Treasures from Barneys: Comme des Garçons Series 3 - Incense: Kyoto & Avignon

Last weekend I also got a chance to try out the five fragrances in Comme des Garçons Incense Series. The series was released in 2001 after the 2 previous series (Leaves and Red), which in my opinion were far less interesting that the incense series. Although they have been out a while and I've always wanted to smell them I never had the chance as I don't know of any places in Washington, DC that carry them. Well, that all changed when I (finally) got to go to Barneys in New York.

The five fragrances in the incense series (Kyoto, Avignon, Jaisalmer, Ouarzazate, and Zagorsk) were all inspired by five different holy sites representing different religions and regions of the world and the fact that nearly all religions have a history of the use of incense in holy buildings for both meditative purposes and to ward of the evil spirits. Of all five, Kyoto and Avignon were easily my favorites.

Kyoto: Inspired by the use of incense in both Buddhist and Shinto religious practices and the humility and meditative culture of the monks of Kyoto, Kyoto, the fragrance, is certainly light than some of the other incense fragrances in the series. I think that this may be due in part to its somewhat more "green" qualities and that I find it to be possibly the most exotic. The notes in Kyoto are vetiver, patchouli, coffee, amber, incense, cypress oil, teak wood, cedar, and immortelle. The initial burst of the fragrance is a inspiring rush of coffee and patchouli, however these soon give way to the dark, "incensy" woods at its heart. The combination of patchouli, coffee, and cedar probably explain why it's my favorite of the line.

I highly recommend Kyoto to anyone interested at all in incense fragrances. It truly will make you feel as if you are sitting in a zen garden in a Buddhist monastery. So spray a little on, close your eyes and feel the calm take over. (While you're at it check out some of Kyoto's famous gardens)

Avignon: Avignon, in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur in the South of France, was once the religious center of Europe as it belonged to the Roman Catholic Popes for 400 years (1349-1791). In the heart of Provence, its beautiful location on the banks of the Rhone River and its stunning papal palaces make it quite an inspiration for all who visit. It's no wonder that a city with such a wealth of Roman Catholic city should inspire a fragrance based on incense. Comme des Garçon's Avignon is a beautifully respectful and smoky fragrance that is not all dull as one may expect. Instead, like Giorgio Armani's Bois d'Encens, Kyoto is a remarkably accurate yet wearable (for men at least) recreation of the incense used in the Catholic churches of Europe to this day. The notes of Avignon include Roman camomile, ambrette, myrrh, cistus oil, elemi, incense, patchouli and vanilla. Unlike Kyoto, there is no initial burst when one applies Avignon. Instead, the smoky incense scent is present and one imagines that a priest has just walked by on his procession. The top notes progress into even deeper and darker notes and one can't help but think reverently about the grand cathedrals of France and Italy. Where Kyoto inspires a sort of connection to the peace of nature, Avignon inspires a a feeling of connection to the heavens above.

Note: If you're not finding yourself anywhere near a store that carries Comme des Garçons, look for them online at LuckyScent ($62 for 50ml or try a 1/32oz sample for $3)