Comme des Garcons Floriental

For a brand known for its chic eccentricity, Comme des Garçons can also surprise by keeping surprises to a minimum. I refer specifically to CdG's perfumes that comprise a virtual forest, a world of woods which includes the Incense and Blue Series, along with Black, Serpentine, Laurel, Hinoki, 2 Man and Wonderwood. (Hmm, seems I was complaining of "wood fatigue" back in my 2010 review of Wonderwood.)

I'm a chowhound who enjoys any flavor of ice cream as long as it's burnt caramel, so I can appreciate this singularity of focus. Does the head bod at Comme HQ have a hard-on for softwoods? Whatever the reason, there's a new little tree nudging its way into the CdG family photo, and its name is Floriental.

Comme family photo.

Don't get hung up on the “Flor” part of “Floriental” -- no flowers here, buster. Or the “oriental” bit, either -- since there's no vanilla involved. That's just a tricksy slice of misdirection to “disrupt the perception”, as I was told at the Floriental launch at Selfridges in London at the end of July. And I suppose the disruption works, in that expectation is pulverized by recalibration at the very first sniff of this eau de parfum.

Disrupted display featuring roses.

The initial impression is that of a snarl of smoldering woods on a background of leather. I brace myself for an attack of eye-watering oudiness along the lines of Dior's bludgeoning Oud Ispahan and Leather Oud, but it stops short of full bludgeon. It settles instead into a long, linear amble through a fog of peppered-up sandalwood and vetiver.

Floriental strikes me as a tougher, leaner version of Miller Harris' marvelous La Fumée series. Les Fumées are more nuanced and tender, dawdling longer in a sappy thicket of cistus resin and rose. By contrast, Floriental eschews blooms, and hews to sharp and smoky bark.

Floriental is available from Comme des Garcons

Trees still from H.R. Pufnstuf

Viewer Mail: The Perfect Beach Perfume

Hi Katie,

I am looking for a summer perfume I can wear during the day. I'd like it to embody the beach where I spent my summer months growing up.

There's a shady dirt path that leads there, the dirt pounded smooth by decades of bare feet. There are roots to trip over if you don't know the geography, and lots of ivy. At the end of this path there's a heaping helping of dark pink rugosa rose (I call it beach rose), white and orange honeysuckle, and granite rocks to sit on that are bleached by the sun.

Here the sky opens up and is full of space, like it only can be over the sea. The air is punctuated by a salty breeze, along with the smell of hot fine sand and wet seawater-soaked sand, where waves meet the beach and the sand is coarse.

Maybe there are other ocean smells -- swamp grass? Seaweed? Fish? When you add yourself, you smell salty warm skin, dry beach towel, and a touch of Coppertone. There might also be some cut grass from someone's nearby lawn.

It's a ridiculously tall order. I like Bobbi Brown's Beach a lot, but it's too much jasmine for what I'm imagining. Most of the time I wear Eau Dynamisante, or Eau de Sud. And sometimes something woody-spicy because I like sandalwood. Maybe you can point me to some things to smell? This would make me very happy!

Looking forward to going on a smell adventure,



Not only have you gorgeously phrased your query, but now I want to smell like that, too! I'm currently spending time in Los Angeles, land of the Beach Boys' Endless Summer, which owing to the punishing heat wave has been recast as Endless Hades.

In an attempt to embrace the swelter of 100-degree-plus days, I've been on the prowl for a properly old-skool suntan lotion-y perfume. Weirdly, though I have zero interest in broiling on sand to build up a suntan, I love smelling like I do. Here's what I've come up with.

Starting with your enthusiasm for Bobbi Brown Beach, which I share, I ambled down the Beach path and ended up with something I like even more: Beach Body Oil.

The body oil version tempers the initial shrillness of the perfume's jasmine, while playing up its perfected-Coppertone bouquet. The fragrance hovers close to the skin, signaling fun-in-the-sun-kissed you-ness with a nuzzle of salt. Plus it moisturizes, leaving a lovely sheen. I've been living in Beach Body Oil non-stop for the past three months.

