Kenzo King Kong

If I got a sample of a fragrance called Mimosa, I might make assumptions about the way it smelled. Those would probably be different assumptions than for a sample of something called, say, Satan´s Crotch. I might google “Mimosa EDP” and see if the notes said citrus and champagne – or maybe the flower itself. Any of that information might enter into how I feel about Mimosa the first time I smell it.

I remember the first time I smelled Apothia Velvet Rope, I was thrown off because it´s a sequence of nightclub smells, but I was expecting something literally rope-y – something that smelled like rope, woody and masculine. I was expecting something more like the smell of L´Artisan Fleur de Narcisse. Of course, if I hadn´t been pre-warned by others´ reviews, I would have been expecting Narcisse to smell like the odd, sweet smell of paperwhites in bloom – narcissus – and I might have been horrified, or at least temporarily put off, by the hay-ish, leathery smell that greeted me instead.

So when I received a sample of what I believe is the first Kenzo fragrance, King Kong, I wasn´t sure what to think. As you know, I´m neither a chemist nor a perfumer. I can´t smell King Kong and parse its ingredients. Nor can I find any notes about it online. So when I smelled this sample (a more accurate description is this: it is a sample re-created by its original creator) I had the name and my impressions, and that´s it. To whatever extent anyone else can produce some history, we can see how far off I am.

What do I smell? Oddly, and amusingly, it opens with a strong note of banana to me – which seemed completely bizarre until I thought – oh, yeah – King Kong! Bananas!! Of course!!! Next comes a rich, almost oily smell, like the inside of rubber boots, folded into a dank wet-pelt note (here comes the King himself!). At that point, the combination of sweet, slightly rank fruit, oily rubber and fur becomes almost unbearable. Sheer willpower kept me from washing it off the first time. My waiting was rewarded by a third phase — the rubber boots fade and are replaced by what smells like a clean, white floral resting on the fur, resembling a gardenia corsage on an old mink coat.

King Kong is one of the odder fragrances I´ve smelled. It´s aggressive; nothing is held back, but at the same time it´s weirdly tender. According to my benefactor, the fragrance was intended as a love story, from a man who loved the movie with Jessica Lange (released in 1976; the fragrance was released in ´78). Kenzo might also have been making a statement on several levels – about being Japanese, a rising star, a risk-taker, and a designer (Kenzo´s stores at the time were provocatively named Jungle Jap). And you know what? It is a love story; I find that absolutely believable. You can gaze at the eerie imagery of Kong battling from the top of the World Trade Center, at the giant ape with the beautiful woman he loves, and you can laugh at its ridiculousness — or be moved by its tragedy — or both at the same time. This thing is a paean to outsized desires – the Big Banana, the misunderstood hero, the wrong woman. You know it´s going to get messy, but that doesn´t stop you from enjoying the drama while it lasts.

bottle image:

  • Niffytixby says:

    I wore King Kong from its inception to when it was, sadly, taken off the market – buying the last dozen or so bottles in existence in Brussels.

    I can only think you have no sense of smell or the recreated scent is nothing like the original. If it smelled so oddly or unpleasantly, why is it the only perfume that would stop people on the street to compliment and admire the scent and ask me what it was and where they could buy it – either for themselves or for their partners?…

    It was the most sensual, yet subtle, perfume – nothing like bananas or fur or anything else described.

  • Solander says:

    Hi March! Yes it was my blog you found, and I’m glad you did as I was reminded to go here and realised Blogarithm obviously haven’t been giving me any updates on new posts since 2006! I wonder why… And I missed so many great posts I don’t have the time to read properly now…
    Anyway, all I know about Karl Moran is that yes, he’s a budget perfumer. I have a cheap girlie perfume called Love & Dream Blue Moon which might possibly be an Angel dupe. I bought it when I was a teenager, somewhere before 2000, and I still like it well enough. That’s really all I know so I can’t help you with the recommendation, sorry.
    I do recall that there were 2 other perfumes by Karl Moran in the store though, and that I thought they both smelled as bad as all the rest of the cheap perfumes of different brands. None of them spoke to me except Blue Moon, which was an instant love affair. It still makes my mouth water, sort of. I’d choose it over Angel any day (I don’t like Angel at all), but I think it has a similar chypre/gourmand accord, perhaps more like a soft and girlie version of A Men than a true Angel dupe….

