New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Copper- The New Green

About halfway through the year I wondered if Comme des Garcons was going to do anything to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. For a brand which has been so influential I thought it would be a shame for this milestone to go by without something new. Right about the time I was going to ask I received an e-mail announcing the end-of-year plans. Six new perfumes along with a stand-alone fragrance store in Paris. I have reviewed the other five perfumes for this anniversary, but I’ve left the best one for last; Comme des Garcons Copper.

Christian Astuguevieille

One of the things about the current popularity of transparent perfumes is it too often produces linear fragrances without a top-down development. It is that development which has always attracted me to my favorite perfumes. It is not that a linear perfume can’t be beautifully interesting. It is the ones which act like chameleons shifting colors as the hours pass that keep me engaged more fully. I think of those perfumes like classical music; evolving in movements. The best perfumes will have phases that have distinctly different rhythm and flow just as a symphonic piece has. Copper does all of this.

Alienor Massenet

As he has for the entire twenty-five years of Comme des Garcons fragrances creative director Christian Astuguevieille has overseen Copper. He chose to work with perfumer Alienor Massenet for the first time. In my press package I was told Copper was “inspired by the idea of lying in the grass next to someone wearing excessive suntan lotion”. I have no idea what that means in relation to the perfume inside the bottle. If you expect Copper to be another of these suntan lotion perfumes it is not even close. It wasn’t until I got a different description that I was satisfied; “fiery red metal; cool to the touch.” That describes it much more closely except the cool comes before the fire.

Copper opens with an overdose of galbanum. Overdose is almost too gentle for how much galbanum is here. This is so much galbanum it has rough edges around its emerald-like crystallinity. Before it gets to be too much, Mme Massenet adds in a precise amount of baie rose. It pierces that sharpness of the galbanum creating a gorgeous dried herbal accord. Then a dynamic transformation occurs upon a flying carpet of slightly metallic aldehydes. It whisks us away to a gentler movement of ginger and violet at first. A lot of the time ginger is a buzzy kind of ingredient. In Copper it is allowed to be at rest as the violet shades it in purple hues with grains of subtle powder. This becomes sweeter through dried tobacco leaf wrapping it up like a cigar. The interplay between violet, ginger, and tobacco is compelling. Then like an usher tonka bean takes this accord, by attaching itself to the tobacco, to the waiting embrace of amber. The base accord turns completely cozy. Vanilla and myrrh provide different vectors of comfort. A cleverly subtle use of labdanum stitches it all together into a warm place to spend the rest of the day.

Copper has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have said it before over these past twenty-five years of perfumery there has been no brand more influential than Comme des Garcons. M. Astuguevieille sets the trends that others emulate. Back in 1994 M. Astuguevieille collaborated with a talented perfume, Mark Buxton, to redefine Orientals with an opening of galbanum. The same can be true of Copper as he now asks Mme Massenet to create the new version of green for the next quarter century. Copper is the best of what perfume can be.  

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet- Electric Pink

When I received my samples of the five new perfumes from Comme des Garcons to celebrate their twenty fifth anniversary in the fragrance world, there was one which I was most interested in. Over this time period one thing Comme des Garcons has stood for is pushing unusual accords to extremes. Two of my favorites are the pair of perfumes called Odeur 53 and Odeur 71. Both are fragrances of metallic heat. Synthetic to their core.  They are representative of those odd comforting smells like electronics overheating. It has been since 2000 that Odeur 71 was released. Now we can add another to the collection Comme des Garcons Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet.

Ruth Mackenzie

Theatre du Chatelet is a theatre on the banks of the Seine in Paris. The current creative director for the theatre, Ruth Mackenzie, was asked to join Comme des Garcons fragrance creative director Christian Astuguevieille to oversee the new Odeur. The perfumer they chose to work with is Caroline Dumur. The fragrance they envisioned is a mixture of the old and the new on the floorboards of the Theatre du Chatelet.

Caroline Dumur

Mme Dumur nods back towards the earlier Odeurs with her top accord. She takes the botanical musk of ambrette and combines it with the metallic floral of rose oxide. This is further enhanced with black pepper. It creates this sizzling electric pink accord as if you smell the pink filter over the spotlight in the theatre. This is exactly what I wanted from a new Odeur. It is right on the edge of harsh for my sensibilities. I have a feeling it is going to go way past many others’ tolerances. That is what this series is meant to do. Every time I wear it, I am more and more enchanted by this top accord it is so unique. In the heart it moves to the orris powder used by the actors cut subtly with a bitter coffee from the cups on the apron during rehearsal. It settles on the cedar floorboards for the final moments with a woody base accord.

Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet is why Comme des Garcons is still among the premiere niche perfume makers after so long. It carries aspects from which a thoroughly contemporary perfume takes center stage bathed in electric pink.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dover Street Market.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Series 10: Clash- Opposites Attract

On the rare occasion I am asked about the most influential perfume brand I have a definitive answer. The earliest niche perfume brands were founded in the 1970’s and 80’s. it is my belief it was twenty-five years ago when the fragrance brand which would come to define much of what niche means came into being; Comme des Garcons. From the very beginning creative director Christian Astuguevieille has influenced many of the larger trends by being one of the first to execute them. If I had to, I could learn all I needed to know about the last quarter century of fragrance from the Comme des Garcons collection alone. I was wondering if they were going to commemorate the length of this sustained excellence. Right at the end of the summer I learned there would be a set of new releases to mark the anniversary. The one which had me most interested were the three perfumes in the Series 10: Clash collection.

Christian Astuguevieille

Starting in 2000 with Series 1 each set of perfumes have explored something specific. They have been among the most adventurous perfumes within the overall collection. For Series 10 M. Astuguevieille asked three perfumers to find beauty in the confrontation between two dissimilar ingredients. Each perfume displays why Comme des Garcons still pushes at the boundaries of perfume.

Domitille Bertier

The first is Celluloid Galbanum by perfumer Domitille Bertier. Each of the Clash entries is meant to capture a collision of sorts. Celluloid Galbanum is that of technology and nature. Mme Bertier takes the sweet plasticky smell of cellophane and wraps the deep green of galbanum in it. Mme Bertier uses jasmine to modulate the sweetness of her celluloid accord while lemon adds a sharper edge to the galbanum. It forms an engineered green behind a barrier of plastic which is fascinating. It ends on a base of synthetic woods.

Caroline Dumur

Chlorophyll Gardenia is the least confrontational of the three Clash perfume. Perfumer Caroline Dumur uses a set of green notes to coax out the green quality inherent within gardenia infusing the white flower with a verdant glow. The inquisition of the gardenia begins with its presence from the start. Mme Dumur threads galbanum, spearmint, the synthetic Cosmofruit, and baie rose through the creamy floral. As each of those ingredients come forward, they find a complement in the similar scent deep within gardenia. As they each add to it the gardenia begins to shade green before it glows in an almost neon abstraction. A set of white musks whisper through the glimmering flower.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto

My favorite of the three is Radish Vetiver by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. The reason I like this so much is it is what the Comme des Garcons Series perfumes have done so well over the years. They create a perfume around an unusual ingredient like radish. If you’ve ever sliced fresh radishes for a salad you will know what Mme Gracia-Cetto’s radish smells like it has an acerbic earthiness. She sets that against the grassy woodiness of vetiver. At first the softer quality of vetiver gently caresses the radish before the rootier nature finds a kindred spirit. Mme Gracia-Cetto cleverly uses the patchouli analog Akigalawood to provide an unusual piece of ground for these roots to find purchase in. The base is made woodier with guaiac adding to the Akigalawood.

All three Clash perfume have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

For those who are less adventurous Chlorophyll Gardenia will be most to your liking. For the others who have followed where Comme des Garcons and M. Astuguevieille have led us for the past twenty-five years I suspect Celluloid Galbanum and/or Radish Vetiver will be part of your collection. I can’t wait for what comes next.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples supplied by Dover Street Market.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons + Monocle Scent Four: Yoyogi- Urban Greenspace

If you live in a big metropolis you treasure the greenspace carved out of the urban landscape. When you cross the boundary from concrete and steel to grass and trees it is a soothing feeling.  It is a serene island within the big city. It is a place where nature has a tenuous ascendancy. For Comme des Garcons + Monocle Scent Four: Yoyogi they seek to capture one of those.

Tyler Brule

The collaboration between Comme des Garcons and Tyler Brule’s global media brand, Monocle, has been one of the best of all the perfume brand’s partnerships. Scent One: Hinoki released in 2008 is one of the best Comme des Garcons releases. Scent Two: Laurel and Scent Three: Sugi retained the high level of quality. It has been six years since Sugi was released and I had no idea a Scent Four was on its way until it landed on my desk.

