Myrrh is one of the world’s oldest perfume ingredients, and it has a storied history and a strong spiritual connection. The substance itself is a tree resin, and it has historically been used during religious ceremonies by many civilizations around the globe, including the Ancient Egyptians.
It is also – perhaps most famously of all – strongly associated with the nativity story within Christianity, as it was said to be one of the three gifts given to Jesus Christ by the Three Wise Men, or Three Kings.
But what does myrrh smell like? While myrrh is a popular and well-known perfume ingredient, not everyone knows its scent or how it can be identified within a fragrance. With that in mind, in this article, we will provide a myrrh scent description, some contextual information about the substance, and some examples of popular myrrh perfumes.
What is Myrrh and What Does Myrrh Smell Like?
Myrrh is perceived to have warm, sweet, resinous, and spicy qualities. On top of this, it has woody notes and many people detect a medicinal smell too. The smokier and spicier aspects of the scent are typically associated with the resin, while the medicinal quality comes from its essential oils.
Myrrh is a gum-resin, which is secreted by and extracted from a tree known as the Commiphora Myrrha, or African Myrrh tree. The tree itself is found in a number of countries within the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti. Historically, it has been used as medicine and for religious rituals.
Perhaps the best-known use for myrrh is as an ingredient for perfumes and other fragrances or incense products. Many people are familiar with the basic myrrh scent, even if they do not necessarily recognize it as myrrh. Once people make the connection, it is relatively easy to detect compared to other common perfume and cologne notes.
When it comes to actually describing myrrh smell, most people will agree that it has warm, sweet, resinous, and spicy properties. However, providing a concise description can actually be quite difficult, because many perceive the myrrh scent to have both medicinal and woody qualities to it as well.
The myrrh resin itself is sometimes perceived to have a smokier and spicier quality than the essential oils obtained from myrrh, which are most commonly associated with the cooler and more medicinal smells.
Why is Myrrh Used in Perfumes and How is it Beneficial?
Aside from its own unique qualities and attributes as a scent, there are a number of underlying reasons why myrrh is a commonly used substance within perfumes, colognes, and other fragrance products.
For example, the sweet notes of myrrh can help to make it an excellent scent to pair with fruity notes in sweet perfumes. At the same time, perfumes that utilize wood-type notes can be enhanced by the more smoky and spicy aspects of myrrh. All in all, these qualities mean it is a versatile scent for perfumers to experiment with.
The spicy, warm qualities of myrrh as a scent can provide a nice contrast with cooler, fresher notes, resulting in the creation of interesting perfumes, which stimulate the senses and continually develop over the time they are worn.
Moreover, historically, the use of myrrh for medicinal purposes also make it appealing as a scent. Furthermore, its longstanding association with religious rites and the birth of Jesus means it can also be said to have a significant spiritual component. Of course, the association with the Christian nativity story also means that myrrh fragrances may be popular for people to wear around Christmas.
Is Myrrh Regarded as a Masculine or a Feminine Scent?
One of the most interesting properties of myrrh, especially when it comes to the formulation of perfumes and other fragrances, is its ability to effortlessly straddle the line between masculine and feminine.
Often, myrrh is perceived as a classic men’s scent and throughout history, it has perhaps most widely been associated with ideas of masculinity and strength. Its spicy and woody notes help to emphasize this point, and it is used as a base note by some of the world’s top masculine fragrance brands. One of the best examples of this is the French brand Yves Saint Laurent, with myrrh being used in a number of the company’s male-focused fragrances.
However, in more recent times, perfumers have come to recognize that myrrh’s sweet, warm, resinous qualities actually make it perfect for feminine fragrances too. It can help to provide greater longevity and nuance to many women’s perfumes and combines superbly with fruity and sweet perfume notes.
Examples of Myrrh Fragrances
Myrrh is a widely used ingredient within modern perfumes and colognes, and its versatility means it is featured in a number of products that differ significantly from one another. Some of the very best examples of perfumes and colognes on the market with myrrh as a major note are described below:
Eau Sauvage is a popular men’s fragrance from Christian Dior and was first introduced in 2012. It is a relaunched and re-interpreted product, based on a cologne with the same name from the 1960s. Indeed, the use of myrrh within the fragrance was one of the most noticeable differences between the original and updated versions.
The creator of the original fragrance was the renowned master perfumer, Edmond Roudnitska, and the reimagined fragrance was created by Dior’s in-house specialist, Francois Demachy. Aside from myrrh, the cologne’s main notes include bergamot, orange, lavender, patchouli and oakmoss.
One of the main qualities of this myrrh scent is its longevity, with the cologne remaining easy to detect for many hours after its initial application. This makes it a good choice for everyday use, including work and social occasions.
The unisex quality of myrrh is further highlighted by its use within the aforementioned Christian Dior men’s fragrance and Thierry Mugler’s Alien Essence eau de parfum for women. This particular fragrance was first launched in 2012 and has become one of the brand’s best-loved products.
Again, one of the defining qualities of this myrrh-based scent is its longevity and it is a perfume that can easily last a full working day, or one that can be applied at the beginning of a night out and still be detected at the end.
The base notes of the perfume are white amber and vanilla. Myrrh serves as a middle note, while the top notes include jasmine and heliotrope. The perfume was created by Dominique Ropion and is categorized as sweet and oriental.
Finally, Gucci Pour Homme II is an eau de toilette for men, which is recognizable for its spicy, fresh qualities. The cologne was first released in 2007, and is a creation from the acclaimed perfumer, Karine Dubreuil-Sereni. It serves as a follow-up to the original Gucci Pour Homme fragrance, and is intended to be lighter.
Pour Homme II can be described briefly as a woody, warm and spicy fragrance, and while it is ideal for the summer, it is suitable for use all year long. Bergamot is the most easily detectable top note, while black tea and cinnamon serve as middle notes. The myrrh note is a base note, which lingers for hours alongside musk and tobacco leaf. The latter note has also helped to make this a particularly great choice for men who smoke cigars or tobacco cigarettes.
It is also a fairly intimate cologne, with a seductive quality and with an intentionally limited projection range. With this in mind, it is a great choice for wearing on dates, or for other more intimate encounters.