Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Three Kings: Gold: Comme des Garcons 8 88

I grew up hearing the Nativity story at Christmas. I heard it in Midwestern Methodist churches, in books, and in Linus's voice in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Linus's rendition had the greatest impact on me, by far--should this worry me? It still affects me, even in my agnostic adulthood. I can conjure up his voice right now.

Linus never got around to discussing the wise men or the gifts, as far as I can recall. If he had, maybe those gifts would have made sense to me, but as it was, my response was "frankinwhat?" I remember thinking that frankincense and myrrh were something stinky and oily, and I was surprised to discover, later, that I wasn't too far from the truth. But while a little oily scenting is all very nice for a baby already living in a warm dry house, it seemed rather beside the point for the whole hay-and-stable situation.

Gold, on the other hand, gold made some sense. Not all that much sense; I wanted to hear, instead, that the kings had thought to spend some of that gold to provide some immediate practical gifts, maybe hot food and silk-and-feather comforters like those that Ram Dass left for Sara Crewe in A Little Princess. And, yes, the fact that I combined the Bible and children's chapter books as two elements of one big tapestry suggests that I didn't absorb that whole religion thing in quite the way that the church hoped.

But I conceded that a king facing a being that was heralded by a whole new star would feel the need to make an appropriate gesture, and pressing gold and sacred oily things on that being might seem just right. Even if a fire, tea, and hot buttered toast for Mary would be more useful.

(I suspect that a Sunday school teacher from my past is feeling a sudden pang of failure right about now, but doesn't know exactly why.)

Toast aside, gold is something to catch the imagination. It's wealth. It's royalty and pirates. It glitters. It doesn't decay, it doesn't dissolve. But it's also soft, a near-indestructible material that's nevertheless amenable to changing form based on a craftsman's imagination, so it seems more ours than hard, brittle jewels. You admire jewels; you fondle gold.

This was supposed to be a perfume review, wasn't it? All right, then: What should gold smell like? Do I agree with Comme des Garcons that 8 88 is a successful olfactory portrait of the stuff?

Only for a moment. Somehow, I expected Comme des Garcons to take a high-tech view of gold, cold and minimalist. I was wrong. 8 88 starts out girly, all mellow buttery flowers and a hint of fruit, with just a bit of an edge that, yes, seems a bit metallic. I think it's the saffron. The butter and fruit faded in less than a minute, leaving a nonspecific impression of brightness and warmth blended with the metallic saffron. That phase, lasting two or three minutes, was a pretty good impression of gold, though it lacked the sparkle that would make the mood complete.

After that, the last of the friendly warmth was gone and 8 88 developed into a cool, dry saffron perfume, no longer the least bit girly, with a woody note that grew as the hours passed. I like it; it might beat Washington Tremlett Black Tie, my previous favorite for the note, in a saffron faceoff. But saffron is not gold; gold must glitter, and 8 88 does not.

For more of We Three Kings week, please head for these fine blogs!
Review Roundup: Perfume Posse and  Perfume Posse again and Perfume Posse yet again and Fragrantica and Basenotes and Now Smell This and MakeupAlley.

Three Kings Image: Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch
Gold Laurel Wreath Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I really enjoyed this review! I don't like the sounds of cold gold and metallic saffron. I want that fondled gold you referred to, warmed by body heat and lasting longer than 3 minutes.

    My early religious education was similar to yours, part church, part books (but not the bible!) and part cartoon. Art History classes in college filled in some blanks, but I wouldn't be a good choice for "phone a friend" on "Who Wants to be 0.1% as Rich as The Vatican".

  2. Loved this post and agree with your take on 8 88 and its inability to muster adequate glitteriness. Though there are those perfumes like DKNY Gold Sparkling(?) with actual glittery bits in them - maybe it should have gone that route.

    And you are so right about "fondling gold".

    "Sacred oily things" is a phrase that will slither through my mind for some time to come!

  3. A dry saffron/wood sounds nice, even if it isn't "gold" enough. I'll have to give it a try.

  4. Oh, I love the pragmatism of children, and I'm sure all littlies wonder why no-one was doing more to make the family physically comfortable in that stable. Yes, animal funk would warm a stable but the Biblical equivalent of tea and toast would be worth more than gold to a new mum!

    "(I suspect that a Sunday school teacher from my past is feeling a sudden pang of failure right about now, but doesn't know exactly why.)" I think mine felt it there and then, poor hapless souls.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  5. Very enjoyable and well written review, thank you! Your sunday school teacher will be devastated...;)

  6. How can I number all the things I loved about this review? a)the mere mention of Linus Van Pelt b)Sara Crewe waking up in her garrett to Ram Dass' gifts-- a literary image more Christmasy than any I've ever read c)the image of Mary the Mother of God desperate for a hot cuppa. But most of all that last line regarding 888's saffron. Gold MUST glitter, it's true. (It occurred to me that if we'd thought to include Hanukkah gelt in the "gold" category, chocolate notes would have been an unexpected factor in the Three Kings theme. And I'll bet you Mary would have really appreciated some chocolates.) :D

  7. Beautiful writing, CF. I can't comment on the 8 88 fragrance, as I've never tried it, but it was a true holiday delight to read your words. Linus's Christmas narrative still affects me, too -- it's placement within a cartoon somehow made it have all the more impact. (Charles Schulz was a genius, methinks! And I also think that somewhere there is a Sunday school teacher from your past who is feeling rather joyful right now and smiling!)

  8. Hey, JoanElaine! Thank you! Yes, gold is so much more personal, somehow.

    I like the addition of cartons to one's religious education. :)

  9. Thanks, Vanessa! Hmm. A gold sparkly perfume sounds nice.

    I'm glad that you like the phrase. :)

  10. Howdy, kj! Yeah, it's nice. I would have liked it much better outside the "gold" context, and I'll be giving it another try, ignorong that thought.

  11. Heya, Anonymous! Yes! A little physical luxury, not honors and wealth, seemed like the right thing.

  12. Greetings, Olfactoria! Yes, I should think so. :)

  13. Olenska! Thank you so much. :) Ooh, chocolate, yes, now _chocolate_ would have been a gift worth recording.

  14. Suzanne! Thank you very much. :) We just watched Charlie Brown again tonight, and I got to hear Linus again, and once again it got to me.

    And, hmm. I'd _like_ to think that the teacher would be pleased. :)

  15. Cartoons? That's so much better than learning about the Old Testament from Charlton Heston! :)
    I wanted to love CdG 8 88 but it just isn't "me". I don't know is lacking, glitter, I guess.

  16. Hey, EauMG! Well, 8 88 does have that cool, standoffish feel that means that if you don't adore it in spite of yourself, you don't have a lot of affection for it. Maybe that's it?