Blog post by Gwen

Basilica – herbal and incense-y and woody

I’ve been writing about fragrances for over a decade now, and I’ve seen fragrance trends come and go and come back again and one category that has remained popular over time is church scents - those evocative fragrances that conjure up the bells, the garments, the cold stone, the chanting and the smells associated with worship. It’s not surprising really since church scents are incense-based, because incense has been used for centuries in religious worship, ceremony, and meditation in religions around the world. Yep, the resinous, smoky, woody smell of incense definitely has mass appeal.
I must confess, this fragrance category has always been a favourite of mine as I seem to have a habit of buying ‘churchy’ scents: Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon, Serge Lutens’ La Religieuse, Etro’s Messe de Minuit, Helley’s Cardinal, L'Artisan Parfumeur’ Passage d'Enfer and Séville à l’Aube, Laboratorio Olfattivo's Sacreste and Byredo’s Encens Chembur. Like any perfume collector, I read reviews religiously, looking for my next favourite fragrance so when I discovered Basilica from Italian niche line Milano Fragranze I knew I had found it.
Founded in 2020, Milano Fragranze, is a spin-off of Masque Milano. The line is under the direction of Alessandro Brun, who was born and raised in Milan. Each fragrance in the Milano Fragranze line represents a place in Milan. Basilica EDP was inspired by the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio located in the center of the city. Built in 379–386 by St. Ambrose, the church has become a symbol of history, faith and worship for Milanese. And this fragrance captures the spirit of the basilica beautifully.
The opening is bright and herbal from thyme and camphourous rosemary. The way these two herbs are presented borders on medicinal, until they are smoothed by a note of softly sweet warm milk. Warm milk! It’s a familiar scent that smells like a hug feels – comforting and calming. I relax right into it. A few beats later and the milk ignites the amber warmth of labdanum. And when its resinous aspect links up with resinous, smoky incense, deep memories start to swim up to my consciousness. The base is woody from cypriol, balsamy cedarwood and rich sandalwood. It’s the woods that bring the memories into focus. My child-self is in church – the cool open space, the warmth of the candles, the smell of the incense, sunshine streaming through stained glass windows, the wooden pews, and the rich, full sounds of the organ fill the space. I scan the choir, and my eyes settle on my mother, singing there. I lean over and rest my head on my father’s arm. I feel at home in this sacred place.
Like other church scents, Basilica is more about how it makes you feel than how it makes you smell – that’s where its beauty lies – and likely explains why this fragrance category never goes out of fashion.

Check out Basilica in our Shop.