Coppertone's European cousin is Ambre Soleil, so if you want to do it Continental-style, try Bond No. 9 Fire Island, inspired by Ambre Soleil's solar elements. It's airier and more floral than Beach.

Mick, Catherine & Andy hangin' at Fire Island, 1975.

Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess airlifts you you into Mai Tai cocktail territory, which is beach-adjacent, but perhaps not the specific seascape hologram you're after.

Also sticking closer to boardwalk than beach is Martin Margiela Replica Series Beach Walk. Specifically, under the boardwalk, perhaps after too many Mai Tais. My sniff of Beach Walk conjured salty skin and a distant waft of vomit, though your mileage may vary. I hope.

CB I Hate Perfume has two fragrances that provide sun 'n' sand satisfaction. At the Beach 1966 is based around Coppertone with a marine layer of driftwood and seashells. (Posh talk for woods and minerals.)

Mr Hulot's Holiday features an itinerary filled with seaweed/leather/salt flava to which you've alluded, less sweet than At the Beach 1966, more earthy.

If getting lost on Mr Hulot's deserted beach sounds good, I can direct you towards the entirely unpeopled wilderness encapsulated in the smell of Iroaz by Lostmarc'h. Iroaz conjures roses in the salty air of a cold, cloudy beach, but I'll warn you, it is the most ephemeral of all the perfumes suggested here.

In the course of reacquainting myself with fumes on the sunny side of the strasse, I've rekindled a delight in Gendarme, one of the earliest niche perfumes. Floral without screaming “flowers!”, Gendarme's jasmine and bergamot is Malibu cool. I smell Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen circa '73.

Still in the Gendarme zip code, but softer and prettier, is Jennifer Aniston's truly fetching namesake perfume. It's pale but present, with jasmine and salty rose smudged with faintest musk, alongside rose, violet and sandalwood. Check out my review here.

Sadly, Jennifer Aniston is officially discontinued (the perfume, not the person), but is still available here.

My hunch is that Jennifer Aniston, Gendarme and Bobbi Brown Body Oil will all float your pool raft, but I have one final suggestion.

It's a wild card: Frédéric Malle Dans Tes Bras. I first reviewed it when it was released in 2008, and my appreciation for it has deepened considerably since then.

Billed as “the smell of warm skin”, Dans Tes Bras is an enigmatic confection of musk, salt and sun, aglow with heliotrope and violet. It's a full, rich but subtle perfume that dances between comforting and strange. It's not literally “a beach”, but it's the feeling of a beach: hedonism, freedom, release.

My own recent smell adventures have found me floating in a perpetual cloud of Dans Tes Bras, supplemented by the divine matching body butter.


Fumies, any more beach perfumes for Alice's smell adventure?

Jagger/Deneuve/Warhol photo by Peter Beard

Fumes in the News: Smell Ya Later

Hello! I'm cranking up ol' KP Smells clown car again, and while I'm lubing the chassis, I thought I'd share something I wrote for the The Guardian in June.

"Bottling the Smell of Dead People Won't Capture Their Essence" concerns Olfactory Links, a French company which aims to make a perfume out of the smell of clients' deceased loved ones.

Perfume Pen Pals: The Different Company Rose Poivree


As you know, this The Different Company Rose Poivrée drama of mine goes back over a decade. I'd owned a big canister of the original civet-heavy formulation, the one that Luca Turin famously said smelled like dirty underwear, and because I was young and I thought perfumes had to smell nice, I never had the nerve to wear it and finally sold it off.

Fumes in the News: What Does David Bowie Smell Like?

David Bowie is described as “the best-smelling human I ever met”, by Arcade Fire musician Will Butler.

The Thin White Duke's fumes came up in Butler's conversation with BBC 6 Music's morning goddess Lauren Laverne last week while promoting his debut solo album Policy.

Never one to let an intriguing detail slip away, Laverne pounced, insisting firmly, “I am going to require some more adjectives. How would you describe the smell of David Bowie?”