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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Memories –Comme Des Garcons Series 3 Incense Avignon

I used to go o church every Sunday as a child, and on high holidays like Christmas or Easter I went for up to five days in a row. (Easter is a busy time for Catholics.)

There were times when I protested, but mostly I just went to avoid strife and because, later on, I found ways to enjoy myself like playing the violin in the church orchestra or singing in the choir. Making music in church was great. Also, I was a Girl Guide and we all had parents who sent us to church regularly, so we teamed up and together it was almost a party, albeit a quiet one of whispered conversations an hushed giggling in the back rows.

Catholicism played a huge role in my childhood and the scent of incense is closely bound with those memories. But many incense fragrances I like evoke the outdoors (like Tauer Incense Extreme or Armani Privè Bois d’Encens), are calmly meditative (like CdG Kyoto or Heeley Cardinal) or combined with other interesting materials and thus deflecting my associations away from incense that was used in the church of my youth.

Not so Avignon. Avignon is the incense of Sundays past, the direct path into my memories, one spray of Avignon and I see our beloved, old, now passed away, priest standing there and swinging the censer. All the smells, bells and costumes are instantly back with a whiff ofAvignon.

Created by none other than Bertrand Duchaufour in 2002, Avignon includes notes of Roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, palisander and ambrette seeds.

Avignon opens with incense and myrrh, deep, somber, holy. It widens into a dark resinous heart, rich and smoky, later it calms considerably drying down to a woody incense with a hint of vanilla on the edges.

For me it is all there: the old wooden pews, the cool, slightly stale air, the incense of course, the burning candles, the flowers on the altar and the many, many people in their Sunday best avidly listening, thinking of entirely wordly matters or some even silently asleep.

What I liked best during a service, when I was still a small child and had not yet grown into my other in-mass occupations, was looking at people. It was very interesting to watch their behavior, watch their faces and imagine their stories.

There was “Bear-Man”, a huge older man, with the stature of a boxer and the nose to match, was very fascinating in that he managed to irritate many a pious woman in his vicinity with his incessant and completely unapologetic snoring. He was fast asleep during most of the early eighties, as far as I could see.

Then there was a woman I called “Die schöne Helena” in my head, because I thought she was exactly like Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in history. I had read about her and was fascinated with her beauty and power over men. The Helena in my church was standing out of the crowd, when she entered the church, a hush fell over the crowd, men and women alike, although for entirely different reasons, stared at her and followed her down the aisle with their gazes. So did I. One time she sat in the row before me and my family. She was wearing a red coat and a black fur shawl. Her long blonde hair was open and flowed down her back. My mother looked slightly scandalized whenever Helena swung back her mane of golden hair. I remember wanting to touch it and sitting in an undecided agony of tension for the entire service. Every time she swung her hair over her shoulders, I got a whiff of the most delicate scent, soft and flowery. I decided then and there that I wanted to grow my hair long. This was a point of endless discussions with my mother from then on. As soon as she could not object any more I grew my hair long, and wear it long still. I wish I could see Helena now, I bet she grew old in style.

I could go on and on, but realizing this is a perfume review (in theory) and not my memoir, I’d better get back to the subject at hand – Avignon.

Avignon is cool, deep and dignified. It is not something you apply without second thought, at least I can’t, when I wear it, it is an occasion to be marked.

Avignon is an outstanding fragrance, longlasting, well-made, the reference incense, a necessary part of any Perfumistas collection. But that is just my opinion.

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Blogger Alnysie said...

I have to test this one. I was raised Catholic too, and when I was a kid I wanted to become a nun for a while, and would go to church at every lunch hour. Now that I'm not religious anymore, I still love visiting old churches when I go to Europe. Even though I'd be quick to say I don't like incense fragrances, I'm really intrigued by that one. And your review is one more incentive to try it!

12:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Very evocative review! Avignon is indeed a very "serious" perfume in its demeanor - nothing flippant about it. One of the best incense perfumes out there, for sure.

1:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous Gisela said...

What a lovely review/Helena portrait!
I haven't smelled Avignon yet, but I have no problem conjuring the scent in my imagination via my own childhood memories as churchgoing choir-singing girl guide. ;-)
(Aren't those Mozart masses - Krönungsmesse! - glorious on high holidays!)

4:13 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever someone who grew up Catholic smells Avignon, I hear about their relationship with the Church, and their memories of going to Mass. It may be the most evocative perfume on the market. Orthodox incense is rather different, Zagorsk brings to mind my time in wintry Russian churches very vividly....Great memoir, Birgit!

6:51 AM EDT  
Blogger James Dennard said...

Avignon is a fragrance I have heard of for a long time, but never experienced. Also, I have experienced plenty of spicy scents but have not smelled an incense-themed fragrance yet. This one will surely be one of the first in this category that I will test.

7:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Tara said...

Wonderful memories B, thank you for sharing them with us. I felt like I was in that church with you! I can imagine how Avignon could transport you back there with one spray, it is powerful stuff! Although Kyoto has my heart, Avignon is an impressive statement perfume and reference church incense for sure.

7:40 AM EDT  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

Yeah, it's TOO accurate for me, I can't wear it. It's like wearing a church.

9:42 AM EDT  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

Birgit, I've never smelled Avignon but I feel like I have now, thanks to your very beautiful post. Through your vivid writing, I can very easily picture your church and the experiences you had there, plus Bear, Helena and the girl who was young Birgit. Do you still play the violin?

12:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a catholic upbringing is not easily forgotten, even if we drift away later in life, and one whiff of Avignon certainly brings it back vividly.

3:11 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, this is not something to wear day in day out...

3:12 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know the "drill" then! ;)
Krönungsmesse is my absolute favorite!

3:13 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zagorsk is really a whole different story, but also a beautiful one.

3:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avignon is probably not the most user-friendly first time incense, but definitely a must-try eventually.

3:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you! Kyoto has my heart too, thanks to you! :)

3:16 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is certwinly no spray and go scent! ;)

3:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for your nice words!
I still have my violin and get it out now and again, but it would be too much saying I still played. There is so little time, sadly...

3:19 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful review!

10:43 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, anotherperfumeblog! :)

11:55 PM EDT  
Blogger Sharon Freeman said...

I like incense fragrances, generally when I think of true incence I think of Nag Champa. Your connection with the church is apt. I attended a Greek Orthodox wedding on Sunday and your description (albeit catholic :) was excatly how this was, a gorgeous old and intimate church. Old timber, candles, smoke (a much earthier incence than Nag Champa) and flowers. Thank you, will add this to the list :)

1:11 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Sharryn,
I'm glad you could identify with my description. Let me know how you like Avignon!

2:52 AM EDT  

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