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Comme des Garçons Series 6 Synthetic: Tar – The road less travelled

Photo: Comme des Garçons store ( I kid you not) in Chelsea, NYC

I was talking to someone about perfume the other day (natch) and we were talking about a particular scent when they said “Eeeewww! It has synthetics in it!” Her reaction isn’t that surprising given the prejudice towards anything synthetic, especially in perfumes.

Truth is, most perfumes today have synthetics in them. The venerable Jicky had three synthetics in its formula when it was launched in 1889. In his New York Times article titled Synthetic No. 5, Chandler Burr talks more about synthetics in scent and clears up some misconceptions about them. You can read it here. Debate and discourse are fun and all, but here at we are all about the scent, so let’s get in touch with our inner synthetic - Comme des Garçons Series 6 Synthetic: Tar.

In the fashion world, Comme des Garçons is known for its avant-garde designs to the point of being labelled anti-fashion. The fragrances they produce are also unconventional. Take CdG’s Odeur 53 for example. Launched in 1998 and touted as an anti-perfume, it is a blend of 53 non-traditional notes such as oxygen, nail polish and mineral carbon that combine to reflect the scent of modern life.

Still thinking outside the bottle, they launched Series 6 Synthetics in 2004. The series of five scents: Tar, Garage, Dry Clean, Skai and Soda. Unlike other scents that might capture a moment in a garden, a tiger hunt or a circus, the aim of Synthetics series is to reflect the smells of life in the city.

I smelled Tar for the first time in a clothing shop in downtown Toronto. The frag was sitting on the counter and at first I didn’t know what it was because it wasn’t in a bottle. The juices in the synthetics series are packaged in heavy plastic bags placed in a plastic bottle – synthetics in synthetics, get it? Bit gimmicky, I thought dismissively as I spritzed it on the inside of my arm. Right away I knew it was FPBW (full plastic bottle worthy).

It opens with a plastic note, like the smell of toner or ink cartridges, then a note of petroleum appears.  These are the chemical scents that make my eyes roll back in my head – gas at the pump, the chemical smell just before a plane takes off, the smell of new rubber tires – I love ‘em but I wouldn’t want to wear ‘em. What makes Tar a wearable fragrance is bergamot and laurel, which give it depth and dimension by adding organic notes, which take the edge off the ‘industrial’ chemical notes. Sandalwood at the drydown, gives it a woody warmth that offsets the cool chemical smells.  There are probably a few other notes in this frag that I don’t get or even know, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there contributing to the scent as a whole.

For me, Tar is the smell of a building site on the outskirts of a big city after the workers have gone for the day – lingering gas fumes from dump trucks and earth movers, plastic debris on the ground, new blacktop over freshly turned earth, cigarette butts and plants along the side of the road – no people, pets or food. It smells familiar, yet new and exciting.
Tar is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Leather too?

Is it just me or is there some leather in Tar too? It may be that I'm leather obsessed these days--the cool wet fall weather has me hauling out boots and sweaters and suddenly scents I wasn't too taken with in the heat of summer are appealing to me--a sample of Daim Blond by Serge Lutens that I'd thought too sweet when I first tried it but now smells lovely to me; Jolie Madame by Balmain that I found on deep sale at Winners that smells like a well-handled favorite leather journal with the sweetness of the leather offset a bit with the scent of old paper and a bit of inky sharpness; and an amazing sample of Chanel's Cuir Ruissie that I love for its richness but am irritated by for its lack of longevity (it's there and it's gone in no time). Like I said --leather-obsessed! But I do smell a bit of it in Tar too--do you? Funny that I'm picking up such a natural note in such a synthetic package!

Re: Leather too?

Ahh, the change of season - new smells and things smellin' new! I have often found that scent changes on me at different times (hormones? The curry I ate for dinner last night?) and in different places (Dans tes Bras in Toronto smells different from Dans tes Bras in Menton) so I'm not surpirsed that a scent you smelled a month ago in the heat of summer smells differently to you now in cool autumn. That's what makes them interesting.
As for leather in Tar, I don't get any of it - but that doesn't mean it isn't there, it just means that I don't experience - yet.
Describing scent is like describing plaid to a blind person, what you read about scent from anyone is only what they experience, what you exprience may be very different.
And, just because a note isn't listed doesn't mean that an ingredient(s) representing that note isn't in the juice. Scents are combinations of chemicals designed to smell like something - a rose for example.
Enjoy your leathery Tar and maybe I'll get a hint of leather once I take my boots out of storage too!

I love Tar

I never would have thought that tar would be an ingredient that I'd be drawn to, but it's incredible how this perfume, and ones with similar notes, draw me.

The thing I really like about them is how much it reminds me of those steaming hot summer days when the skies open and the smell of hot pavement just takes over. When they're balanced by a bit of powder (something I generally don't like much) the effect is great. Bulgari Black nails this.

I have a sample of Tar that I bought from you gals, and it's on my list of ones to add someday.

Re: I love Tar

Tar is a stand out, I agree, and it really conjures up so many visions for me, more than most other scents - maybe cause I am a city girl.
And, just cause it smells of tar doesn't mean you will smell like blacktop -    it is perfume after all.
Tar is getting harder and harder to find, sadly. I got mine at Nomad on Richmond St. just west of Spadina.