The last fragrance (alphabetically) in the Incense series by Comme des Garçons is Zagorsk. If you are not familiar with this series, see Monday's review of Avignon & Jaisalmer and yesterday's review of Kyoto & Ouarzazate for an introduction.
Zagorsk was the Soviet-era name for the town of Sergiyev Posad. The town, which is not far from Moscow, is home to the Holy Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, often called the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church. The symbolism of incense in the liturgy is essentially the same as it is in the Catholic Church: it represents purification, an offering, and the rising of prayers to heaven.
The notes for Zagorsk are white pine incense, violet, pimento berry, iris, hinoki wood, cedar and birch. The top notes are a sharp burst of pine balsam, but that is short lived, and as it settles it is joined by prominent notes of cedar and birch. The smoke is subdued at the start and fades away to barely a whisper as it warms on the skin; the wood notes are meanwhile softened by a velvety iris and a very light touch of floral sweetness from the violet. The end result is an understated, rather sober wood fragrance.
It is too placid and restrained to captivate me entirely. Ouarzazate has a more muted presence, but worn next to Zagorsk, it has a more lively aspect, perhaps because its transparency allows the smoky resinous notes to shine through more clearly. Likewise I find the earthiness of Kyoto more meditative than the chilly sobriety of Zagorsk. But all of that is to split hairs, it is a lovely scent in its own right and suffers here only in comparison to the others.
As I said before, Incense is easily my favorite of the Comme des Garçons series. There is not a dud in the bunch, and even my least favorite, Jaisalmer (see below), is a fragrance that I would happily wear if a bottle was to fall from the skies. At $54 for 50 ml, the fragrances are also a bargain, especially when you compare to other niche scents of similar quality.
I had it in mind to close with a list of the fragrances in order of my own preference. That was harder to do than I thought. I changed the order of the first three at least twice while writing this, so take with a grain of salt, but: Avignon, Ouarzazate, Kyoto, Zagorsk, and then Jaisalmer.
Update: Times and prices change, but even in 2009 the Incense series fragrances are a bargain at $80 each. Zagorsk was developed by perfumer Evelyne Boulanger.
Note: image is Russia-Sergiev Posad-Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra-Panorama-5 by Alex Zelenko via Wikimedia Commons.