Feu du Bois, Pinion, Palo Santo & Oudh are just some of the must-have fragrances that have exploded in popularity in recent years. One thing they all have in common is the fact they are wood-based scents, often with an added smoky aroma. So why is the smell of wood smoke such a timeless fragrance and one we keep returning to?
Undoubtedly, the sense of smell can be one of the most evocative – catch a whiff of baking bread or newly-mown grass and many people are instantly whisked back to childhood or hot summer days. Wood smoke provokes a similar response – be it the memory of an autumn bonfire in the garden or a Christmas log fire.
However, there’s a more primal quality to wood smoke and its associations. Sitting around the fire is something man has done since time immemorial.
Not only has it provided heat for cooking and warmth in the coldest of winters, it still can be a focal point around which people gather to talk or share stories. A fire is also therapeutic – research has proved sitting by a fire lowers your blood pressure by five percent and reduces anxiety as you reach a meditative state, staring into the flames.
With all these positives attached to it, there’s little wonder the smell of wood smoke has become the best friend of parfumiers the world over.
French candle-maker Diptyque was amongst the first to re-introduce us to the aroma with their Feu de Bois candle (literally meaning wood smoke). It’s the second-most popular fragrance in their extensive range and will set you back about £40 for either the candle or room fragrance.
Palo Santo was the hot new fragrance for 2017. It’s a wild tree native to Mexico and related to frankincense and myrrh. Any yoga studio or spa worth its salt has been filling its space with the smell of incense made from this Holy Wood. It’s meant to be cleansing, providing healing benefits for both the immune system and the nervous system.
Of course, there’s nothing new about any of these fragrances. From the Native American and Inca Tribes of the Americas to the Buddhists and Hindus in Asia, wood smoke has always been an important part of many a ritual, often in the form of incense or smudge sticks.
The Incans used palo santo to cleanse themselves of evils spirits whilst shamans believed burning it would spiritually purify them. The ancient Aheba tribe of Northern Asia could be found dancing around burning pits of fragrant wood chips as a regular part of any ceremony.
Indeed, if you look anywhere in the world, you’ll find a tradition linked to burning wood - in the UK we have the Yule Log, which dates to Pagan times and, in true British fashion, has been developed into a cake nowadays.
So, if you love the smell of wood smoke and the relaxing quality of dancing flames, you’re probably just as well ordering a bulk bag of our kiln-dried logs for Christmas rather than an expensive candle. We challenge you to try wrapping them and putting them under the Christmas tree though! Now there’s an idea for a competition!