Incense That Won’t Make You Feel Like A Deadhead

Blackbird's scents are sophisticated and soothing, man.
Kate F.
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Blackbird's scents are sophisticated and soothing, man.

I’m friends with a guy who’s super cool and totally dateable, except for one little setback: Every time I go in for a hug or lean in to talk with him, I get a heavy, sickening whiff of patchouli-scented incense. Despite his rad taste in music and funny demeanor, my friends and I can’t help but run for the hills in terms of romancing him. All because of our associations with his dated scent.

Sad, because when done right, incense is downright incredible: it can have a totally sophisticated scent and be wonderfully calming, not to mention the fragrance seems to last forever. Wasted opportunity? Not quite, thanks to Blackbird, a Seattle-based design studio. Their line of 12 distinctly scented Incense Pyres ranges from the smoky and spicy to the sweet and floral.

blackbird incense sample packets

A sample package of two of each fragrance, available on Blackbird’s website.

Here, my five favorite scents, the ones I’ll repurchase and scent my home with forever after.

For The Lady Who Loves To Stop And Smell The Roses: Ozo

blackbird incense ozo

Ozo by Blackbird Incense.

Notes: rose, sandalwood, anise seed

Lesson learned: Don’t judge an incense pyre by its pre-burn fragrance. When I held this cone up to my nose before burning it, I was a bit turned off by how soapy and, well, clean it smelled. We’re not trying to totally reverse the properties of incense, people! However, once lit, it created this insanely sophisticated blend of sweet, rosy florals and deeper wood tones. It’s my favorite of the bunch, no competition.

For The Chick With A Vintage Flair: Nahk

blackbird incense nahk

Nahk by Blackbird Incense.

Notes: spice, leather, cognac

I don’t know how to make this sound like a good thing, but the most poetic anecdote sprung into my mind upon smelling Nahk: I felt like I was wrapped up in a beloved older relative’s vintage leather jacket, splashed with years of alcohol-soaked memories. I get the feeling that this scent was meant to be hot and sexy, but for me, it’s downright nostalgic. Oh, and this baby is the longest-lasting pyre of the bunch. Yes, please!

For The Gal Who Adores Her Garden: Roheline

blackbird incense roheline

Roheline by Blackbird Incense.

Notes: tomato leaf, fern

I’m typically not a huge fan of greener scents, but remember being a kid and picking delicious-smelling honeysuckle off an unknowing neighbor’s bushes? (Well, I do, anyway.) Roheline will bring you right back to that. I like to think of it as incense’s sweet, innocent little sister. Plus, the composition of these notes is believed to bring the burner good luck, and I need all I can get!

For The Woman With A Taste For The Sensual: Sepulchre

blackbird incense sepulchre

Sepulchre by Blackbird Incense.

Notes: white flower, wood, herbs

Planning an evening in with your S.O.? Forget that a sepulchre is technically a monument used for burial. Light a few of these romantic pyres and your night will instantly come alive. (See what I did there? Ha.) Sexy and mysterious, the herb-filled, floral fumes of Sepulchre will help you get in touch with your sensual side. Making out in a cloud of fragrant smoke? Hell, yes.

For The Mademoiselle Who Just Wants To Be A Royal, Already: Blood Countess

blackbird incense bloody countess

Blood Countess by Blackbird Incense.

Notes: frankincense, warm resins, spice

To be frank, I didn’t love this scent--Blackbird’s top seller--at first burn. It smelled a little too much like your stereotypical incense to me. As the pyre burned away, however, I gradually got it. It’s warm and luxurious, and with each passing minute, a new scent dimension seems to be tossed into the mix. Blood Countess is what I imagine Queen Elizabeth I would have enjoyed filling her nostrils with as she sat atop her golden throne. And who doesn’t love feeling like royalty, if only for the lifespan of an incense pyre?

Give it to me straight, Vainers:

  • Do you love or loathe incense?
  • If you love it, what are your favorites? 
  • If you loathe it, what do you use to scent your home?