Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Summer by Kenzo: Not the Quintessential Summer Scent,

But Maybe the Most Authentic One

As if I haven’t dated myself enough already on these pages, I’ll do it again by admitting that when I was a young girl there was a popular Herb Alpert song (or a Burt Bacharach song sung by Herb Alpert) floating on the radio airwaves called This Guy’s In Love With You, but to my young mind I always heard it as “The Sky’s In Love With You,” and though it didn’t quite make sense with the rest of the lyrics, I really didn’t question it. It was enough that it made sense with how I felt on a beautiful sunny day, and maybe because I was so impressionable when I heard it—or maybe because I’m just a little bit odd and too affected by weather—even at the age I am today, when the sky is blue and the weather balmy, that song turns on in my mind and I hear it exactly the same way. And when the sky is in love with me, I seem to rise to meet it in an appropriate fashion. I feel kittenish and tipsy—everything in my demeanor softens. It’s easier to get out of bed in the morning, though I admit I would like to lie there half-awake with the sunlight streaming in through the window, listening to the songbirds singing. And though it’s harder to get myself to wind down at night (a sunlit day often leads to the kind of clear, starlit night that makes me want to take an evening stroll through the neighborhood, drink too many cups of tea and stay up all-hours reading a book), when I finally do fall asleep, it is with a contented feeling of surrender.

This week we might be getting a belated onslaught of spring showers in central Pennsylvania, but due to some weather anomaly I can’t ever remember happening here before, we hardly had a winter and our spring has been uncharacteristically dry and warm. Last week was especially gorgeous, and on Saturday after mowing the lawn and going for an evening run, I walked through my little neighborhood to cool off and was greeted by the spectacle of the enormous full moon rising fast over the ridge-top, while at three houses on three separate streets, outdoor parties were going on, with bonfires burning in the yards and, oddly enough, Christmas lights lit up, including what looked to be a Christmas tree on the enclosed back porch of a fourth house. Considering that it was Cinco de Mayo (probably not the reason for the celebrations since there is only one Latino family in my neighborhood, though, on the other hand, certain bars and restaurants have put that holiday on the map), the almost surreal display of light from the moon, bonfires and leftover Christmas displays made sense to me in the same way that “the sky’s in love with you” lyrics made sense. I felt the night air move across my bare shoulders and stir the sweat-drenched hair at the nape of my neck while a dizzy happiness washed over me. The next morning when I got up it was cool and cloudy, but by afternoon the sun had come out and I was again outside, this time sitting in my yard in my lawn chair, in the same fashion I have since I was a girl, with one leg tucked under me such that I am sitting on my foot, my other leg propped up with my knee facing me and at a perfect angle for me to balance a book against.

Summer by Kenzo, a sample of which came my way from Sigrun, is what I’ve been wearing these past few days—and it says summer about as much as hot weather, bonfires and Christmas lights say Cinco de Mayo in the northern hemisphere. In other words, not at all and, at the same time, perfectly. Though it’s marketed as a “sun-kissed powdery-floral,” Summer by Kenzo isn’t actually all that solar-smelling nor even very floral. Cut-grass meets starchy yellow flower is how I would describe it in the simplest of terms, but to elaborate a little further, it smells like a wild and weedy spring lawn that was cut the evening before and is now dew-soaked and just starting to warm in the mid-morning sun. It is a strange little mimosa perfume that is teaching me more about this flower; I’ve read that mimosa is a close relative of the Cassie flower, which makes sense, as some of the scent facets I smell in Summer by Kenzo I also smell in Frederic Malle’s Une Fleur de Cassie. In a review I wrote a few years back on Une Fleur de Cassie, I mentioned that it reminded me of dandelions, “the tumbled-together smell of bitter and sweet elements,” (to quote myself), and quite interestingly, I smell that in Summer by Kenzo, too (and was relieved to learn that Sigrun is one of the rare online reviewers to detect the dandelion smell as well, as so many of the mini-reviews I’ve come across in the online forums describe Summer in terms I can’t reconcile to my own experience of this scent).

The mimosa flower of perfumery has a scent profile that embraces honeyed sweetness but also green and powdery aspects, and in Summer by Kenzo, the latter two facets are accentuated—helped along by the perfume’s other notes, which include bergamot, citron, mimosa, violet, almond milk, musk, cedar and styrax. One thing that most reviewers agree about is the scent’s powderiness, but to my nose Summer is more starchy than powdery. In other words, it doesn’t smell like cosmetic powder but rather like the kind of powder one might smell in the pollen of certain flowers. The perfume’s green smell—that dewy-cut-grass-and-dandelion-leaves acridness it has going on—is certainly enhanced by the sharp citrus smell of bergamot and citron in the top notes, but it continues well beyond the top-notes stage, making me realize it is the same facet of mimosa that I detected in Une Fleur de Cassie.

Though the fragrance is fairly linear and not very long-lasting (I get about three hours wear-time, tops), Summer does get sweeter as it dries down, though is never what I would really call sweet. Its sweetness is of the variety one encounters in nature—in true nature, meaning broad, open-spaced habitats where not everything is ideally lush and manicured. And maybe because it smells so much like my non-chemically-treated lawn—a lawn that is fragrant with the flowering weeds of springtime (violets, speedwell, dandelions and clover) and is the place that summertime starts and stops with me—or maybe because it does not rely on perfumery’s traditional script of beachy, solar notes to create an olfactory portrait of the season but instead catches me by surprise—it smells all the more like summer. Not in any way that makes perfect sense, but with just enough sense to make it feel right, and just enough dissonance to convince me that it does so perfectly.

May 7, 2012:

Summer by Kenzo eau de parfum can be purchased at a number of online perfume discounters, where the price ranges widely. The best price I saw is at UltraFrangrances.com, where a 50-ml/1.7 oz bottle is currently priced at $44.90. Not having done business with them, I can’t vouch for how reliable they are. Reviews for this scent tend to be mixed—there are as many haters as lovers—so it’s not the kind of scent I’d advise to get as a blind buy.

Photo (top of page) titled Young Woman Lying in Tall Grass is from Corbis.com.

 

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