Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Incense

Incense is a whole different world now—a much better one.

The scents are better, the burners are more beautiful, and it's definitely not just for hippies anymore: yes, a lot has changed about incense in the past few years—including the fact that you'd probably really like it now. Here are a handful of special brands and designers who have elevated the incense game far beyond patchouli and black light posters. Although, we have to admit, there is still *a hint* of patchouli lingering in the air….

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​Incense Sampler + Burner by Cinnamon Projects

New York City-based brand Cinnamon Projects has a sleek, contemporary approach to incense, that's obvious in everything from the packaging of its sticks to the design of its complementary burners. Start with the sampler pack, which comes with five distinct scents, meant to be burned at particular times of the day. It's worth staying awake for the 2 a.m. fragrance of cedarwood, cinnamon, honey, and vetiver—especially when it's wafting up from the pleasingly geometric Circa burner.

Cinnamon Projects Sampler ($50) and Circa Burner ($150),

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Blackbird Pyre Tin

Seattle-based design studio Blackbird makes beautiful, minimalist tins filled with pyres (which are basically regular incense in a unique shape) that can be burned directly on the lid for about 15 minutes, filling a room with hypnotic scents for anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the size of the space. We are partial to the warm, romantic, best-selling "Blood Countess," inspired by a notorious Hungarian countess who did something very dark (which we won't write here) in an attempt to restore her youth.

Blackbird Pyre Tin, $30,

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Cactus Incense Burner + Chikuseiko Incense

We credit Los Angeles as a major player in reviving incense. It seems like every time we step into a shop there, we're confronted with smoky, woodsy smells—and laid-back, beautifully draped clothing to match—that convince us it's worth exploring. For the most Cali vibes possible, burn Japanese Chikuseiko sandalwood incense (carried at L.A. staple Mohawk General Store) on a ceramic cactus leaf burner designed by artist Eric Roinestad.

Chikuseiko Sandalwood Incense, $25,; Nopales Incense Burner, $90,

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Astier de Villatte Opéra Incense and Burner

Maybe L.A. is not your thing and you are more into the kind of incense setup that you might expect to find in the apartment of a whimsical Parisian. For that, you'll want to spring for Astier de Villatte, both for incense and for one of their handmade ceramic holders. We are partial to the Antoinette holder, featuring a disembodied head that's vaguely creepy in a great way, paired with the Opéra scent, which is as clean and regal-smelling as smoke gets.

Astier de Villatte Opéra Incense ($50) and Antoinette Holder ($95),

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Papier d'Arménie

If you're still an incense skeptic by the time you've reached this point, allow us to make our final pitch: Papier d'Arménie. This French company creates little booklets of "burning papers," each printed with beautiful graphic designs, which are meant to be torn out and folded, then lit, so that they can slowly burn sans flame. The starter box comes with three fragrances: Tradition (the brand's original scent), Année Arménie (a slightly deeper and darker version), and La Rose (a floral). Also nice: They will look really, really cool on your nightstand.

Papier d'Arménie Starter Box, $25,

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