Comme des Garcons Zagorsk Incense Series : Perfume Review



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.

Victor Vasnetsov and Vasiliy Polenov. The Church in Abramtsevo. 1881-1882. Moscow region, Russia, from



  • parislondres: Hello dear V! I agree that the there is something synthetic in this otherwise nice fragrance. I like Avignon and Quarzazate the best. Kyoto is nice but I did not appreciate this as much as the ones i mentioned. The boutique here in Paris is rather pleasant and SAs are always very helpful.

    Hope you have a lovely day.

    Hugs! September 27, 2005 at 2:37am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, yes, very true. I like it best when it dries down, but I think that the first hour is a bit too sharp. Nevertheless, it is a perfect choice for when I need to concentrate on work, because it has a calming and centering effect on me.

    Do you have a favourite incense based fragrance in general, besides these series?

    Hope that your day is wonderful as well. September 27, 2005 at 2:48am Reply

  • parislondres: I do like Passage d’Enfer and Costes. :)) September 27, 2005 at 4:08am Reply

  • Judith: Hmmmmm. . . this sounds very tempting (despite the synthetic note). I am always moved by fragrances that are useful for concentration (something I really need right now) and I have been enjoying some incense scents a lot lately. I love Angelique Encens, and I also like Passage d’Enfer (which I find to be quite cold, like the stones in old churches or catacombs). But your description of the first hour here keeps me from immediately reaching for my credit card. Still. . .

    Hope you are enjoying the day after your b-day (I always try to stretch mine into a week, at the very least)! September 27, 2005 at 8:12am Reply

  • Shifts: I just got a sample fo this yesterday (together with Avignon. Kyoto I have had for a while) and I like it a lot. Don’t want to say more than that, but I’m definately going to get a full bottle when the sample runs out.

    Great review! September 27, 2005 at 6:54am Reply

  • Robin: I love incense so am not sure why none of the scents in this series attracted me on first try. Must, of course, try, try again, LOL! September 27, 2005 at 10:56am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I don´t know Zagorsk, but I love Passage d´Enfer 🙂 It´s calming & beautiful. I spoiled my sample vial on the kitchen floor – it smelled wonderful for a view days ;)- so I had an excuse to buy a bottle 😀
    I think I should try some others incense based fragrances, they seem to be just right for autumn wear. September 27, 2005 at 12:46pm Reply

  • linda: V, beautiful review! I am searching for a perfect incense fragrance. I just ordered some CdG Incense samples, including Zagorsk. Maybe it will be my perfect incense. September 27, 2005 at 12:57pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Passage d’Enfer is what I am wearing today! I shall have to review it soon. It is definitely one of my favourite incense fragrances. September 27, 2005 at 11:11am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Shifts, thank you! There is something very serene and somber about the iris/violet combination framed by woods. This facet gives a wonderful cold sensation to the fragrance, and it makes me want to reach for it again and again.

    I love many fragrances from Incense series, and it is definitely among my favourites. September 27, 2005 at 11:16am Reply

  • Tara: I absolutely love Zagorsk! My first experience with CdG Incense line was Avignon, which I love to smell, but prefer Zagorsk to wear, especially on winter evenings. I appreciate all 5 of them, as I’m a huge incense fan. I also love Passage d’Enfer, Matthew Williamson and Bois d’Encens by Armani. However, I find the Bois d’Encens to be rather insistent/strident so I apply judiciously on that one. September 27, 2005 at 3:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, it is a very nice fragrance, and the synthetic note disappears after a while, therefore it does not bother me much.

    Your description of Passage d’Enfer and parislondres’ mention of it are exactly the reasons I decided to wear it today. You captured the essence of it so well.

    As for the birthday, I am trying hard to extend the day into a week! 🙂 September 27, 2005 at 11:19am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I would be curious to hear your impressions once you try them. I think that you might like Zagorsk, and I wonder if you will get the same note I did not like. It goes away, but I wish it were softer to begin with. September 27, 2005 at 11:20am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, incense fragrances are certainly right for the autumnal weather. I have not been reaching for them all summer long, and now I am rediscovering them again.
    You should definitely try CdG line, which has many interesting fragrances, from coffee spiked Kyoto to cool and serene Zagorsk. September 27, 2005 at 1:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, thank you. If you are looking for a soft floral incense, Zagorsk is a nice choice. I still think that Passage d’Enfer is worth trying. Perhaps, I should review that one tomorrow. September 27, 2005 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Marina: Oh wow, I am so glad I finally ordered the rest of CdG incense samples, Zagorsk among them, can’t wait to try, iris encrusted in ice and all…stunning review…
    PS. I am a little scared of pimento berries, they turned many a scent into dill pickles on me 🙁 September 27, 2005 at 1:31pm Reply

  • Peter: I love your blog! I found it recently when searching for a review of Borneo 1834. I love warm incense, but the idea of a cold incense is interesting. I went to Russia two years ago. I only visited Moscow, because it was a very short trip.