Christian Astuguevieille

For Scent Four: Yoyogi M. Brule and Comme des Garcons creative director Christian Astuguevieille ask perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto to interpret the scent of an early morning jog in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo Japan.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto

Yoyogi Park is in the Shibuya section of Tokyo. It is like Central Park in New York City in the way that it draws people of all kinds during the day. The one part of the day in an urban greenspace which is given over to the runners are the early morning hours. As they wend through the park with the dew damp upon the grounds and leaves it is probably the moment of every day where the scents of nature are the most apparent. This is what Mme Gracia-Cetto captures in Scent Four: Yoyogi.

Yoyogi opens on the scent of dewy grass. I think it is a mixture of the different hexenals along with a small amount of an aquatic ingredient. It comes together to form a wet grass accord which also carries a slight chill to go with it. Then it takes an unusual turn as Mme Gracia-Cetto uses wormwood next. Wormwood is the ingredient in absinthe liqueur and that is what I am reminded of as it rises out of the damp grass. It carries a sweet anise-like scent across the pedestrian green on top. I don’t run in the morning, but I do a lot of walking. On a dewy morning there is a sweetness in the air that is captured by this wormwood and grass pairing in Scent Fout Yoyogi. The wormwood turns less sweet allowing for the herbal licorice scent profile to take us back to a greener place. The base is all light woods with cypress the most prominent.

Scent Four: Yoyogi has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I wore this for my morning walk a couple days ago on the first slightly cool day we had. I was surprised to find how attuned I was to the natural sweetness that was there. It formed my thinking about how well Mme Gracia-Cetto captured the milieu. Scent Four: Yoyogi is another excellent perfume from the partnership formed eleven years ago. Take it out for a quick run in the greenspace in your mind.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar Comme des Garcons Blue Santal- Push and Pull

When perfume nerds get to talking about the most influential brand of the niche age of perfume; I have a very strong opinion. My choice is Comme des Garcons. From its beginnings in 1993 it would help define and refine what a niche aesthetic was in fragrance. It has been overseen by one incredible creative director in Christian Astuguevieille for the entire time. That longevity and consistency should not be taken for granted. Many of the early niche pioneers have lost their way. It seemed like it was part of the natural process. Keeping a high level of creativity was just not something that should be sustainable. Especially as we entered the second decade of the 2000’s it was happening with frustrating regularity. Comme des Garcons had seemingly fallen prey to the same issue with a streak of one mediocre release after another in 2012. I was thinking this was the final exclamation point on the first age of niche perfumery. Then M. Astuguevieille showed me in 2013 that the previous year was just an anomaly. Comme des Garcons bounced back with a new set of perfumes which recalibrated their aesthetic to be relevant for the now. At the center of these releases was Comme des Garcons Blue Santal.

One of the things which Comme des Garcons has done well is to have releases for the wider mass-market next to the more exclusive releases. Blue Santal was one of a trio of the former released in the summer of 2013. The other two Blue Cedrat and Blue Encens have been discontinued leaving Blue Santal as the only reminder of the sub-collection.

Antoine Maisondieu

Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu would compose a perfume which creates a push and pull between the green of pine and the dry woodiness of sandalwood. It is the kind of perfume I wear on a warm day because of that vacillation between cool pine and warm sandalwood.

Blue Santal opens with the terpenic tonic of that cool pine. M. Maisondieu adds in the sharp gin-like acidity of juniper berries as the bridging note. The base is one of the early uses of the sustainable Australian sandalwood. It is one of the first fragrances to accentuate the drier character of this newer source of sandalwood. It still carries the sweetness with the creamier character less prominent. It presents the right counterweight to the pine. Then over the hours it lasts on my skin it is like a set of scales with the pine on one side and the sandalwood on the other pivoting on a fulcrum of juniper berries.

Blue Santal has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

You might think it unusual to choose a release from such a well-known brand as Comme des Garcons as an Under the Radar choice. From a brand pushing towards a collection of one hundred releases I think it is easy for even the best ones to fall off the radar screen. I thought it was time to put Blue Santal back on it.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons x Vogue 125- The December Issue

There is no publication more closely tied to fashion than Vogue. There is no perfume brand which has represented what it means to be a niche perfume more than Comme des Garcons. For the occasion of Vogue’s 125th anniversary they asked Comme des Garcons to create a perfume to capture that milestone; Comme des Garcons x Vogue 125.

