Perfume Directory

Zizanie (1932)
by Fragonard


Zizanie information

Year of Launch1932
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 66 votes)

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About Zizanie

Zizanie is a masculine fragrance by Fragonard. The scent was launched in 1932

Zizanie fragrance notes

Reviews of Zizanie

Zizanie by Fragonard (1932) is one of those old dandy men's florals, the kind of prim and proper fragrance with a powdery dry down that goes on bright, walks with big strides and great posture throughout the day, and is capable of hiding any amount of sweat stench in an era before rampant anti-antiperspirant usage. In a way, this stuff is the missing link between Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840) and the later Royal Copenhagen by Swank (1971), which added a bit more musk to the profile to make it well, swanky. Here with Zizanie, we find a bit of balance between those two, musky enough to hide the natural and less-pleasant musk of the wearer, but floral enough to also smell like a rigidly proper gent stepping out into the night with hat and gloves handy. The history behind Zizanie is pretty neat, but also feels like the usual niche puffery we're used to from houses like Creed and Parfums de Marly. Jean-Honoré Fragonard (the painter) supposedly composed this in the 1700's for some unknown Duke of the period, stating "Si vous adoptez cette fragrane, vos problemes d'amour n'existent pas" or "If you wear my fragrance, all your love problems will be over". Since he was the son of a master court perfumer (even if no evidence of him making any perfume himself exists), and the house of Fragonard itself (founded in 1926) is named in his honor, the story goes that Fragonard named this and three other perfumes after Jean-Honoré's paintings and sold this stuff only to factory visitors from 1932 until 1974, when it was finally released for distribution worldwide under the name "Zizanie". The tagline at this time was "Zizanie de Fragonard: the newest men's fragrance is over 200 years old".

It's hard to see something this feminine by modern standards being an erstwhile masculine fragrance, but gender norms and cultural paradigms had shifted much in the world of arbitrarily-gendered Western fragrances since the supposed creation period of the 1700's until even the 1930's when this was first made available. For starters, you get a whole bunch of powder right out the gate, with bitterly dry bergamot and lime over sharp aldehydes piercing the nostrils alongside heliotrope and talcum notes. The heart of geranium and muguet with a bit of musky ylang-ylang keep pace with stuff like the Victorian-era Jockey Club this claims to predate, but a smidgen of carnation and patchouli make Zizanie feel a little greener. The base of Zizanie is sandalwood, dry amber, and musks. I'm guessing most of the appeal this stuff got is from Elvis Presley wearing it alongside the old fave Brut by Fabergé (1964), Lenel for Men (1975) and Creed Acier Aluminium (1973), all of which fall into a similar powdery floral musky style he loved. Amongst these, Zizanie feels the "oldest" with its uncompromisingly bracing style and total lack of sweetness or complexity, which are both areas it has the most overlap with Jockey Club. Wear time for Zizanie is over the 10 hour mark and this stuff is just so sharp it won't quit you if worn as a workday scent, but this is so powdery and old-fashioned you're likely to get stares so use it at your own risk in public. If used anyway, my best recommendation is spring through fall, as something this sharp would be invisible at best, or irritating in cold weather at worst. If Elvis really did like this stuff, it's almost humorously counter-intuitive to his usual macho man image, which sorta makes me like it more. If I haven't made it clear by now, Zizanie feels pretty unisex leaning feminine by 21st century standards, especially if powdery florals and sandalwood are your thing.

Like Jockey Club and all scents of this ilk, I enjoy Zizanie as an anachronism that helps me stand apart from the doldrums of conventional perfumery, but I admit that makes me a bit peculiar so I can't recommend exploring this unless like me, you enjoy a bit of weird. I also chuckle at the fact that this is just about kryptonite for FragBros obsessed with trends, compliments, and relevance, so splash it on them like holy water and watch them screech in pain. Beyond that, you have to also like antique woody floral musks that perform the same function as later barbershop fougères would, but without the plush oakmoss or rounding effects of vanilla to take away that bitter floral bite. One thing's for sure; you'll smell clean like you just rolled around in some finishing talc/body talc (ask your nearest boomer what that is, as I guaranteed their dad used it in place of Speed Stick), which is where I get my earlier comparison about stepping out into the night and putting on the ritz. Zizanie has been discontinued by Fragonard for quite some time on a global front, but as before, you can still smell it if you visit the factory in Grasse, and it still pops up to be resold on eBay for a pretty penny, but you won't see discounters or major perfume outlets handling it anymore. You'll only ridiculous prices for the vintage batches like pre-1974 stuff with glass stoppers and coffret displays, but anything in the mass-produced metal-painted bottles should be a little easier to pick up even if still pricey. Being as stuff like Jockey Club is easier to obtain for less and having a similar character (minus the evident woody finish), Zizanie may be redundant in collections keyed for variety, but is an essential must-try or must-have for fans of perfume history, sandalwood, or Fragonard in general. Thumbs up.
23rd August, 2020 (last edited: 14th November, 2020)
I cannot quite understand why this fragrance isn't more widespread and celebrated. For me, it is THE quintessential vintage mens fragrance. Its character is complex in its simplicity, a two note composition of Sandalwood and Patchouli. It is essentially a powdery musk but with a great depth and quality that is immediately recognizable. It emerged in 1932, but if one were to guess 50's, 60's or 70's, you wouldn't be crazy to do so. It simply smells like a fragrance from a more romantic and civilized era.