  • Victoria says:

    Oh, how exciting to read this as I was recently speaking with the creator of King Kong. I have never smelled it, but now I need to locate some. Thank you for this terrific review!

  • Big apes- I can deal with. It’s the banana and rubber that would kill me. 16 years ago I was in the army. I had to wear a gas mask that stank of rubber. The way to check if it was working and filtering the air was testing it with artificial banana smell. Basically, if you smelled bananas you were dead.
    I’ll take Satan’s Crotch, thankyouverymuch 😉

  • March says:

    V — listen, whippersnapper /:), I OWNED a pet rock, which I bought using my allowance money. I have also “gotten down” to much of the K.C. and the Sunshine Band. I have also vomited up a Tequila Sunrise or two.

  • March says:

    Dusan — staying away from the jungle…:-“

  • Veronica says:

    Althought I am only half your age, I did a paper on the 1976 version of ‘King Kong’ for a Social Archeology course.

    The ‘scary, giant oil company’ in the film was ‘Petrox’. While listening to disco music, people would purchase ‘pet rocks’ – a rock in a box with instructions for its care and feeding – for $5 USD, which was a lot of money back in the old days. About three Tequilla Sunrises or a carton of Lemon Twist cigarettes. (Cigarettes are a tobacco products for criminals.)

    Petrox. Pet rocks. You give them an AARP card and they forget everything.

  • Dusan says:

    Patty, I’m loving the Carons (Montaigne, Nuit de Noel, Poivre and Narcisse Noir being the favourites), just can’t believe I’ve been oblivious to their dark beauty. Your pkg will be duly winged next week.
    Hey, I reviewed Arpege pour homme on Sunday – am sending you that as well. Love 😡

  • Dusan says:

    March, I think i should warn you against trying Jungle Elephant, it’s cruel, vicious and will give you an instant headache that will last for at least three days. Do not, I repeat, go there! 8-x
    On the other hand, I’m in the same boat with Patty re Borneo. God I love the stuff!

  • March says:

    P — it … it HATES me. It waits until you’re not looking and then it sticks its tongue out and pinches me.:((

  • Patty says:

    Bitter, Party of One! You’re just mad because you don’t get Borneo.

  • March says:

    Patty — yeah, you’re talking — Borneo Queen.

    I thought it smelled better than:

    Miller Harris Rien
    that sperm thing
    the gross parts of the Mugler coffret
    Jessica Simpson Dessert

  • March says:

    Christine — eeeeewwww!! Do they take a spraycan of whipped cream with them?;) Don’t tell her I said that. Actually, I don’t wanna know…

    Okay, I won’t wear it on Date Night. But in its own way it was sorta fabulous.

  • March says:

    Angela — you know, this is going to sound completely nuts, but in a weird way it reminded me of one of the Patous, but I couldn’t remember which one and was too nasally exhausted to go spelunking.:-?

  • March says:

    Leo — so you like a big banana?


    No worries about Rousse. I appreciate your generosity, and it’s not like there aren’t other things to love! I’ll retry at some point, I promise.

  • March says:

    Style Spy — there MUST be a link, too weird a concidence. Maybe Kenzo just has a big King Kong fetish?

    I still haven’t smelled that Bobo thing, but I should, the way people rag on it.

  • March says:

    Elle — Satan’s Crotch (that came to me spontaneously, is it not Genius?) — you and me both, babe. I’ll keep a nose out.>:) Another poster says it’s Dinner by Bobo or whatever that thing’s called. The closest I’ve smelled is S-Perfume Lust.

  • Patty says:

    Lord, what you won’t put on. 🙂

  • Christine says:

    That sounds so interesting if entirely unwearable. As for banana notes my sister (and apparently her boyfriend these days) wear Vanille Banane by Comptoir Sud Pacifique to bed. But she’s young and he’s a weirdo…although I don’t really object to the banana note, it’s just a little too dessert there for me.

    But mixed with rubber? and fur? and rotting fruit? I’m thinking just no.

  • March says:

    Marina- you would have laughed, really. It’s just a cornucopia of weirdness. But at least it’s not another fruity-floral…\:d/

  • March says:

    Tigs — you know what a stickler I am for accuracy =)) I did see the movie back in the day… I do think he did his thing in that version on the World Trade Center, which is under his feet (oddly proportioned) in the poster.

