Comme des Garcons Incense Series Jaisalmer : Perfume Review

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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.

jaisalmer

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 garcons  jaisalmer

Comme des Garçons Jaisalmer (Series 3 Incense) includes notes of cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, guaïac wood, amber, benzoin, incense. $80/50ml Available at AedesApothiaEscentualBeautyhabitLuckyscentMiomia, Barneys New York, Senteurs d’Ailleurs, or at the Comme des Garçons boutiques.

Photography (top image) by nandadevieast via flickr, some rights reserved.

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29 Comments

  • Lynne Marie: Thanks so much for the review. I know I have a sample of Jaisalmer somewhere and am running now to find it! I’m intrigued by the distinction you make between Ceylon and Chinese cinnamon – I do a lot of Indian cooking and I’m always amazed at how the quality of the spice totally changes the dish. Can’t wait to smell the difference in a perfume! January 10, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

    • Suzanna: Let me know what you think, Lynne Marie!

      It is amazing what a difference the quality of a spice (or any ingredient) brings to a dish. I was making a mushroom bisque the other night and the only thing for it was a quality sherry, not the supermarket variety. And lately I am getting into various salts! January 10, 2013 at 9:48am Reply

      • Daisy: I love keeping a good dry sipping sherry in fridge at all times. Right now, I have a savory Oloroso that I have been dipping into. a friend of mine told me that’s what old ladies drink. Pffffft!!! I wear chypres too! Pfffft! January 10, 2013 at 10:37pm Reply

      • Daisy: Speaking of salt, Suzanna, are you familiar with the Meadow?

        http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/

        They specialize in salts and chocolates. One of their big sellers is a salt board or platter that you can cook on. No need to season your food apparently. Haven’t tried it, but am very intrigued! January 10, 2013 at 10:41pm Reply

        • Suzanna: That is interesting, Daisy! Never heard of one before, so thanks for the link. January 11, 2013 at 8:00am Reply

  • Liz K: I am glad you are continuing to review the incense series as I have only tried Avignon and Kyoto and am most curious about the rest. This is the one I have been most afraid to try as I love Ceylon cinnamon. I just know that I will fall in love and then be disappointed by it’s longevity. I am the kind of person who doesn’t wear lipstick because it requires reapplication and I am not any better about reapplying fragrance (other than my spritz before bed). I tend to just sigh and wish I still smelled good. January 10, 2013 at 11:57am Reply

    • Suzanna: Liz, I no longer get as frustrated by this issue as I used to. It seems to me that so many things smell so chemical, and have titanic lasting power, that they fatigue me. It’s just a minor disappointment that this scent doesn’t have much power behind it, but the delicacy is what makes it appealing when you first apply.

      Oh, I have no time for lipstick reapplication. I’ve stopped worrying about that, too, and simply wear more eye makeup :–) January 11, 2013 at 8:03am Reply

  • Jillie: Suzanna, I love it that you and Victoria have written about the CdeG incense series. I have a strange relationship with Avignon, and think I really prefer to spray it as a home fragrance (especially at Christmas), although I found that wearing it a la Katie Puckrick, with some L’Artisan Vanillia, softened and sweetened it for me, and made it more acceptable.

    Interesting that you mention the sort of circumstance in which it could be smelt, like a sleeping bag for instance ….. almost as though you might have experienced this!!??

    Glad you are joining the salt appreciation society. We have been enjoying a Christmas variety with cinnamon and other spices, along with orange peel. Yummy! January 10, 2013 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Merlin: I also use this K.P. tip! I have Avignon but it is so somber I don’t use it much – and I have Vanilia, but I find it a little high-pitched (like an artificial sweetener) but together the scent is deeply weird and compelling… January 10, 2013 at 9:01pm Reply

      • Suzanna: Thanks for adding your thoughts about that mix, Merlin.

        I can’t wear Vanilia on its own, either. I like your analogy to artificial sweetener. January 11, 2013 at 8:06am Reply

    • Suzanna: Jillie, that salt sounds scrumptious, and I am already envisioning uses for it since I intend to make some.

