Frankincense Perfume Ingredient: What is It? What Does It Smell Like?

Frankincense is a woody, oriental-scented resin used in perfumery and aromatherapy for thousands of years. Known for its connection with spirituality, frankincense also often figures in religious and spiritual rites.

The frankincense smell resembles spices and red pepper, with subtle hints of citrus and even honey. It’s often mixed with rosemary, sage, geranium, and myrrh for a unique olfactory experience in male and female fragrances alike.

What is Frankincense?

Frankincense, or Boswellia Sacra, is an aromatic resin found underneath the bark of the Boswellia tree genus. Only five species of Boswellia produce pure frankincense resin, whose smell is influenced by the harvest.

They grow in North and Western Africa, as well as India and Yemen due to their arid weather conditions.

A frankincense tree can take up to ten years to fully mature. That’s when harvesters can extract the protective resin emerging from underneath the bark through the frankincense tears.

Frankincense trees have been prized for their incense notes since ancient times, dating back 6,000 years. In fact, the frankincense essential oil has been mentioned in the Bible as one of the three gifts offered to newborn Jesus, along with myrrh and gold.

Looking back two millennia ago, it was once more valuable than gold itself!

Today, the frankincense essential oil is used in religious ceremonies throughout the Arabian peninsula, much like its close relative, myrrh. However, you can also enjoy it in a candle, reed diffuser, or during aromatherapy sessions.

What Does Frankincense Smell Like?

Few fragrance ingredients compare to the earthy scent of frankincense oil. Its smell is often described as woody and balsamic with notes as sweet as natural honey.

Interestingly enough, these essential oils can also smell like spices, such as rosemary. While some associate it with red pepper, others detect a green peppery smell, further amplifying its uniqueness.

The versatility of these scents increased frankincense’s popularity over time. You can even experience a citrus, lemon-like smell of frankincense in an aromatic candle or a warm, exotic fragrance.

What Scent Family is Frankincense?

Frankincense belongs to the oriental family, emitting an intense, exotic smell. Most plants and extracts from this category inspire mystery and elegance and they’re often used to create a seductive, yet relaxing atmosphere.

The earthy notes of this gum resin also place it in the woody oriental subcategory, much like sandalwood and patchouli. Thus, the intensity makes frankincense smell perfect for a rich, seductive incense

Perfumers often combine its spicy incense with the following smells:

  • Light oceanic notes
  • Bergamot
  • Geranium
  • Patchouli
  • Sage
  • Lavender-scented rosemary

What are the Benefits of Frankincense?

Aside from its unforgettable smell, frankincense tree extract also offers valuable health benefits, such as:

  • Reducing arthritis symptoms. Researchers confirmed that the frankincense extract can reduce unpleasant symptoms of osteoarthritis. Boswellic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties, which slow down age-related loss of cartilage.
  • Protecting the respiratory system. The boswellic acid extracted from frankincense resins reduces symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.
  • Preventing dental issues. Studies showed that chewing gum with frankincense can help prevent gum disease by reducing oral bacteria.

Is Frankincense Feminine or Masculine Scent?

The smell of frankincense resins is deep, rich, and woody, making it perfect for bold, masculine perfumes. Perfumers enjoy mixing its spice aroma with exotic citrus base notes for a fresh, yet elegant scent.

Nevertheless, you’ll find the smell of frankincense in some of the most successful feminine fragrances as well. 

The incense inspires elegance and mystery, two qualities associated with a powerful woman (which is exactly how Coco Chanel used it for the Noir perfume). 

However, perfumers such as Ralph Lauren have mixed it with flower extracts like iris for a more pleasant aroma that inspires romance and delicacy.

Best Perfumes with Frankincense Notes

The unique scent of frankincense has made it a star ingredient in perfumery. You can experience its aromatic notes in the following fragrances:

1. Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady

Labeled as a “modern classic,” this floral perfume features Turkish rose and clove as its top notes. The base notes of amber and musk add a touch of mystery, while its middle hint of patchouli and incense make it perfect for the cold season.

2. Chanel Coco Noir

One of the most acclaimed perfumes on the list, Coco Noir is a mesmerizing mix between woody tones and exotic citrus. The base notes of frankincense and white musk bring out the soft delicacy of jasmine and rose. 

The perfume is topped with scents of bergamot and orange, turning this option into an elegant masterpiece for ladies.

3. Serge Lutens L’Eau Froide

Contrary to its heavy, woody base smell, this perfume is ideal for warm summer days. 

Its top scents of fresh mint blend with the ocean aroma, thus inspiring a calming, sea breeze scent. 

Both frankincense and musk add a touch of spice and warmth, which makes this perfume an ideal unisex option.

The Bottom Line

Frankincense is one of the protective compounds of the Boswellia tree genus. The essential oils obtained from these trees are used in religious rituals, massage therapy, and perfumes. 

They’re also prized for their health benefits.

Once distilled, the oil resulting from frankincense trees becomes a unique blend of scents, ranging from spicy and woody, to sweet and exotic. This quality makes frankincense a top choice for timeless perfumes that inspire elegance and mystery for both genders.