Skip to main content

Comme des Garçons Series 1: Leaves: Calamus – Nature in a Bottle - September 23, 2011

Photo - Wikipedia - Calamus plant - J.F. Gaffard - May 2004

The rate of new niche perfume launches is becoming exponential, and it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of tracking down and buying the latest, and possibly, the greatest fragrance ever, but the truth is there are hundreds of fabulous older frags in stores, waiting to be acknowledged.

Calamus is one of these – and it’s a really different perfume.

Calamus? – you’ve never heard of it? Launched in 2000, it was part of Comme des Garçons Series 1: Leaves, which included Mint, Lily, Shiso, and Tea and it’s by Bertrand Duchaufour. According to Denyse Beaulieu at Grain de Musc, it’s the scent that Duchaufour “pinpoints as the first to truly bear his signature.” He also did the Mint, and I’m fairly certain both have been discontinued, so when I spotted a lone bottle of Calamus in a glass showcase, it was wrapped and in my bag so fast it made my head spin.

Calamus is a tall grassy plant found around the world, called “sweet flag” in North America – it’s a type of wetland bamboo whose leaves and roots have been used for centuries as building material for thatched roofs and floors, as medicine, as a flavour, even as an aphrodisiac. Walt Whitman added a section called the "Calamus" poems to the third edition of Leaves of Grass (1860), and in the poems...calamus is used as a symbol of love, lust, and affection (source: Wikipedia -  honestly, the things you learn when you start researching perfumes)....

Comme des Garcon’s Calamus is green, but an unconventional green. The notes are bamboo leaf, celery grains, angelica root, rose berries. It’s fresh, opening slightly dry and slightly citrusy, but soon softening to a milky green scent that smells like crushed leaves, mixed with mud and wet stones. Mud morphs into iris, with that haunting dry, vegetal scent that’s like no other, with a hint of bitter chocolate. The scent remains milky and soft and - green.

That’s what I love about Calamus – it is linear, uncontrived, minimalist, with none of that intrusive ozone note usually found in outdoorsy, fresh scents. It’s real. It’s the smell of green that trailed into the house with me as a kid, after being outside all day running in fields, rolling in the grass, climbing in oak trees – sounds idyllic, but I truly did a lot of that where I grew up.  It’s the smell of the outdoors - not sweet, but savoury with sweet, not super-grassy, but milky, not sharp and intrusive, but soft and contemplative. Hard to describe, easy to wear, easy to love, Bertrand Duchaufour captured Nature in a bottle.

New isn’t always best, so be on the look-out for older frags, and you’ll discover some treasures, like Calamus. Seek and you will find, and know also that you’ll  be giving an older scent a good home for the rest of its natural days.

Comme des Garçons Series 1: Leaves: Calamus is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1ml.