Post by Chairman Meow
Jungle L’Elephant by Kenzo 1996
Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Mandarin, Cardamom, Cumin, Clove
Middle: Ylang-Ylang, Licorice, Mango, Heliotrope
Base: Patchouli, Vanilla, Amber, Cashmeran
You’ll notice that plum is not listed as a note, which is intriguing, because to me it is the overarching theme in this scent. And what a shape shifter of a plum it is, taking on various guises, some more pleasant than others.
L’Elephant opens off as a melange of dried fruit peel and spices, of which clove is quite prominent. I often have difficulty with this little nail of a flower bud, and its fondness of hijacking whatever perfume it takes a ride in, though thankfully here it is more dulcet compared with the rugged variety you might encounter in, say, Noir Epices. I can detect cinnamon, the everyman, the spice equivalent of Bruce Willis, who offends no one. It took some convincing that I could smell any cardamom, so for sport’s sake I spent some time snuffling away on some bashed up cardamom seeds that I balanced on the scented part of my arm. It’s there! It works! A random but recommended activity. Sitting in the background of the peel and the spices, like some shady trench-coated nogoodnik, is a sinister almond-y waft redolent of cyanide from the pit of the plum, which I’m taking to be the heliotrope.
Photo Stolen MorgueFile
A recurring theme that you’ll encounter in reading reviews about L’Elephant is that it is a “strong” perfume, ambiguous word such as it is. People could be referring to the sillage, which is certainly impressive for the first hour or so before settling to a much more sociable pitch. They may be speaking of the longevity, for indeed it does have the endurance of several oxen. Alternatively, they may be talking about the paint blistering gust of nail varnish remover that sears the nostrils on first spray. I call it The Curse of Sally Hansen, and it persists for quite some time. Sally does eventually pack up her nail file and shuffle off, albeit reluctantly and with furtive backwards glances, and that’s when L’Elephant is at its most enjoyable. Yum Plum
The sinophiles (lovers of Chinese culture) amongst us may be familiar with the salty-sweet dried plums that go by variety of different names. I know them by their Cantonese name of Wah Mui. Imagine something that Shrek might excavate from his nose and you get a pretty good idea of what they look like.
Picture Stolen WantChinaTimes
Wah Mui are coated with a liquorice infused powdered sugar which, as a 7 year old, I found to be the best bit, actually the only edible bit, which would be licked off before abandoning the actual plum. I am transported to this memory in the late dry down of L’Elephant, hours after application, when you can finally approach the thing without a hazmat suit, and can detect the soft purr of the vanilla and amber. Later still, as L’Elephant is in its death throes, I think I can smell something indefinably wood-like, and then it expires.
Photo Stolen MorgueFile
I haven’t found L’Elephant an easy love, but it does have legions of admirers. I suspect that had it been produced by a niche house, was double the price, had a slick ad copy and had listed as one of its notes an “accord of oriental desiccated plum snack”, it would have had the cogniscenti misty- eyed and lisping “JEEY-nius!”, and been awarded a swathe of Fifi’s.
See you next month,
Chairman Meow xxx