A Single Candle

I have a vicious sweet tooth. So every few months I give up sweets. Because I´ve discovered that if I quit hitting the Belgian chocolates and crà¨me brulee quite so hard, other sweet possibilities become more alluring. I can appreciate the juicy bite of an Asian pear. Just thinking about a Satsuma mandarin makes my mouth water. I don´t view these mini-vacations from regular dessert as deprivation. Instead, they´re a way for me to up my daily pleasure quotient by doing something new.

Anyway, the above crossed my mind as I was thinking about my recent discoveries among the less amped-up perfumes. Don´t get me wrong – you know how much I love strong fragrance. I´m the gal who layers CB Musk with Mitsouko and lives to tell the tale. (My advice: don´t). From buttcrack to horseback, I´m all about the skank. However. I´ve also figured out that, like taking a break from my sugar binges, stepping back from the hard stuff for a day or three allows me to appreciate some really beautiful muted fragrances. No, seriously. My nose recalibrates, and instead of boooooooring my brain says, huh. That´s interesting.

Which is precisely what happened recently with two Kenzo Flower fragrances. No, do not click away to GFY immediately upon reading the word “Kenzo.” I don´t like the original FlowerbyKenzo at all. For what it´s worth, if you triangulate the reviews on MUA, folks who liked the original FlowerbyKenzo tended not to like its variations, and vice versa. So if all you´ve tried is the first one, please read on.

The original FlowerbyKenzo is not insipid, precisely, but it´s too sweet and waaaay too powdery to be anything I´d want to wear. (Notes of the original Flower are: Wild Hawthorne, Bulgarian Rose, Parma Violet, Cassia, Hedione, Cyclosal, Opoponax, White Musk, Vanilla.)

FlowerbyKenzo Le Parfum
, on the other hand, has notes of Amber, Opoponax Resin, White Musk, Bourbon Vanilla, Almond, Parma Violet, Bulgarian Rose. Look closely and observe the difference, because as far as I´m concerned they´re scents with two different goals. Le Parfum is all about the amber, almond and vanilla, they´ve done away with the dreaded hawthorne, and rearranged the emphasis away from the florals. (The latter doesn´t list hedione, but given the warm glow and its presence in the air around me, I bet it´s still in there). It´s a rich, creamy comfort scent that manages a floral note without a sugar overdose. My only complaint about this one is that it´s absolutely gone in less than two hours.

Kenzo Flower Oriental
, on the other hand, is surprisingly tenacious, and well worth exploring. Notes are: Bulgarian Rose, Violet, Vanilla, Musk, Sichuan Pepper, Kyara, Chinese Incense. This is a more steamlined scent than either the original Flower or Le Parfum, and once you get past the rose and violet of the opening, it dries down to a meditative incense. I probably need some sort of 12-step program for incense addicts, but it´s a note that makes me weak at the knees. It´s not really like any other incense I can think of; I can compare it to SMN´s Citta di Kyoto, with Kenzo being more refined (or less robust and herb-y, depending on your perspective.) At the same time, the drydown is austere and rather masculine.

KenzoAmour is a fragrance I dismissed immediately the first time I smelled it, because I was in the middle of some skank jag at the time. Notes are: Frangipani Blossoms, Cherry Blossoms, Tanakha Wood, Incense, Thai Rice Steam, Vanilla, White Tea from China. It starts off more floral, with the frangipani in full force, but dries down fairly quickly into milky woods – the fragrance equivalent of whatever your favorite creamy comfort food would be, assuming you have one. I´m tempted to reveal my fondness for tapioca, but that´s such a potential gross-out that instead I´ll compare it to the cream of wheat my mother made me when I was sick or sad as a child, topped with whole milk and sugar. The “Thai rice steam” is strongly reminiscent of cooked farina cereal, and I suppose whether that holds any charm for you as a fragrance would be individual choice. Given my general aversion to sweet, foody scents based on chocolate and dessert, I´m not in a position to judge you.

The surprising thing about both Oriental and Amour was the lasting power. They lasted most of the day – yes, muted, but decidedly there. They are both skin scents, but if you´re not trying them on in my usual fashion — between the new Tom Ford and Badgley Mischka, on a scent bender – you might be pleasantly surprised. I was surprised, anyway. I´m beginning to think there´s a whole world of lighter fragrances out there that I haven´t bothered with because I´ve been too busy upping the voltage – bigger, stronger, brassier, sexier. I´m always going to be the Queen of Skank, don´t worry (next week: Leatherfest!). But if you´re like me – if you´ve dismissed entire lines of fragrance because they´re “too light” — stop and consider whether you´re cheating yourself out of the luminous beauty of watching a candle flame in the dark because all you want are fireworks.

The winner of Le Labo samples: Stella Maris! Please send your mailing address under “Contact Us.”

  • patchamour says:

    Hi March,
    Thanks for the suggestions. As far as the cold weather blahs — early November is waaayyy to early for this — but it is so damn dreary outside! Didn’t make it to Sephora yet, but I tried the Betsey at Macy’s, and it was way too much sugar for me. I’m still on that Summer kick. Looking forward to those Toccas. Have a great T’giving.

