Comme des Garcons Harissa & Sequoia, from series 2: Red ~ fragrance review

Comme des Garcons Harissa & Sequoia fragrances

Red was the second series of fragrances launched by Comme des Garçons, following the now sadly discontinued Leaves series. It debuted in 2001 with 5 fragrances, all revolving around the theme, obviously, of things that are or might be red. The series includes Harissa, Sequoia, Palisander, Carnation and Rose. Harissa and Sequoia are both by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour (who also created Monday's Dzongkha and Tuesday's Méchant Loup) and those are the two under consideration today.

Harissa is named for the North African spice mixture; other fragrance notes include blood orange, red chili pepper, angelica, saffron, nutmeg, cardamon and tomato. The top notes are muy fabuloso: basically lots of orange and lots of hot pepper. As it dries down, other spice notes join in, and while cinnamon is not listed and there probably isn't any, after 15 minutes or so it reminds me very much of Red Hots melting in fresh orange juice.

After that, the tomato intensifies and the orange begins a slow fade. It smells like a Bloody Mary for a bit, then the saffron and angelica heat up and it takes off on a more vegetal sort of path.

Harissa is an interesting scent, and if it would just retain all the fiery heat of the top notes, I would adore it beyond measure. But as these things go, the spices soften and it is just a little less fabuloso to me then. It is one of those fragrances that I keep reapplying to get the rush from the first blast. Harissa comes in a candle and that might be the perfect way to have your cake and eat it too — do comment if you've tried it.

Sequoia has notes of California redwood, red rum, opopanax, karo karounde, agarwood and mahogany. Fans of L'Artisan Timbuktu will recognize the karo karounde, and in fact, Sequoia smells something like an early sketch done in preparation for Timbuktu. That is not to imply that Sequoia smells unfinished. It is beautifully done but the focus is more precise, and it is hardly worth trying unless you are a huge fan of wood: you can pick out other notes and it has a nice resinous undertone, but the basic impression is of a huge, newly cut hunk of wood, still oozing sap. If you do love wood, it is glorious stuff, and for that matter, I'd like to have the Sequoia candle too.

Comme des Garçons Harissa and Sequoia both come in 100 ml bottles of Eau de Toilette (the older 75 ml bottles are now discontinued), and both have good lasting power. For buying information, see the listing for Comme des Garçons under Perfume Houses.

Update: false alarm, the Leaves series was not discontinued!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    These were fun to try at Barneys. Unfortunately the Harissa smelled least interesting on me, mostly Bloody Mary. The Sequoia I loved; I am, as you say, a huge fan of woods. But I ended up buying the Palisander — woods, spices, incense (myrrh?) and pure heaven.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I probably would have tried these when I went through my spice and wood explorations but now the sound 'too much'. I still love a little spicy edge and a little bit of cedar and opoponax but its easy to be over done.

    You asked me if I have any new fragrance loves Robin. I haven't been looking at anything new for quite some time but am still really loving Flowerbomb and CC No. 1 I wear them all the time. take care :-) Laura

  3. Anonymous says:

    Palisander is just gorgeous. Wish I owned the whole darn set, although I've never even tried the Rose.

  4. Anonymous says:

    L, well, you've become very nearly a signature scent woman then — and I've gone in the other direction, and never even find time to wear my old favorites these days. Have a feeling your way is best :-)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Muy fabulosos review, my dear. :):)

    I liked Palisander, but something on the edges of it smells just a bit off to me, maybe a hint too much of the “butt crack” accord. But I know that March loves that butt crack accord. Maybe you do too, R??? :):)


  6. Anonymous says:

    LOL…perhaps I do, although I don't remember that particular accord in Palisander. Will have to spray some on later today, now I'm intrigued!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I gave Palisander to my BF last january for his birthday.

    I must say I love the frag on him, BUT I could never wear it (I tried) cause it gives me an astonishing headache after 2 hours or so.

    Harissa was my pick for a future purchase, but I got ADParma's Arancia di Capri last July and I am sticking to it for a while. Sequoia sounds sexy but I guess it would have the same effect on me as palisander. I wonder if light application should do the trick. I must say that anyway these are (or at least smell) as quality fragrance should, IMHO.

    Robin I have finally started the experiments on making my own perfume, so I take advantage of this to suggest a nowsmellthis roundup of “essential oils” or “single note perfumes” for mixing/layering and experimenting? :-)

    I am experimenting with some local “incense stick”-like essences and a couple of bottles of essentials from L'Occitane plus some vodka (I swear I am not drinking it…yet).

  8. Anonymous says:

    Harissa starts fabulously spicy and then goes flat on my skin :-( I do love Sequoia and can't figure out how come I still don't own a bottle.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If you are making your own, you might want to check out Anya McCoy's Natural Perfumery group on Yahoo — even if you aren't into all-natural, I think you'd find some great DIY resources there. There also used to be a DIY board on basenotes but don't know if it is still active.

    Sequoia, to my nose, isn't as sexy as Palisander. Not sure why. If Palisander gives you a headache, maybe that is a good thing…

  10. Anonymous says:

    It doesn't quite go flat on me M, just doesn't stay quite as wonderful as the start. Still wish I owned the whole Red series!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks I will try the yahoo group.

    The basenotes board is still active, and the primer DIY was very helpful.

  12. Anonymous says:

    almost a signature scent woman….but I still have my other 40 bottles and 100 or so decants for those days when I'm feeling a fear of commitment. I love them all :-)

  13. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely agree about Harissa. Fab top notes – then goes downhill, unfortunately. I remember the first time I tested it being so disappointed, thinking it smelled just like what my dad used to sometimes drink on Saturday mornings – V8 and orange juice with a splash of Tabasco. Bleh.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Glad to hear you haven't divested yourself of other possibilities, LOL…you never know ;-)

  15. Anonymous says:

    That is why I want the darn candle…bet it stays nice and fiery hot!

  16. Anonymous says:

    You know, I love Sequoia most out of these three. It's a hunk of wood with a wino's breath. Love it. And violetnoir – you're bang on the money – Palisander DOES have the same butt crack quality that I pick up in Aomassai – just sniffed em both. How funny! I always wonder what it was that put me off it…
    Not that i mind a bit of butt crack in the right place, of course, but there's something too (tastelessly does Gary Coleman face) 'Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?' in these two scents that puts me off em.
    I use this harissa that has rose petals in it… can't remember the make (French I believe). It smells divine. Now THAT would be a perfume.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Harissa with rose petals sounds fabulous — and leave out the tomato.

    Now I'll have to try Palisander & Aomassai next to each other…

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