Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The New Zen (Zen 2007) by Shiseido : Perfume Review

It was with a heavy heart that I reviewed the year 2000 release of Shiseido’s Zen back in July, for it was as much a tribute as it was a farewell: The perfume alternatively known as Zen Pearl had recently been discontinued. Disappointed though I was, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anticipating the brand new Zen with excitement. I have, after all, come to expect great things from Shiseido, so this excitement was not unwaranted - even though I did wish this new release did not have to mean the loss of a favorite. Furthermore, the name itself carries great allure: Both previous releases have been admirable creations, with many fans the world over. I did believe in my heart that the new Zen would carry the tradition of its beloved siblings and envisioning it as being in the same vein I was finally prepared to embrace it.

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, could have prepared me for the way this new release smells like. The new Zen can only be described as a mockery of its lineage – an abomination that only serves to defile a name loved and respected. This is not a fragrance updated; this is not even in the same vein as its previous incarnations. Gone is the incense, gone is the calm, gone is the mystery, and worst of all, gone is the oriental spirit of Japan, previously so well embodied. The foul smell of taint rises from the heart of this identity thief. Sharp and abrasive, caustic to the sinuses, the smell of cat piss lingers around me, refusing to abide hours after the first spray. Those of you that read Fragrance Bouquet often might find yourselves surprised at my dismay, given that I tend to love a little eau de piss and a good dose of zoo in my perfumes. But this is not a case of sensually animalic juices – this is the concentrate in all its ammoniac glory, smelling completely unnatural, and dare I say, chemical. If you would mentally remove everything that is good about Miel de Bois and managed to retain the memory of its initial acerbic overtones, you would be left with everything that’s bad about the brand new Zen. Furthermore, the pervasive, persisting pungency of pineapple and citric blend of the opening notes is completely incongruous to the rising, deeper, woodsy, ambery notes of the perfume’s base. Despite its disagreeable, objectionable and doubtlessly demanding character, Zen 2007 somehow manages to refrain from being unique as well. Despite its deformities, the body remains recognizable and frankly, boring. The drydown is rather meh – a monstrous form with the meek shadow of a sheep that follows an ever-growing flock of crowd pleasers. How can this be possible? It almost seems like an illusionist’s trick. An admirable feat, I’d say, but possibly the only admirable thing about this fragrance.

Quotes taken from the Shiseido website demonstrate that the new direction Zen has taken was very much intended:
“Through Shiseido Zen you will see the new side of Zen that is ‘strong, dynamic, and glamorous’ for the first time.” “Like the other side of the moon, this luxurious side of Zen isn’t usually seen, yet it is real. Zen can laugh, can dance and can live fully.”

But if the intention was just to shed light on a different side of Zen, why not leave its previous incarnation in place and simply release a flanker? And lastly, besides the fact that someone clearly needs to look up the meaning of Zen before issuing statements about dancing and laughing, these quotes do betray a bitterness towards Zen’s traditional identity. A bitterness and regret I find quite offensive indeed.

Image and quotes:


NowSmellThis said...

I am pretty sure that neither of the prior Zen scents (black, pearl) are discontinued -- I think they are just no longer exported.

Divina said...

That's right - you can only find them in Japan.

Divina said...

And online of course...

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
I read this with excitement, and MADE myself wait until your verdict, rather than skimming through, and I must say that your writing is so evocative that I could almost feel your disappointment, no, horror, as your description unfolded. Whoever (and I know little of the spirituality of Zen) would write about it "dancing and singing"? It sounds a positive Frankenstein's monster of a fragrance!
As for animalic notes, I agree 100%, and I'm craving "Dzing!" at the moment, which is IMHO just amazing!
Thank you for another stimulating review,
Best wishes, Linda

Divina said...

Lol, yes! Zen 2007 has been a thriller I'm afraid. As for Dzing! I wholeheartedly agree. You have lovely taste, as I always notice!

tmp00 said...


Damn- I had hopes for this. The bottle is so gorgeous and the previous Zens were so wonderful..


Patty said...

That's just horrible! I never smelled the original, but now I think I need to hunt it down.

Sad, sad, Shiseido usually does pretty good on this kind of stuff, that that's an unwelcome shift!

Divina said...

Tom, I totally agree with you - the bottle is beautiful. It perfectly matches the vision behind it - the traditional japanese tea room!

Divina said...

Patty - the original is really worth smelling and so is pearl in my opinion (although admittedly, it does not receive as much love as Black). And I have to agree - this is a surprising turn for Shiseido.

TMH256 said...

Dearest D.,

I had not experienced the other Zen fragrances so I have nothing to compare them to. It appears Shiseido has sold out. Very, very disappointing. Thank you for sparing me a waste of time and energy!