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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Three Zens

By Marla

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.


Blogger elle said...

Great reviews! Love the original Zen (also adored the bottle), but have never gotten around to trying the second inc. of it. I wasn't aware that it had agarwood, which makes me think I should give it a chance. The third sounds like something that would easily make it onto my toxic substances list, which is a shame since the bottle really is lovely.

10:15 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

$20? I need to get to Little Tokyo tomorrow...

11:06 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never known there was Zen1 - and I was surprised by Zen3 (and in fact, I couldn't understand the reason of reusing the name). I liked Zen2 (both, the name and the scent) - was a nice, pure scent and now that we speak about, I'd fancy to get a sniff of it (but I have Louve on ...).

3:48 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Thanks for the reviews. Sounds like I should definitely try Zen1, and probably 2.

8:20 AM EST  
Blogger Divina said...

Glad I am not the only one who hated the new Zen :P I find the jus really undeserving of the name.

8:30 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea they were all different. I've smelled the original Zen and liked it very much; based on your description I'd also like the second and hate the third.:-P

9:23 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely reviews. Had no idea about Zen3, and have no intention of trying it. Everything at the Shiseido counter since Zen2 I have found pretty repellent, and it sounds as though Zen3 belongs to the same fruity-floral-masquerading-as-something-else family as those orange and green "relaxing" and "energizing" Things that came out around the same time as Zen2.
That said, we've been a Zen family for a while. Zen1 was my older daughter's first perfume (at age 12 or so!), and I've worn Zen2 since it first came out. My younger daughter has fortunately outgrown her early fondness for the plasticky green bottled stuff (Relaxing? So inaptly named ...)

12:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the reviews, especially the about the first Zen scent. I'd love to buy it. But I'm located outside of US. Is there any way I could buy it on-line? Please let me know. Thank you.

9:25 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marla, I liked the "old" Zen a lot - I don't think I have ever tried the 2000 version. (The Shiseido one I really miss is Murasaki - soft violet and ever so serene.)

2:03 AM EST  
Blogger Octavian Coifan said...

I was very surprised about Zen III and when I first sniffed I asked my self "does Zen attitude mean a mix between Coco Mademoiselle, Chance and Narciso Rodriguez?". Well, thouth I like the bottle I was dissapointed to smell a n-variation on a very well known theme. It's quite surprising that Shiseido, with such a creative brand like Serge Lutens... can do a nice but not inspired fragrance.

2:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zen 1 is extremely rose-y, which I did not see mentioned in your review which downplays the floral aspects of this fragrance. It is a perfume which highlights the interplay between rose and warm woods (cedar & sandal). Luca Turin correctly called Zen 1 "the perfect woody rose", and I completely agree. It's exquisite and sublimely rose-y.

3:55 PM EDT  

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