One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Burning Sensation, Part 1

Avignon, named after a town in France that served as the seat of the papacy for the bulk of the fourteenth century, is meant to smell of church incense, and I'm sure it does. But I wasn't raised Catholic, and so the full-bore incense doesn't have any religious connotations for me. I can just interpret it as a scent.

The first breath of Avignon is odd and completely unexpected: it has a bright lemon-soda quality to it, and also a pine-needle element. But just underneath that is something musty, the smell of an age-old library, maybe, all wet stone and old books. The lemon and pine (contributed by elemi) suggest commercial cleansing products, making it feel as if someone tried, and failed, to scrub the mustiness away.

The body of the scent is frankincense heaped onto glowing charcoal, cut through with bitter chamomile so the smoke doesn't become too thick. At the end, many many hours later, is the soft glow of vanilla, but very dry, like dying embers. The whole thing is extremely simple; a portrait of something ancient and verging on ruination.

Some fragrances have a specific feeling, a mood, to them, and those are the ones I choose when I'm feeling a certain way (or want to feel a certain way). Others seem to change depending on the circumstances, and for me, Avignon is one of those. Sometimes it's dark, foreboding, funereal; other times, it seems brightly expansive (and right now, as I write this, is one of those times): the burning, instead of producing a heavy pall of smoke, makes the whole scent lighter than air.

If you try to Google "avignon cdg", by the way, you will get a whole lot of airline information, because "CdG" doesn't just stand for Comme des Garçons, it also stands for Charles de Gaulle, a big Paris airport.

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