Fred Soll's - Sweet Frankincense

Fred Soll’s – Ancient Blend – Sweet Frankincense

Sometime at the beginning of the year, I mentioned in a Reddit post that I had never tried Fred Soll’s incense sticks. Shortly afterward, a kind person from the Netherlands contacted me to offer some Fred Soll’s Sweet Frankincense sticks. They had brought them back from a trip to the USA. Needless to say, I was thrilled, and a while later, we exchanged packages full of samples. So now I was in possession of 3 of the legendary Fred Soll’s Resin on a Stick® incense sticks. 😀

On Fred Soll’s official website, a sample stick costs $2.24, a pack of 10 costs $15.49, and 20 sticks go for $19.99. These incense sticks are 10″ (~25cm) long, longer than a typical stick.
Specific ingredients are not mentioned, except for frankincense resin and natural essential oils.
In Germany, or generally in Europe, Fred Soll’s are almost impossible to find. However, I recently discovered an exception: the Swiss shop Räucherwelt.ch carries a small selection. Unfortunately, they only deliver domestically; so Swiss incense folks can consider themselves lucky.

Sweet Frankincense unmistakably smells of frankincense, though I couldn’t tell which kind exactly. The information on Fred Soll’s website doesn’t make much sense to me: it mentions a “Boswellia thurifera” that grows on the coast of Somalia – B. thurifera is a synonym for B. serrata, which is native to India and doesn’t grow in Somalia. To be certain, I have had this confirmation confirmed by Georg Huber, a renowned expert in frankincense. (Thanks again for that!) To anyone interested, I highly recommend his book “Weihrauch“, also available in an English edition: “Frankincense“.
Scent-wise, I would guess it’s a blend of different types of olibanum, perhaps from B. carterii and B. papyrifera. In the strong resinous character, I detect a peppery note, but also a balsamic softness and a slightly tart, oily tone that adds a certain heaviness.
I somehow expected something much sweeter based on the name, like a hefty dose of benzoin, but no. There is sweetness, but it doesn’t compete with the resin; it blends in and is rather subtle. It’s a warm amber tone, accompanied by a lovely spiciness, and over time I pick up some floral notes.
The scent starts to remind me of orthodox incense or “Athonite incense”. This is frankincense ground into powder and mixed with essential oils (or perfume oils), so it can be kneaded to form a dough, which is then cut into small cushions or pebbles and put to cure. Some of these (often also intensely dyed) resins are overwhelmingly perfumed and smell very synthetic and soapy, but there are excellent ones as well.
Fred Soll’s is often described as particularly intense in smoke. However, this may not be the same for all their varieties. With a window open, I can burn Sweet Frankincense in my living room without getting overwhelmed. They are strong, but not too potent. However, just a few centimetres of a stick are enough to scent the room, so you can use them very sparingly.
The after-smell is initially a mix of the fresh frankincense note, with lots of spice and sweetness. Several hours later, the only thing I can smell is a faint floral tone. It’s very pleasant.

So, what is my preliminary stance on Fred Soll’s after this initial experience?
I think the hype is justified to some extent. The man seems to know what he’s doing and has established a unique style, and that’s worth appreciating.
I’d be curious to try more of his Sticks and will definitely do so if the opportunity arises. However, I don’t believe Fred Soll’s incense sticks are entirely without alternatives.

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