Blackpepper by Comme des Garçons

Notes: black pepper, cedar, patchouli, oud, tonka bean, and musk.

Black pepper is one of my favorite smells, so I’m actually surprised that it has taken me this long to sniff the Comme des Garçons offering in this genre, but here I am. All I can say is: it was worth the wait. Some of my other favorite black pepper scents, including Poivre Electrique from Atelier Cologne and Isos from Farmacia SS Annunziata both blend black pepper with uplifting notes like citrus and mint to evoke a Mediterranean feel. Antoine Masiondieu, who composed Blackpepper for CdG, takes an entirely different approach. As you can see from the list above, the notes here include woody and animalic notes without any citrus or lighter notes. And yet, this composition is balanced. It never feels heavy or overdone.

Blackpepper opens up right away with the main note. The spice is there from first sniff. The Comme des Garçons description of this scent includes some typically pretentious marketing copy, describing Blackpepper as “an electric collision of molecules: the crash of spicy pepper seeds suspended within infinite darkness.” And yet, this rings true of the composition. It does come across as quite “black” at first sniff. It’s not dark in a somber kind of way though. I detect something slightly metallic with the interaction between the pepper spice and the cedar. There is an edginess here that makes the composition appropriate for Comme des Garçons.

That metallic edge doesn’t last long and is really only present in the opening. As this composition develops, two things are notable: the black pepper note has real longevity here, and the base of the composition is artfully constructed around the pepper. I find it interesting that the CdG description also presents this fragrance as a scent in which “spice is deconstructed, destabilized, decoded.” In terms of the composition, I find this scent notable precisely for the construction and stability, not deconstruction. I realize that probably doesn’t sound as snazzy when trying to sell this fragrance. But black pepper as a spice is notorious for fading quickly. My main issue with Poivre Électrique was the weak staying power, especially for that price point. I would think it’s a positive thing to promote the stability of the black pepper spice here.

More than any other fragrance I’ve worn recently, each note in Blackpepper feels very specific and necessary to this composition. Nothing feels extraneous. The dry cedar, the earthy patchouli, the camphorous oud, the tonka that rounds everything out, and the animalic musk base: it’s all so specific and works so harmoniously. My nose wouldn’t necessarily pick out the oud here, if not for that slight camphor/medicine cabinet type smell. It suits the fragrance in a funny way, and ties into that edgy pop of black pepper in the opening.

The tonka in the base here is not gourmand. Don’t expect it to smell like Fève Délicieuse or Tonka Impériale. I think the role of the tonka here is primarily to smooth out any remaining edges from the opening and heart. The musk here is very soft. It’s sort of a cushion hovering right on the skin. By the seven hour mark, Blackpepper is definitely a skin scent and this is when it starts to completely fade. That’s pretty decent longevity for a black pepper scent, and I’m personally satisfied with it.

Blackpepper is a composition that I really admire. It smells interesting and intriguing to my nose. It’s pleasant to wear and, best of all, it has some decent longevity! It smells more traditionally masculine, but I believe anyone could wear this and pull it off. I would love to wear this with a black cocktail dress and black heels, just to play off the dark “black” smell here.

I’d like to add Blackpepper to my collection one day but, I have to confess, I don’t like the CdG pebble bottles! They seem a little annoying to store. I prefer the blocky bottles they do for the Odeur scents or Serpentine. But I’m just one person and, judging by instagram, plenty of people seem to be into the aesthetic of the line. If you enjoy CdG and haven’t yet tried Blackpepper, it’s a must-sniff! Antoine Maisondieu has composed a whole slew of scents for CdG, so chances are that you’ll like at least one of his. And even if you are not into this line, and you’re just a fragrance lover, this is a good composition to sniff just for the experience of it.

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I purchased my Blackpepper sample from Luckyscent.

You can read about Blackpepper here from Comme des Garçons.

The list of notes is via Fragrantica.

The photo of my sample was taken by me. I’m currently reading (and enjoying!) Chandler Burr’s book. I don’t know why I didn’t read this sooner, it’s fascinating!