Shiseido believes in recycling, and while that's a good thing for bottles and paper, I'm not sure it's such a good thing for perfume names. Shiseido has 3 scents with the name of Zen now, and they are all completely different from one another. I own the first two, but won't be buying the third. Here are mini reviews of all 3 Zens.
The first Zen came out in 1964. It's in a matte black bottle with gold lettering and leaves. Woods, spice, a little incense, some aldehydes. It's a "little black dress" perfume, very classy, quite masculine. Nothing sweet or gourmand, and not particularly floral, either. I can't bear aldehydes but they are really well done here and laid on quite lightly. This can still be bought at Epcot at Disney World in the Japanese village, and at a good price (around $20 for 15ml). I highly recommend it to those who, like me, aren't really into florals or fruit.
In 2000, Shiseido decided to reuse the name Zen for a perfume that has nothing in common with its predecessor. Here are the notes: gentian, hyacinth, valerian, mousouchiku, moss, violet, iris, headspace kyara incense (agarwood), and white musk. This middle period Zen is in a pearl bottle shaped as an abstract pair of hands in a prayer position. The scent is meant to be aromatherapeutic, and induce calm reflection. I find it's really good for meditation, particularly the 15ml of essence in the small pearl bottle. This is a sheer white floral with light woods, a bit of Japanese agarwood, and light musk. Very pretty and soothing.
So for 2007, Zen is reborn in a golden square bottle. I tried this a few days ago, thinking I could start a Zen sub-collection, but I was put off. It starts with a blast of synthetic fruit and shrill flowers, a bit like a vase of plastic roses next to a bowl of fluorescent rubber fruit. It actually hurt my nose a bit. It settles down to a very generic fruity-floral, unobjectionable but for me, not bottle-worthy either. The glass bottle is lovely, though.
I suppose in a few years we'll see Zen IV. Perhaps a hesperidic scent? Or maybe leather?
Image source, koncertissimo on ebay.