      Avignon is sour and tart on me and I gave up on it, although I do agree the addition of vanilla to the mix would make it sweeter, blander, and much easier to wear. January 11, 2013 at 8:05am Reply

  • iodine: I’ve read everywhere about the poor longevity of Jaisalmer- I’ve a totally different experience, as on my partner’s skin, who usually wears it, it lasts for… days! I tried it on, once, too and it lasted quite a lot..
    I adore it, anyway, it conjures images of autumnal bonfires to me- with lots of cardamom in them!- but I prefer smelling it on my partner’s skin than wearing it myself. My incense is Avignon, and I’m planning to get to know Ouarzazate better.. January 10, 2013 at 1:38pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Iodine, that’s fascinating! Spice frags tend to sink into my skin, while baby powder or mossy frags stick for days.

      It’s lovely on men–one of my preferred frags. January 11, 2013 at 8:07am Reply

  • Andy: This series of incense scents fascinates me, and although I’ve only tried Kyoto so far (which I loved), your review makes me curious to try the rest of the line. Your mention of Jaisalmer as having little lasting power and almost no sillage actually piqued my curiousity even more, because most scents last way too long on my skin, and I tend to find a lot of sillage to be annoying. Jaisalmer sounds like it might suit me! January 10, 2013 at 5:47pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Andy, after a while, I find sillage annoying myself. I had the worst time over the holidays after applying No. 5 Elixir Sensuel. I had to go photograph a holiday concert, and as I was standing up in the balcony, shooting down, I smelled a drift of powdery frag that really turned me off, to the point that I moved to another location. But the smell followed me! I then realized it was my own perfume and it nearly made me ill that day, creeping up on me and overwhelming me.

      That’s one reason I know I can count on Jaisalmer to wear when I have olfactory fatigue. January 11, 2013 at 8:10am Reply

  • Poodle: I love Avignon and this sounded wonderful right up until the part where you mentioned the lasting power. Money saved I guess. January 10, 2013 at 7:11pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Worth a decant, perhaps, Poodle! January 11, 2013 at 8:10am Reply

  • kuri: Wow, I need to go sniff this one. It sounds fantastic, but I don’t know if it’s the kind of scent I’ll like. I tend to like very light incenses – just a waft, an intimation of the wood. January 10, 2013 at 8:37pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Kuri, this is more spicy than it is woody. January 11, 2013 at 8:11am Reply

  • Daisy: Out of the entire Incense Series, Jaisalmer is the only one still sitting around unsniffed. Must bust sample out tomorrow! Thanks for the great review and the reminder :-) January 10, 2013 at 10:39pm Reply

    • Suzanna: That’s how it was with me, too, Daisy. The last one sniffed. I think this happened because I had read, years ago, a review that made me think I’d not like it. January 11, 2013 at 8:11am Reply

  • Joanna: My favorite of the CdG incense line is Kyoto (love its dry woodiness), but I wore Jaisalmer in honor of this review. January 11, 2013 at 12:59am Reply

    • Suzanna: Great! Nice to hear! I will have to wear Kyoto soon. January 11, 2013 at 8:12am Reply

  • Ruta: Jaisalmer is my favourite, too. It does have that aura of sensual mystery without being staple sexy, oomp or whatever. It is soooo sensual… Soooo black… the spices here are not eadible ones, they are the “mystic” component, but what I like probably most is the warmth of the scent, which remotely reminds me of warmth of human skin. It has that skin pulsation, too. It is like “I can hear your heart beating” in the most intimate moments. On me, it lasts and lasts and I do apply sparingly in order not to overwhelm those around with this vivid sexy scent.
    To me, it bears the resemblance to Dona Karan “Black Cashmere” January 14, 2013 at 5:29am Reply

    • Suzanna: Ruta, yes, it does somewhat resemble Black Cashmere, although BC is sweeter. Both of those are my favorite spice scents.

      Happy to hear how much your enjoy wearing Jaisalmer! January 14, 2013 at 6:43am Reply

  • elve: Funny, it smells at least six hours on me. It’s my favourtite from the Incense Series, but it took me a few years to fully appreciate it. I use it mostly in summer, especially when I go to summer music festivals – it composes beautifully with wind, sun, crowds and crazy time :) January 19, 2013 at 10:46am Reply

    • Suzanna: Elve, it’s nice to hear from another who loves this frag the way I do. And I agree that it works well in summer–especially with its dryness (and suitability for “crazy time”! January 20, 2013 at 9:21am Reply

  • Marie: Can some one HELP!!!
    Where can I buy this in England? I have only found in $ and cost at least $40 for me to ship! :0( July 8, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Have you checked Liberty, Harrod’s or Harvey Nichols? Stores like this should have Comme des Garçons. Also check at their UK boutiques. July 8, 2013 at 12:50pm Reply

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