As tends to be the case with many Comme des Garcons perfume collaborations, the partnership with British business, culture and design magazine Monacle has proven to be a triumph. The limited edition 2008 fragrance release Hinoki put them on the map, and now in December 2009 the alliance introduces their second scent to date: Laurel.
Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu (the nose behind Hinoki and fragrances from the Etat Libre d'Orange portfolio) was recruited a second time to give life to Laurel - a scent that is inspired by the fertile Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Laurel opens with a blast of vivacious, aromatic green which is extremely sappy/resinous in nature. I liken the smell to the odour that is transferred to your fingertips when you crush the needle-like leaves of cypress pine in your hands. It is a sharp, sweet odour shared by many conifers, that also embodies the scent of the softwood at its heart. Earlier this year I blogged about Aleppo Oil sourced from Pinus halepensis - a pine species found across the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Lybia and Syria, which has a very specific smell (one that is quite lemony in nature, and less "glacé" than many other resinous pines). To my nose, Laurel seems to embody this sensation of Aleppo, and those familiar with Aleppo soap products from Damascus will easily be cognizant of it here. It is also safe to say that laurel plays a starring role in this fragrance, and it does indeed - the distinct aroma of dried bay leaves is unmistakable here, and adds to the exotic eastern feel of the perfume. It has been cleverly married however, to other accords that pay hommage to this special part of the world. The Al Shouf Cedar Reserve covers about 5% of the overall area of Lebanon so it is only fitting that Laurel includes a cedar component. Fortunately though, it seems well removed from "stock standard" cedar that has pervaded perfume releases in the past few years.
In contrast to this evergreen characteristic, and perhaps what I find most interesting about Laurel is how it prickles at the back of the nose with what I can only describe as a "white pepper" vibe which almost triggers a sneeze. I take delight in this physiological response, which I also experience when sniffing other scents like L'eau Bleue d'Issey and Eau de Sisley 3. This stimulating vein of pepper tingles over earthy patchouli, a wonderful resinous frankincense and warm amber accords to create a perfume that aligns my nose and draws my mind's eye once again to the colourful Near East.
Laurel is a tenacious and spirited eau de toilette that has a rather linear composition (as one has come to expect from Comme des Garcons) and lasts well over nine hours on my skin.
If the union between Comme des Garcons and Monacle continues to flourish, then I already anticipate a third release, every bit as spectacular as this one.