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Zizonia (2001)
by Penhaligon's

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Zizonia information

Year of Launch2001
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 20 votes)

People and companies

HousePenhaligon's
Parent CompanyPuig Beauty & Fashion Group
Parent Company at launchWarnaco

About Zizonia

A spicy rich and warm unisex fragrance launched for Christmas 2001.

Zizonia fragrance notes

Reviews of Zizonia

I could end this review by saying Zizonia is a gutted Hammam Bouquet (1872) remade with geranium in place of rose, but I won't be that mean. Here we have Penhaligon's doing what they know best when not making a barbershop scent, and that's making woodsy Victorian florals that are "pretty" and completely safe but a bit anemic in style. Don't get me wrong, some people love these dainty and dusty things reminiscent of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, and I can't blame them, as it's the same romanticizing of a period that makes people still love loud 1980's powerhouse oakmoss bombs. The key difference here is the Victorian floral was the prim and proper thing men and women of upper classes wore when they wanted to show grace, and not the jasmine and musk-laced oriental scents that the "fallen" women of the London streets wore, the provocative scents that perfumers still put their spin on even into the 21st century. Avon made these florals their bread and butter as the California Perfume Company (1886-1939), while big designers try to marry this aesthetic to oakmoss, fruit, ozone, or chemical woods depending on what the jus du jour of the decade was (or is), but the strait-up floral is kind of something we're more used to as an air freshener than a personal fragrance unless we're dealing in ouds or soliflores. Still, Penhaligon's is Penhaligon's, so this is unsurprising, and honestly not bad by any measure, just boring. You could easily get something in this vein a lot easier and cheaper in a cK One (1994) flanker, but I guess Zizonia will appeal to fans of the kind of purist perfumery on display here.

Zizonia opens with orange, bergamot, and coriander, with that last one adding a bit of bite to an otherwise vapidly dry citrus start. There are a lot of spices in the middle, including the usually virile cumin, but they all muddle together and are of low quantity that a sort of "dirt note" is created with them, which really suggests nothing and adds to the dustiness of the flowers. Black pepper, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg all swirl around here in what feels like something meant for mulled cider and not a fragrance, but they help the very prominent geranium leap out ahead of the lavender also present, to take over the scent. You'll get hours of dry, browned-out, and very staunch geranium, before an equally parched patchouli note is joined by sandalwood, cedar, vetiver, and a powdery amber the likes of which was picking up steam in the early 2000's. Zizonia finishes as a faded dusty sandalwood and geranium, the equal opposite of the virile civet and rose floral of Hammam Bouquet. It feels almost like somebody was out to actually neuter that scent so it would have more mass appeal and be cleansed of it's sexual vigors, like a disapproving 19th century priest caught William Penhaligon red-handed, forced him to go to church, then change his dandy rose civet bomb from rakish to wholesome, just 129 years later. Zizonia is quite pleasant, and for people who want pleasant, totally non-suggestive floral, neither of gender, intent, or anything else, this is a perfect choice. As alluded to above, it's a high-end cK One scent, in a prettier bottle with a nice bow. Projection is the usual Penhaligon's weak point here, but this is sharp enough to stay on skin for hours, so it'll run the long haul with you as a work fragrance if need be, but better in spring or autumn where humidity won't smother it or chill air makes it undetectable to the nose outside.

