One Thousand Scents

Friday, June 05, 2009

Gilded Age: Comme des Garçons Anbar

Pure gold can be beaten into gold leaf which is so thin that light will pass through it. This is the quality that Comme des Garçons has imparted to Anbar, one of their three colognes. Though based on amber, a sweet, heavy base note in perfumery, Anbar is light, fresh, and translucent: after its explosive opening, it clings to you like a veil of golden gauze.

The generic term "cologne" refers to a fragrance containing a high proportion of water and alcohol and only a few per cent aromatic components. Actual cologne, though, properly known as "eau de Cologne", has a more limited definition: it's a composition (again high in alcohol-and-water, low in aromatics) based on citrus essences, often with some herbal or floral elements to distinguish them from one another. Since the principal components are always citrus oils, which evaporate quickly, an eau de Cologne is invariably brilliant, meant to refresh and not to have any lasting power: base notes are few if any.

For their fourth collection of scents, CdG created three eaux de Cologne which, of course, are not quite like anyone else's. Anbar starts with a burst of orange peel, dazzling and enormous, underscored with a light clove note which gives it a bit of a pomander quality. As the citrus gradually drifts away, the spice is boosted by a warm and very soft amber note which never really takes shape: rather than wrapping you in the big flesh-and-blood embrace that amber usually does, Anbar just barely gilds the skin.

There isn't supposed to be much lasting power with an eau de Cologne, and as you might expect, the scent is mostly gone in a couple of hours, nothing but a soft haze of spice and amber which you can detect if you get your nose right up to your skin. Although pleasant, and not like any cologne I've ever smelled, Anbar isn't compelling or magical; I can't quite imagine its being someone's absolute favourite scent.

The CdG Cologne series used to come in massive 500-mL splash bottles, which it would actually be possible to use up if you doused yourself with abandon, since that's how eaux de Cologne are meant to be worn. Because most people nowadays don't have any use for that much of one fragrance, you can buy it in 125-mL bottles which come with an optional sprayer, two concessions to modern tastes.


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