As regular readers know, I am an unaplogetic fan of the original KenzoAmour. I think you either like it or you find it completely boring. As Robin (a fellow fan) notes in her thoughtful review on Now Smell This:
“Amour is, if anything, an extraordinarily tame fragrance: there is nothing to ruffle the surface other than a persistent undertone of dark wood and a dash of incense. But as with rice pudding, it is the blandness itself that is compelling; it just smells nice, and there is something rather calming about it.”
Which pretty much captures the allure of KenzoAmour for me. I wear it the way I drink tea – without a lot of thought, on a regular basis, in pursuit of comfort. Maybe KenzoAmour isn´t that scent for you, but I think many/most perfume fans have a fragrance that does the same basic job for them.
So I´d been waiting impatiently for the new KenzoAmour Le Parfum to arrive in stores. It went “live” in the online Sephora store several weeks ago, but I refused to order it because my unsniffed-purchase track record is so terrible it approaches jinx level. It´s like the fragrance fairies put a curse on my unsniffed buys. Even something that looks like a sure thing, and that I could return to Sephora if I didn´t like, would almost certainly be a failure. So I haunted our local store like a cranky ghost. Just when I gave up in despair and begged a sample off Robin (thus avoiding the curse) it showed up in our mall, and I´ve had the chance to try it several times.
I thought this would be a Venn-diagram-type review, where I´d be discussing where the two scents overlap and where they differ, but instead I´m left with the persistent image of two distinct musical pieces being played on opposite ends of the piano.
The original KenzoAmour EdP´s notes are cherry blossom, rice steam, white tea, frangipani, heliotrope, thanaka wood, incense, vanilla and musk. It´s played at a higher pitch – the sweet, cherry opening smell of flowers and heliotrope giving way rapidly to the heart of the fragrance, woody and with the smell of cooking rice, followed by vanilla, soft musk and incense. It´s not remotely foody, despite that list of notes – there´s nothing there you would eat – but if it works on you as it does for me, it is a day-long skin scent, and extraordinarily comforting.
KenzoAmour Le Parfum, in a matte gold version of the same funky, modernist Karim Rashid bottle that the original came in, might have been simply a stronger version of the original. Here´s the blurb from Sephora: “The gold of the East dwells at the heart of KenzoAmour le Parfumâ€”a woody, oriental fragrance composed of rich and precious ingredients: Patchouli, Benzoin Balm of Siam, Amber, and Incense mixed with the original KenzoAmour notes.” Sephora lists the notes of Le Parfum as incense, rice steam, amber, patchouli, frangipani, benzoin, vanilla. Regardless of what Sephora says about mixing in the original notes, the old, sweet heliotropin top of the EdP is missing – probably a blessing for those who found it either too sweet or too evocative of Play-Doh. Instead, Le Parfum takes place on the low end of the piano. I get very little development – some (clean) patchouli, almost no florals, the original, lovely rice steam, lots of benzoin, and a dark vanilla over a woody, ambery base. My favorite part of the parfum is that benzoin. Le Parfum is hardly masculine, but it´s considerably darker and more unisex than the original. It´s a little burnt, in an attractive way, like a flan instead of rice pudding.
Out of curiosity I did one of those seven-spritz numbers on myself one day in Sephora, including my hair, just to see what would happen – and it was fine, other than the SA looking at me strangely. I thought at a higher concentration I might get a hint of the Play-Doh that Robin mentions in her review of the parfum, the heliotrope of the original having been supplemented/replaced with the even more Play-Doh-evoking amber. I don´t know how you make “amber” in a fragrance, and I assume there are different choices for the chemical construct, as there are for musks. Thankfully (crossing myself frantically and spitting over my shoulder) I, who have brought out the Play-Doh in more than one otherwise attractive fragrance, get none here.
I thought Le Parfum might resemble Kenzo Flower Oriental in its woody masculinity, but a resniff of Oriental proved me wrong. Oriental is much more floral with the incense grafted on. KenzoAmour Le Parfum and the EDP get closer together in the drydown, and I can´t help but think they´d layer beautifully. As with the EDP, I find the lasting power very good for a scent that does not wear heavily.
I delayed this review for a week, pondering the questions: if the original didn’t do anything for you, might you like this any better? I’ll offer a tentative yes — assuming you get benzoin and not just, say, ambernilla. Which did I prefer? Honestly, I’d have to say the original. Lovely as Le Parfum is, without its peculiar, sweet milky-floral top, it doesn’t comfort me quite as much. For others, that same lack of sweetness might be just the ticket.
The gold bottle´s getting some love on the blogs and boards, but seeing it at Sephora next to the others I admit my heart sank a little. I came to appreciate the original, distinctive bottle shape, although it looks a little odd in my collection. To my eye, the exterior finish for Le Parfum seems better in the concept than the execution, and is darker in real life than in the photo above. It´s small (only 30ml) and ideally the matte, dark gold exterior would look like painted, burnished wood – my idea of what they were maybe going for. But instead it looks a little cheap, like that spray-on antique-gold-leaf you´d find in a craft store. A bright, shiny, mirror-finish plasticized gold might have been another fun option with that mod-design bottle, or black, which I think would be quite elegant.
top image: KenzoAmour Le Parfum, online at Sephora, $65, free shipping, and I feel compelled to point out they have the wee bottle gift set of the regular KenzoAmour again, 3 mini bottles for $38, image also included here because they are so darn cute.