  • March says:

    Patch — wow, see — another way to make me think outside the regular parameters, because I never try my summer stuff now. You’re scaring me with your green-watery Issey (although I like Dissey better, since you’re dissin’ it). Actually, I do trot out my most cheerful citrus in Jan/Feb, as an alternative to putting my head in the oven — which would be too disgusting, since they’re electric. On that note — enjoy your trip to Sephora! On a SEPARATE trip I think you sheould smell Betsey, Hil Duff (are they too similar?) and the Toccas, which I think are great and are now at my Sephora.

  • patchamour says:

    This was a refreshing post:). It sent me back to my only Kenzo sample — Summer, which I tried this summer, looking for something very light for the heat. At that point it seemed too sheer. Oddly, in the raw, cold weather we’re having, it seems very pleasant (bergamot, Tuscany citrus, mimosa, bitter almond, amber, styrax wood, white musk. The drydown is something green-watery that I dislike in L’eau Dissey (sp?. You’ve made me schedule a trip to Sephora, though, because the other Kenzos sound beeyootiful.

  • March says:

    Veronica — the archives are such a mess.:( we don’t have a good search feature, and a lot of the posts got messed up in the switch to the new web address/platform. I go in periodically and clean them up, but it’s tedious.

    Cuir Beluga I’d have to get another sample of to be better informed. I tried it, failed to be moved, and swapped it away. But now that I am so much better educated and sophisticated about perfume:^o my feelings might be different.

  • March says:

    Cait — quite rice is an apt description. I’m not sure I’ll ever “love” a light comfort scent. I could be wrong. I think it takes something on a fairly loud note to inspire rapture…

    no, wait. I take it all back. Apres L’Ondee. I am completely unable to be even a little objective about it.

  • March says:

    Robin — it IS a great scent, they’re one of the areas you and I agree on. I need to go back now and re-smell the summer ones.

  • March says:

    ViNoir — I’m not very good at moderation.:-” Either I’m eating cupcakes for breakfast or muesli. Our family has relatives who are actively disgusted by our sugar consumption… oh, well.

    I’m still waiting for my Nezes…:(( I can’t wait to try that one, it sounds like there’s nothing there. I want to do a post on barely-there frags, I think it would be fun — take nominations, etc.

  • Veronica says:

    I give up chocolate right after St Valentine’s Day. And then I wait six long weeks for the Easter Bunny to bring more.

    Hoping Cuir Beluga is a recent discovery as I would love to read a Leatherfest review.

    (I thought Beluga had been topic about four months ago; if it has been covered, I don’t think the search function is working properly.)

  • Cait says:

    See, Amour is pretty good if you give it a chance. It’s not mind blowing, but quite rice, I mean, nice, really. I like notes of rice, as in Ormonde Champaca and Ferre and Amour. Like but not love. I see your candle light point, March.

  • Robin says:

    Flower Oriental really didn’t get the attention it deserved, IMHO…so glad to see it here today!

  • violetnoir says:

    As I take another bite of my yellow cake with vanilla buttercream frosting (really!), I gotta agree with you on the sweets thing. I am trying to cut back on my sweet intake, too (again, really!). I find that I do feel better when I limit myself to one, no more than two, desserts per week. :”>

    Talk about light: Have you tried Les Nez L’Antimatiere, March? That takes the meaning of “light fragrances” to a whole new level. I know it’s there, but is it really???? /:)


  • March says:

    Tigs — PS. God, maybe this is part of some faux British Empire expansionist fragrance vision, you know — fanning out from the dark continent…

    I’ve never been to Japan, I wonder if the ads in Japan feature Japanese models? I’ve never even thought about it. When I think multiracial I think Benetton and that’s about it. There’s this girl … she was just in Vogue, I think. Devon Aoki — Google her image. I wish someone would use her. She was so beautiful she probably causes accidents walking down the street. I have a vague recollection that she’s Hawaiian, not sure.

  • March says:

    Tigs — that’s very funny. Maybe we SHOULD get married.8-| We can sit around reading our favorite Norman Rush bits in front of the fire and spraying each other with Kenzo… if only you and I weren’t straight, and already married.:-?

    That is such an astute point about that vintage sourness. It didn’t last long on me, I thought maybe it was a blip in the radar. I liked it, actually.

    The RL — I’m still pondering that one. It is so far outside what I consider the Ralph Parameters (that wretched, wretched Turquoise). Maybe he fell on his head?

  • March says:

    Dusan — okay, I’ll try it!

    I’m not covering ALL the leathers. Just my most recent discoveries…

  • March says:

    Patty — oh, it’s me. I’ve been abducted by aliens and reprogrammed. =:)

    Coming up next week after Leatherfest: I renounce all perfumes and switch to wearing Glade room spray as a fragrance.;))

    Um, triangulating and calculating (scribble scribble) and … you would think they were like sniffing canned air, is my best guess. But the bottles are cuuuute!

  • March says:

    Marina — yeah, yeah, yeah … was it you who wrote about how Amour bored the life out of you, except the bottle? I think it was — no rubber feet in that one.:d

    This is the perfect leather time of year.

