Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Swirls of incense smoke float in the air, rising before the doleful images of Orthodox saints. The beeswax candles leave a trail on the pine wood floors, throwing ribbons of light across the darkness of the altar. Zagorsk takes its name from a Russian town built around a 14th century monastery, therefore the opening accords conjure quite an appropriate vision.
Created in 2002, Zagorsk is part of Comme des Garçons Incense Series, which include Avignon, Kyoto, Jailsamer, and Quarzazate. Zagorsk is the softest of these incenses, a veil of cold smoke over frozen flower petals. The incense is woven gently through the resinous sweetness of woods, which upon the first inhale recall a smell of fresh scrubbed wooden floors, bearing a layer of moisture.
The piney sharpness vanishes slowly, as the balsamic sweetness of incense transforms from glowing embers to delicate whispers of smoke. Iris layered with cedar is at the heart of Zagorsk, lending an interesting floral facet to the incense on woods composition. Iris creates an impression of wood encrusted with a layer of ice, heightening the cool and austere character of the fragrance.
Although I like iris, in Zagorsk it verges on synthetic. Nevertheless, as the fragrance develops, iris melds into a note of violet. In combination with pine needles and incense ornamentation, violet sweetness is a welcome addition, providing an additional layer of sweet softness to the woodsy base. Like many incense fragrances, Zagorsk is a serene and introspective composition, yet in contrast to most, it remains icy, painting an imagery of a small village church lost amid the snow covered plains.
Notes of this fragrance that is suitable for both men and women include white incense, pimento berries, pine, cedar, violet, iris, hinoki wood, birch wood. Available at Aedes, Apothia, Escentual, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, Miomia, Barneys New York, Senteurs d’Ailleurs, or at the Comme des Garçons boutiques.
Victor Vasnetsov and Vasiliy Polenov. The Church in Abramtsevo. 1881-1882. Moscow region, Russia, from abcgallery.com.