Comme des Garcons Sequoia and Palisander (by Nava)

I had a visit with a real estate agent friend of mine yesterday, and she was telling me how she was getting ready to go on her “March Break” (what spring break is referred to here in Canada) trip to California with her husband and 10 year-old son. They’re flying into San Francisco, driving down the coast to San Diego, and heading back from there. I would love to take that trip one day; the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic – not to mention nerve wracking – roads I’ve ever driven; albeit only from SF to to the Monterrey peninsula. I especially love the town of Carmel, not because one of my all-time favourite movies takes place there (Play Misty for Me), but because it is so beautiful. I saw one of the most spectacular sunsets ever on the beach at Carmel, and I happen to think that region is one of the most beautiful in all of North America.

My friend’s upcoming trip got me thinking about the giant redwoods and sequoias, and also bougainvillea flowers. I love them, but they’re impossible to grow outside of a temperate climate. They’re all over California, like those massive trees. Don’t get me wrong; Canada has some fabulous landscapes, but there’s just something about California that you don’t find anywhere else. I’m talking nature – not the rest of it.

After a disappointing sniff around my trusty Shoppers Drug Mart: Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh – nice, but eau so unnecessary, Vera Wang Preppy Princess – love the bottle but not the preponderance of patchouli, and Beyonce Heat Rush – a little lighter on the unwashed ladyparts, but still way too heavy on the fruit, I went looking within for inspiration.

Sequoia and Palisander are two scents from the Comme des Garçons Red Series. I’ve always loved CdG for their originality, especially their earlier “Series” scents; I wrote about the Incense Series a couple of weeks ago, and in my opinion, those are some of the best incense scents available. Even though these two are named after majestic trees, they are not single-note wood fragrances. They’re more complex than that, and as hauntingly beautiful as a Carmel sunset.

Sequoia is comprised of California redwood, red rum, oppoponax, kara-karounde, Chinese agarwood and mahogany. According to LuckyScent, kara-karounde is similar to jasmine. It does give the scent a bit of a floral edge, but not indolic in any way. It’s slightly powdery (the oppoponax, I’m guessing), but it’s woody and slightly boozy. There’s a faint vegetal quality to it that reminds me of the smell of my sleepaway camp cabin, but in a good way. If you’re into woody, slightly musty and evocative, this one is a keeper.

Palisander is the more exotic of the two, and more feminine in my opinion. Some reviews I read mentioned that Palisander is a tad too masculine, but for the life of me, I can’t smell that. The notes are Brazilian palisander wood, Virginian red cedar, Japanese red chili peppers, saffron and myrrh. On me, I get heavy saffron and myrrh, which is why I’m describing it as “feminine”, and lots of dry cedar in the background to balance out the sweetness of myrrh.

After considering these scents and comparing them to the new ones I smelled the other day, I got to thinking: when we wear scent, are we looking to conjure old memories, create new ones, or both? I’ve been thinking about summer camp, Carmel and the first time I ever tasted something made with saffron. Those are old memories conjured by things that you have to go looking pretty hard for. The things I smelled in Shoppers are all as common as it gets. Which is more pleasing: what’s in-your-face and familiar, or haunting and memorable? I’m going with haunting and memorable.

Your turn: Do you have any scents in your collection that remind you of trips, places, or regions you admire?


Disclosure: The scents I wrote about are part of my (diminished) collection.





  • Molly says:

    Thanks for a lovely post, Nava! I also really enjoy reading what associations others have made between scents and some of their favorite places.

    SL La Fille en Aiguilles reminds me of northern Sweden in the winter… mostly, coming indoors after playing in the snow and freezing cold. The smell of snow and pine trees clinging to your coat and hat as you walk into a warm room with steaming mugs of glogg… oh, and the saunas… ahhh, so lovely! And La Fille en Aguilles captures that cold/hot juxtaposition perfectly. I have not yet sprung a full bottle but suspect I will once my carefully rationed decant from Barneys runs out. Possets’ Chasing Zero takes me there, too, but it is a much simpler fragrance.