  • Dusan says:

    TO TIGS: Gucci II Eau de Parfum campaign is fronted by a beautiful Asian girl. I think the ad can be found at couleurparfum.com (sp?).

  • March says:

    Haus — Ha! Yeah, Norma Kamali incense is just going to squash that pore little Kenzo into the dirt.

    What does Flower smell like on your friend? On me it basically reads as baby powder and formula (shudder.)

  • March says:

    Elle, well, if you can appreciate Champaca, there’s hope for Amour. My problem is I’m always sniffing too many things at once, and the lighter stuff gets such short shrift.

    The CB Musk I layer successfully with all sorts of interesting things. The Mitsouko, she is such a diva… L’Heure Bleue works, but that’s about it, she does not wish to share the stage.

  • March says:

    Chaya — there’s nothing like rediscovering something to love, is there? And this is such a great time of year, fragrance-wise.:x

  • March says:

    Sariah — SL is a veeeery expensive habit to feed…$-)

    I think I’m the only person who doesn’t think those bottles are wonderful. Actually they now have a set of three minis of the original FbK that are the cutest leetle things, too bad I don’t like the fragrance…

  • Tigs says:

    Wait, I’ve just been thinking of this. Can you think of a perfume campaign fronted by an Asian person? I can’t, though there must be one. The Kenzo Amour girl is vaguely Asian looking but I see on Images Des Parfums that her first name is Olga. Enough with advertising Double Black with Orlando Bloom lookalikes in motorcycle jackets – use my tall, devastatingly handsome, Pakistani former room-mate! Where are the Thai beauty queens, Bollywood stars, stunning Japanese? Asians are among the most knowledgable perfume consumers in the world, and most of the ingredients come from Grasse or Asia. Come on, marketing people, get with it!

  • Tigs says:

    March: It’s so weird! A rupture in the space-time continuum (sp?!) I was going to review the last two today. I love the Flower Oriental and had never bothered trying it until yesterday. It’s great – I get an initial almost vintage sourness (not a chemical odour, as some seem to get) that blends with the incense so that it smells like what a would imagine an opium den smells like, having never been to one. I also like the rice pudding cloud of Kenzo Amour, and I love those freaking bottles. Tried Double Black, too, while I was at the counters. The initial blast of pepper I found both too strong and rather conventional. Initially it was – and I’m surprised to even be writing this – too masculine for me. But once the mango showed up … ooo, its a doozy! Where did it come from? The vibe is very South Indian and I thought Ralph really only hung out with white people in riding boots.

  • Dusan says:

    Um, you are putting skank on hold? *gasp*
    Seriously, this was a really lovely post, agree with all of your kenzestimations and love the comfort aspect of Amour. As for being on incense kick – pleeeease try NEMO by Cacharel, I’d love to hear your opinion. The bastards discontinued it last year, so make a run for it before it vanishes altogether!
    So it’s Leatherfest next week? Groovy baby, yeah!

  • Patty says:

    Okay, I don’t know who you are, but what have you done with March? 🙂

    I’ve never sniffed the Kenzos, so placing me on your triangulated formula of what you like and I don’t, will I like these? Or does this fall in the Hillary Duff Bermuda Triangle part of the fragrance spectrum?

  • Marina says:

    Well, now that you got it out of your system…can we have the Leatherfest already? :d:x

  • hausvonstone says:

    hey march – great post. i actually just bought kenzo flower edp, and am kicking myself for not buying le parfum instead. i spent several days with a new friend and kept noticing her perfume – it smelled amazing. i couldn’t believe it was kenzo flower which i had sniffed in bottles and completely written off for years. le parfum is definitely richer – i need to get a sample or mini. oriental is also nice – i tried to make my own by layering flower over norma kamali incense but nk kept coming out and kicking kenzo’s flowery behind.

  • Elle says:

    Kenzo Flower is my idea of olfactory Ambien, but you’ve inspired me to try these two versions. I’ve contemplated getting Amour just for that gorgeous bottle, even if I didn’t like the juice inside. Would be great if I did and there’s hope since I adore a cooked rice note in scents (Champaca). Lighter scents don’t exactly hold a majority position in my scent collection, but I really do love quite a few. 🙂
    Oh, and good thing you added the advice about the CB Musk and Mitsouko combo because I already was doing a quick turn away from the computer to run try that when I caught your warning out of the corner of my eye. 🙂

  • chayaruchama says:

    Good on you, my girl…
    I will take a page , and dutifully re-sniff.

    A propos of change/ contrast, I purchased some Infini parfum recently,and am enjoying the complete contrast- woody, mossy [not incense-y!], floral-spicy[ yup, we’ve got carnation AND peach!], totally removed from my usual, but sumptuous in a Nahema-ish sort of way.
    It’s good for the soul !

    Be well-

  • sariah says:

    March – 12 step program for incense addicts, you’re cracking me up this morning. I really like the Kenzo Amour (I like the rice pudding / woody vibe) and that great pink bottle may push it’s way under the xmas tree. Haven’t given the others much of a chance I’m afraid, too busy feeding my Serge Lutens IV.