Jaisalmer is part of a quintet of incense-based fragrances marketed as Comme des Garcons Series 3: Incense. Each location-themed fragrance (Avignon, Jaisalmer, Kyoto, Ouarzazate, and Zagorsk) conjures incense as liturgical, historical, ritual or mystical.
In Jaisalmer, which is named for the driest desert city in India, it is the spice trade route upon which the fragrance is composed. Jaisalmer ignites with cinnamon and then burns this sweet-hot spice slowly over gaiacwood and ebony. Much as the city of Jaisalmer is not on the usual tourist trail, so Jaisalmer the fragrance is the sleeper of the Series 3: Incense line. It’s my favorite of the set and one that I reach for each fall when the weather turns cooler.
Just when I felt that the incense series wouldn’t work for me (I had bought and then traded away the other four), Jaisalmer captivated me. It wasn’t the overall travel/location adventure of the series that was lacking but the inclusion in the others of charred or slightly sour notes that didn’t work on my skin. Jaisalmer is so exquisitely rendered that it instantly became one with my skin, perfectly balanced between woody-aromatic and spice-sweet notes. I ran through a bottle in a month, using it as one would a body spray.
Jaisalmer is fueled by cinnamon and a background glow of amber and cardamom. Under scrutiny one notices a rare note of pimento berry that is like a tiny semi-sweet jewel set into the ebony. Cinnamon is one of the perfumer’s hotter notes and here it sizzles without burning; in another hand it might have scorched. A very slight smell of incense wafts through the cinnamon and disappears as benzoin and amber appear. The sweetness that arrives with those two notes is like the sweetness of fresh hay and it makes Jaisalmer the most feminine of the series without being a feminine scent at all.
And there is the drawback. Jaisalmer has abysmal lasting power. It is in the truest sense of the word a skin scent, something to be enjoyed by the wearer alone or in very close quarters—for instance, a sleeping bag–with someone else. But it was seemingly gone in an hour or so, which caused me to carry it around in my purse and lavishly re-spray and then make lavish re-orders of it that I cannot afford on my photographer’s income.
That’s depressing, but the sheer beauty of this scent is without compare. I tried the stronger and more ham-fisted Serge Lutens Rousse, but it smelled like cinnamon hearts and to my nose lacked the beauty of the spice as I smell it when I use it in cooking. While Jaisalmer isn’t a gourmand scent, it doesn’t smell like a stick of gum or a piece of red-hot candy. Jaisalmer smells of Ceylon cinnamon—the real stuff—and not the Chinese cinnamon (cassia) of the grocery shelf. It’s absolutely addictive and with the Atlas cedar note below, transporting. If one only travels so far as wrist to nose and not to the driest city in India, then so be it—it is a journey well worth taking.
Comme des Garçons Jaisalmer (Series 3 Incense) includes notes of cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, guaïac wood, amber, benzoin, incense. $80/50ml Available at Aedes, Apothia, Escentual, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, Miomia, Barneys New York, Senteurs d’Ailleurs, or at the Comme des Garçons boutiques.
Photography (top image) by nandadevieast via flickr, some rights reserved.