I have been very fortunate to have a tenuous connection to the New York fashion world. It gave me the opportunity to see the creative process from sketch to runway. It is among one of the most interesting things I have participated in. Early on I was allowed to stand on the sidelines during a photo shoot. In those pre-digital photography days the photographer would use a Polaroid camera to take many test shots before committing it to expensive film. When I say many I mean the whole room filled up with the smell of the self-developer from the amount of photos being taken. That smell is one of those odd industrial smells which has a weird pleasant quality. It never doesn’t smell like a chemical soup but it also has an undefinable sweetness, too. The other thing the room filled up with was cigarette smoke as the photographer would puff, shoot, pull the Polaroid out, shake it in the air and repeat. This is where the perfume Comme des Garcons x Vogue 125 begins.

Celia Ellenberg

Vogue’s Beauty Director Celia Ellenberg would team with Comme des Garcons creative director Christian Astuguevieille to bring Vogue 125 to life. They wanted to nod back to founder Conde Nast by using lily of the valley which was his favorite flower. I have to believe that it was M. Astuguevieille who presented the Polaroid accord to the Vogue creative team for their approval. This is a perfect example of why Comme des Garcons remains an innovator within niche perfumery. They find things which are aggressively synthetic and find the sweet spot where beauty can be found within the industrial.

Christian Astuguevieille

Vogue 125 opens with the Polaroid and cigarettes combination. The tobacco comes from the synthetic ingredient acetyl furan. This is very smart, as using a more natural tobacco source wouldn’t have resonated against the synthetic instant film accord as well. This is the smell of the fashion magazine business and I think there will be some who will be pushed away especially on a strip where it is particularly sharp. For those attracted to Vogue on the bottle it might be very unusual. To those who have loved when Comme des Garcons has plumbed these kind of accords in the past this is as good as any of those. I loved this opening the same way I pressed mimeographed sheets to my nose when I was in elementary school. For those who stick around the lily of the valley returns to more traditional perfume territory. This is a soft, slightly powdery version of the ingredient. One last bit of the industrial is added here with an ink note providing an acerbic retort to the lily of the valley. This is nuanced and not nearly as prominent as the top accord. It finishes on a soft leather accord mixed with some woody notes.

Vogue 125 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Vogue the magazine is known for the September Issue where they preview the fall fashion landscape every year. As I wore Vogue 125 I felt this was maybe The December Issue where they sum up 125 years of covering fashion in a triumphant representation of both brands on the bottle.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar Comme des Garcons X Monocle Scent One Hinoki- A Lemming is Born

One of the fun things about the gathering of perfume lovers that the internet spawned was when lemmings were spawned. The typical life cycle for this was for someone to stumble over a press release describing a perfume to come which sounded amazing. The next stage was a general amplification of desire as it was imagined what it would smell like. Then the first people would get the chance to try it. If they came back and reported it was as good, or better, the stampede was initiated, and we rushed headlong to the cliff…um…I mean the store. The final stage was a kind of post-coital languor as we all talked about how good it was. In 2008 one of the largest lemmings ever born was Comme des Garcons x Monocle Scent One: Hinoki.

Comme des Garcons had serious perfumista cred in 2008 as creative director Christian Astuguevieille had defined what it meant to be a niche fragrance. Merging that aesthetic with a non-fragrance brand was another interesting step. Monocle was a lifestyle magazine founded by Tyler Brule in 2007, Besides lifestyle there were also international affairs stories in between the sleek furniture and cutting-edge fashion. The sensibilities seemed like a good match.

Towards the end of 2007 it was announced that the first perfume from this collaboration was going to be called Scent One: Hinoki. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu was going to bring the juice to life. Scent One: Hinoki was meant to evoke a soak in a hinoki wood tub amidst a pine forest in Japan. What was great about this perfume when we were in the imagining what it would smell like phase of the lemming cycle was the inclusion of this top note, turpentine. Turpentine? You mean mineral spirits? Lots of debate on whether that was going to be good or not. It, plus another challenging note, would become the acid test on whether it was worth the chase.

