was building a brand new house. I grew up living in a drafty old house from Colonial times, and all our relatives and most of our friends lived in old houses too – this was New England, after all. I had never actually been inside a brand-new building before. It was a heady blend of sensations indeed – freshly sawn lumber, fresh paint and optimism. It was a happy day and the couple we were visiting was so nice, and so were their children, that we all hated to leave. I remember asking my father if we could go see them again someday, but we never did. I sometimes think of that day as one of those times that stands out in the memory for some reason, but I had not thought about it for a long time until I put Tauer Perfumes Incense Extrême on my skin. It zapped me right back there like a liquid time machine.

I am a big fan of Andy Tauer’s work, and I love both of his previous “masculine” scents, L’Air du Desert Marocain and Lonestar Memories. Both of them evoke desert landscapes; the first, a masterpiece in my opinion, is like an encapsulated day in the Arabian desert, from warm sunrise though the burning day and into the cool of the evening. The second is a meditation on the idea of the American West, redolent of campfire smoke and leather, and bringing to mind tumbleweeds and cowboys. Incense Extrême Eau de Parfum is incredibly dry and woody, even austere. It is an arid environment of another kind. I would say it is a petrified forest, an abstract idea of a desert, a painted landscape of frankincense and cedar colored with spices.

This is one of the driest perfumes I have ever smelled. Once it warms up and gets into the heart notes, a bit of orris provides just a touch of something soft, but it’s not really sweet – more like little spot of shade in the expanse of the sun-baked composition. It never gets to the point of being an orris fragrance; it’s just a constant, subtle undertone. The incense part has little to do with fire; this frankincense seems to still be on the tree, with the hardened resin oozing out and drying in the merciless Sirocco wind. The cedar accord is one of the finest I have ever smelled, stately and noble. As for the spice – what is it? I thought I detected a little saffron, some coriander seed, just a touch of cumin and something that smells like the dried sumac powder used to flavor Arabian cuisine, but it never gets anywhere close to smelling like actual food. The spice part is an elusive trail, enticing and wispy, and it keeps vanishing and reappearing in new ways. Trying to figure out the mix of spices kept my nose constantly pressed to my arm while I wore this scent. The fact that it is anchored by ambergris was another delight. This works seamlessly well with the orris to polish the fragrance into a serene and elegant whole.

Let me quote Andy, from the copy on the sample card: “I wanted to create an incense that is intense and clear. A minimalist, cubist interpretation of incense, a touch of spices, powdery orris, dry cedar wood and ambergris, supporting the frankincense, that is rich, crisp, red and intense.”

Well, I would say that he got exactly what he was aiming for. No one else does dry fragrances quite like Andy does, in my experience anyway. I suppose this could be a unisex scent, but I think of it (and the other two I mentioned ) as leaning more to the masculine side due to the nearly complete absence of sweetness or floral notes. It has taken me a while to really learn to appreciate non-floral perfumes in general, but when they are done this well, I can understand why so many people prefer this style of fragrance. I think I might just follow a man who wears this into the desert night without looking back.

Tauer Perfumes are available in the U.S.A. exclusively at Luckyscent. For another take on this one, please read Tom’s post from January.

Image credit: Frankincense tree from


Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Gads, this sounds wonderful......I think I'm in love. Just like you, I've always been mad about the smell of wood, any form of it. Wood from the desert, the shavings in my horses stalls, you name it , I love it especially Christmas trees. I must get a sample of this.....just your words alone reminded me of Viggo Mortenson in "Hidalgo", racing that gorgeous painted mustang across the Arabian desert. Thanks for the fantasy:)

10:33 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Donna, I have read so many reviews of this that said it was just "OK" and that it was very short lived and stays close to the skin. You can imagine that I wasn't expecting much from it. When I got my sample recently (I won it from Andy's blog), I swooned! This is a heartbreakingly beautiful scent. It is as clear and uncomplicated as the notes from the song of a mockingbird, cutting through the early morning silence before people are up and about. When I wear this I feel raised up above the clouds, above the mundane world.

This lasts all day on me and I must have a bottle of it!

11:35 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I need to go back and retry this one.. I liked it, but I think I got a lot more orris than you did.

I think we grew up in the same place! We also had one of those rambly old houses that went from circa 18-whatever in the front to 1960's in the back. I had a friend who had a new, split level house that I thought was just the living end...

12:28 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth, I think we must be scent twins! Not to mention fellow Viggo fans. Obviously we both have flawless good taste. ;-)

12:54 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelley, I read those reviews as well, but on me it just gets better the longer I wear it, and it stays a long time. I was expecting that perhaps it would get sweeter as time went on, as so many scents do, but it never did, and that's just fine. Even as dry as it is, it just kept going and going. (I will concede that it does not have quite the lasting power of Lonestar Memories - but then, nothing else does.)

Your lovely description is right on the money, too - this is the scent of the best kind of solitude.

1:06 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I got some orris but all that wood and resin kept it under control. Like the spices, it peeked out once in a while and was then subsumed by the "desert accord."

I have you beat, century-wise - our house was built in 1790. There was horsehair in the wall plaster - it helped make it stronger I guess. I am still not used to living in a house built in the 20th century - no root cellar!

1:12 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gorgeous review, Donna. I wanted to try this scent before, but your beautiful description pushes me to the edge. MUST try this NOW! :)

8:42 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A knock out review - I loved reading this thanks! (especially that last line - I feel that way about Lonestar.)I need to try this again. It was very pungent on me but I very much liked the dryness and absence of floral or fruity notes (not that I dislike those notes, far from it). It is slightly penitential in a forgiving way. Mm, yes, need to revisit.

9:47 AM EST  
Blogger kamala said...

wonderful review!
i'm with you on the wood scents - i used to spend hours in the woods near my house when i was a kid, and those woods not only figure into some of my best memories, but also some of my most memorable dreams. cedar, especially, when done well in a scent, just makes me swoon, so of course, now i have to get a sample of this to try!

12:18 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful review! I also love, love the smell of Christmas trees. The notes sound wonderful; I can't wait to sample this.

12:37 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an evocative review! You make this sound wonderful (another lemming, thanks so much...).
Flora, I remember as a small child being very disturbed by that horsehair in the plaster walls. I thought there was a body buried in the walls, with the hair sticking out in spots.

(My confirmation today is "vomfab".)


12:45 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suzanne, thank you! Always happy to be a perfume enabler... :-)

3:43 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donanicola, thank you very much! Lonestar has much the same effect on me as well, but I think he is a little hairier than the guy in my Incense Extreme scenario. ;-)

3:46 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Kamala - I dream scents too! One of my favorites is the one where I can smell the delicious sharpness of the peony garden next to my great-aunt's house when I was a young child. It's like I am actually there.

3:50 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Denise, I think you will really like it!

3:51 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Existentialist, I know you all "needed" another lemming, glad to oblige. :-D

(When I waa kid I wondered about the horsehair too - I think I was very relieved to find out that it was not human!)

3:54 PM EST  

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