Perfume Review: Jovoy Paris La Liturgie des Heures

Photo: StormchaserMike Photograph via Flickr (link to website embedded within.)

Photo: StormchaserMike Photograph via Flickr (link to website embedded within.)

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.

Jovoy Paris La Liturgie des Heures

Jovoy Paris La Liturgie des Heures

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



pine-solLa 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.

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

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.

Cost & Availability: La Liturgie des Heures is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $180, €120, or  £100. It is available directly from Jovoy Paris which also offers a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for €80. In the U.S.: it is available at Luckyscent, MinNY, Aedes, and Aaron’s Apothecary. Outside the U.S.: in the UK, La Liturgie des Heures is available in both sizes from Bloom Perfume, with the smaller 1.7 oz bottle retailing for £70. The larger size is also available at Roullier White in the 100 ml size for £100, with a sample also available for purchase, along with Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. In Italy, Liturgie is sold at Vittoria Profumi and Sacro Cuoro Profumi for €120. In France, you can also purchase it from Soleil d’Or. In Russia, it is sold at iPerfume. For Germany and the rest of Europe, you can purchase it from First in Fragrance in Germany (which also ships worldwide and sells samples) but the price is €5 higher at €125 a bottle. Same story with Germany’s MeinduftSamples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial. Many of the retailers listed above also sell samples of Liturgie.