Pepper, Incense, Leather, Olibanum, Licorice, Cedar, Vetiver
The Short Story
Pepper and incense for the timid man.
The Long Story
A perfume critic once said perfumers often use incense as a magic bullet to get browny points for being creative and “niche”. His point was that it didn’t really matter whether fragrance is good or not, the fetishization of incense makes anything smell unorthodox, indie and hence “cool”. This is similar to the way of thinking that eating vegan brownies makes you a pro-nature hippie. To put it bluntly, it’s bullshit.
It seems like Comme des Garçons latest creation uses incense in a similar fashion – let’s put it in for the sake of smelling niche and unusual to the Average Joe. I’m not quite sure what is the idea behind Black. I’ve read it’s supposed to be dark, mysterious and yet comforting fragrance. It misses the goal of “dark and mysterious” by miles but does really well on the “comforting” side. In fact I find Black to be exactly the opposite of dark and mysterious. The scent conjures up images of a middle aged office guy favouring oversized Chaps shirts and baggy double-pleated khakis. The same kind who is progressively balding with a protruding paunch who is grudgingly facing the reality that he won’t make it past middle management. I get the impression Black is a fragrance for the mediocre “balls-less” guy who wants to be progressive but is too scared to take the risk. This is why he wears a fragrance, which has an edge that has been dulled enough to match his comfort level.
By now you probably get where I’m going with this: Black is not a good fragrance. Actually it is good but not remarkable in any way.
Black is executed very well albeit it’s dull character. It opens with freshly ground black pepper. If you’ve smelled Marc Jacobs‘ Bang, you’ve got an idea. This opening reminds me of Hermes‘s Poivre Samarcande because it is accompanied by a softer, balmier notes, which I attribute to the leather accord.
Almost immediately a note of clean incense appears. As the fragrance progresses, the incense turns smokier and dirtier. It’s acridity is balanced by the soft leather note and cardamom. In the heart of the composition you notice a sweet fresh element sneaking through. I believe this is start anise and vetiver. It balances the balminess and helps the composition progress into its woody base.
so, there you have it – a well executed fragrance, which doesn’t add anything new to the world. It is like the perfect shingle – it gets the job done but can’t excite you. Not worth a purchase but may make a good gift for someone who wears Chaps and carries his phone in a holster on his belt.