Antoine Maisondieu

That other note is camphor and along with the turpentine that is what you get at the start. It is challenging in a nose wrinkling kind of way. When I first tried it on a paper strip it put me off in a big way. When I finally put some on my skin it was completely different as the challenging aspects became more diffused on my skin. Then the camphor and turpentine turn into a raw wood accord. If you’ve ever worked with green wood this is the smell of that. As that fades a more finished wood appears; cypress and pine are the choices. Green is introduced via vetiver, thyme, and moss adding back some of the rawer character lost with the more refined woods ascension. In the base the incense burning just outside the tub swirls over it all.

Scent One: Hinoki has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

During 2008 I was tracking what the most reported scents in the Scent of the Day thread in the forum were. On the men’s forum Scent One: Hinoki was one of the top 5 for the year. The really final stage of a lemming is it is forgotten as the crowd chases the next one. Scent One: Hinoki is good enough it shouldn’t be forgotten or found Under the Radar.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Comme des Garcons Play- Not Around Long Enough

I have written often how lack of longevity on skin has become inextricably entwined with quality in the consensus of the fragrance consumer. I can write until my fingers tire that the very notes which impart longevity are some of the cheapest and most synthetic; it falls as if a tree in a forest with no one around to hear. One of the reasons this has become a truism in perfume marketing is because in the mid-2000’s a number of brands put this to the test by releasing truly interesting short-lived perfumes. Almost all of them now occupy a shelf in the Dead Letter Office. One of the best examples is Comme des Garcons Play.

Christian Astuguevieille

By 2007 Comme des Garcons had emerged as one of the early pillars of the niche perfume sector. Overseen by Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille they would define many of the core principles of what it meant to be an artistic fragrance. Especially in these first years they were also the most willing to experiment. To their credit they still are. What that meant in 2007 was M. Astuguevieille wanted to see if the idea of longevity could be overcome with something truly avant-garde but fleeting.

The place within the Comme des Garcons brand where something like this might do well was the Play collection. On the clothing side Play was debuted in 2002 as a source of “casual luxury”. Which meant t-shirts and other casual wear done in the Comme des Garcons way. This brand generated one of the most iconic Comme des Garcons images. Shown above artist Filip Pagowski’s heart with eyes is as emblematic of the overall brand as it is for the sub-collection it was designed for. The Play collection were sold in these new outlets called Dover Street Market. To fill up the shelf space accessories were going to be hard on the heels of the clothing.

Aurelien Guichard

Five years on M. Astuguevieille collaborated with perfumer Aurelien Guichard for Play. It isn’t explicitly stated in any of the press materials that they were trying to make a short-lived fragrance. What is sure is Play is the Comme des Garcons aesthetic in short form.

It opens on a mixture of peppery citrus as black pepper and bitter orange provide a lively opening. It transitions quickly to an herbal heart of sage and thyme lifted on a cloud of aquatic notes like Calone. It sets up the truly odd accord that forms the base. If you ever spent time wiring stereo speakers in the old days before wireless made it irrelevant there is a smell of electronics in a wood cabinet. That is exactly what M. Guichard assembles out of patchouli, oakmoss. and musks for the final moments of Play. I’ve always thought of this as an electronic chypre.

Play has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The final accord is a classic odd Comme des Garcons example. It is unlikely that was the reason Play didn’t survive. The longevity was pointed out time and again whenever it was written about. It became a kind of baseline to compare other new releases to, “it lasts longer than Play”. Very quickly the decision came to pull the plug. It would be replaced by set of three perfumes Play Red, Play Green, and Play Black which would not make the same mistakes. What it comes down to is Play was not around long enough because it was not around long enough on a perfume lover.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Andy Warhol’s You’re In- Getting Past the Velvet Rope

When I first got to New York City in the mid 1980’s it was the heyday of the exclusive clubs. Clubs like The Palladium or Area were where you went to be seen. If you were a known NYC scenester you were on the guest list. If you weren’t you lined up behind a velvet rope hoping for the doorman to look at you and say the magic words, “You’re In.” As you approached the door the expectation of magic present behind it would give way to the fact that it was another club with some more famous people in attendance then the one closest to you. It still was a lot of fun to share the dance floor with a celebrity.

