Incense Review: Catacombs

"Dirigatur oratio mea sicut incensum in conspectu tuo..." But which one? So sings the psalmist about the symbol of incense in relation to divine worship and today begins the first of, what I hope, are many incense reviews. My method will be to include comments on the "dry note" (meaning the scent characteristics that come out when the incense is not burning) as well as the "burn note" (the scent while it is burning). I will also describe the scents I believe are 'in front' (i.e. dominant) and which are secondary (i.e. in the background). My goal, however, is not to be too nuanced. This might strike readers as odd, but I find too much focus on nuances blurs what is really going on with an incense -- which, to my mind, is what most priests and sacristans really want to know. With that explanation aside, let us begin the first review.

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Incense Variety: Catacombs

Type: Athonite

Dominant Scent Classification: Woodsy and Floral

Dry Note: Rose, Cedar

Burn Note: This particular incense has strong cedar and rose notes.. If I were to put it into proportions I would say it is 70% cedar, 30% rose. There are some other nuances going on in this incense as well, but these are very much in the background. In my estimation they aren't significant enough to note in this review.

If you were to wrap an image around the particular scent of "Catacombs," imagine a rose garden on a warm summer's day, nestled amidst a bed of still fresh cedar mulch. That would very much characterize what you are going to get with this incense.

Scent Strength: Medium to Strong. This has a fairly strong scent though primarily on the initial burn. In close proximity this would rank as a stronger incense, fading toward a medium spectrum as you get further away and as the burn goes on.

Personal Impressions: I often find incenses with flowery components too strong for my own liking, but this one is grounded nicely by the foundation of cedar, pulling it back from being too "perfumey." Still, it does have something of that quality to it and one does have to be prepared for a good dose of floral type scent if you were to choose this. However, if what you are after is a slight rose sort of scent that is tempered by something else, this could be a good choice.

Being fairly strong in scent, I wouldn't personally classify this as an "everyday incense." Instead, I would see this as being reserved for use at particular times of the liturgical year.

Possible Liturgical Pairings: Pentecost, Marian feasts, Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, feasts of martyrs, Gaudete and Laetare Sundays

Pairing an incense with particular times of the liturgical year is by no means required of course but it is not a bad idea either given the power and associations smell can have or make.

The rose aspects of this variety would certainly make it a possible selection on the feast of Pentecost, which has a traditional linkage to red roses, or to Marian feasts and the 'rose' Sundays of Lent and Advent.  The Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, or the feast days of martyrs generally might be another possibility given both the association of rose with the colour red (the liturgical colour of these feasts) and also because of the cedar which somehow brings to mind images of Christian antiquity with the wooden beams of Romanesque basilicas overhead.

Product Link:

Official Product Description: "An ancient frankincense and myrrh combination, this fragrance also includes cedar wood, sweetened with a touch of rose, vanilla and amber musk."

Price: $8 USD per oz., $28 USD per half pound

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