The minute that La Liturgie des Heures reached the perimeters of my olfactory radar, all I could think of is how to find a way to integrate a bottle into my collection. Incense is, to this day, a fragrance note that intrigues me to no end and after hearing Sebastian Jara and Dalya’s description of it, the desire to obtain La Liturgie increased exponentially. Now, I must admit that I’m not excessively familiar with catholic liturgy itself; however I am aware of the smell of burnt frankincense and myrrh.
The idea behind the name of this fragrance made me picture a thurible being rocked from one side to the other, spreading the smoke of incense inside a cathedral somewhere in Europe during the late medieval period. It’s a glamorized vision of liturgy in progress, taken from a Netflix movie where the antagonist happens to be a feudal lord sitting there while a member of the clergy swinging that container full of incandescent drops during mass and… did I take it too far?
To make the story short, the specimen that finally reached my impetuous hands here at the confines of the tropics came all the way from Armenia, no less, and took months to arrive. Can you imagine it being carried through Ottoman routs and shipped on Venetian vessels and through who-knows which other merchant outposts until it arrived? I did. Why would I put myself through the despair of waiting for something to appear from such a distant land? It only adds to the excitement.
To my surprise, when I sprayed the scent on my skin a shock wave of coniferous, thick, green cypress filled my airways. The incense is also very noticeable, with the labdanum and myrrh playing a supporting role whose purpose, I think, is to give some warmth to what would otherwise be a very cold mixture of notes. The cypress stays with you for a good amount of time until it recedes to the power of frankincense et all. Finally, some six hours after spraying it, the musk takes control until the end, around eight hours after initial application.
Upon first impression, my brain compared the experience to every other instance where I have been exposed to the smell of pine needles, either natural or synthetic. Then, just before I was ready to declare it a cypress fest and close the case for good, I understood the plot my mind was eager to unravel: La Liturgie des Heures is not about dry incense resin being ritualistically burnt by monks. It is about the resins being harvested somewhere in Somalia or Yemen. Imagine the boswellia tree dispensing its aromatic sap while you are caressed by its green leaves while picking. This is it!
The smell of fresh resins, collected and processed only to be shipped to faraway places where it will be cherished as an exotic product worthy of religious purposes. A cloud of fresh terpenes surrounds you, occasionally dispersed by the arid wind carrying the scent of the sap drops already dried at the other end of the field. Somewhere around the facilities someone is testing the quality of the last harvest as well, burning just a little bit before declaring the batch ready for export.
I have never been near an incense tree and it is certainly not a kind of conifer species. Its leaves do not even resemble those of the cypress and I am sure that there is a big chance that, in reality, the experience of harvesting frankincense does not resemble this, at least on an olfactory level, but that note cypress is what allows me to imagine a very different scene from the one that originally crossed my mind, giving sense to what my nose undergoes when wearing La Liturgie.
It is amazing how our perception of smell allows us to savor situations that we have never experienced. La Liturgie de Heures didn’t deliver the obscurantist church novel I envisioned, but it made my imagination travel to wherever the frankincense tree is planted and its sap harvested, painting a scene from the stoy of incense right where it starts its journey, and that is a marvel on itself.
Name: La Liturgie des Heures
House: Jovoy Paris
Concentration: Eau de parfum
Nose: Jacques Flori
Release Year: 2011
Category: Aromatic oriental
Reviewed Batch: Unknown
From personal colletion.