"You're In" by Andy Warhol (1967)

If you were to look for the beginning of this velvet rope segregation you might look back fifteen years or so to the world Andy Warhol created in NYC. That was another scene where your entry was predicated on adding something to the overall milieu. As with so many things from Mr. Warhol he was eerily prescient on where these nascent trends would end up. One piece of art he did, in 1967, was called “You’re In” where he painted a case of iconic glass Coca-Cola bottles silver and supposedly filled each bottle with toilet water. That’s water from the toilet not eau de toilette. The idea to poke fun with the homophone of the name of the piece. The soda maker was not amused and hit Mr. Warhol with a cease and desist. It also was revealed that it wasn’t toilet water but a cheap drugstore cologne the color of urine inside. Exactly what made Mr. Warhol interesting.

Christian Astuguevieille

Fifty years later Comme des Garcons wanted to re-visit this in their own homage to it. Lead by Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille they created a set of six silver cylinders each with its own Warhol quote on it encased in a carboard facsimile of the yellow wooden crate of the original piece of art. One thing I was sure of was M. Astuguevieille was not going to be putting toile water inside. What is inside Andy Warhol’s You’re In is a clever twist on the ubiquitous cheap citrus eau de toilette of the 1960’s. This is a citrus eau de toilette given a Comme des Garcons twist.

The top accord is bitter orange within a cloud of aldehydes. I laughed a bit because where aldehydes often remind people of hairspray these aldehydes reminded me of the smell of the fog machines at those velvet rope clubs of the 80’s. It is an odd set of aldehydes also containing a metallic edge as well. Pittosporum with its hybrid scent of orange blossom and jasmine bridges the citrus to a fuller jasmine. It is a classic floral citrus accord adequately achieved. Coriander bridges this into a synthetic woody base. Later on, the metallic effect from the top accord returns along with a bit of white musk.

Andy Warhol’s You’re In has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a project where the Comme des Garcons style was a perfect match for looking back at Mr. Warhol to synthesize a 2017 interpretation. I felt like I was allowed past the velvet rope of creativity both brands stand for with Andy Warhol’s You’re In.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Concrete- Sandalwood Skyscraper

With the re-release of the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library plus last year’s Blackpepper, which felt like a Series style fragrance, I was excited for all the wrong reasons when I saw the new release was named Concrete. I was expecting an exploration of the smells of fresh concrete. Especially since it was inspired by “urban cityscapes”. Then I read further to find out this was the opposite of what I thought. It was meant to be a “deconstructed sandalwood” fragrance.

Nicolas Beaulieu

I was still interested because I have had some access to the incredible number of different sandalwood isolates for a perfumer to use. If the perfumer, Nicolas Beaulieu, chose well he could use those different sandalwood sources leaving spaces for other ingredients to fill in. This is what I thought of as I experienced Concrete. The sandalwood used is like the steel infrastructure of a skyscraper. Not in the way it smells but in the way it provides the framework from which other ingredients can fill out the rest of the structure. Under the ever-present creative direction of Christian Astuguevieille he and M. Beaulieu form a sandalwood edifice.

Christian Astuguevieille

From the first moments, the sandalwood presents itself. I would dearly love to know which sandalwood ingredients he is using for sure. What I experience is one where the austere elements are removed while the sweeter woodiness is enhanced. The creaminess is also attenuated but not as much as the desiccated qualities. Then a spice trio of cardamom, clove, and cumin begin to add to the sandalwood structure. The cardamom is the greener version contrasting the amplified sweetness. Clove complements the same quality while cumin provides a bit of the sweat of the construction crew, but just a tiny bit of that. Besides the sandalwood the other keynote in Concrete is rose oxide. I always think of rose oxide as sci-fi rose because it feels like the rose a robot would produce. It has a geranium-like rose effect shot through with metallic threads. This turns it into a perfect partner for the sandalwood here. It inserts an industrially pretty floral right in the heart. A little jasmine provides some lift to the upper stories of our skyscraper. The base uses cedar to provide a cleaner woody partner to the sandalwood while some musk, as the cumin did before, adds some humanity to the final moments.

Concrete has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is an excellent addition to the Comme des Garcons collection. It might not have been a riff on the smell of poured concrete; but after wearing it for a few days I have come to prefer Concrete as produced by Messrs. Astuguevieille and Beaulieu. I am extremely happy to ride the elevators in my sandalwood skyscraper all-day long.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Comme des Garcons/ Dover Street Market.

Mark Behnke