    Layering Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and Demeter’s Kahala Hawaiian Surf takes me right back to my honeymoon in Montego Bay… it evokes tanned bodies lying on the sand and tropical blooms mingling with the scent of the Caribbean. The first time I tried it, my husband took a deep whiff of my neck and said, “You smell like Jamaica!” So it’s a fun one for me to wear for a mini tropical escape or the occasional… um, rekindling with the hubs.

  • Style Spy says:

    Oh, I love these. I need to renew my supplies of them. On my Sequoia is a wonderful dry cedar, not as sweet as Chene. Palisander is all about the saffron for me, that odd, slightly dough-y woody smell.

    On my first trip to London I went into Les Senteurs, got a whiff of MPeG’s Camelia Chinois, fell instantly in love and bought a bottle on the spot. Every time I spritz it, I’m back in London on a sunny summer day.

    • Ann says:

      Hi Style Spy, so glad to find another Camelia Chinois fan! I found a partially used bottle of it on eBay and bought it, but was a bit dismayed to find that the top notes had gone off, all maple-syrupy. But it still smells great after that wears off.

  • Musette says:

    Muir Woods was my first introduction to redwoods. It was on a gorgeous weekday in spring – nobody there but me. What an experience. My favorite ‘tree’ association is eucalyptus (not something I want in a perfume, though). Ocean Ave in Santa Monica has tons of eucalyptus – I spent many a morning crunching through the pods

    Like others on here, my favorite scent memories are of the PCH – there are so many evocative smells. First and I once drove from LA to SF via PCH – gorgeous, twisty drive with incredible smells. Turning into Castroville, with the smells of loamy dirt and sea air. Cristalle takes me back to my 20s and still makes me cry…..beautiful as it is, something about it always triggered a deep melancholy.

    Lovely review, Nava!

    xo >-)

    • Ann says:

      Hi sweetie, gotta agree with you that Cristalle has a kind of bittersweet quality to it (memories of past loves and college days for me). And so glad you love Muir Woods as well — it truly is a magical place.

  • nozknoz says:

    You are coming up with some delightful reviews based on your newly liberated ‘fumes, Nava!

    Travel scents – well, I used to live in Cairo, and I love Etro Palais Jamais because it’s what Un Jardin sur Nil should have smelled like: dusty smoke and tea.

    International travel often means passing time in airport duty free shops spritzing scent strips to try new perfumes. There is a generalized perfume scent in the air from all that spritzing and the discarded scent strips. When I sampled Safi last summer, it reminded me of both a beautiful Indian restaurant in Cairo and the Frankfurt Airport. Sigh!

  • Ann says:

    Hi Nava, thanks for a gorgeous, evocative post. Monterey and Carmel are indeed among the most beautiful places on earth.
    One year, while visiting my favorite city, San Francisco, I took a day to visit Muir Woods. The peaceful, yet awe-inspiring atmosphere brings to mind the simple, Zenlike beauty of Gaiac 10, Le Labo’s Tokyo city exclusive. Whenever I wear it, I’m transported back to the almost fairy-tale aura of Muir. Ahhh …
    I have not tried the Sequoia or Palisander, but hope to remedy that soon.

  • Gretchen says:

    Parfums Delrae’s Eau Illuminee smells exactly like the northern California coast in summer – not the beach, but the herbal aromas of the scrub and woods just inland. Memories of childhood summers, right there. If someone comes up with a fog, salt water seaweed and tar accord for my childhood homes in SF and Pacifica I’ll have my whole early history covered.

  • Kate says:

    Though I don’t live there currently, I’m from the Monterey Peninsula and still get back there to visit my mom a couple times a year. For some strange reason the scent that always reminds me of home is the sadly discontinued Diptyque L’Eau Trois. My skin does strange things to scents, and on me L’Eau Trois has always smelled very strongly of walking through the redwood forests at Nisene Marks in Santa Cruz after a cold, hard rain. When I lived overseas and got homesick all it took was one tiny whiff of Trois to make me start crying. Fortunately, I found that I could “balance” the homesickness by spritzing Philosykos on my other arm. Sniff one side, think of home, sniff other side, realize I’ll get back eventually and remember to be happy where I am in the meantime. :)

  • Suzy Q says:

    Sel de Vetiver takes me straight to the beaches of s.e. Florida where I’ve spent happy times with close friends. It smells great and creates positive associations. Win win.