Average bros won't like it, if they ever did down the years. It's absolutely a gentleman's scent and communicates dignity and civility. The Patchouli, as always, speaks of mystery and a hint of danger; thus tempering Zizanie with a layer of edginess. The Zizanie man might be a kindly soul, but you don't wanna get on his bad side.

The common criticism of this scent is that it's elderly and smells like baby powder. I feel this is a snap judgement coming from someone with an unrefined palate or who simly didn't take time to get to know it. As far as being old man-ish, I doubt there are many habitual Zizanie wearers left alive to relate it to. And why place a fragrance in the context of time to begin with? A perfume can be judged for its merits without bringing in the imaginary wearer of it. And besides, when an old fragrance like this was popular, it wasn't simply old men who wore it! Why can't we travel through time in our imaginations and bring some of that sophistication back with us? Old Souls do that all the time, surrounding themselves with sophistication borrowed from another era. I think more people should, instead of just going for the current and the popular and thinking that's the only right thing to do.

Would you rather blend in with the crowd or set yourself apart? Zizanie is perfect for doing the latter, especially for those who don't feel they belong in the time period they were born into. Vintage fragrances, like vintage clothing, aren't for everyone. But if you wear them and feel comfortable, Zizanie is one of the finest ones you could choose. It is truly an exceptional cologne, one of the best ones still surviving from days gone by.
04th December, 2019
Brilliant floral oriental, currently available at great prices. Don't think, just buy.
11th November, 2016
AH, ZIZANIE, take me back to my young-man years!

I used to wear this everyday - surprised no one ever said WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!?

I joined Basenotes because of all the reviews on Zizanie. I found a bottle of it through my perfumer and am wearing again - wanted to see what Dr Turin and his wife said about it - but can't find it in their book. Went on Basenotes to see all the controversy, then went to reviews for Zizanie - many people know alot more about the science of perfume than I do!

So i enjoyed learning about my old friend - the exotic floral..... Even the "thumbs down" reviews were well-written. I can't smell the patchouli people are talking about - but then, I also can't smell the licorice that is apparently part of Yohji pour Homme. All of you reviewers do such good work - makes some of us shy!
14th April, 2013 (last edited: 22nd April, 2013)
I just love this stuff. Similar to Royal Cophenhagen, but much better than RC's current formula.

Very old school, but lacks the stankiness (tangy copper-like note and powderiness without richness) that old-school reformulations often smell of (ie, if neither RC, Lagerfeld, other had been reformulated, I see them as being eternally "classic"). There IS as already said, a sort of gaminess to this fragrance. Hard to pick out the Jasmine and Ylang as individual notes, but its that richness, almost meatiness, that it gives the fragrance. Very classical, very masculine, very nice.
16th August, 2012
shamu1 Show all reviews
United States
Holy cow, this is one of the muskiest fragrances I have ever smelled. There's a gamey, animalic musk all over Zizanie, along with some jasmine for even more raunchiness. Zizanie comes from the Royal Copenhagen, Stetson and Black Suede school of men's fragrances - a floral oriental - and probably was the main inspiration for those, since it came out long before them.

I don't find Zizanie to be as powdery as everyone else describes it. Maybe that's because I have the eau de cologne version, I don't know. What I do know is that this is some pretty strong, old school stuff, and I like it. If you've worn Royal Copenhagen, you'll have some idea of what this is like, though it's less powdery, more animalic, and more aromatic than RC. There's lots of patchouli in this, which also prevents this from turning into some dandified powder pouf.

I like how this exudes silvery-haired class. If you want to smell like old-guard manliness, Zizanie is right up your alley.

MY RATING: 7.5/10
17th March, 2011

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