Smelling Zen Classic for the first time is a revelation. I find it hard to fathom that this scent was released in 1964. Even now, nearly fifty years later, it smells not only utterly original, but absolutely contemporary. Sampling it blind, I’d have no trouble believing it the latest entry from Eau d’Italie, Frédéric Malle, or Parfumerie Générale – even a new addition to Chanel’s Les Exclusifs. Its arrival at so early a date resets my perspective on the history of fragrance.
Zen Classic is built on an oddly austere dry rose accord, smoky, phenolic woods and resins, and a warm, faintly animalic musk. True to its name, Zen Classic strikes a perfect balance on several fronts: between the elegance of its rose and the animalic
warmth of its musk; between the darkness of smoke and the subdued glow of labdanum; between the dry bitterness of woods and the sweetness of floral notes and resins; between power and transparency.
While I smell no frankincense in Zen, its reliance upon woods, its predominantly dark tint, and its overall mood and texture align it more closely with contemporary incense-rose compositions like Paestum Rose and Cabaret than with Paris, Knowing, or the other huge fruity rose chypres of the intervening decades. It’s as if perfume evolution skipped ahead by nearly a half a century.
With its exquisitely poised equilibrium, Zen Classic transcends not only time, but olfactory gender boundaries. I’d certainly have no problem wearing it in public, nor do I imagine would any male who’s comfortable with dandified “masculine” rose scents like Hammam Bouquet or Czech & Speake No. 88, most of which are far less subtle and refined Zen.
I am describing the older black bottle original classic. I LOVE this. This is a mysterious thorn ridden, bewitching lacquered rose. It is somehow imperious and heated.It is somehow bringing up associations of holiday seasonal magic. It exists in a timeless thrilling world.
I bought this one whilst holidaying in NY. It was winter time and I loved Zen's dark mysterious presence and I think, for the season, it smelt beautiful and very reasonably priced to boot. I wasnt thinking about how this lovely dark beauty would translate here in sub tropical Brisbane, Australia. My trip was about 4 months ago and I am waiting for our (mild by comparison) winter so that I can feel comfortable wearing Zen. I pick up the bottle from time to time and I am itching to spritz but I know it would be a little cloying and heady - for me anyway. That's ok I can wait.
For such an affordable option, Zen smells of decent quality. It has very good longevity and doesn't fall apart in the drydown. I haven't sampled the vintage version, but the current rendition smells plausible. It is very woody in the classic chypre manner. While not as rich as, say, Derby, it moves in that direction. There is nothing overly feminine and this can easily be worn by men with aplomb.
It is sad this wonderful fragrance was discontinued. It was definitely woody notes with a bit of spice, very light oriental.
My mother and I bought my grandmother a bottle of this when I was a small child, and I can still see the beautiful black and gold bottle on her dresser. This fragrance will always remind me of the holidays and Christmas shopping, and as a child I thought it was the best perfume I had ever smelled.
The new Zen is a poor imposter in my opinion.