Kenzo Madly Kenzo! (2011): A Rose-Incense in Imagined Japan {Perfume Review & Musings} {New Fragrance}

Madly_Kenzo_bottle_ok.jpgThe latest perfume to come from Kenzo is Madly Kenzo!

What is so madly Kenzo about it? It seems that it is madly Japanese and madly interesting, and also madly Kenzo. The fragrance was composed by perfumer Aurélien Guichard for whom the only constraint stated in the brief was to create something which does not exist.

The perfumer has shown that he is capable of being both a quirky mind (Bond No.9 Chinatown) and an empathetic listener to a brand's needs, codes and history (Robert Piguet reveals his curatorial leanings.) With Madly Kenzo! the nose seems to have melded both orientations. The result is a jus which is both an embodiment of Japanese minimalism in fashion painted the more lively colors of Kenzo, and a creative rethink of a rose-incense accord....

The fragrance is housed in a flacon which is meant to evoke the wing of a butterfly. it was designed by Ron Arad and is originally inspired by a limited-edition art project, the OVNI perfume by the same designer, which was exhibited in 2008-2009 at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The perfume-sculpture is now available on the Kenzo USA website under the name "Unindentified Fragrance Object," a perfume also created by Aurélien Guichard.

Madly Kenzo! as it turns out, reprises that jus in great part but makes it less abstract and conceptual around the original idea of the scent of skin and that of the marble of the sculptor. The new perfume is more figurative offering the feeling of a sensory travel within a Japanese landscape composed of typical smells, but also poetical ones.


Official notes: Colorful top notes: orange blossom and pink peppercorn; Floral heart: heliotrope flower, rose, incense; Sensual base: vanilla, cedar wood, musk.




Madly Kenzo! opens on a balsamic accord quickly followed by resinous nuances as well as woody, plum-y notes. While the balsams make you think of a forest, it is most definitely the olfactory atmosphere of a Japanese wood or grove rather than that of European ones. It smells of Hinoki wood, pale cedar, bamboos.


The range of woody notes offers a slightly hybrid, imaginary woody-cum-cosmetic and powdery quality reminding you at this point that the modern classic Flower by Kenzo - the scent of a non-existing flower - translates as a Haiku on a Geisha's face- and nape-of-the-neck cosmetic powder. Likewise, Madly Kenzo! follows an aesthetic orientation which prefers to imagine more perfect flowers than the ones which exist. The heliotrope note adds a powdery nuance, while suggesting a subtle cherry-blossom-like sweetness in the composition.

As the composiiton develops, Madly Kenzo! makes it more obvious that it is almost exclusively based on a palette of Japanese notes. To some extent, it evokes the kind of perfumes one finds at Comme des Garçons.

I happened to encounter a woman walking up the street who was wearing minimalist Japanese fashion after having smelled Madly Kenzo! and the scent felt like a perfect fit for that spare, slightly monastical look.


Then, the perfume turns into the scent wafting from a Japanese pastry shop. It smells of rice-flour dusted mochis filled with sweet red bean paste served on a wooden plate and a bamboo slate. To complete the cultural palette of notes is the scent of shiso leaves that could be wrapping the soft and moist pink mochis.

As Madly Kenzo! lingers on, a rose note becomes more obvious creating a Madame-Butterfly impression, like a mix of Japanese and European influences. The Bulgarian rose feels classical while being surrounded by exotic incense-y, woody, plum-y and sweet cherry notes. It makes the rose feel all the more precious and refined.

Kenzo's latest fragrance launch is a lovely ode to Japan and some of its most typical scents. One might perceive those as borderline stereotypical, but they are not common enough yet to fall into that category.

The perfume offers a slightly androgynous quality, which is part of its charm. The surprise comes when a very feminine floral note of rose peeks through the more unisex, gender-indifferent notes in the beginning which led it initially perhaps more in the direction of the Comme des Garçons unisex scents, just for the gender vibe.

The composition leaves you with an impression of having made acquaintance with a precious, imaginary, evocative yet very Japanese rose, which far from being abstract is fleshed out by unconventional and sensual woody, incense-y and gourmand facets.

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