Incense Kyoto - cover

Series 3: Incense Kyoto by Comme des Garcons is a unisex woody oriental fragrance released in 2002 and created by Bertrand Duchaufour.

Series 3 from CDG was launched in 2002 to celebrate humanity’s five central spiritual teachings.
Along with Kyoto, the other releases are Ouarzazate, Zagorsk, Jaisalmer, and Avignon.

With each of these releases, the brand wanted to achieve sensory journeys that evoke the olfactive essences of our religions.

Incense Kyoto, a part of this acclaimed Incense Series, emerges as a fragrant odyssey through the city’s thousand temples, serene gardens, and mist-covered landscapes.

Comme des Garçons Series 3 Incense Kyoto in three words: SUBTLE – CALMING – DISAPPOINTING

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As someone who enjoys the scent of incense in perfumes, I have become quite discerning in evaluating what constitutes a high-quality representation of this resinous aroma.

That is why this review is my journey and a fair critique of this popular release by one of the best perfumers.

Fragrance Information

Incense Kyoto - box

Comme des Garçons, commonly known as CDG, is a Japanese fashion label with its roots in Paris, founded in 1969 by Rei Kawakubo. Its flagship store in Paris is a beacon of the brand’s influence.

Beyond France, the label has established a physical presence in diverse global hubs, including London, Melbourne, Hong Kong, New York City, and the Ginza district of Tokyo.

The company’s line of fragrances(Comme des Garçons Parfums) is noteworthy, an unconventional departure from traditional perfume norms, echoing the avant-garde styles in its garments.

CDG’s fragrance journey began in 1994 with the release of Comme des Garçons, followed by the groundbreaking anti-perfume Odeur 53 in 1998—a fusion of 53 non-traditional scents, a rarity in the world of fragrances.

The Luxe series introduced Champaca, enriched by the visual artistry of Katerina Jebb, showcasing the brand’s commitment to the intersection of fashion and art.

Adrian Joffe, the CEO and husband of the founder, Rei Kawakubo, orchestrated the establishment of two distinct entities: Comme des Garçons Parfums for licensing select perfumes to Puig since 2002 and Comme des Garçons Parfums for independent distribution.

The brand continues redefining boundaries, merging fashion, fragrance, and artistic expression on a global stage.

Incense Kyoto Story

For centuries, individuals across the globe have engaged in the age-old practice of burning incense, whether to pay homage to their ancestors, cleanse the atmosphere, engage in worship, participate in rituals, or revel in the delightful experience that incense imparts.

Kyoto stands as a spiritual pilgrimage, guiding individuals to the tranquil temples within the city, often hailed as the Heart of Japan.

With a dry and composed character, Kyoto unveils the unmistakable presence of cedar, entwined with the earthy notes of vetiver, carrying a hint of spiciness and smokiness and the distinctive fragrance reminiscent of juniper mingling with evergreen cypress.

Created by the renowned master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, the perfume is available in a single size, Eau de Parfum, 50ml, priced at $95.00.

Perfume Theme

A note from the brand: “Incense, to make one dream of a spiritual journey across the world’s historical centers. An evolution of time and space. The eternal green aromatic cypress mixes with cedar’s calm and powerful elegance; vetiver invites us to listen to the breathing of black and warm earth. Powerful, yet not rough, Kyoto can also be found as a fragrant candle for the house.”

Notes and Classification

  • Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufour
  • Perfume Oil Concentration: Eau de Toilette
  • Fragrance Type: Woody Oriental
  • Release Date: 2002
  • Target Audience: Unisex
  • Masculine/Feminine: 90% – 10%
  • Most dominant notes: Incense, Cypress, Vetiver
  • Age Group: 25+
  • Seasons: Fall and Winter
  • Occasions: Business and Leisure
  • Longevity and Projection: 3 – 5 hours with soft projection
  • The recommended number of sprays: 6 – 8
  • Compliments: Low
  • Likeability: Medium
  • Uniqueness: 1/5
  • Presentation: 3/5
  • Value for money: 6/10
  • Price: $$
  • Accords: Smoky, Aromatic, Woody
  • Reviewed batch code: 15A10 – January 2015
  • Reformulated: Yes
  • Holy Grail Scent Rating: C
  • Sample/Buy/Pass: Pass
  • Testing Period: 1 month
  • Production: Available

Top notes: Coffee, Cypress
Heart notes: Immortelle, Teak Wood, Cedar
Base notes: Amber, Incense, Patchouli, Vetiver

Perfume Presentation

The Kyoto presentation is what we usually expect from a brand such as CDG. Unusual and creative, with the unfortunate fact that most of their boxes are dull and cheap-looking.

The outer packaging is a typical designer-esque black box that feels somewhat inexpensive, a common characteristic within this price range. There’s not much to boast about in terms of its design.

I appreciate the contrast the white and blue elements bring to the overall black color scheme; however, there isn’t much to highlight beyond that.

