The traditional, hand-made soaps of the Middle East are rustic (often brown and wrapped simply in wax paper), heavy (drop a full-size bar on your toes in the shower and you may be headed to the ER) and pungent with the aromas of plant oils and seeds — cumin, nigella, olive, bay laurel. The famous soaps of Aleppo, Syria, are olive oil based and fragranced with bay laurel (laurus nobilis), and they are one of the inspirations, along with the Lebanese landscape, for Comme des Garçons + Monocle Scent Two: Laurel — henceforth referred to as “Laurel.”
Laurel was developed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu and contains bay laurel, incense, cedar, pepper, patchouli and amber. Laurel starts off smelling green and herbal — like a bruised or crushed fresh bay laurel leaf. Quickly, Laurel’s bracing green aroma is joined by “coarse” black pepper and smoky frankincense. In Laurel’s base, the original bay laurel scent (a perfume in and of itself) darkens and is joined by musty-sweet cedar. Then, something wonderful happens: Laurel’s notes combine to produce an accord that smells like one of my favorite flowers — marigold.
Laurel has good lasting power with minimal sillage. Though inspired by a soap, Laurel doesn’t smell “clean” — or soapy — and its fragrance is more complex and beautiful than any Aleppo soap I’ve used. Laurel, if I had tried it sooner, would certainly have made my list of the top fragrance releases of 2009. I love it.
Comme des Garçons + Monocle Scent Two: Laurel is available in 50 ml Eau de Toilette ($135); for buying information, see the listing for Comme des Garçons under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image of laurel leaves [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons. Stacked soaps at bottom right are "Syrian Soap 200g - Olive Oil Soap from Mesopotamia...The gentleness of olives are combined with the strength of the laurel, tens of centuries of experience and a year-long manufacturing process in the warmth of the mesopotamian sun." $10 at Amazon.