It surprised me to discover I've never written a review or even really anything at length about a Parfumerie Generale fragrance, especially given the fact I like as many of them as much as I do. While I wouldn't say I like Coze the best, I do think it epitomizes perfumer Pierre Guillaume's style: sweet and woody, an earthier recombination of elements you find in the work of Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens. Sheldrake sometimes errs on the side of syrupy excess. Coze works these balances out perfectly, calibrating the sweetness so that it feels less like something off a pastry shelf, more like something you'd find some tree trunk leaking out in a moss-laden forest.
I believe Coze was one of the earliest PG fragrances (2002), and it feels fully committed to its ideas. It feels a little more earnest than some of the line's most recent releases. Some of the more recent releases have suggested the growing pains of an artist trying to stretch out and do something new, not necessarily to challenge himself but to broaden his appeal. Some of these newer creations go so far in the other direction that they start to lose what it is (whatever it is) that I love about Guillaume's style. Coze had no one to please but itself. It didn't have to worry about retread, or one trick ponies. It didn't have a body of criticism to work against or to flatter. It stormed out the gate relatively free of context.
A sleight herbal aroma hits you when you first spray it on, riding on a gentle gust of the animalic. It's barely there. A few seconds, and it has melded seamlessly into Coze's more overt agenda: coffee, woods, patchouli, tobacco, vanilla. The wood you sense most is cedar, and Coze employs it more adroitly than any fragrance I know. You get the sweetness but the slightly medicinal, faintly bitter aromatic aspects too, all in perfect proportion. You're never sure if you're smelling the coffee or the cedar, in fact, causing you to see both differently. Neither is what it was. Each seems a bit more than you guessed. Once you've adjusted to this balance, you start to discern something like the sweet, dusty smell of horse hide I remember from my childhood visits to rural Arkansas.
Some will smell Coze and sense nothing but patchouli. That's going to generally be the person who doesn't care for patchouli a'tall. Those who love do love patchouli, like I do, will recognize in Coze a fantastic tribute to it, achieving something far beyond the head shop, something much closer to patchouli royalty. On various fragrance boards, you might hear, as I did for a long time, that Coze has no staying power. I'm not sure what these reviewers are smoking. Perhaps something made from the hemp which is listed in the pyramid of Coze. Don't believe a word of it. Coze has tremendous staying power. It's truly a high that lasts.
I suppose something should be said about that "hemp note". Maybe it's responsible for the herbal element? Maybe the horse hide? Many of PG's scents have this weird, dry-to-scorched grass ambience. I love that quality and don't spend a lot of time trying to break it down. In the case of Coze, it might well be the hemp. I do see similarities between something in Cannabis Santal (Fresh) and Coze--but only just. Overall, Coze has a deep, resonant tone to it which feels mysterious, slightly insular, something with a strong presence which keeps its secrets turned away from you.
I'd love to hear the Parfumerie Generale fragrances that other people love and the experience they've had with them. There are several I'd like to get and I'm curious to hear more.