Zen (original / black) 
Shiseido (1964)


Average Rating:  17 User Reviews

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Zen (original / black) by Shiseido

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About Zen (original / black) by Shiseido

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The Tokyo Olympics stirred a resurgence of interest in Japanese taste in the West, and Shiseido began developing cosmetics oriented to these overseas markets. Among these was the fragrance Zen, named for a religious philosophy well known in the West and often associated with the essence of Japanese culture. The bottle's understated black lacquer background and gilded images of autumn fields and gardens (based on motifs found at Kodai temple) were designed to evoke a mysterious sense of Oriental subtlety and profundity.

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of Zen (original / black) by Shiseido

There are 17 reviews of Zen (original / black) by Shiseido.

Ahhhh, Zen....This one is my ultimate 'memory lane' scent. It was my scent in High School and college in the 1970's, along with Diorissimo, No. 19, and Blue Grass. Love those green, woody floral chypres!

For me, Zen is the smell of being in love for the first time, and the memories of everything that means, all that high-school-age stuff, first sexual exploration, first heady romance, making out in a parked car, senior prom, all those teen-age-raging-hormone events recalled through a sort of washed-out Kodachrome haze of recollection. Zen is my personal madeleine. It is a scent for all seasons - beautiful in winter as well as the humid soup of a summer evening, dressed up or with jeans. Alas, I am not unbiased about Zen.

For a cologne, original Zen is remarkably potent and long-lasting. My bottle (black, cologne splash), has lost a bit of the opening floral notes, but is still remarkably well-preserved. It opens with white florals - jasmine, rose and mimosa, hyacinth, violet, then moves to oak moss and sandalwood, with a touch of smoky leather, plus a slight sexual 'funk' (but, that might be my imagination colored by memory...TMI?...). It manages to be both sweet and dry, like a really fine wine. Zen is gorgeous, and quite unique. A masterpiece from the brilliant Josephine Catapano!

Jasmin bouquet and black rubber; which is both nice - and interesting at the same time. At first it recalls Breath of God and Bulgari Black - but more wearable - and then takes a woody Amber direction with the rubber thinning to aldehydes. Overall it's pretty good, but the base could have been less Oriental and more Eastern.
It feels remarkably modern for 1964, which may have been thanks to some neat Japanese art direction, or maybe it's been tweaked in Paris to bring it up to date. Whatever happened, in 2007 they ditched the Josephine Catapano version and put out something else in its place.

[Eau de Cologne splash bottle - like in the picture]

The original vintage Zen is worlds different from the vile new version.

Again Barbara Herman describes it correctly: "Fruity floral…fruit and flower notes, …then rich, plummy plushness…bright, fruity, floral, spicy, warm, ambery."

Turin gave it 3 stars and called it a "fruity woody,…a perfect woody rose."

Top notes: Bergamot, Galbanum, Neroli
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Narcissus, Violet, Orris, Mimosa, Hyacinth, Carnation
Base notes: Sandalwood, Cedar, Oakmoss, Amber, Musk

I wouldn't call this a chypre as Herman did. It is certainly a lovely, light mix of fruit and florals - very light - perfect for a summer's day or evening. The pluminess seems to come from the mix of neroli, rose and mimosa.

This is very nice, but only okay, not exceptional in any way. It certainly has a place in the perfume world alongside the light fruity floral Diors. Why a company would discontinue it and then dupe the public with a new version that is totally unlike the original and in and of itself a piece of crap makes me wish there were a world of perfume police to heavily fine or imprison those responsible for these travesties that proliferate in the world of scent.

Look on Ebay for the tall black bottle and avoid the new amber cube bottle.

I loved this fragrance! For some reason it always reminded me of a bunch of tuberose, although it's not part of its composition. It made me feel playfully indolent and dangerous, rather like a tiger playing with a favorite toy.
I bought the new version with the same name and almost cried. The new junk is weak, overly sweet and synthetic.
Oh, that Shiseido would bring back the original!

Genre: Floral

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.

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