Adding more unnecessary details might introduce unnecessary filler content to this article.

As for the bottle, it is more appealing. The entire Series 3 collection is housed in these slender, elongated 50ml flacons resembling small deodorant containers.

The sole distinction you’ll observe between one version and another is, naturally, the fragrance name and its color, which, in this instance, is a marine blue hue.

The cap feels inexpensive and thin; however, the atomizer is great, and its functionality facilitates more precise application.

It represents a fusion of minimalism and artistic expression, yet it comes across as somewhat bland and uninspiring.

My Experience With Perfume

Incense Kyoto - bottle and box

Oh, boy. It’s been a while since I felt this disappointed. This fragrance is by one of my all-time favorite perfumers, and it’s turned out to be a complete letdown.

It could be because of my high standards, a natural development after spending so long in the fragrance game, but something seriously went wrong with this creation.

I understand that the incense used in Japanese culture differs from that in Oman (particularly in Amouage perfumes), but I’m 100% sure it doesn’t smell as bland as this.

Could it be that CDG cut corners on the perfume oils, or was there a financial restriction for Duchaufour? It’s not for me to conclude.

While it’s not a clone of Azzaro’s Visit for Men or the Lalique Encre Noire line since it predates them, it’s shocking that those more affordable fragrances boast the same quality ingredients.

I’m grateful I acquired this fragrance through a swap and didn’t pay the full price.

It saddens me that, in this case, I can’t recommend an excellent incense fragrance for the colder seasons of the year.

CDG has some fantastic niche-level creations waiting for you to discover, but unfortunately, Kyoto isn’t one of them.

They can’t all be good, can they? Let’s continue with what I get from the scent development.

Top Notes

Cypress Forest - Incense Kyoto

  • Coffee
  • Cypress

Kyoto smells dry, meditative, and serene in the whole spectrum of things. It opens up with the green and fragrant scent of cypress.

This produces a sense of tranquility right from the first minute and slowly guides you to what you can expect from this creation.

Coffee is hard to achieve in perfumery, especially if a perfumer aims to recreate its nutty and roasted aroma.

As such, I’m glad to report that this scent has no detectable coffee accord since it would even hurt the overall product.

What I do get almost immediately from the start is this churchy incense, which I have smelled a thousand times before.

Not terrible, but truthfully, nothing that would have made me say, “Wow, this is spectacular.” The best words to describe it would be just above designer level or, better said, bland.

I also get touches of coolness, smokiness, and pepperiness that remind me of calmness. A positive aspect since there are only a few other quality nuances that follow up as the fragrance continues to develop.

Heart Notes

Burning Incense Sticks - Incense Kyoto

  • Immortelle
  • Teak Wood
  • Cedar

A light fragrance, evident almost from the first spray, reveals its smoky facets as it further develops.

Here, incense continues to play the leading role but is grounded with cedarwood and dry vetiver, which begins to show its face even before the scent reaches its dry down.

The notes are well-blended, and to be fair, it does not smell like a cheap and random product. I expected a more exciting development, quickly transitioning into the linear dry down.

As someone who likes to see what other people have written about the fragrances I have fully experienced and plan to review, I was pretty shocked to read some of the descriptions about Kyoto in other articles across the web.

Terms such as nutty and toasted coffee(what?), fresh woods, rich ingredients, caramelized sweetness (you can’t be serious), and multiple other adjectives can be read, which are pretty concerning if you ask me.

Dear reviewers, please be realistic while describing the perfumes that other fragrance lovers are potentially planning to spend their hard-earned money on.

Base Notes

Dry Wood - Incense Kyoto

  • Amber
  • Incense
  • Patchouli
  • Vetiver

I strive to maintain neutrality in my fragrance reviews, describing negative aspects in a way that doesn’t discourage anyone from trying a particular perfume.

This approach recognizes the subjective nature of taste, acknowledging that what may not align with my preferences could be a delightful discovery for other fragrance enthusiasts.

Consequently, I’ll conclude this review section on a positive note. As the scent transitions into its base notes, a blend of incense and woods remains.

It’s alright; it can be pretty enjoyable, especially during the fall and winter, when this fragrance finds a fitting ambiance.

However, I haven’t detected any patchouli or amber elements that could have enhanced its complexity and made it more interesting.


The overall impression of the fragrance’s performance is a point where you’ll likely pause before committing to an entire bottle purchase.

Despite being composed entirely of heavier notes, I must express my dissatisfaction with this department.

Wearers can anticipate Kyoto lingering on the skin for approximately 3 to 5 hours. However, this timeframe is contingent on having skin that isn’t overly dry and doesn’t “absorb” the perfume.

Concerning projection, the scent transforms into a more noticeable skin scent after 10 to 15 minutes post-application, which is quite disappointing.

Sillage is virtually non-existent, a surprising observation considering my bottle is from 2015. While this imparts a certain versatility to the fragrance, I found it to be a source of considerable disappointment.

