Kenzo Vintage (2008) {Perfume Review}




Kenzo Vintage is a limited edition unisex fragrance launching this summer to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kenzo Parfums as well as the arrival of designer Kenzo Takada on the Parisian scene in the Seventies. The perfume thus pays homage to the spirit of the "live-and-let-live" era with its psychedelic floral patterns as if seen under the influence of psychotropic mushrooms and reminds us of the message of peace that the decade wanted to deliver in the midst of the Vietnam war. The purple flacon sports the forked peace symbol drawn by Gerald Holtom in 1958 and made into a household name and symbol. Episodically, like in this summer of 2008, one witnesses the resurgence of a short hippie revival in fashion and the peace symbol is usually called upon to grace newly minted tee-shirts and accessories. This time, perfumes seem to follow a hippie trend as well with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Mai 68 (see also Lubin).


A Revisit of Kenzo by Menardo 


The fragrance was created by perfumer Annick Menardo who has delivered a masterful, reserved composition relying on an original play on effect and texture rather than singled-out pretty notes. The composition conveys a sense of understated originality. The subtle character of the scent reminds us of the reported preference for lighter, more evanescent perfumes in the Asian market, which it seems to take into account as a Japanese brand. It fits in well also with the unisex branding of the scent......


Early Hippie Group, San Francisco by Irving Penn, 1967 - Hamiltons Gallery 
Note the interesting filiation with the dandy archetype on the right (the man in a cape)

Woodstock Mural by Alain Bertrand, Oil on Canvas - The Catto Gallery


From a familiar vantage point, Vintage prolongs an olfactory theme of predilection for Kenzo Parfums, that of more or less soft powdery textures, which has recently seen it being more gustatorily translated with the addition of a steamed white-rice accord in Kenzo Amour. Kenzo Flower, Kenzo Summer, the Amour series can be seen as variations on the perfume seen as a powdery trail of seduction, a descendant of the perfumed powders of the past.

Vintage reveals a continued interest in this thematic but the effect has been reworked in a more central manner here, transforming itself from a mere facet to a main effect rich with meaning and added layers of sophistication. The perfume is very interesting especially from the point of view of its texture, as if weaved-in-and-out rather than being pyramidal and faceted like a jewel stone with momentary focus on one lit aspect.

Annick Menardo is known for being a mainstream perfumer capable of injecting novel ideas into perfumes even when these are destined to the wider public of department stores. Bulgari Black for example is a good example of this balance between wearability and hip edginess. Vintage is one of her compositions that best reveals her personal touch as well as her ability to rework some well-tested ideas with an independent mind-set (Lolita Lempicka).




Vintage is a beautiful, abstract yet sensual fragrance and can be labeled as a soft woody oriental. It succeeds somehow in evoking a peaceful traditional Japanese home just barely emerging from the silence as the sound of footsteps is muffled by a floor covered with tatami on which walking can create a silky rustling sound. The smell of rice straw completes the impression.

The composition develops a very interesting woody and creamy accord with only a muted touch of powder. In it, one can feel both the realistic fibers of wood (cedar) and a more disincarnated non-referential impression of "woody cream" (cedar and tonka and vanilla). A note of cherry weaves its way accompanied by an almond-y rice facet (heliotrope). The smells are familiar but the sensation is not. One thinks at this point that Vintage is a subtle, décalé work, a perception further reinforced by, next, a very soft, both milky and aqueous, also lactic and opalescent textural development. It is even cloud-like in its suavity. Vintage seems to illustrate this current of a more sophisticated and modern type of perfumery where effect takes precedence over notes.

The spicy or peppery cedar is almost mystical offering a slight incensey quality. The mandarin note can even turn up its fruity tonality in the drydown. With Vintage, the wearer is invited to step into a more abstract world and experience something like a dreamy material made of weaved milk, wood, and fruits.

Notes are: mandarin, tonka bean, heliotrope flower, cedar wood, musk, vanilla. 

The perfume is available for $65.

(Perfume images via Kenzo press release) 





 4 different packagings for collectors


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6 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Your post was so delicious that I've been waiting for Vintage with baited breath. Trying it today however has left me ambivalent. Why? I went out of the store certain I'd come back for Vintage. The opening was breathtaking with woody almond peeping from the base; the rice steam veil was there all right, and I couldn't help but touch it up with a few more sprays. Kenzo Oriental Flower I spritzed on the other arm, you know, for comparison. And then after an hour and a half, *gasp*, Vintage just vanished from my hand, a ghost of a fragrance! Keeping my nose glued to my hand sadly was of no help. Why oh why? Could it be that I am anosmic to the musks in Vintage? Bummer :( Should I buy it despite its evanescence? That's something I need to think through, I'm afraid. For the record, Flower Oriental is still very much present on my skin. Eh.

  2. It is on the evanescent side, but I did not perceive this to be a defect personally since it was accompanied by obvious attention to subtle effects of texture. I don't remember having encountered a problem with longevity.

    If you have the time to give it a second chance, I'd go back and try it without comparing it to any other scent. I would just spray it both on skin and clothes to see if you can see a difference, the 2nd spray away from the 1st, you know, one on the right, one on the left side of you.

    And thank you for your kind words.

  3. I am the "dandy" in the Irving Penn picture taken in 1967 in the 70as and 80s ran perfume shops in Portland OR was therefor suprised to find my pictue on perfume blog

    Alan Stone
    • Hi Alan,

      Wow, talk about a blast from the past! And on top of that you were into perfume! You must tell us more about it!

      Chant Wagner
  4. I tried Vintage and the only thing it evoked me was the image of smelly hippies with dirt hair and cheap male deodorant.
    Lucky me the perfume vanishes in less than an hour.
    Funny how people perceive perfume so differently....


    • Yes, it is quite funny. You smelled an edgier Vintage than I did. I should maybe re-smell it to try to find that dirty-hair accord. It is usually rendered with costus.

      Chant Wagner

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