Naomi Goodsir Bois d’Ascese ~ fragrance review

Old Church at Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, 1902

Last week I bemoaned the fact that Etro Rajasthan didn’t smell like India. I’ve smelled what seems like a zillion perfumes, watched plenty ad campaigns, and read through news releases, so I know I shouldn’t expect fragrance names or PR to match reality. I may be disappointed Rajasthan didn’t conjure India (for me) but if that fragrance had been good, I would have forgiven false advertising. This week, I’m wearing Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascèse* (ascetic wood) and the aura of the perfume matches its name and description: “…a secluded CHAPEL, BLAZING dusk, moment of GRACE, DIVINE smoke, silent CANTIQUE….”

Bois d'Ascèse conjures one of my favorite places — northern New Mexico; the fragrance creates a dry, austere, pungent scene. Willa Cather was on my mind as I wore this fragrance (I’m reading her letters) and I think a tiny vial of Bois d'Ascèse should accompany every volume of Death Comes for the Archbishop — Cather’s New Mexico novel in which her European characters travel through Santa Fe, Ranchos de Taos, and Acoma, Isleta and Laguna pueblos.

The scent of Bois d'Ascèse reminds me (at first) of an old pantry full of assorted “stuff”: musty tobacco boxes, spice dust (or maybe a fragrant bag of BBQ rub), a glass hurricane lamp filled with oil, a bundle of aromatic wood destined for the fireplace or grill. As Bois d'Ascèse develops, quickly, it begins to smell like an outdoor scene: a dry valley full of baking stones and adobe houses, junipers oozing sap. The aroma of incense (or a piñon-fueled campfire) is on the wind. Up close Bois d'Ascèse is intense (and long lasting); but its sillage is sweeter and gentler. In the extreme dry-down, a malty note emerges with some amber.

Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascèse

Within ten minutes of application, Bois d'Ascèse settles into a linear, smoky wood/incense perfume…where it remains for hours. I enjoy the fragrance, but I would have liked more layers of development and some unexpected “pops” from that campfire. Bois d'Ascèse’s main ingredient is either one helluva tenacious accord or a super-powerful single ingredient. A flower, strong, assertive, would have been welcomed somewhere in Bois d'Ascèse: a lily blooming in the adobe’s court yard, perhaps? Marigold would be heavenly. A fistful of pungent desert herbs/leaves? I layered Bois d'Ascèse with a mimosa fragrance oil I own and love the result. Bois d'Ascèse reminds me of Boadicea the Victorious Explorer, but it's even more “bleak.” (That is not a put-down by the way!)

I’d buy Bois d'Ascèse in candle form in a split-second, but my incense perfume collection runneth over…I don’t need another one any time soon.

Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascèse Eau de Parfum is $150 for 50 ml.

*Perfumer: Julien Rasquinet; fragrance notes of tobacco, whiskey, oak moss, cinnamon, cistus labdanum, amber, smoked cade wood, Somalian incense

Note: top image of Old Church at Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, 1902, via Wikimedia Commons.


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23 Comments

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  1. Marsha says:

    This might be one fragrance that I’ll buy untested. N. New Mexico? Check! Pinon pine? Double check! Incense? I don’t have any, so I can add to my stash with a clear conscience.

    By any chance are you familiar with the Monastery of Christ in the Desert? It’s near Abiquiú, and their chapel smells wonderfully of incense and good stuff. One of the best weekends of my life I spent there.

    • Kevin says:

      Marsha: yes! I love that area, especially walking in that landscape around Georgia O’Keeffe’s house. And unless money is no object, don’t you dare buy this unsniffed! An order!

  2. Janice says:

    Great review! I tried this and the other one from Naomi Goodsir that was released at the same time, and I liked the other one better—it’s a sweet, mild leather scent. This one scared me off with that tenacious campfire note, but I should try it again. I love your description—I grew up in Arizona, and I can see how this definitely calls to mind a desert scene, but I’m not sure I want to wear it.

    • Kevin says:

      Janice: too close to home!

  3. Rictor07 says:

    I really liked this and thought it was the better of the 2 from Goodsir. I thought it ran in the same vein as Le Labo Patchouli 24 and Mona Di Orio Cuir. I think it is super masculine. It is a heavy, brash, backhand you across the face kind of perfume. Not to say a woman couldnt wear it, if you are the kind of woman who plays tackle football with the guys, or enjoys wearing coveralls coated in grease and grime while working under the hood of your pickup. I do wish this would come in a smaller size though. I think 100mls is too much of this type of scent.

    I disagree with adding flowers. The floral notes are what made me not like the Cuirs Velours as much as i was expecting to.

