Friday, February 04, 2011

Shiseido Zen (Vintage Black Bottle)

Let's ignore the fact Shiseido reformulated their original Zen countless of times, released different perfumes in various bottles (white and pink) under the same name and took it in and out of the market in some countries more time than I can track. I hear the current juice sold in the black bottle (apparently Nordstrom has it) is nothing like the 1964 version, so I haven't bothered with it as I have a couple of old eau de cologne bottles and they're very lovely.

A quiet woody floral is rarely my thing, especially poorly made modern ones (thinking of Lancome Magnifique), but Shiseido managed to bottle a delicate quality of a sheer rose over an even more sheer incense. The opening is a little aldehydic and has an abstract white floral veil. A bit later Zen takes on the zenish character that makes it for me a perfect nap time perfume- the wood is soft and smooth and the incense is subtle and barely there. I like both elements but somehow it's the rose that wins me in this case. It feels white or pale yellow, not the more common jammy red ones. It doesn't turn sour or takes over the room. I would actually say it's a rose many men would find wearable.

The sillage of Shiseido Zen (at least in the version I have) is almost non existent. It can only be smelled within one's personal space. I used to feel it didn't  last long and would reapply after a couple of hours, but eventually I realized that there's some type of musk there I can't smell unless I'm paying close attention. Once the rest of the wood takes over Zen is fully back and actually lingers nicely on my clothes (and blankets, considering I really like the calming effect).

I have no idea why Shiseido found it necessary to mess with this classic, but thankfully older bottles can still be found at vintage stores and yard sales. I wouldn't buy it on eBay because I have no idea how to verify the date of the bottles, so be careful if you are on the hunt for old juice.


  1. I Love Shiseido, didn't know they made perfume...

  2. I got a bottle of the current formulation at Narita for about $25.... I don't know how it compares to vintage. Interestingly, it says on the bottle that it is made in the USA.

    I could see myself wearing it. I ended up giving it to someone as a gift.

  3. My daughter forwarded this link to me, knowing that classic Zen has been a favorite of mine for decades. The bottle is gorgeous and I find the scent unusual, almost haunting, and a little exotic.

    I have looked for this scent everywhere and finally found a good source for it: the Mitsukoshi store in "Japan" at Epcot (Disney World). It was very reasonably priced, too!

  4. I have not tried the current version. The vintage is my favourite thing. It was my first perfume! Some progressive aunt of mine gave this to me at Xmas..with a solid compact shaped as a fan...when I was a a teenager. This likely started me on my perfume-as-life, perfume-as- meditation, perfume-as-love kick. Maybe I'll request a bottle to take with me to the's a beautiful sharp rose that has good cheer and dark mystery.

  5. I have the light cologne spray (black and gold) version of this & for me it smells exactly like band-aids. Weird.

  6. I love and wear the original Zen, (also wore Murasaki, another lovely Shiseido scent). I have an old bottle of Zen extrait that I wear occasionally. The bottle is adorable too!


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