My enthusiasm for new materials in perfumery is similar to my enthusiasm for a new release from Comme des Garcons. When they come together in the same package it is like a perfumed double rainbow. When I received my sample of the new Comme des Garcons Black Pepper dual arcs filled my personal headspace.
Black Pepper was composed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. M. Maisondieu has been one of the more consistent collaborators with Comme des Garcons over the last few years. I would say they return to him because he seems to have an innate understanding of the place this seminal niche brand occupies. He also takes the opportunity to try and do things with an eye toward innovation. With Black Pepper that comes from the other main ingredient besides the one listed on the bottle Akigala Wood.
I became aware of Akigala Wood about a year ago. When I learned it wasn’t a wood but an enzymatic digestion of patchouli I was very interested. The reason is this is a very different process to altering the overall profile of patchouli essential oil. Distillation is a process of using physics. Enzymatic digestion is allowing enzymes to digest parts of the essential oil they find tasty. This leaves behind a patchouli altered by biology. When I had the opportunity to smell Akigala Wood it is only because I know it was once patchouli that I make the comparison. What the enzymes seem to be feasting on are the molecules within patchouli oil which impart the earthy herbal character of that oil. What is left behind in Akigala Wood is an enhancement of the spicy character in an undefined woody matrix. Which makes it a near perfect partner for the black pepper.
M. Maisondieu keeps the structure of Black Pepper simple. First the black pepper is present. It is very dry and austere. M. Maisondieu modulates it even more towards that spare quality by adding some white pepper. The early moments are so dry it might be too much for some. I really enjoyed it because I knew what was coming. The Akigala Wood turns that aridity into something almost oily in nature. The spicy woody nature of the Akigala Wood envelops the black pepper and almost feels like it rehydrates it. Now the pepper becomes much more expansive as if lifted by the spicy nature of the Akigala Wood. The woody nature of the material keeps things grounded along with cedar. The base adds a dollop of roasted sweetness with tonka bean and a little sandalwood before finishing with a flare of musk.
Black Pepper has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
From 2000-2008 Comme des Garcons released collections titled Series 1-8. Each had a specific focus. Each perfume within each series had a specific ingredient or accord to explore. Many of these are among my favorites in the entire Comme des Garcons line. On the days I was wearing Black Pepper it felt like it was maybe the first entry in a new collection Series 9: Spices. M. Maisondieu has made a perfume which is as exploratory as the best of those fragrances within the Series collections.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.