A sea of pine trees as far as the eye can see, half covered with snow, half green-grey and reflecting the cold winter light. Pine cones and needles blanket the forest floor, releasing their fresh, pungent, resinous oil with every crunching footstep. A thin stream of white smoke issues from a nearby church, its ancient stones protecting its darkened, dusty inner sanctum where priests are getting ready for Mass. They light the candles for Vespers and burn the myrrh. It’s time for the one of the oldest canonical rituals of the Catholic Church, the Liturgy of the Hours.
That is the vision which comes to mind when I wear Jovoy Paris‘ fragrance, La Liturgie des Heures (hereinafter “Liturgie des Heures” or just “Liturgie.”) Most hardcore perfumistas have heard of Jovoy, a Paris boutique that is a mecca for buying the most high-end, exclusive or rare fragrances, but what many people don’t know is that Jovoy was once a perfume house. As Luckyscent explains, Jovoy was founded in 1923 by Blanche Arvoy and “was known for selling perfumes for the ‘gentlemen’s nieces’, a polite way Parisian dandies described buying gifts for their mistresses[.]” Amusingly, Jovoy itself candidly admits to this twist in its past:
The perfumes of the early hours of Jovoy were made for the mistresses of the Paris of the Roaring Twenties. In other world, opulent fragrance for women who wanted to be seen, using in quantities prohibited by modern law, raw material now often missing.
Though the house declined in the bleak years of the Depression and ended completely during WWII, it was resurrected in 2006 by Francois Hénin who launched a new range of fragrances. In 2011, La Liturgie des Heures joined their ranks. It is an eau de parfum that was created by Robertet perfumer, Jacques Flori, and which is described by Francois Hénin as evoking “the image of an old monastery where the scent of burning incense fills the air just like the chanting of daily prayers.” Fragrantica lists its notes as follows:
Top notes: fresh green notes, cypress
Heart notes: incense, olibanum [frankincense], cistus [labdanum], myrrh
Base notes: musk
La Liturgie des Heures opens on my skin with a burst of pine trees, incense and green notes, followed by traces of a sweet, almost nutty myrrh, slightly leathered labdanum, and musk. One is transported to a cold, pine forest covered by crisp snow, but I have to admit, the notes are a little too reminiscent of pure pine oil and verge on a non-chemical version of Pine-Sol household cleaner. There is almost an oily feel to the pine, as if you had just mashed up the tree’s needles in your hands, leaving a strong, overly fragrant, concentrated oil behind. The aroma feels a little odd juxtaposed next to the leather undertones and the very cold, dry, vaguely dusty undertones of High Church incense. Yet, once you wrap your head around the combination, it almost feels pleasant.
As the minutes pass, the undertones of frankincense, myrrh and leather undulate, swaying from the foreground to the background. Sometimes, Liturgie smells like nothing more than a Christmas tree; at other times, the subtle touch of sweetness from the myrrh and churchy incense meet the pine notes head-on. Thirty minutes in, the base notes rise fully to the surface and the perfume becomes sweeter, more layered, and less like Pine-Sol oil. The myrrh turns the frankincense warmer, less dusty and arid, while the leather adds touches of a darker, almost leathery resin to the pine. A subtle, clean muskiness joins the trio and, flickering in the background, a subtle whiff of soapiness.
Liturgie continues on for another two hours as a warm, slightly sweetened, incense-infused, resinous pine tree scent with fluctuating levels of soapiness and musk. By the third hour, however, the clean white musk has grown in strength. Sharp and synthetic, it makes Liturgie feel a lot like Heeley‘s Cardinal, especially now that the pine note has receded to the background. I truly can’t stand synthetic white musk, let alone soapiness, and both elements form a strong backdrop to the scent. By the middle of the sixth hour, La Liturgie des Heures is primarily centered around nutty myrrh, ambered labdanum, and the sweet church incense — all infused with soap and clean, white musk.
The fragrance sticks on its linear course for another few hours, until it fades away to an amorphous, abstract, musky, clean sweetness. All in all, Liturgie lasted 8.25 hours on my skin and with moderate-to-low sillage. Others, however, have reported significantly less time, with one commentator on Basenotes writing that “[p]rojection is on the low side of average and longevity is well below average at 2-3 hours on skin.”
Liturgie wasn’t my cup of tea, and my feelings for it strongly parallel those of Freddie from Smelly Thoughts whose brief review reads as follows:
La Liturgie des Heures opens not too dissimilar to April Aromatics’ Calling All Angels, with its dry woods and incense, only this is a touch more peppery, and more “sticky”. Along with the overload of bitter resins and incense – bits of harsh greenery cut through it: pine and cypress mainly… a mix of sticky, sweet forest floor, and more herbal coniferous greens.
It pretty much stays this way throughout it’s life. It’s totally not my kind of perfume and not how I like to smell (also very bored of the overload of foresty/incense fragrances)… but still, this is a solid enough example for people who like that kind of thing Not bad!
I agree. It is a solid perfume that should please those who like churchy, incense fragrances — if they don’t mind either soapiness, white musk, or smelling just like a Christmas tree.
