A nice guy called Todd sometimes comes into the perfume store where I work. He has a beautiful shop down the street called Nickey Kehoe. I stopped in a few weeks ago and discovered a selection of Japanese-made incense by a French brand called Astier de Villatte. I sniffed all of them and selected one called Oulan Bator. Todd wrapped the incense in paper and tied red and white string around it. Somehow all of this seemed perfectly appropriate. Expected even.
I love the robin's egg color of the box. I love the bird of prey. I love how Ulan Bator is written in the French spelling. I love the French fantasy of distant, exotic places. Like Tokjo.
It's difficult to describe the beautiful and elusive scent of the unlit sticks. Leather. Tea. Spices. Something fresh, like menthol. A card inside the box describes the inspiration: Wild escape upon a desert steppe. I thought about a documentary I watched about a young American boy with autism. His father had a revelation (as one does) and decided that a shamanistic ceremony in Mongolia would benefit his son. Sounds random and it kind of was, but compelling nonetheless.
The ceremony involved a long journey by camel into the desert, richly ornate animal costumes and drumming. I don't believe that incense or smoke played a part in the ritual, but if it did, it wouldn't have smelled like Oulan Bator. It would smell earthy, dusty and rooty, like the Tibetan varieties. Rustic and rugged. The incense in the pretty blue box, when lit, smells like a jewel box of a shop in Europe or America that sells Oriental antiques.