Kenzo Homme (Kenzo)

Christian Mathieu is the nose behind Kenzo's first masculine fragrance, and his oeuvre includes the clove-filled Jacomo de Jacomo, and the fusty chypre Coeur de Parfum. His design sensibilities favor spiced woods and dry mosses, and with Kenzo Homme he continues that trend. It therefore comes as a surprise to find many reviewers calling Kenzo Homme an aquatic. I gave it a generous wearing today, and frankly found nothing aquatic about it at all. If anything, it's a fresh woody chypre in the esteemed tradition of Fahrenheit and Lacoste Original, full of dry green notes, without a hint of "aqua" to be found.

What disturbs me a little about Kenzo Homme is its similarities to Drakkar Noir and Horizon by Guy Laroche. It shares the exact same bitter earthiness, and in some ways surpasses its comparatives. Kenzo's composition is based on a dessicated citric opening of bergamot, eastern European fir, bitter sage, and the driest sandalwood I've ever sniffed. The movement doesn't get any friendlier from there; the heart notes revolve around a pungent pairing of oakmoss and vetiver, with biting hints of juniper berry, lemon zest, and caraway in orbit. To my nose the vetiver is most prominent, and the construction is welded together by a coolness that is as nondescript as it is ubiquitous: calone.

It isn't the summery fruit-laden calone we've all come to know and hate, but more of a crystalline cool breeze wafting through the trees, made extra subtle through its integration with other sour aromatics like fir and sage. I suppose if one were to consider all these notes in unison as analogous to the scent of a freshwater riverbank in Japan, I could, in a roundabout way, understand the aquatic label. But as it stands, my dominant impression is that Kenzo is a woody aromatic chypre with a decidedly "fresh" feel. Just because something smells cool and fresh doesn't mean it's aquatic. I really don't know why it gets this reputation.

Overall, I'm not inclined to like this fragrance. I kinda sorta wish it were a flat-out aquatic, because maybe then I could appreciate it more. I need an aquatic with a bitter freshwater feel, but I don't need a chypre variant of Drakkar Noir disguised as a semi-niche avant-garde masculine. Unique it may be, but Kenzo Homme ain't for me.

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