One of the interesting discussions that came out of my recent post about perfume snobbery was the inevitability of brand influence. We most of us have our favorite perfume brands, and we get excited when they launch something new (and, of course, we are disappointed if the something new turns out to be dull and unexciting). It is nice to be surprised once in awhile, but then, life is just easier and simpler when Burberry's The Beat turns out to be appropriately Burberry-ish, and so on and so forth. It might be interesting if you picked up Ralph Wild and found a weird little milky wood pudding with incense and Costume National 21 turned out to be a strawberry soda, but it certainly wouldn't help you navigate the overcrowded fragrance market, would it?
So I expect certain things from certain brands, and if I'm disappointed, I grumble. Writing about perfume and context some time ago, I complained:
And I am still puzzling over Guerilla 1 & 2 from Comme des Garçons. Would I have been more impressed if they had been released by say, Calvin Klein? I think not, but they certainly couldn't live up to the iconoclastic heritage of Comme des Garçons.
Comme des Garçons has long been one of my favorite niche brands, but I've grumbled about almost everything they've done lately. I didn't like the Guerilla series mentioned above, and I didn't like the Sweet series that preceded it or the one-off Play fragrance which followed. The Luxe series (Patchouli & Champaca) fragrances were well done, but given that I'd have to sell a kidney to buy them and that they weren't the sort of quirky little wonders I expect from Comme des Garçons anyway, I grumbled some more. With their last two releases, 8 88 (and we're just going to call it 888 from here on in, ok?) and Monocle x Comme des Garçons Scent One: Hinoki, Comme des Garçons is back in my good graces — and I'm sure they're so relieved.
I'll start with 888. This is the one that was meant to create an "olfactive expression" of gold. The juice, by perfumer Antoine Lie, focuses on safraline, a "molecular derivative of saffron created by Swiss perfume house Givaudan"; other notes include pepperwood, curcuma, coriander, geranium and amber. It starts off bright and spicy — saffron, yes, but also lots of pepper and coriander — with sparkling citrus and a touch of greenery. It is more sheer than rich, but the spices lend it a jagged, almost rough feel in the early stages. The citrus and the pepper fade as it dries down, and the jagged edges give way to a smooth, almost-velvety finish of pale woody amber-musk. After an hour or so, it is rather quiet and close to the skin, and the gorgeous saffron-coriander blend is creamy and just slightly sweet. It is savory but not foody, if that makes any sense. If you had to assign it a color, golden yellow would do, but other than that there is nothing about it that reminds me of gold, and while it is somewhat cold, it doesn't strike me as particularly metallic.
I can't say I adore 888 wholeheartedly, but I like it and I'd certainly wear it, and it is considerably more fun (and Comme des Garçons-ish) than the lackluster Play. Monocle + Comme des Garçons Scent One: Hinoki (what a name!), created for Monocle magazine ("a global briefing covering international affairs, business, culture and design"), ups the ante: this is the one I'd very much like to own. I don't know what the link is between Monocle and the "Japanese hot-spring baths and Scandinavian forests" that reportedly inspired Scent One: Hinoki, but the juice was created by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, and the notes include cypress, turpentine, camphor, cedar, thyme, pine, Georgian wood, frankincense, moss and vetiver.
If you've a more romantic bent than I, you might find those Japanese hot-spring baths and Scandinavian forests in Scent One: Hinoki, but to me, this is the smell of your father's woodshop, assuming you had a father with a woodshop. On a hot, dry, day, perhaps, when the air is still, and the scent of newly constructed wood furniture mingles with the scent of old wood being refinished. There is freshly sanded wood, and a touch of citrus cleaner, and, as advertised, plenty of turpentine and camphor. The base has a beautifully earthy buzz, and it is all drier than dry. It is exactly the sort of oddity that I adore from Comme des Garçons, and for that matter, exactly the sort of oddity that makes me go on doggedly trying new perfumes every day even though most of them are just dull as dirt.
Scent One: Hinoki's lasting power is less than fabulous, isn't that the way? I'm trying it from a vial, and am going to hope it does better sprayed. If you want another opinion on Scent One: Hinoki, see Patty's take at Perfume Posse.
Comme des Garçons 888 is available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum, and in a matching candle. Monocle + Comme des Garçons Scent One: Hinoki is available in 50 ml Eau de Toilette. For buying information, see the listing for Comme des Garçons under Perfume Houses.