Umbra (Ramón Monegal)

In every season, wood incense remains one of my prime homesteading pleasures. I reckon that if I can't have either a fireplace or chiminea, I delight in the fact that I can still scent my domicile with a fingertip-sized tablet of incense lit by a kitchen match. Crafted of pulverized evergreen needles or sawdust from fragrant woods such as mesquite, cedar, alder, or piñon pine, it splits open as it burns, sending forth billows of savory blue-gray smoke that penetrate every corner of my castle.

A particular favorite of mine, balsam fir needle incense possesses an odd, burnt-sugar aspect not shared by pine or spruce. That hint of piloncillo is clearly discernable even before you burn it, but remains true long after the match and the self-igniting charcoal have done their work.

Ramón Monegal's Umbra boasts a similar caramelized quality, but it's prefaced by something I swear to god is standard-issue calone blended with the most unpleasant synthetic geraniol outside of Duc de Vervins. Eventually the geraniol loosens its death grip and lets some dusty black pepper take over, followed by the fir. Sadly, this is Umbra's least persistent note; it concedes too rapidly to a salty, pencil-gray vetiver, then back (how?!) to more (more?!) of that hellish geranium. (And dammit, I LIKE geranium-- but I can't bear what passes for it here.) If there's any tonka to be found, it's buried in Umbra's ashes.

Based on this one fragrance, I refuse to write off the entire line. (FOURTEEN perfumes! Lord o'mercy.) Well, to be honest, I've already drawn a bead on Monegal's two sticky-sweet "leathers", Mon Cuir and Cuirelle... and there's also Agar Musk, Dry Wood, and Mon Patchouly waiting to be tried. Only time and my patience for playing guinea pig will tell whether or not the effort has been worthwhile.

Scent Elements: Vetiver, tree moss, black pepper, geranium, balsam fir, tonka