The word “blue” (or in its French fried form, “bleu”) in the name of a perfume is a cliché. It's not as overused as “black” (“noir” if you're posh), but it does the same job: as a signpost to a fragrance destination we've all agreed upon.
We read “blue” on the bottle and we think, “Crisp! Fresh! Aquatic! Cool! Sporty! Masculine! Safe!” The Blue Series, the new trio from Comme des Garçons, toes the blue line by delivering on all of these expectations.
Okay, so the Blue Series may not be cartoon opulent like Daphne or Champaca (my current favorite CdG), or big-round-black-framed-glasses conceptual like Odeur 71 or Eau de Parfum (the one in the “saline bag” bottle), or hip world-music spiritual like the Incense Series.
But when I say “safe” here, for once it's not code for “crud on a stick”. Because the Blue Series chimes some comfortingly familiar chords in an attractive fashion, for fellas who just wanna smell easy-breezy.
The Blue Series may not be a perfume manifesto, but neither is it the smell of “sleazy marketing reps on vacation from Houston”, as my pen pal Dan Rolleri describes Chanel Bleu.
Blue Cedrat is the most ordinary out of the three. (When I tried the series at Liberty in London, SA Stuart told me Blue Cedrat is the one most people immediately go for. That's "most people" for ya.) This cedar is laundry detergent clean, with no fuzz in the lint trap.
A high-def overlay of a classic eau de cologne -- herbs and flowers -- is further sharpened to the side of bitterness with what's described as a “quinine accord”. To me, this accord resembles just-cut green bell pepper. There's no musky mellowness at any point in the proceedings -- Blue Cedrat maintains its metal edge throughout the wearing.
Blue Encens has a lot in common with its older siblings in CdG's sprawling brood of woody perfumes. We've got a Walton family situation here: I can name John-Boy, and then after that, it's all a blur of freckled faces and good manners. In my world, CdG's John-Boy is Avignon, and then there's 89 other infinitely-calibrated variations on wood in all of its charms: some sweeter, some leaner, some greener, some smokier.
|Comme des Garçons: most of the bottles can't stand up.|
Blue Encens is a chip off the old block, the block itself a composite of CdG frags like Laurel, Dover Street Market, Original, and Avignon. Blue Encens' hot sweet cinnamon and cool herbal wormwood moiré over a bassline of frankincense. It's spicy but sheer, a nod to exotica while not actually leaving the country.
Blue Santal has the most personality of the set. It's a marine sandalwood, the sound of which may set your teeth on edge, but in practice results in a pleasing reworking of a Monty Python “spam, bacon, sausage, spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam”-style litany of standard masculine olfactory themes.
An oceanic crispness gives the sweat of the sandalwood a refreshing lift: an open window in the bedroom, the cool morning after a humid night's sleep. A nice, earthy dirt aroma further grounds the creamy roundness of the sandalwood. The dirt keeps it physical while cutting sandalwood's potential to be cloying. Blue Santal is sensual without resorting to amber, vanilla, or figgy sweetness, all of which can harsh my sandalwood buzz.
The Blue Series is particularly serviceable in the capacity of “a young man's first niche fragrance”. They've got the CdG badge of esoteric glamour, the groovesomely skew-whiff sculptural bottles, and the smells that signal “I'm a clean guy”, without the tackiness of mall fumes' sneeziness and corn syrup sweetness.