Pause for a moment, close your eyes, and picture the most luxurious hotel you’ve ever stepped foot in. Scratch that: Imagine the most luxurious hotel you’ve ever dreamed of stepping foot in. Are there roses? Is there velvet, silk, etc.? Whatever you’re picturing, just double it. Now, settle onto a fainting couch in the corner of said dream hotel. You are waiting to meet Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, they are running late, as usual, but they’ve promised to tell you a secret they’ve never told anyone. (It will be conveyed via whisper.) In another room, a pianist plays your favorite Chopin song on a loop. Breathe in deeply. What’s that smell? It’s Ponsont.
That’s my best guess, anyway. I discovered Ponsont incense papers the way lots of magical things are discovered—while wandering aimlessly on a Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. I wasn’t looking to buy anything in particular that day, but I stopped into the newish design and wellness store Sounds in Park Slope and was intrigued by what looked like a tiny booklet sitting on a small shelf. The short version of this story is that I picked it up, realized it was a book of incense papers, smelled them, became overwhelmed with positive feelings, and immediately bought them.
The longer version doubles as my pitch for why these incense papers are the best thing to scent your apartment. First, I’ll address the candle people. I used to be this kind of person too, but I moved on because I realized that if you get the really good smelling, fancy (read: expensive) ones, you want them to last, which means you need to monitor how long they’ve been burning to make sure you don’t burn through the whole thing in one go. “Candle monitoring” is the opposite of a relaxing activity, in my opinion. Relaxation is what I go to candles for. So, we are at odds, me and candles. I needed to find something else.
That’s how I eventually settled on Ponsont incense paper. The brand is named after August Ponsot, who invented incense paper in 1885, and all of their paper is made of chemical-free, dye-free, and tree-free cellulose which is sourced from a 400-year-old manufacturer and then handmade into their final product via a 16-step process that takes place in their U.S. studios. Ponsont’s fragrance ingredients are also nearly all natural, and include poetic collections of words such as “naturally reconstructed rose stem.” (No idea what that is, but I like it nonetheless.)
Those facts are all things to feel good about. But the incense papers also just smell really, really good—the Rosa Rossa fragrance ($24 for a book of 24 papers), which is my favorite of the two options, smells like the best combination of a perfumey candle and a woody, smoky incense. I’ve been burning them for months now and I still consistently have thoughts like “This smells like the best day of life” each time I light one. The scent also lingers for longer than any other candle or incense (stick or paper) that I’ve burned. And the act of lighting Ponsont papers is extremely satisfying too—you just rip a perforated strip out of the booklet, fold it accordian style, light it on fire (those with pyro tendencies will find this part especially satisfying), then blow it out and watch it slowly burn in the fireproof vessel of your choice. (I use a little ceramic bowl.) Another fun thing about the booklet form is that it’s easier to bring around with you—which means it will not only scent your bag, but it could unfussily scent all manner of hotel room, Airbnb, or any other environment lacking romance that you may encounter.