LONGEVITY: 3 – 5 hours

Target audience and compliments

Kyoto caters to a specific audience that appreciates nuanced fragrances with a meditative character.

Niche fragrance houses often mislead customers by marketing almost everything as unisex, as I cannot see how a woman can pull off Kyoto.

The most dominant notes of cypress, incense, and dry woods make this creation almost entirely masculine, so I advise ladies planning to purchase this fragrance to sample it first.

A mature and confident personality comes as a must here as well.

As you can already guess, the reception regarding compliments is zero. Zero feedback means both positive and negative, thanks to its jokingly low performance.

Please remember that this is my opinion, and I understand that some fragrance lovers prefer their fragrances to be more reserved.


When & Where

This perfume is best suited for cooler seasons, mainly fall and winter. The fragrance’s earthy, resinous, and woody notes, combined with its contemplative aura, make it an excellent choice for colder temperatures.

I rarely recommend over-spraying perfumes, but in this case, I suggest spraying clothes as well.

Formal and professional settings allow its minimalistic aura to align well with a polished and refined atmosphere.

During my testing adventure before writing this review, I found it to be suitable for casual wear, making it perfect for quiet nights or weekends.

SEASONS: Fall and Winter
OCCASIONS: Business and Leisure
ATTIRE: Smart-Casual, Jeans and Chinos, Formal Wear

Uniqueness and value for money

And there we have it—the first fragrance review on Scent Grail to receive the lowest score for uniqueness.

Even at its release date, it wasn’t all that unique, and there were much better incense-forward fragrances. Still, this score seems quite fair.

I have also found numerous online sources stating that the name is misleading, further confirming my impression of how lackluster the incense note smells here.

Initially, the score I assigned for value for money was even lower than it eventually got. Still, if you are paying upper designer prices, I prefer more affordable alternatives from Azzaro or Lalique.


Pros and Cons

In the diverse perfume landscape, each composition brings its own charm, complexities, and shortcomings.

Exploring the pros and cons provides a comprehensive view, aiding fragrance enthusiasts in their quest for the perfect olfactory experience.

Understanding these nuances allows you to make a more well-informed choice, ensuring a tailored match for individual tastes.


  • Minimalistic composition
  • Fairly priced at fragrance discounters


  • Lack of uniqueness
  • Limited performance
  • Better and cheaper alternatives
  • Misleading name
  • Questionable retail price

Collection & Similar Perfumes

Incense Kyoto is part of the Series 3 collection from Comme des Garçons that invites you on a spiritual journey across the world\’s historical centers.

All of them are in production and available for purchase. Here’s what I recommend checking out and some of the great alternatives.


  • Comme des Garçons Avignon – a woody oriental fragrance released in 2002. The main notes include incense, myrrh, and olibanum. The lasting power is between 4 – 6 hours with moderate projection.
  • Comme des Garçons Zagorsk – a woody aromatic fragrance released in 2002. The main notes include pine tree, incense, and birch. The lasting power is between 4 – 6 hours with moderate projection.
  • Comme des Garçons Ouarzazate – a spicy woody fragrance released in 2002. The main notes include incense, green tea, and pepper. The lasting power is between 3 – 5 hours with soft projection.


  • Christian Lacroix Tumulte pour Homme – a spicy woody fragrance released in 2005. The main notes include cedar, juniper berries, and sandalwood. The lasting power is between 10 – 12 hours with moderate projection.
  • Bon Parfumeur 602 Pepper, Cedar, Patchouli – a spicy woody fragrance released in 2017. The main notes include cedar, pepper, and bay leaf. The lasting power is between 4 – 6 hours with soft projection.
  • Loewe 7 – a spicy woody fragrance released in 2010. The main notes include incense, pepper, and cedar. The lasting power is between 8 – 10 hours, with excellent projection.


  • Amouage Myths Man – floral leather fragrance released in 2016. The main notes include ash, chrysanthemum, and leather. The lasting power is 24+ hours with great projection.

Final Words

Incense Kyoto - bottle sideways and box

Kyoto was one of those fragrances I didn’t struggle to decipher, unlike more multi-dimensional and expensive-smelling counterparts.

It is what it is—a simple, calming scent that is highly unlikely to leave you in awe. It’s suitable for beginners who are just embarking on their fragrance journey.

It’s a hard pass for me, and I’m relieved that I acquired it through a swap rather than paying for it. As always, please do yourself a favor and sample it since my taste might not be like yours.

What are your thoughts about Comme des Garçons Series 3 Incense Kyoto? Let’s start a conversation, and let me know in the comment section below.

In case you are in doubt about whether you should consider buying any fragrance or not, it’s always good to take a look at Scent Grail’s S.P.A. Signature Factor Guide.

It is easy to use and the most relevant perfume-buying guide on the web. This way, you can check out if a particular fragrance is worth checking out and potentially find your signature perfume.


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Until next time, stay humble, and keep smelling great!

Best, Marin!
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