I've had a complicated relationship with Coze from the very beginning. Numbered 02, it's one of the very first perfumes Pierre Guillaume released in his Parfumerie Generale line. It smelled good. It smelled really really good. But I suspected that Coze also made me smell like a smoker. It was the combination of tobacco and hemp oil, and I just could not get over that. In addition, the lively and peppy spices hovering just above the smoke residue kept reminding me of the way my mother smelled more than twenty years ago when she was still a smoker (in her case it was a mix of smoke and her Chloe, but the effect was oddly similar).
But even when wearing Coze felt uncomfortable, I could still appreciate the artistry: the modern take on an almost vintage theme, the way Pierre Guillaume uses gourmand notes to create something new and wonderful, and the elegant opulence of the composition. Which is why I've almost always had a sample or a small decant of Coze within reach and I'd spend a few hours in its presence every once in a while. On good skin chemistry days it was nothing short of glorious in its warm chocolate-pepper hug over luxurious wood notes. On bad days there was the smoker's coat again. It was when the good days significantly outnumbered the bad ones that I added Coze to my wishlist.
I bought my bottle in Italy, and it's a good story that I'll tell you at another time. I'm so glad I did. Coze envelops me in a tweedy embrace, not quite sweet but promising delicacies. It's a woody fragrance more than anything else, and the wood smells expensive the way perfumes twice its price do not manage to present themselves. It's not quite a lavish sitting room and not exactly a gentleman's den-- more like a whiff of both caught in the coat and scarf of a man or a woman who visited briefly but now have an even more interesting place to attend.
Obviously, I completely missed the gender assignment of Coze. Luckyscent places it closer to the masculine end of the spectrum, but as fragrance that made me think of my mother the very first time I smelled it, I didn't get it back then. My mom herself would never wear such a woody perfume, but that's irrelevant. Nowadays, I do see the manly side (Pierre Guillaume himself has a Coze shower gel made exclusively for his personal use, not sold to the public. He smells fantastic). Despite the gourmand leanings, Coze is a surprisingly understated fragrance that exudes refinement. All of us, men and women, could use some of that these days.
Notes: hemp, patchouli, cocoa, pimento, pepper, nutmeg, precious woods, blond tobacco, bourbon vanilla.
Parfumerie Generale Coze ($85, 30ml EDT) is available at Osswald. Luckyscent also carries it in the larger 50ml bottles.
Photo: Wenda Parkinson by Norman Parkinson, 1949.