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Nature plays a pivotal role in Japanese culture.  It is interwoven within the fabric of Japanese daily life. For many Japanese, the Onsen or outdoor hot spring bath, is not only a place for relaxation and contemplation, but to reconnect with nature.  What was once a staple in early period Japan,  the oforu (Japanese bath) is now used as an escape from the high-tech modern urban jungle into the refuge of nature’s primitive simplicity…to become closer to the natural state of living.

Hinoki, by avant-garde niche house Comme des Garçons, is a fragrance that supposedly recaptures this natural state of living.  Inspired by the Onsen (Japanese warm spring baths) and Scandinavian woods, the aromas of Japanese Hinoki and cedar are brought to life. Hinoki was launched in 2008 and was created in honor of men’s lifestyle magazine, Monocle.  The nose behind Hinoki is Comme des Garçons perfumer, Antoine Maisondieu.

I don’t know what to expect from this fragrance. Hinoki has sure garnered  polarizing views over the years. One reviewer said it smelled like the inside of a cedar chest and moth balls.  The Perfume Posse had nothing but accolades:

“[Hinoki] goes on ultra-woody and with the tang of the turpentine and camphor buzzing through your nose like a mentholated bullet. CdG´s incense series has long been a big favorite of mine….Hinoki feels like a piece of that set, focusing very much on the woody side of incense…”

Nathan Branch scoffed at its hype when it was first launched.  For him, it was disdain at first sniff:

“…Hinoki just smells like a big ‘F**k You!’ to anyone who didn’t grow up sniffing glue out behind the neighbor’s garage…Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’d like a woodsy, Japanese hot-springs fragrance as much as the next guy, just not when it reeks like some juvenile delinquent kicked over a gallon of paint-thinner in the Zen garden. The one good thing about Hinoki is that it vanishes off the skin in record time.”

Alrighty then! With that being said, this should be an interesting olfactory ride…

Description:  Produced for [Monocle] by Comme des Garçons’ perfumer, Antoine Maisondieu, Hinoki is a cedary, woody scent inspired by Japanese hot-spring baths and Scandinavian forests.

Notes:  Cypress, turpentine, camphor, cedar, thyme, pine, Georgian wood, frankincense, moss and vetiver

From the Vial:  I don’t know what Nathan Branch’s problem was but I think it smells lovely.  I’m getting a sharp whiff of cedar and pine. It’s nice and refreshing.

Wet on Skin: Straight up cedar and bitter citrus.  It smells like I’m hugging a tree and I have my nose right up against the bark and a lemon peel.

Drydown:   I’m getting a buttery, spicy woodsy aroma.  It’s very fresh, clean, and nose-clearing.  It makes me want to take in a big breath of icy cold air.  I am getting a bit of turpentine but it doesn’t bother me.  It adds a new wood characteristic to the fragrance. It almost hits the pencil shave realm but not quite.  I do love the smell of new wood. (Bring me to any home depot, and you’ll find me in the lumber section hanging out among planks and planks of wood.) As it develops more,  the cedar and pine becomes softer, warmer and smokey (must be the frankincense).  There’s also an almost medicinal, slightly herbal fougère-like quality which I’m guessing is from the thyme, moss and vetiver. On the final dry down, it becomes a powdery woody spice with a hint of the lemon-like quality of a freshly cut hinoki tree.

Sillage: It has pretty decent projection and people can smell you as you pass them by.

Longevity: 6 hours. Not bad for EDT.

Pricepoint: $$

Would I Buy A Full Bottle? I wouldn’t buy a full bottle for myself.  Although, I would buy this for my husband. It smells great on him!  He loves it. He says it reminds him of working in a carpenter’s wood shop. Perfect for him but not for me.  It smells too masculine.

Season or Occasion:  Hinoki is a very sharp, woody fragrance.  I think it would fare better in the colder months of Autumn and Winter.  I smell this in the evening but you can get away with it in the daytime if you’re light on the trigger.

Dupes:  CdG Hinoki and Smell Bent Werewolf Lumberjack are somewhat similar in the Wood department.  The difference is CdG Hinoki is fresh, crisp, camphoric, new wood.  Werewolf Lumberjack starts off with sharp young cedar then develops into a darker aged wood with a bit of skanky musk.  CdG Hinoki has greater longevity.  Price difference:  CdG Hinoki 50ml = $120/Smell Bent Werewolf Lumberjack 50ml = $45

Final Verdict:  It seems that Comme des Garçons Hinoki falls under two camps.  Those who “get it”  and those who don’t.  Fortunately, I fall under the “get it” camp.  Does it remind me of Japanese hot-springs and being one with nature?  If I close my eyes and smell, I can picture a Samurai after a long day of battle.  He slides into his newly built hinoki oforu (wooden bathtub) sitting in the middle of a snow-covered forest.  The spring is so hot you can hear the steam sizzle as it rises into the icy cold air.  The Samurai breathes a long sigh of relief and drinks in the silence around him as he melts into his surroundings.  Like a cat he squints his eyes, he meditates and contemplates his place in nature’s vast universe.  The Samurai “gets it”.  So does this little dude why not Nath…never mind.

For those who “get it” and love sharp, fresh woody scents…

Commes des Garçons Monocle Scent One Hinoki:  Available for purchase at LuckyScent.

Interested in other Men’s Fragrances?  Check out my reviews here.

This post is the first in the series Men’s Fragrance Friday.  A weekly review of men’s and unisex fragrances.

[Image 1] via profumo.de
[Image 2] via lovelifwiththeo.com
[Image 3] via mothmediatech.com