  • Olfacta says:

    Well, Zagorsk and Kyoto will always remind me of Alaska. Must de Cartier perfume reminds me of many late late nights in the 80’s. Cristalle of a spring when I’d just broken off a long-term relationship and was getting back into circulation. And so on — there are many. If I’m going somewhere now, and I think it might be worth a scent memory, I’ll take several fragrance decants and pick the one most “fitting” to the place, then use it exclusively, then put it away for awhile. When I use it again, I have a new signifier.

    • Nava says:

      That’s a great routine! At the height of my traveling days when I went back to school, I used to bring one, maybe two scents with me. I always tried to purchase a fragrant “souvenir” that would forever remind me of my trip.

  • sara says:

    Nava–thanks for a lovely, evocative read! CdG scents inspire memories for me too–Zagorsk always reminds me of my travels to Finland. Antilope makes me think of Paris-it was my first fragrance as a child-a tiny bottle given to me by a beloved aunt who lived there for a time.

  • Pimpinett says:

    I should revisit the Red Series, it’s been too long and I barely remember them.

    Oh, yes. Messe de Minuit, especially, it evokes visits in Greek Orthodox churches to light candles on vacation trips to the Greek archipelago as a child.

    L’Air du Temps is all early childhood memories, ghosts of older female relatives, long dead and gone, and their homes, too.

    • Nava says:

      My father had a niece who wore YSL Rive Gauche. I always think of her when I get a whiff of it.

      I love MdM, but it lasts about 2 minutes on my skin before it disappears into nothing. Maybe that’s the point?

  • Louise says:

    Oh, how I love that drive-it’s been years, but I can still feel and recall all of the Pac. Coast Highway.

    My Filles en Aiguilles brings up really strong associations with childhood summers in Oregon-the hot fir/pine/sap smell that is so rooted in my memories.

    Must retry the CdGs-they get overlooked in my hunt for vintage and new treats.

    • Nava says:

      That is a wonderful scent association, Louise. It sure beats Brooklyn from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Bond No. 9 did no justice to it in my opinion. :d

  • Deirdre says:

    I have a teeny bottle of Chanel 22 pure parfum. I’ve had it since June 23, 1993 when my brand new husband bought it for me at a small boutique in Paris while on our honeymoon. And while I have expanded my scent horizons, I have the same husband and same soft spot for that clean, white flowers scent that takes me back to a hot Parisian summer afternoon. I’ve kept that little bottle in a hand-painted box with my marriage license for all these years that the box and that paper are enveloped, infused, with the beautiful scent of memories and love.

  • Joe says:

    Hi Nava. I own a bottle of Palisander and a decant of Sequoia, and I truly love Palisander, but I haven’t worn it in awhile. I must correct that. I think it reminds me a little of Bois Farine, and I’m surprised when others mention the red pepper in it, because I don’t really detect that.

    Regarding place associations, one example: I never felt any particularly “Japanese” association with CdG Kyoto, but I in fact wore it for several days in Kyoto last fall, so it will be forever linked with that beautiful city (which is amazing by the way; somehow I’d never realized it’s one of those top-5 “must see” cities of the world). From that same trip, La Myrrhe will remind me of wearing it my very first morning in Japan, walking in the chilly November air of an ordinary Osaka neighborhood, just absorbing everything that was so new and seemed so exciting. I think it’s great to augment travel and special occasions with fragrance and create these kinds of memories.

    [BTW: I have a scraggy bougainvillea outside my screen porch, but I’ve lived in California almost 20 years and have yet to visit the sequoias! Shameful!]

    • Nava says:

      I don’t get any red pepper in Palisander either, Joe. Saffron, myrrh and cedar – that’s all.

      Get thee to those sequoias!