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Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant – The prize is perfume gold – August 24, 2012, New Fragrance Listing

Photo - Wikipedia - African Bush Elephant

OK – so one thing inevitably leads to another with this perfume obsession, and it takes me to the most unexpected places, in my head or otherwise. It’s the lure of the unknown, as potent as a drug for me, making me as helpless as an addict when I bump into new ideas or info about juice or juice-ers. I have no choice but to follow the thread so I can get my fix, the unknown prize at the end of it.  There always is one.

The thread this time is Céline Verleure, the creative force behind Olfactive Studio, the on-line niche brand whose design process starts with a photograph, a moment in time captured by an artist, the starting point for the perfumer’s creative brief. And the result?...amazing frags, like Still Life, which I wrote about last week. Céline’s bio on the Olfactive Studio website states that she started her perfume career at Kenzo, and was part of the team which created Kenzo Jungle, along with noses Dominique Ropion and Jean-Louis Sieuzac in 1996. Wow! Jungle L’Éléphant and Le Tigre – two bold frags, each with an incredibly powerful graphic image. Have a look at this commercial for L’Éléphant! It’s not a big leap to understanding Olfactive Studio and Céline’s desire to mix visual and olfactory art.

Which leads me to the prize - Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant, the frag with the brushed-gold cap in the shape of an elephant, trunk raised in greeting. I’ve wondered - why the name? The Jungle part I understood – Kenzo Takada’s first Paris shop was called Jungle Jap, and his design aesthetic always mixed natural and multi-cultural elements with traditional Japanese minimalism. The elephant part? Well, elephants live in jungles, at least they do in Asia, and they are powerful, huge, intelligent, sensitive, and unforgettable – and threatened. What else can the bizarre commercial be telling us, with the herd of gold-painted elephants storming past the cool, unconnected model, the jet plane streaking noisily overhead?

The Kenzo website describes Jungle L’Éléphant as “a journey into an imaginary and resolutely modern world”.  I think the character of the juice, the Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant EdP, reflects this world of the gold elephants – this isn’t a frag for those who like delicate, ethereal, wispy, pale, this frag is all heat, dust, colour, strength. At first, it’s a spice bomb - humungous, stupendous and spectacularly spicy, fireworks up the nose, mandarin mixed with a big dose of cardamom, cumin and clove, then hints of dried fruit. At first, I think Serge Lutens Feminité de Bois, but then it shifts toward the middle notes and comes into its own - wafts of green mango float by, hints of black licorice, then  almondy lavender-tinted heliotrope and bright gumdrop ylang-ylang – are you getting the colours? There’s just a hint of floral here in the heart, and meanwhile, the spices are still working their magic.  Mixed with the heart notes, they now have a fuzzy, powdery, almost cashmere-y warmth to them, making Jungle start to feel opulent and extremely sexy.

When the base notes, patchouli, vanilla and amber develop, I get a delicious gourmand accord – bits of cardamom, and clove, even cinnamon, give Jungle an Indian rice pudding sensation – smooth, creamy, softly spicy, nutty, and not too sweet. Towards the end of the dry-down a woody edge appears on the spices, and the big beast wraps me in its scented warmth, making me feel like the Queen of the Jungle. 

Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant is an absolutely unique fragrance. It’s a spicy Oriental in the perfume charts, and it IS all about spice – the spices bring florals, fruits, woods, vanilla and amber notes into perfect balance, creating a frag that is potent, vibrant, full to the brim with exotic warmth. Some people just won’t get it, but I’ve had friends who say they hate Orientals try Jungle L’Éléphant, and they’ve fallen in love with it. There is a quality about it which is mesmerizing, comforting, fascinatingly beautiful.

Dominique Ropion is the master of big, gorgeous frags – Carnal Flower, Une Fleur de Cassie, Portrait of a Lady, Lalique Le Parfum to name a few – and his hand is definitely on Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant. I think he’s discovered a secret ingredient that makes these frags work on me like drugs.  Could be it’s just his genius, but whatever it is, Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant has got it in spades. I’ve rediscovered this special frag in a huge way.

As I said, there is always a prize at the end of the thread. 


Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.