Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review: COMME DES GARCONS COLOGNES Anbar, Citrico, Vettiveru


It's too bad that Comme des Garçons' Series 4: Cologne (2002) doesn't seem to get much press. The excellent incense series (also 2002) does rather overshadow the other series and maybe deservedly so, but I find this little cologne trio, though perhaps less ambitious, nevertheless really pleasant.

Pleasant, wearable, clean -- some of the best characteristics of the eau de cologne genre, and evinced very competently here in Anbar, Citrico, and Vettiveru. And sans fanfare. I think that makes me like the set even more.

I also think this Comme des Garçons series has a certain coherence, too, more so than, say, the Hermès cologne series. At least, it strikes me as more deliberate in its variations on the eau de cologne theme, with Anbar nudging things slightly warmer/oriental, Citrico brighter/floral, and Vettiveru drier/aromatic, while a notably soapy-clean undercurrent runs through each.

Anbar opens with something like a rather sour lemon before moving onto the carnation, a bit floral but mostly cinnamon-y. This carnation is most prominent for me in Anbar, rather than the amber 'Anbar' supposedly is named after, and is similar to the sheer spice treatment that Diptyque's neo-cologne L'Eau de L'Eau (2008) gets, though Anbar is the softer. Actually, the blunted spice in Anbar reminds me, crazily, of Mesoamerican food, like a dusting of corn over very mild chipolte. I imagine the amber is responsible for the softness (tortillas notwithstanding!) -- but without exerting itself in a heavy, typically ambery way. It remains light, as an eau de cologne should, and mainly seems to round off any possible edges to the composition, warming and sweetening it up a bit, along with the mandarin and a soapy, sheer skin-musk. Easily wearable, stylish, and very well-executed. And somewhat unusual -- spiced citrus eaux are less common in my experience and this one predates L'Eau de L'Eau by several years. I'm surprised so little seems to have been said about Anbar.

Citrico, on the other hand, is less strong on originality -- Anbar is probably the most interesting of the trio -- but it is a lovely floral citrus. Cold sniff of it is a little sharp and thin, and it opens very lemon, but the citrus blend turns quite juicy and flowery on my skin. Also, the neroli is very delicate here, much more like orange blossom than the green, harsh neroli essences that I'm familiar with, and together with a rather floral bergamot, it gives Citrico a graceful lilt, like a gentle breeze in spring. Clearly the eau de cologne tradition is upheld -- but also, updated. Citrico's update is sweeter and definitely soapier, a bit in the style of Mugler Cologne (2001), another nice neo-cologne built around a light orange blossom. I actually find Citrico even soapier than the rather soapy Mugler, at least on my skin, and in fact, a drop of that soapy base is present in Anbar as well -- so that Citrico and Anbar sort of approach each other on the far drydown, Citrico from the side of citrus (duh) and Anbar from the side of spice.

Vettiveru, in contrast, is the 'coolest' of the trio for me, and since I tend to love sheer, cool vetivers, it is not too surprising that I should like Vettiveru, as it is exactly that on the drydown. But like the other two in the Series, its characteristic eau de cologne refreshment is not excessively chilly. It does open with a clear, high, sour hit of bergamot-lemon, but Vettiveru settles fairly quickly into a dry, dusty, vetivergrass goodness. It's very like my rug made of vetiver -- so much so that it makes me wish the ending 'veru' in its name were a play on the Latin verus. As in 'true vetiver'... but no... only the sort of thing that someone with zero Latin knowledge (like me) would conjure up. But as much as I do like Vettiveru, something in it prevents me from loving it. Some vaguely peppery floral mid-drydown moment that gives me a headache; I think it may be the neroli (a note I tend to dislike) interacting with the white cedar. Nevertheless, it is a very nice vetiver, far less aggressive than classic vetivers like Guerlain's or Roger et Gallet's and more along the lines of cleaner, more streamlined versions from Malin+Goetz or even L'Aromarine.

And indeed, the line is clearly minimalist in slant. From bottle design to scent composition, these colognes are not stuffed with clutter -- conceptually, sort of a Guerlain Cologne du 68 antithesis. But ironically, almost like the scent of the 68-note stuffed Cologne du 68, neither Anbar, Citrico, or Vettiveru is "too" anything. Not too eau de cologne-y. Or too amber, citrus, or vetiver. I find them all rather mild. I don't know, perhaps that is part of its genre reinvention? A sort of modern chic simple. As applied to the cologne genre, which incidentally rather lends itself to such modernization, given its native simplicity (of composition).

Merely an impression on my part. But it doesn't seem completely uncharacteristic that it should be Comme des Garçons making statements about modernity. If in an uncharacteristically subtle and non-odd way. No notes of photocopier toner and flashing metal here.

Thankfully.