Zizonia to me is for the person who loves white florals, but just wishes they were a little less ghostly, or the unisex fragrance lover that wants something a little more anachronistic in nature, like for a steampunk event or ballroom. The orange, geranium, dry mulled cider spice, and woods will give Zizonia lots of gentle vibrato all throughout a day, but unless that day is filled with humorless events like social work, you're probably going to find that it becomes little more than a personal air freshener. I like old-fashioned florals, and I have a few, but for me they're something I wear as a palette cleanser when my nose has grown accustomed to heavy mosses or musks and give me some fatigue, so it's like having a cobb salad when you've eaten nothing but rich curries and spiced dishes all week. I think that's why this harmless kind of thing took a back seat to more abstract, daring creations in the 20th century, when chypres and fougères came into their own, followed by orientals, leathers, and aromatic varieties all around. Florals on their own are nice but devoid of personality, without something like civet, benzoin, labdanum, or even a big old whack of norlimbanol to make them clash with something for better or worse. Flowers, woods, and spice or and there only gets you so far, and although it's a painstakingly traditional and beautiful display of old-world craftsmanship on display with Zizonia, it's a fragrance that at once feels irrelevant at it's price point and place in history to the point where I ask: Why is Penhaligon's still doing this? I gave a positive rating because I appreciate the history here, but wearing Zizonia is more like wearing a painstakingly-crafted replica than something celebrating old styles but with a new twist.
29th July, 2018 (last edited: 05th August, 2018)
After a light breakfast of croissant, orange juice and, as always, Earl Grey, the bergamot and lemon lightly spiced with a mint sprig, the distinguished gentleman generously tipped the club's waiter and, donning his weathered straw Panama, strolled out the gate and headed for the steamy, noisy markets of Mumbai, his cane under one linen clad arm. The gentleman spent a holiday afternoon among the crowded stalls of exotic spices, flowers, and foods. Soft cardamom mingled with the lavender perfumes of lovely dark skinned women offering their ginger, cumin, pepper, and a host of rich, sun drenched vegetables; and somewhere in the crowd geranium, it's fragrant undertones a favorite of the young Ms. Cotswain back home on Tenpenny Lane. His thought of Ms. Wainscot prompted him to find lovely amber baubles for the lass and, of course, for Mrs. Higginbotham in thanks for lovely meals and motherly doting. Having thus enjoyed his day, the gentleman returned to the club, there to spend the evening relaxing with a book in a deep leather chair in a corner of the lounge, a tumbler of scotch at his side, under a chandelier hanging from the high arched cedar roof beams, the fragrant wood darkened by countless warm nights filled with smoke, patchouli, and the hushed conversation of other guests.
14th November, 2012
This is another of the family that I would call "light woods," and initially I thought it was going to be very close to their Opus 1870. It's very subtle right out of the vial, with a similar sweet (but not sweetened?) cedar and some orange. It has just enough of the dry pencil-shavings to be a true, believable wood scent, without going overboard; it feels like the notes stay near the surface but I wouldn't call it shallow. It's like a vague shadow of Nicolai New York that has shed the heavier components. There's maybe a hint of bubblegum (frankincense?) in there but not enough to spoil it. I think that Zizonia retains discretely detectable wood and floral notes, while in Opus everything blends together into a transparent, uniform wall of scent. Unfortunately my nose got stuffed up halfway through this, so I may rewrite it later, but I also know that it's weak from previous trials, and that it possesses the same soft, powdery vibe that neuters a lot of their "masculine" offerings.
06th May, 2012
Marais Show all reviews
United Kingdom
Twice the price of Cartier's Declaration and half as good. Longevity is worse, it lacks Declaration's sparkle and there is an unappealing mustiness in the woody base. No thanks.
02nd May, 2012
A spicy, woody, floral concoction to my nose. It starts with some black pepper, but immediately I detect some floral accords that may be geranium. Some other spices enter into the mix and it develops that house “Penhaligon’s” note of dusty, powdery accords that I don’t like in many of theirs. Some slight woods and vetiver in the base, but the dusty notes carry through. Longevity is not all that great and I find this one overall pretty middle of the road.
09th February, 2012
This is a warm, woody, sensual and subtle oriental. The mix of amber, cedarwood and patchouly blend nicely with an undercoating of sandalwood. The black pepper rises to the top and stays nicely floating over these warm notes. This is a perfectly pleasant cologne, though nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary.
20th June, 2011 (last edited: 13th July, 2011)

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