Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Three Kings: Comme des Garçons Incense Series - Avignon

Does heaven smell of frankincense?
Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.
Welcome to my second post of We Three Kings week. The first perfume I reviewed was for gold, and this post is dedicated to the second gift of the Magi: frankincense. Frankincense is the gift that represents prayer.


Incense has been associated with communication with the divine since ancient times. It's mentioned in Indian Vedic scriptures from 5,000 B.C., and in ancient Egyptian tablets. Burning incense was serious business to the Jews during the time of Christ's birth; "holy" incense was burned only on special alters, by priests. It seems we humans have always found the fragrance of burning incense special and uplifting.

The Comme des Garçons Series 3 Incense is devoted to the five main spiritual teachings of the humanity; each one associated with a particular type of incense. Avignon represents Christianity and is focused on frankincense.

Frankincense did not start to be used in Catholic churches until the 4th century. Also called Olibanum, frankincense was introduced to Europe by Frankish raiders, hence the name. It's an aromatic resin harvested from trees native to the Arabian peninsula and north Africa. When the bark of tone of these trees is damaged, sap extrudes that hardens into lumps called "tears." The best frankincense comes from trees that grow in the harshest of locations, sometimes attaching themselves to barren rock.

What does Avignon smell like?

It smells like a Gothic cathedral. I've never been to a catholic mass where they swing the censors of incense, sending fragrant smoke over the congregation, but I've read from other reviewers that Avignon is pretty close to the actual experience. The frankincense is desert dry and woody in a way that brings polished wooden pews to mind.

Avignon is dark and contemplative; it smells of huge open spaces and dim lights. It's sheer, as if looking through smoke, but long-lasting and has significant sillage. In the drydown, an herbal chamomile and a gentle hint of vanilla soften the austere Gothic outlines of the perfume.

I find Avignon very meditative and comforting to wear. It clings to the fur collar of my coat, and when I smell it I imagine flickering candles in stone cathedrals and the sound of prayer. This is my scent for Christmas eve.

House: Comme des Garçons
Nose: Mark Buxton
Notes: Chamomile, Cistus, elemi, Myrrhe, Incense, Patchouli, Vanilla, patchouli, palisander, ambrette seeds

Please visit all these other blogs during We Three Kings week:

Photo: Notre-Dame des Doms d'Avignon
Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch


  1. I love this fragrance but I tend to like those "gothic" incenses. I've never stepped foot in mass, but maybe I would have if I knew it smelled of CdG Avignon :)

  2. I love the CdG Incense scents that I've tried (Zagorsk being my fave). I am just really into CdG overall right now and I will happily add this one to the queue of samples to try. Thanks for the comprehensive review. :)

  3. I have been to masses ( despite being a Quaker) and yes Avignon is very close . That was a very interesting review ,thank-you.

  4. I love how this week I'm discovering so many perfumes I haven't tried before. Although, I prefer incense in small quantities, I want to smell for myself Avignon and the church reference.

  5. Yup, Avignon is very close to the midnight mass experience, and your review nails the Gothic incense category perfectly. I was also interested to learn more about the "harvesting" of tear-shaped sap.

  6. One of my favorite dark incense fragrances! It is also very comforting for me, something I wear when I need to relax, or the opposite, to concentrate better when I am working.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone, I really enjoy the feedback. I should try to experience a real catholic mass myself someday just to smell the incense myself.

    As BoisdeJasmin said, Avignon is relaxing and enervating at the same time. I think it's because the incense tickles my nose a little.

  8. I like the idea of a chamomile note in a frankincense perfume. I might skip trying Avignon though. You'll know why when you read my next review.

    If you decide to go to Catholic mass, go to mass said in Latin. It is an otherworldly experience even if you don't follow a religious path.

  9. I so much wish that I had a sample of Avignon to smell right now. It sounds amazing. Tomorrow morning I'm going to sprint to SpaceNK to see if they have some.

    I've just finished writing up my own Three Kings reviews. During my background reading I'd found that NST names Avignon as the 'industry standard' for frankincense perfumes. What's more frustrating is that I've tried Ouarzazate again and again - wanting to love it. But I should have been trying Avignon all along.

    Great review - I loved reading it, and am looking forward to trying this scent. I'm loving being involved in We Three Kings. Thanks for inviting me to take part.

  10. Hi Joanne: I read your review, and now I understand :)

    Hello Jess: You must try Avignon, but if you can't ind it, I think Montale Incense Full has a similar frankincense note. I don't remember if the dry-down is as nice.

    I'm looking forward to reading your piece!

  11. Great review of an adored fragrance, whose prickly chamomile element sets it apart from other incenses. I LOVE the idea of wearing a fur coat on a visit to a cold, drafty Gothic cathedral for midnight mass-- worldly meets spiritual (and stays warm)!

  12. Very interesting review. Now I've got to try Avignon again. The only CdG Incense that appealed to me a few months ago when I first tried them was Kyoto, but I think I'm ready for more challenges.

  13. this would be my pick too- although Heeley Cardinal is also beautiful and Penhaligon's Elixir is too

    Happy Christmas!

  14. Hi Martha: I liked Avignon the best of CDG Incense series, but I also loved Hinoki, which has incense too. Have you tried that?

    Hello Rose: I like Cardinal too, and Elixer! I won a bottle of Elixer from Penhaligon's that is my "spa in a bottle" scent.


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