Thursday, November 30, 2017

Comme des Garçons Incense Series Avignon: fragrance review

Using as fine fragrance the equivalent of ecclesiastic incense of the Catholic variety, marvelously assimilated in Avignon by Comme de Garçons (2002), is an acquired taste for many and probably a bit of a sacrilege for some. But for perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour it must have felt relieving to drive out the ghosts of the past by appropriating them a dissimilar role.


Comme des Garçons Avignon fragrance, named after the French seat of the Papal court during the conflict with Rome in the 14th century, evokes grim cathedrals and catacombs with centuries of humidity and tangy frankincense smoke attached to their stony walls. To give the background of the name a short historical perspective, it all arose from a conflict of power.

Following the strife between Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, and the death of his successor Benedict XI after eight months in office, a rupture was evident between the French crown and the Pope seat in Rome. The conclave elected Clement V, in 1305. Clement, who was a Frenchman, declined to move to Rome, and in 1309, he moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years enjoying a succession of no less than 7 French popes.

via wikimedia commons

Incense reigns in Bertrand's work,  accounted for in reverse psychology by his strict Catholic upbringing. When church duties collide with corporal punishment, guilt and internal suffering, it might become rather discomfitting. The realm of the senses, smell in particular, retains nevertheless a visceral appeal, enhanced via the perverted pleasure nascent from that which is denied of: ambrette and labdanum in the scent of CDG Avignon recall the sinful body...

For someone like me, raised in the Christian Orthodox faith, I find that the fragrance of Avignon, due to its smoky and denser background with patchouli and moss, bears kinship with my Mediterranean memories of church incense wafting off Byzantine abodes. I may have been spared the rod, but I can identify with the odd sensuality of an austere type of scent which I shouldn't really like, yet which I end up loving all the same.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 

The Incense Series: a Holy Week through Incense Scents
Incense fragrance reviews 


  1. I adore incense based perfumes... for me they are profoundly sensual and yet meditative. I do understand and recognize the church associations, as I was placed in catholic schools from kindergarten through high school! and having attended services in many houses of worship around the globe, I have enjoyed all the different types of incense used to evoke a holy atmosphere, from orthodox to catholic to hindu temple to mosque to Japanese tea ceremony... but I also associate incense with the rich history of its use in antiquity, including its fragrant offering to various goddesses and gods through time, and the traditions of secular use in homes to scent rooms, clothing, and hair. incense simply smells marvelous to me, especially the frankincense heavy ones, and I always have several incense perfumes on the shelf. Avignon is a beautiful example.

    1. You are a woman after my own heart and it pleases me no end to read and reread your beautiful post here! I SOOOOOO agree with everything you're saying. Frankincense for the win!

  2. When I smell Avignon, I don't necessarily recognize the scent, but it gives me a nervous feeling! Clearly they captured something special with this perfume.

    1. I guess these kind of smells are kinda loaded in associations. Don't get scared. But yes they did capture something special. True enough.

  3. Oh my gosh, I may have to get this! Thanks for your wonderful review!

    1. It's really wonderful in a very odd and almost perverse way. The whole Incense Series by CDG was a gateway into incense when niche first erupted in the "scene" and therefore pretty monumental in itself. Do try them all if you can! (I also love Kyoto)


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