  • March says:

    Maria — that’s a great point about the gardenia — I wonder if it IS actually banana? I couldn’t get a feel for a particular flower in all that nonsense going on….

    I want another child, so I can name him/her Theophane.

  • March says:

    Judith — har har har! Um, I probably wouldn’t be hurrying over to buy a bottle, but it was fun.

    BTW I sent you my last 2 drops (literally) of the goose. Hope you get more joy than I did.

  • March says:

    Chaya — banana breath!! You’re right, of course, I hadn’t even thought about that. It was kind of a romp, though.

  • March says:

    Flor — weeellll ….. having smelled this, I can say it’s sort of clearer to me why I can’t come up with a long list of fragrances with a banana top note. /:) Wearable? That’s a little trickier. I wore it. But you know me. The first 15 minutes is the tough part.

  • March says:

    S — you’ve smelled it!!! What an oddity. There’s one called Jungle Elephant?!?! That is freaking hilarious, are you pulling my leg? Off to check…

  • AngelaS says:

    This absolutely sounds like a must-sniff! Tough but tender? Bananas giving way to urban chaos giving way to gardenias and fur? I loved your description. I’ve got to find a few drops of this to smell!

  • Leopoldo says:

    Bizarre, but hey, if it’s an ode to outsized bananas, I’m in.

    (aside) I’m puzzling even more about your Goose disaster. I’m wondering if I could have tainted that sample in some way in my semi-delirious state…

  • Style Spy says:

    The very happening restaurant on the top floor of Kenzo’s Right Bank headquarters in Paris is called Kong, but it only opened a couple of years ago, IIRC. Obviously the perfume came first, but I can’t help but think there’s some sort of tie-in. I’m not too intrigued by the sound of this, although I’ll sniff anything once, of course. I’m surprised by how little I like Kenzo’s ‘fumes, since I thoroughly adore the clothes they make.

    P.S… March, I *have* smelled Satan’s Crotch. It’s called “Dinner by Bobo.”

  • Elle says:

    Nope, don’t think I could do this scent. I love Kenzo the man and designer, but even his early scents never really worked for me. But I wish they would since I like him so much.
    However, Satan’s Crotch – ears perked up at that one. CB? Laudamiel? Please?

  • Marina says:

    I’d love to know the history and background. King Kong? What on earth possessed Kenzo to use that name? 🙂 I admire your will power, march. The very description scared the bejesus out of me.

  • Tigs says:

    Ooo, I never saw the new movie – does he climb the World Trade Center? How? Do you mean the Empire State building? Anyways, this sounds really neat. I don’t think of Kenzo scents as very controversial or weird now, so it’s good to get the historical perspective…

  • Maria B. says:

    So if you layered it with Angel, you might get a banana-gorilla fur split. Mmmmm. And your loved ones might arrange an intervention. :d

    I’m suspicious about the gardenia corsage. I wonder if it’s an evolution of the banana. I think banana and gardenia scents may have some chemistry in common. But it’s been a long time since Sister Theophane had me messing with test tubes. (Yes, that really was her vocation name.)

  • Judith says:

    Banana?!!! I agree with the other posters; this does not seem like a note that should be in perfume. And I can’t get the knock-knock joke out of my mind (Orange-you glad I didn’t say banana):) Sorry. I need more coffee.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Well, you had a good time, no?

    I’m glad you smelled it first…

    I’m with Flor, on banana breath- a lot of poorly controlled diabetics out there, can sympathize.

    Too funny…

  • Flor says:

    OMG, March! You and Patty are hysterical – Satan’s Crotch! Ha! I’ve never smelled King Kong, and after reading your description, I wonder, is it wearable at all? I think the top notes would make me nauseous. I really like the taste of banana, but I hate the smell, more specifically, the smell of banana breath.
    I do think it would’ve been genius to relaunch it with the new version of the movie, like hausvonstone suggested.

  • hausvonstone says:

    i actually find it scary on first sniff, and then much like Kenzo Jungle Elephant (another large wild beast!). One of the best names in perfumery. Too bad it wasn’t re-released to get some attention in conjunction with the latest film remake.