You can really play a game of scent roulette when gifting a candle. One person’s fresh floral is another’s potent, powdery, grandma-esque bouquet. There is a lot of room for error, even with the best of intentions. It’s annoying that this process is so tricky, considering the gift of a beautiful smelling room is a very thoughtful intention.
We’d like to make the argument for the oft-overlooked but aromatic-worthy purchase of incense this holiday season. Frequently associated with ceremonial or meditation practices, the new breeds of incense are lighting their own paths, showcasing clever scent blends and packaging design that is nothing but entirely modern.
Incense literally means “to burn” in Latin (fun fact around your Thanksgiving table should you need a topic of safe conversation). First created by the ancient Egyptians, incense were burned to obscure rank scents, “deter” demons, and please the gods. It was then adapted by the Babylonians as precious offerings, and finally closer to 1300 BCE, it was used in India for its pleasurable aroma.
Since what’s old is new again, we’re learning to appreciate incense all over again. One brand that caught our eye is Floraiku. Japan-inspired and handmade in Paris, Floraiku was created by the expert perfumiers and co-founders of the niche brand Memo Paris, John and Clara Molloy. The recently launched brand is all about ceremony—both in the everyday sense of getting ready and those special occasion situations. Mixing poetry and natural ingredients, the brand is focused on a handful of fragrances, each with distinctive visual identity and personality. In honor of that Japanese ceremony and clear visual identity, Floraiku launched an Incense Kit ($70) in alignment with the care and thoughtfulness the brand delivers.
The 60 sticks in the kit will last longer than you anticipate, too. Each stick will burn a potent scent for about 5 to 7 minutes. And because it’s from a fragrance brand, it’s actually a scent you’ll be happy to linger for hours. The purple sticks are a fresh violet; the yellow are potent English rose; the green are a subtle, hypnotic lily scent.
Variety is the spice of life, so here are a few other mesmerizingly fragrant brands that are lighting our rooms lately. Cult-status hair care brand Oribe just launched a line of incense in the same iconic perfumed scent as what’s in all their products. It might sound like an unusual venture for a brand so dedicated to cool-girl hair to slide into home fragrance, but one whiff and you’ll wonder why they did do it 10 years earlier, at the inception of the brand. The Côte d’Azur Incense set ($65) comes with 50 sticks and one very chic bronze incense holder. A sure winner for that beauty fan in your life.
Prefer a French classic to brighten up your room? Grab Astier de Villatte for a one-of-a-kind gift. The brand still handmakes each product in their Bastille workshop in the same traditional practices from generations ago. Their incense though are a collaboration with Françoise Caron and made in Japan. While each scent is special, we’ve recently fallen for one in particular—Opera ($50), which is a heavenly smell of sandalwood and honey.
Incense 101? Light the tip of the stick and then blow out the flame immediately. As soon as a wisp of smoke begins to flow, place the opposite end of the incense into your holder. The hypnotic practice of an incense romantically burning is a calming meditation in itself. So, we say, give the gift of history, thoughtfulness and elevated scent this year. Your gift recipient will practically light up with joy.