What Does Frankincense Smell Like? Is it the Same as Myrrh?

Frankincense smells like a mix of aromatic pine, citruses, smoky, oriental spices, rosemary, and resins in its pure fore. Frankincense essential oil smells a bit sweeter.

If you’ve been around the fragrance world for some time, you often find perfumes with frankincense, myrrh, or incense notes such as Armani Acqua di Gio. But how do you recognize the smell and how do you know if you like it?

Frankincense smell deconstructed

Frankincense smell can differ from one tree to another. Both frankincense and myrrh come from the same tree bark but they have a different aroma depending on the region of growth, the weather, and even the type of frankincense.

Some research even suggests frankincense has a woody, spicy, haunting smell as it’s almost like no other.

The scientific name of frankincense is Boswellia Sacra. The time of harvesting is also influencing the smell and the perception frankincense has. Other Boswellia species include.

  • Boswellia Frereana
  • Boswellia Rivae
  • Boswellia Neglecta
  • Boswellia Serrata

Many Boswellia species grow in the Middle East in arid areas known for their high heat as well as in India. Historically, frankincense has been used in spirituality, and it’s even mentioned in the Bible.

Frankincense smell is often associated with
Red pepper
Aromatic pine


Frankincense chemical formula

The specific smell of frankincense is a combination of factors and compounds and it’s been yet isolated. Since there are so many types of frankincense types, the dominant compounds can be one of the following.

  • E-β-Ocimene
  • Limonene
  • Myrcene
  • Octanol acetate
  • Octyl acetate
  • Terpinen-4-ol
  • α-Pinene
  • α-Thujene
  • Duva-3,9,13-triene-1a-ol-5,8-oxide-1-acetate

This is how your frankincense smell in fragrance is made

Resin from the frankincense tree is collected even today. Harvesters cut down tree bark which then releases a protective resin. After 2-3 weeks, the frankincense resin is ready to be collected.

To harvest the smell and oils, frankincense is boiled. It is then used to add aroma to many perfumes or it is used in aromatherapy.

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Why is the frankincense smell important?

In ancient times, frankincense was used to make basic perfumes. It has been mixed with carrier oils such as almond oil and flower extracts such as lavender to create the first perfumes.

Today, the clean smoky smell of frankincense is used to spice up various perfumes. You can identify it as the smell of frankincense in church.

Frankincense is largely used in the cosmetics industry. It has also been associated with multiple health benefits. Some people burn frankincense while praying while others use it to relax.

If you don’t want to invest in an expensive incense perfume, you can test out the smell yourself by burning a small piece of frankincense on coal.

Good notes to combine with frankincense

You can easily mix frankincense oil with other essential oils to create unique aromas and fragrances. Since it’s spicy, it can be mixed with the following notes.

Red pepper – with added spiciness, red pepper can enhance the smell of frankincense further.

Patchouli – the strong spicy-sweet patchouli aroma is a superb combination with frankincense.

Rosemary – the lavender-like aromatic rosemary smell is another great addition to any frankincense perfume.

Geranium – the green peppery smell of geranium is often mixed with myrrh.

Bergamot – Bergamot is citrusy and spicy and it adds more of the same profile to frankincense.

Sage – minty cool sage smell is another solid combination with frankincense, but only in small doses.

Salt – adding salt to frankincense can heighten its smell.

Oceanic notes – oceanic summer notes are an excellent addition to frankincense when creating a fresh lightweight perfume.

Fragrances that smell like frankincense

If you love the smell of frankincense, you’ll surely love the following fragrances.

Amouage Jubilation

This fragrance comes with a unique blend of frankincense and myrrh. Added spices only improve its royal appeal. With a smoked incense vibe, the fragrance is perfect for the cold months such as those from late October to mid-spring.

Buy it here on Amazon.
Christian Dior Mitzah

This women’s perfume features incense, honey, patchouli, rose, coriander, and Ceylon cinnamon. Frankincense is its most intense note and its superbly combined with soft sweet honey and spicy cinnamon.

Buy it here on Amazon.

Final considerations

The frankincense smell is unique and it takes a lot of effort to produce. The Boswelia tree takes years to mature and harvesting isn’t easier either as it can take 7-10 tree bark cuts to get the right type of frankincense. Normally sourced from Oman, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen, it’s a wonder how the smell of frankincense has persisted in perfumery and religious traditions for thousands of years without going out of style.