Kenzo Air ~ fragrance review

When I reviewed Mark Buxton's Wood & Absinth last week, several people mentioned another vetiver + anise fragrance, Kenzo Air (or Kenzoair, as I believe the brand prefers). How I made it all this time without smelling Kenzo Air is a bit of a mystery to me, but I suppose the name "Air" was not all that appealing? Obviously I needed to smell it, and since it didn't seem to be available locally (and it's too cold to go outside anyway), I ordered some right away. I'd like to point out that I made it a full 13 days into 2009 before breaking rule no. 1 (or no. 2? I can't remember) and buying something unsniffed, but this was cheap enough that it wouldn't have killed me if I'd hated it. And lo and behold, everyone who commented was right: it's wonderful.

Kenzo launched Air in 2003; it was intended as...

... a breath of fresh air… it lets a man discover his inner child. The fragrance denotes an elegant, masculine presence, awakening childhood sensations and familiar impressions, shaking things up and reinventing them. (via lvmh)

And Patrick Guedj, the creative director of Parfums Kenzo, added:

Today, all the men's fragrances that are launched on the market have a very macho approach -- [they're about] manly men with a sense of responsibility, who know where they're going. Men have the right to stay children, to let go, to be free, to be irresponsible and regressive in a way." (via Women's Wear Daily, 6/27/2003)

I posted the tv spot last week; it's a nice fit with the ad copy, although how all of that resonates with the juice itself isn't really clear to me except that like many of the fragrances in the Kenzo line, Air is more sheer than not, and yes, it isn't so "macho" that a woman couldn't wear it. It was developed by perfumer Maurice Roucel, and originally released in both Eau de Toilette (notes: bergamot, anise, vetiver, woods, amber) and Eau de Parfum (notes: angelica, cumin, vetiver). The Eau de Parfum does not appear to be available these days, but an Eau de Toilette Intense with similar notes launched in 2005.

Kenzo Air doesn't have much presence, so I can also imagine that perhaps I sprayed some on a card one day and proceeded to forget all about it. The opening is crisp and bright, and Kenzo Air pretty much stays that way for the duration. The anise is light but there's probably enough there to dismay all you licorice-haters; the vetiver is loamy-earthy, but as airy as vetiver can be and still smell like vetiver, and it has a green, sappy undertone rather like pine needles. I like it very well, but I'm guessing I'll reach for it most in the heat of summer, along with my other summer vetiver favorites, Guerlain Vetiver & Paul Smith Story. A few vetivers that stand up nicely to winter weather: Hermès Vetiver Tonka, Frederic Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire, Lalique Encre Noire.

Worn next to Kenzo Air, the Mark Buxton, unfortunately, smells overwhelmingly bitter and soapy, and sort of plodding. I have not smelled the Kenzo Air Intense, but if you have smelled that or the original Eau de Parfum, do comment!

I do not know what the original bottle was like (it looks nice enough in pictures), but mine is essentially a block of frosted plastic with some blue (glass?) inside. It's pretty much hideous.

You can easily find Kenzo Air at a discount. My 20 ml bottle cost around $16 at Fragrancenet, and it also comes in 50 and 90 ml.

Note: image at top left via, at top right via osmoz.

See also: a review of Kenzo Air at Bois de Jasmin.

Update: Thanks to Kevin, I've now had a chance to try out Kenzo Air Intense. Air Intense lists the same notes as the original Air, but adds cumin and angelica. It is not a strikingly stronger fragrance than the original Air, in case that's what you're after — to my nose, it still qualifies as "more sheer than not" — although it does have just a bit more presence and lasting power. While I am most decidedly not a fan of cumin or angelica, neither is overwhelming here. The cumin adds a touch more spice and just a touch of that sweaty undertone that cumin lends...I don't find it too much, and if they had amped up the anise and vetiver, it would be a winner. Sadly, they really haven't, and I find that I prefer the original. Do see the comments below though — some people definitely prefer the Intense. My simple advice to anyone ordering unsniffed: if cumin and angelica appeal to you, buy the Intense, if they don't, buy the original Air.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ah! So glad you liked it. I think KenzoAir deserves to be in that category of “unsung treasures” because it can be had so inexpensively. I'm glad I discovered it accidentally by throwing it into my cart when buying some minis last summer. Roucel — that explains a lot; I like a lot of his creations.

