Keiko Mecheri Les Zazous, 2010

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(image Robert Doisneau)

Perfumer Yann Vasnier

Keiko Mecheri celebrates the exoticism of the known and elevates lavender to a place in perfumery typically reserved for incense, labdanum and the other great botanical resins. Perfumer Yann Vasnier focusses our attention on lavender’s woody-resinous-floral aspects instead of its cool cleanliness. In a manner similar to the fougère where coumarin transforms lavender into something unexpected, Vasnier uses woods and woody spices to mold lavender into a nouveau power frag like the masculine beasts of the 1980s. It’s a wonderful trick and while it makes me liken les Zazous to a number of other perfumes (to follow) it makes for a distinctive, but instantly comfortable fragrance.

Les Zazous notably steers clear of the aquatacism and sweet aromatics common to many contempo macho fragrances. By genre, it is a woody floral. Rose and iris are tied to resinous woods by a honeyed tobacco note. Tobacco makes an excellent bridge between floral and woody tones (as in Lauder’s Beautiful and ELDO’s Jasmin et Cigarette) and Vasnier plays it elegantly.

This is a masculine fragrance in the same way that Guerlain Habit Rouge, Lancome Sagamore and de Nicolai’s New York and Pour Homme are masculine fragrances. They manage to pass some boyish test of apparent masculinity while never relinquishing an ounce of prettiness. They are tempered by their tests of gender and have a matter-of-fact beauty.

This fragrance does make me reflect on others, but it doesn’t suffer by comparison. If you can see A Taste of Heaven (by Kilian) as a concise lavender and Caron Troisième Homme as a more intricate play on the note, think of Les Zazous as running a little further afield, but in the same direction. Combining lavender with incense and tobacco and vanilla gives the perfume a wide harmonious range that feels intrinsically at ease. It is large and gregarious, but neither loud nor rude. It feels (and I mean this as a sincere compliment) like a lavender version of the original early 1980s Chanel Antaeus.

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