    Thanks for your great reviews! September 27, 2005 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Andy: Wonderful! I love incense, can not get enough of it and the combination of woody-smokey layers with it is very intriguing indeed. My personal trouble with incense: I am always a little bit disappointed that it doesn’t last longer on my skin. What a pity! September 27, 2005 at 1:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marinochka, this is definitely more wearable than Avignon (even though I love it even more, but would rather smell it around me than on my skin).

    Pimento berries (allspice) are definitely part of pickle marinade, therefore you are right. However, here I do not really notice allspice as much. September 27, 2005 at 1:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Andy, I do not know if you had a chance to try Armani Prive Bois d’Encens, but it is a very beautiful incense that lasts well. Cedar foils frankincense quite nicely, preventing it from vanishing. I love incense too, from Japanese to Eastern Orthodox high service incense. September 27, 2005 at 2:03pm Reply

  • Katie: GAH! I know I have a sample of this lying around somewhere, but it’s not revealing its hiding spot at the moment. I really need some sort of filing cabinet that’s made for holding vials rather than files for these. Now after reading this I suddenly need to go on a safari in my closet to find it. I love the idea of an icy incense. I always think of incense as being so warming, really.

    My sentimental favorite for incense is Escential’s Dragon’s Blood. It’s not one of the refined takes on Dragon’s Blood that mostly smells like Kool-Aid. This one is dark and resinous, and incensey in the sexiest way to me. It’s one of my favorites to smell on men, but I like it for myself as well. September 27, 2005 at 3:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, you captured the same distinction that exists between Avignon and Zagorsk for me. Only the latter is most suited for me to wear on my skin. Yet, I love the scent of old Catholic church after a high mass that Avignon elicits for me.

    Like you, I find Bois d’Encens very strong—too much, and I feel suffocated by fumes of ladan (frankincense in Old Slavonic, a particular mix Orthodox priests use for the service). However, a light application results in a beautiful and evocative scent September 27, 2005 at 3:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, incense is an amazing scent, but it is not easy to do it well. Therefore, I am always curious to find a new one. Zagorsk attracted me, because it is cold. Iris and incense is a combination I always wanted to encounter. I cannot say that iris is all that well-done here, but the drydown is lovely.

    Now, I need to start soliciting ways on how to organize my fragrances and samples. My apartment is drowning in them, and I really do not have a way of keeping track of them. Same goes for my graduate school related work. The floor in the living room is covered with piles and piles of paper. It is a nightmare. September 27, 2005 at 4:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you, Peter! I am glad that you like my reviews. Zagorsk smells very much like a small wooden church at first, although later it attends a decidedly different character.

    I have never been to Zagorsk, but I hear that the monastery is beautiful, therefore I hope to visit at some point. September 27, 2005 at 7:57pm Reply

  • Tara: I have all my samples bagged in alphabetical order in large shoe boxes. Each plastic baggie is labeled with one letter of the alphabet, samples are filed by the first letter of the name of the perfume. I also have a separate box for certain perfume houses of which I have a lot of samples: I have a Serge Lutens bag, an Etro bag, an MPG bag, etc. and they are all filed alphabetically by manufacturer name. It has made my life so much easier. September 28, 2005 at 7:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, I cannot even begin to express how impressed I am! 🙂 I shall try it, because the situation is getting out of control. Thank you for sharing. September 28, 2005 at 8:10pm Reply

  • James: Quarzazate was love at first smell in the San Francisco boutique that I searched for for 3 hours to find these scents to sample them. I liked the rest of the incense series, but they seemed to subtle with no projection, too close to the skin. (Believe me, I am not a fan of guido smell-you-comin’-a-mile-away scents either. I am understated, and most of the incense series were way too soft).

    I pick up lots of smoked pink peppercorn and balsam fir, some resin-y patchouli, a kiss of bergamot and clove and maybe even paprika, all bathed in warm incense without the fire sale, sofa dragged smoldering to the curb smokiness of, say, Montale Cuir Oud, which I happen to have grown to love in its own way. This is a captivating fragrance.

    If you can’t find CdG, buy Emporio Armani pour Homme “Night.” It isn’t an exact match, but it is punchier than even the Quarzazate and seems to have lots of pink peppercorn, some smoke, and some amber and rubber. Even Gucci Pour Homme gives a lot of nice smoke, but it’s more cedary-smokey like a pile of burnt pencil sharpenings in an ashtray. Oddly, I have come to like it too. These days, I would probably like the smell of someone putting out a cigar on my wrist, it seems, smoke and tobacco scent fiend that I have become. November 28, 2006 at 11:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: James, thanks a lot for your recommendation! I have not tried Emporio Armani pour Homme “Night” yet, but I will look for it. It sounds wonderful! November 28, 2006 at 11:57pm Reply

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