When I popped by Sephora last week to check out their new fall nail colors (see post yesterday), I ran into KenzoAmour Florale, which I am pretty sure was a spring release but has just shown up in our local stores. I can´t resist pasting in the Sephora online blurbage for this: “In Asia, the light is written in flowers that whisper their solar freshness onto your skin. This scent’s gently dazzling impression begins with a luminous, airy top. The essence reveals its luminous, floral heart and comes to completion with a clear, sensitive base. The hours pass by gracefully, given away by changing light, enticing you to fall in love.”
Perhaps I´m becoming a bitter hag prematurely, but does that mean anything to anyone reading this? I recognize the words as written in English, and yet. The whole thing makes me tilt my head to one side in bafflement, like my dog when he´s watching the television. My six-year-old could write something more edifying.
I am something of a Kenzo fangirl. KenzoAmour is probably my favorite, with Flower Oriental, Flower (Le Parfum) and Indian Holi not far behind. There is nothing out there quite like KenzoAmour when I need comfort on a miserable winter day. If it is ever discontinued, I will mourn its passing. The KenzoAmour LP was interesting, but what it gained in benzoin-ambery yumminess it lost in luminous transparency, and it never replaced the regular in my affections. Also, I know that, for those who can work with the weight of Kenzo, scents like Amour and Oriental are surprisingly tenacious.
Notes for Florale are neroli, grapefruit, blackcurrant, cardamom, frangipani, rosebud, gardenia, white musk, cedarwood. The original KenzoAmour is built around woods, incense, and rice steam. So, you might take a guess that the Florale flanker doesn´t have much in common with the original beyond the bottle (and more about that bottle in a bit.) In this case, you´d be correct – Florale is, as its name implies, a floral. It is sweet without being sweeeeet – certainly by the standards of much of what lurks on the Sephora shelves, it is relatively restrained. The fruit and citrus is around only briefly, although the cardamom adds a welcome, nuanced spiciness. The florals read as an indistinct, pale haze rather than as individual accent notes. As it dries down it gets a bit muskier and woodier, and despite the list of notes I don´t find the fragrance particularly “feminine.” The musk is a little sour on me. Florale is a light skin scent after a couple of hours. I found it a disappointment, although I’m having trouble deciding precisely why. It’s not like I find Kenzo scents (collectively) provocative or awe-inspiring, and I’m not saying they’re genius. But for what they are, they are often delicious little things. This one, not so much. It’s the sort of scent that is just good enough to remind me that I could be wearing something better, but not comforting or warm or X enough to justify its floral-musky existence.
Online photos like the one at top really don´t do the KenzoAmour Florale bottle justice. It´s clear glass at the top and bottom, while the center portion appears etched on the interior, with the clearness slowly fading into the etched (frosted?) portion, which looks like milk glass. Unlike the Amour parfum gold bottle, which looked kind of cheesy (in my opinion), like it had been spray-painted in a craft shop, the varied glass of Florale works beautifully with the clean, organic lines of the bottle. Assuming you find that iconic bottle attractive in the first place — and you´re forgiven if you don´t — rendered in a heavy, frosted glass it is eye-candy in a refined, less-is-more way.
Trying to figure out how I felt about Florale, I retried Kenzo Flower (technically, I think: FlowerByKenzo) for the umpteenth time. I appreciate the irony of my long-standing dislike for Flower, which must surely be Kenzo´s best known and best selling scent. Its popularity remains inexplicable to me. I can´t say that I liked it this time, either, but repeat exposure means that I dislike it less, and I definitely prefer it to Florale. Part of it is smell dissonance; the first 20 minutes of Flower on my skin is almost pure baby powder, and baby powder to me doesn´t mean pampering – it means babies, and babies are pretty much nothing but crying and work, no matter how much you love them. It´s like the people who smell eugenol (cloves) in fragrance and can´t think of anything but toothache and miserable trips to the dentist. Our smell memories are so individuated – on vacation in Maine, we were giving all the kids baby aspirin for their sunburn one day, and my sister-in-law mentioned how much she hates the smell of baby aspirin. To her, the smell is unhappy because it is associated with being sick as a child and needing medicine. I have the same association but in my mind it´s a happy one – baby aspirin is the smell of my mother taking care of me when I was sick. In other words, the smell of baby aspirin is the smell of being lovingly tended to.
The drydown of Flower has really grown on me, though -once the violet and rose blow off I´m left with the funky, resin-y kick of opoponax, musk and hawthorne, along with the luminous glow of hedione, and what´s not to love about that? I wonder if I keep trying it whether I´ll find myself wanting a bottle in a year or two.