    • Kevin says:

      Rictor: these only come in 50 ml as far as I can tell…so the price is steep. I was on jury duty today and the female bailiff had us all cowering…though she was tiny, her attitude called for this perfume.

      • Rictor07 says:

        oh you’re right, 50 ml…i dont know why i thought it was 100. i have never been on jury duty. it doesnt sound fun, but at least it was just a 1 day thing. occasionally there are those cases where you have to be sequestered for weeks to arrive at a verdict.

  4. tora says:

    Bois D’Ascese is one of my all time favorite perfumes. I wear it a great deal during the winter months. I love it in the bath. Your comment about the old west and especially that of Willa Cather, (My Antonia for me) made me jump up with joy of recognition! I also can’t stop thinking about Cormac McCarthy, either Blood Meridian or the All The Pretty Horses trilogy. Most folks that I give a close whiff of this perfume just don’t ‘get’ it. More for me I say, and I hope she never stops making this smoky, rustic, wild west, pinon-a-ted, dream. If Ms. Goodsir made candles of this I would have a house covered with them. But I still have Lafco Feu de Bois to burn with abandon. I am curious Kevin, when you say that your Incense collection runneth over, I want to know More about your collection. I adore incense!! Tell me about your faves!!! and P.S, I never noticed the BBQ rub aspect before, but you are so right! While reading your review, I ran and spayed some on and sure enough, there it is!!

    • Kevin says:

      Tora: yikes…off the top of my head there’s CdG Kyoto, Avignon; Olivier Durbano Turquoise; Amouage Jubilation XXV Men; Armani Prive Bois d’Encens…

  5. donnie says:

    Nice review. I will be sure to try it. I take your frequent replies to mean you didn’t get empanelled, so that is presumably good. Mostly happy for you to have reviewed something pleasing for a change!

    • Kevin says:

      Donnie: it’s a five-day jury gig…got onto one jury, rendered a verdict, then there was a plea deal on my second “assignment”… HA! Two days to go….

      • Rictor07 says:

        oh well crap, i just made a comment above on how you got off lucky for only having to endure jury duty for a single day, and here you are saying it is 5 days. now i feel bad for you.
        hmm, how can we put a positive spin on this? im sure you are rocking a suit like Barney from How i Met Your Mother and thus are making a good impression on one of your fellow jurors, lol. this would make a great meeting story for a relationship.

        • donnie says:

          Yeah, poor Kevin! That is some tough jury duty. In my town, if you do one trial, your duty is finished. Although it does not sound like rendering that first verdict taxed you too much. I don’t think you’re wearing a suit to court every day, either. I’m just not picturing it.
          But with regard to Merlin’s comment below, I too was thinking about Lonestar Memories, and in a different smoky vein, Timbuktu, and in a less smoky-piny way, a personal favorite, Eloge du Traitre.

  6. Merlin says:

    If the perfume is half as evocative as the review it must be pretty amazing! The reference to campfires reminded me of Lonestar Memories which i like very much. The one night I applied some from my sample and when I woke up I smelled as if I had slept next to a campfire. Very.very.literal.

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin: this will give you the same effect, but you were almost sleeping ON the fire in the case of Bois d’Ascese

  7. L says:

    My book club met tonight to discuss O Pioneers! We read it this month in anticipation of the Willa Cather Festival on June 1 in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Several of us are going.

    I have just started the Selected Letters of Willa Cather. The editors of the book will be speaking in Red Cloud. Looking forward to that.

    Haven’t read Death Comes for the Archbishop, but will be sure to have a sample of Bois d’Ascese nearby when I do!

    • Kevin says:

      L: hope you enjoy the letters and the Red Cloud events…sounds fun!

  8. trigger hippie says:

    Sounds divine, then I saw the price. Such a shame.

  9. rhaybans says:

    I tried this one myself recently. While I agree the market is flooded with smoke-incense-wood fragrances, I found this one to be top shelf.

  10. cazaubon says:

    I bought this – love the smokiness and incense. The bottle is cute too.

  11. juicejones says:

    Great review, Kevin. I want to give this one a try. I am finally going to get a bottle of Armani BdE, while I still can, but this one sounds intriguing.
    I live in AZ and have been wearing some of my smoky favorites in the 100 degree heat and enjoying them. This week I dipped into DK Wenge,and I love it. I have been trying to find a scent with a clear creosote note. That post-monsoon euphoria. Can you help me with a suggestion?

    • Kevin says:

      JJ: I wish I knew a fragrance with a creosote note. If YOU find one, let me know.

    • mikeperez23 says:

      Try Orris by Tauer, if you can find it (disco’d)

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