The term original next to the name of this perfume has both meanings: it was the original perfume bearing the name and it remains a true original. Launched in 1963 and discontinued later to be followed by two more reincarnations. Today Zen remains as beautiful, calm and mysterious as it was when it was first released. Under a seemingly old-fashioned opening of lemon, delicate flowers and hand cream a bitter, dark heart of galbanum and violet comes into play to cast the shadow of doubt on what the opening was heralding. The middle-aged serene face smiles but the eyes speak of memories that will remain unspoken. In the drydown smoky vetiver creates the illusion of a shiny, dark green leather: the glove that makes a barren hand look perfect, a tight-fitting boot supporting tired steps, a locked box full of photos.
Zen is a perfect showcase of the duality seen in fragrances like Chanel No19: a play of light and shadows. Light hearted flowers and austere greens combine to tell the story of a lifetime. Hopes and regrets, innocence and memory, strength and shelter. There are no peaks in the Zen wearing experience. Everything rolls quietly but pretty soon one realizes that the pace is picking up and they are moving down a rabbit hole of introspection. In a market where the term “noir” has been overused to preconceive audiences towards thick, sweet, woody fragrances Zen shows that green can be very “noir”. It is always light footed but never light hearted. You can slip into it and forget about it, then go back and sniff the cool aloofness.
If you wait for the hand cream note of the opening to calm down this classic feminine fits a man like a tailored suit. Green always wears well on a man and the smoky, subtle leathery base is a treat. Although very different in terms of end result Zen reminds me of Piguet Bandit in the way it is composed. Another feminine green leather that has become a perfume men like to steal for themselves. Where Bandit screams and shouts its dark beauty Zen whispers its enchanting mantra. Josephine Catapano, the perfumer who created Zen is also the person behind legendary Fidji and probably Youth Dew.
Notes from Fragrantica: mimose, carnation, violet, orris root, jasmine, rose, narcissus,sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss, cedar
Notes from my nose: lemon, hyacinth, hand cream, violet, galbanum, leather, vetiver
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.