There are a number of High Church-type fragrances out there, but I’m only familiar with Heeley’s Cardinal. I think Liturgie has some similarities, but primarily in terms of the synthetic white musk. A Fragrantica commentator, “magic gingerbread,” who has far greater knowledge of this genre of fragrances has some interesting comparisons which may prove useful to a few of you:
Quite beautyful incense and coniferous fragrance reminding me somewhat Hinoki by CdG. Especially at the beginning when I smell raw olibanum resin and balmy, cold and fresh cypress note. This stage is unfortunately of rather weak sillage. Drydown is much stronger in projection, but no suprise in that, it is pure labdanum and that’s the way labdanum behaves – here it’s slightly sour, thick and oily, kind of like in Norma Kamali’s Incense. Nice, but I prefer olibanum stage.
The name “Liturgy of the hours” clearly suggests a churchy fragrance, but I don’t see it that way. Most certainly I don’t see any churchy association in corniferous olibanum note. However labdanum brings me some images of deep, old catacombs from the early age of christianity. Anyway, this is not catholic catherdal type of fragrance like Avignon or Cardinal.
Again, I’m not an expert on churchy fragrances, so I can’t comment on the comparisons. All I can say is that I love labdanum but didn’t enjoy its manifestation here, thanks to the impact of the terribly clean, soapy accord; and I found it hard to muster up much enthusiasm for La Liturgie des Heures as a whole. I think that stems, in part, because of some notes I really dislike, and, in part, because of Liturgie’s linearity. But it’s not a terrible fragrance and, if you’re really into churchy scents, then you may want to keep it in mind.
Glad to hear your thoughts were similar to mine Kafka 🙂 I don’t think I could have wrote any more than I did this write up is epic in proportion! Haha. You give a lot of time to these things! Kudos. Hope you’re keeping well x
Heh, this may have been one of my shortest reviews in a while, Freddie! 😀 I’m doing well, thank you, and hope that you are, to. 🙂
I´m all about churchy fragrances and I like white musk so this could definitely be a lovely fragrance for me. I love most of the notes of this perfume particularly the incense, labdanum and I love musk in general. However the lack of some kind of flower could mean that this could smell masculine, and I wouldn´t like that. Also is soapiness a new trend? I hope it isn´t because it is God awful, and that could be a deal breaker for me.
Soapiness and the obsession with “clean, fresh” scents is, alas, something that began 10-15 years and which I blame fully on that blasted Acqua di Gio. It really is the biggest thing in mainstream perfumery, followed by fruity-florals with purple patchouli, then gourmands. It’s one reason why so many perfume addicts have escaped into the niche field instead.
As for Liturgie des Heures, I think it’s generally unisex but someone who needs a floral touch — no matter how light — may think it is too masculine by her standards. I personally don’t think it is, especially because of the clean, white musk, and I know a LOT of women who wear fragrances like this. So, it may work for you. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it — but then I’m biased against some notes. LOL. 😉 😛
Another my dear that is not for me. I don’t hold close to any old catholic memories that make me want to relive days of incense and pageantry. Plus, the picture of the Pine Sol didn’t help 🙂
It is not a scent that I’d recommend for you, my dear Mr. Hound. Not at all. Hell, if neither Freddie nor I wanted to have much to do with it, then you know it didn’t appeal to people on both ends of the perfume spectrum! 😀
I actually really like the Jovoy line, particularly Liturgie. Growing up Asian, church-y incense scents like this, CDG Avignon, and Heeley’s Cardinal are every exotic smells to me so I really like them. They are so different from the kinds of incense that I grew up with.
The piney-ness didn’t really bother me. My favorite from the CDG incense line is Kyoto, which unfortunately has not so great sticking power on my skin. This lasted longer which might explain why I liked it?
I’m glad it works for you, my dear. 🙂
You know I think I might rather like this perfume. Sounds like winter in the Urals. May be something for wearing in December. Lovely review and I really enjoyed it.
Thank you, Lanier. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
Hmmm, the notes sound good to me…and I am one who doesn’t mind soapy. Now incense could be iffy for me…sometimes I like it (CDG Kyoto) and sometimes I don’t (Le Labo Oud 27). Despite growing up having gone to Catholic School (and I am not Catholic), I never experienced that high church incense overload so I have no negative scent memory at all.
Myrrh, labdanum, frankincense? I’m staying away from it
I don’t think it would be your cup of tea, Lucas. LOL. And I thought about you when writing about the myrrh…. 😉
And what did you see while thinking about me when you were writing about myrrh? A wrench of a person?
Well, I know how the mere word “myrrh” can send shudders through your body, so…. 😉
I kind of like the smell of Pine Sol, but I would never pay any amount to smell like it. Plus, the more you described it the more skeptical I felt about the perfume as a whole. It just sounds like sort of a lot going on, but not particularly harmoniously. Thanks, but no thanks!
Heh, I don’t think it would be to your style, my dear. Not at all.
I like churchy so this might be one I’d like. It might be a bit heavy on the pine for me but sometimes I like that.
I think you’d like this one, Poodle. It very much fits your style and some of the other perfumes that you adore!
While in Jovoy I smelled some of their own perfumes but from the different line. I didn’t like the bottles forthis one so I decided not to try them (I was already in the overload mode from everything else I tried).
I like pine smell in perfumes but I think I have enough of that note in perfumes I already own so I’ll pass on this one.
Pingback: Unum Lavs: Popes & Sunday Mass - Kafkaesque