Series 3 Incense: Avignon by Bertrand Duchaufour for Comme des Garcons 2002


Guest post by Madeleine


Avignon by Comme des Garcons 2002

Hello Everyone, Do we need to have a strong memory association or reference for a perfume to really move us? This is the question that popped into my head as soon as I tested Avignon by Comme des Garcons. Why? Because it moved me in such a way and yet, I couldn’t really fathom why. It’s an incense-based perfume and meant to be a fragranced homage to Catholicism. Many reviews, including the lovely Portia’s a few months ago, have emphasised the evocation of childhood memories of Catholic rites: days spent at mass surrounded by swinging censers and altar boys.

Avignon Mass Incense PoliticsDailyPhoto Stolen PoliticsDaily

But I’m not Catholic and I’ve always disliked incense. In fact, I avoided Avignon for many years, despite the glowing reviews for these very reasons. My scent impression of incense before trying the scent was of those cheap joss sticks they sell in two-dollar shops. And the closest I have come to being Catholic was having a serious girl crush on Josephine Byrnes in the mini-series Brides of Christ. For about a week or two, I thought how cool it would be to become a nun. (Ed: Josephine Burns and I were at the same drama school, lived in the same area and used to catch the train to and sometimes from school together. She was always the most beautiful young woman)

My fragrance loves tend to be white florals because I have spent my life surrounded by them. My grandmothers and mother wore white floral perfumes, Mum often had vases of lilies in the house and gardenias were a constant of my childhood summers. My first perfumes: Revlon’s Jontue and Cacharel’s Anais Anais built on that trajectory of association.

However, I also realise that we people who love perfumes can learn to appreciate and love new and different notes. But this, for me, is something different. As we sniff more and more, we can see beauty in the things that we once found ugly or appreciate a note that once we would have been happy to overlook. Perfume is an art form and as our noses become well trained, we can fall in love with something that we didn’t understand before. For a perfume to really well and truly move me though, to really feel like I am applying a second skin, I’d always thought it would need a strong evocation of something important or a strong memory.

And yet, that first drop of Avignon on flesh felt completely right. It was another lightbulb moment where I had the “wow” factor and I knew I’d end up buying a bottle.

Avignon FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

The perfume features notes of roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, palisander, ambrette seeds.

For me, Avignon is all about the central theme of frankincense that undulates between smokiness, earthiness and brightness. It segues seamlessly on the skin between these different facets: the palisander bringing out the woody character, the patchouli amplifying the dark earthiness and the ambrette and chamomile giving the sense of brightness and joy. It’s quite a linear fragrance that moves softly and slowly on the skin. Its an introspective fragrance best suited to moments of quiet contemplation, evoking that sense of serenity you would need at times of prayer.

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And that’s why Avignon spoke to me so profoundly at a time in my life when everything felt discombobulated and stressful, Avignon took me to a place I needed to be. A place of tranquillity and reflection, a place where I could shut the door on the chaos that has been my life over the past month and I could just simply “be”. That is the magic of perfume.

For other more complete reviews, please see OlfactoryObsessed and Olfactoria’s review on PerfumeSmellin’Things
Luckyscent has Avignon for $US80/50ml.
SurrenderToChance has samples starting at $US4.59/ml.

Have you tried Avignon and what did you think of it? Have you ever tried a perfume that has completely floored you with it beauty and you can’t work out why?

With much love till next time!

M x

22 comments on “Series 3 Incense: Avignon by Bertrand Duchaufour for Comme des Garcons 2002

  1. I fell for CDG Avignon, hook line and sinker. There’s nothing to match it. It smells more like High Church Mass than High Church Mass. Sarah Jessica Parker used to use this layered with two other scents before she created Lovely. It was CDG Avignon, Bonne Belle Musk, and an Egyptian oil she bought from a street vendor. I can only guess at how incredible it must have smelled. CDG Avignon is definitely worth having in anyone’s collection.

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi iscentyouaday,

      I’ve also read about SJP and her layering this must have smelt amazing indeed! Glad you love Avignon too!


  2. FeralJasmine says:

    I don’t have any childhood scent-memories associated with incense, but have come to love it in fragrances. I love the incense notes in Lyric Woman and how they keep the rose from being too sweet. I plan to try other Amouages, since they seem very skilled with incense notes. I’m especially interested in Ubar. Can anyone tell me whether it’s as beautifully incensey as the others?

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi feraljasmine,

      Haven’t smelt Ubar in a while but from memory it’s not very incense-y. This and the other CDG incense fumes are well worth a try.


  3. Hiya Madeleine!
    Another beautiful post. I know you are crazy busy and times are tough for you right now but we love you so much and hope everything looks better soon.
    Portia xx

  4. brie says:

    fantastic post Madeleine! I love incense and honestly often wear frankincense straight up!

  5. cookie queen says:

    Madeleine – I am ordering a sample of this as I type. Never heard of it. Thanks you for the fabulous tip. Great ….. my sample collection is growing. Hugs from across the oceans and continents. Bussis Val xxxxxxxx

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi cookie queen!

      Glad to be an enabler 😉 hope you love it! Please report back when you’ve tried it.


  6. Jordan River says:

    Ancient, mysterious and available in the 21st century. Interesting to read your non-religious response. There is more here than we understand. This ‘fume is a must-have in your Perfume Library as it echoes the original use of ‘thru smoke” “per fume”.

  7. poodle says:

    This was a blind buy for me based on all the reviews of it. I love, love, love it. I’m a big fan of incense so it’s perfect for me. I don’t know if anyone else likes it on me but I don’t care. I’d happily marinate myself in this if I could some days.

  8. Tara says:

    Incense fragrances were a revelation to me… prior to 2005 I had no idea such a thing existed, and Avignon was the first one I smelled. It was love at first sniff. I have a large collection of incense fragrances and frankincense is my all-time favorite single note.

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi Tara,

      I think we’ve had a similar experience. This was indeed a revelation. I would love to know what other incense fragrances you have -please share! I’d love to try more now.


      • Tara says:

        Oh, there are so many: Josef Statkus, all 5 of the CdG Incense series, Andy Tauer Incense Extreme, Micallef Shanaan, Heeley Cardinal, Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant, biehl parfumkunstwerke MB03, Montale Full Incense, Parfum d’Empire Wazamba, By Kilian Incense Oud, L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer, Timbuktu and Dzongkha, Olivier Durbano Rock Crystal and Black Tourmaline, Serge Lutens L’Eau Froide, CdG Monocle Hinoki and Profumum Olibanum… the list goes on and on. That list should keep you busy for a while! 🙂

      • poodle says:

        Tara, thanks for sharing! You’ve given me a few new ones to try.

      • WOW!! I’m off to Surrender To Chance to try some too Tara.
        Portia xx

  9. Great Review M – Unfortunately, although interesting, I found this to be too cool and remote for my liking. I typically like my fragrances to be comforting and this just didn’t quite fit that ticket. But I could see how people love it.

  10. Dionne says:

    Incense isn’t part of my religious background either, but I also find Avignon contemplative and beautiful, plus I love the idea of how *ancient* this particular note is. I was initially drawn to incense frags because my skin chemistry does so well with all woodsy notes, and frankincense is such an important part of that category. I find myself reaching more for my Incense+ perfumes, but I’ll always have a decant of Avignon around because to my nose it is THE reference incense.

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