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Agarbathi – incensy and spicy and woody

Oh, Penhaligon's, when we first met, it was love at first sniff. That love burned bright for a long time, but like all relationships, we've had our ups and downs, our ebbs and flows. But we've hung in there, and our commitment has paid off, with some of the best fragrances produced by any niche line in the last few years, like Agarbathi.

Whenever I get a whiff of this men’s EdP, it's like falling in love over all again.

Agarbathi is part of Penhaligon's 'Trade Routes Collection', which was inspired by scents of the London docks at the turn of the 19th century, where ships carrying booze, fabric, spices, fruit and flowers from foreign lands would unload their treasures. Each fragrance in the collection was inspired by a different trade route and its origins in the 19th century. Agarbathi is an olfactive voyage to the temples of India.

Agarbathi is named for the brightly coloured incense sticks that are used in Hindu rituals.

In a press release, nose Alex Lee, who created Agabathi explains, 'Agarbathi is meant to transport one inside an Indian temple. I wanted to create the smell of sandalwood and burning incense sticks dancing with the intoxicating sillage of jasmine garlands donned by the worshippers. In the background, there is the smell of milk being offered to the Hindu Gods.'

Agarbathi opens with bright bergamot followed by the woody scent of Palo Santo. Palo Santo is an aromatic holy wood with gorgeous fruity, balsamy, spicy, citrus and incensy aspects, and I get hints of them all here. Pink pepper amps up the spicy, herbal aspects of the Palo Santo while also adding a rosy nuance. As it progresses, the smell of incense becomes woody and smoky and smells of ritual and ceremony in a way that keeps you present in the moment. And then, Agarbathi gets milky – sweet and a little spicy, like masala chai. It's is the perfect counterpoint to the heady incense and the ideal way to usher lead in a note of jasmine. The jasmine here is sweet, opulent and indolic. It’s seductively fragrant and surprisingly fitting in scent made for men. A base of fragrant woods anchors it all. Woody vetiver; milky, soft, creamy, sandalwood and the rich warm intensely balsamic aroma of Canadian fir. A suede accord adds a velvety, soft sensuality to the base.

Agarbathi dries down to a soft, spicy, incensy, woody scent that stays close to the skin. This is a fragrance that takes its time to develop fully, revealing itself over time, but the reward is so worth the waiting.  

What makes it so special so that it doesn't smell like a Hindu temple on your skin so much as it smells as though you are walking around inside a Hindu temple, experiencing each scent and smell as you go through it.

I read on Penhaligon's website that the ritual taking place in Agarbathi's temple was a wedding, 'with Garlands of Himalayan Jasmine, God's own flower, hang ready outside, for the wedding festival to adorn the heads of guests.'

With Agarbathi, I think Penhaligon's and I have just renewed our vows. And I think we are going to live happily ever after.

Agarbathi is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Photo - Courtesy of Penhaligon's