    I haven't seen one of the large 50ml or 100ml bottles in person (the mini is a plastic splash thing that makes a big mess), but I think it would be beautiful if done all in glass. Many on the boards comment on it being like a work of sculpture — I like it, at least from what I can see.

    The boards also indicate that some don't find the Intense much different from — or not as nice as — the original. I'm sure I'll pick up a 50ml bottle in the next couple months (can be had for under $30) and I think I'll go for the original. Thanks for the review! One of my favorite vetivers, along with Sycomore (and coincidentally, I just nabbed a cheap mini of Encre Noire earlier today).

  2. Anonymous says:

    The bottle is hideous and way, way too wide even for my big mitts, but I do love the juice. I am so glad you like it too!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well the 20 ml is also in plastic — maybe the larger bottles are the nice glass ones? I didn't get the intense because I don't love cumin or angelica, but I wouldn't mind a stronger version of this one at all.

    Sycomore would be one of my summer favorites too if I had a bottle, but I don't. Do hope you'll like the Lalique!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is your bottle glass or plastic? Mine is pretty small so I've got no problem handling it, it's just ugly :-)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank. God. I knew you'd love it!

    Aren't EdP and Intense the same thing? No? I thought they were anyway.

    I'm pretty sure that the spicier (more angelica than cumin) & smokier (less sheer and liquorice-sweet than EdT) Intense, which is lovely nonetheless, is housed in a glass bottle w/ a deeper shade of blue. Not sure which I like better, will have to try them side by side again.

    And once again ~ yay!!! :D

  6. Anonymous says:

    And you were right!

    The Intense is an EdT — dont' know if that means it's a lesser concentration than the original EdP, but that would be my guess. Would like a smokier scent but not a fan of angelica usually. Maybe I'll find a tester somewhere…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I'll make do with decants of Sycomore ever after… 250ml? No way, no how. And I sniffed Lalique at Aedes… nice, but a mini will be enough for me.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Perfect timing on this review- I've got the winter blahs and am starting to brainstorm about fun new scents for spring.
    This definitely sounds worth a try for me, especially since I love anise…not “ew black Jelly Belly” anise but the unique floral/gourmand aspects of it. (Reminds me of my nonni baking Italian cookies. Yum.) Any other fragrances you guys would recommend with anise? I keep eying this tester of Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella at a discounter but I'm scared to make an unsniffed purchase…

  9. Anonymous says:

    I love Anisia Bella, but it's very cedary. Then there's Etro Anice, which is nice but I don't love it. And Caron Eau de Reglisse, which is also nice but I don't love it. And Serge Lutens Douce Amere, which is possibly too heavy for spring. I know there's more…will be back when I think of them!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Oh — Hermes Brin de Reglisse. Lovely but a bit odd, and expensive. Wish I had a bottle.

  11. Anonymous says:

    R…I thought you were a Cedar fan? Will have to go and sniff this K Air.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Love cedar! Just a warning in case someone else doesn't.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The frosty, ice-block is glass.

    This is the perfect scent to give the over-applier in your life.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am on my third bottle of the eau de toilette. I consider it a secret gem. Last year a fragrance aficionado friend swore she couldnt imagine anything better for winter on me than Hot ALways. She couldnt place Kenzo Air and it drove her crazy. It never knocked my socks off initially, but I find myself reaching for it consistently as an everyday fragrance for its uniqueness and subtlety. As said, I am on my third bottle. I also own Etro Anice but use differently, such as a single spray my chest after a shower.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. I'm headed to the mall tomorrow and you've reminded me that I need to smell this. I blew it off probably for the same reason you did – Kenzo is light enough already, so I figured Air would smell like nothing! I do think the bigger bottles are glass and rather pretty.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yes — it'd be hard to overdo!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Have you ever layered the Kenzo & the Etro?

    Actually, now I'm wondering if you couldn't layer Anisia Bella w/ one of the heavier vetiver scents.

  18. Anonymous says:

    M, while you're at it, please give Jungle PH a whirl, too. Can't remember that you did & would love to know what you think.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hope you'll find it! Now I sort of wish I'd paid a little more & bought the 50 ml. This thing is not only ugly, it's one of the worst bottles for decanting I've ever had.

    Is DC vaguely back to normal today?

  20. Anonymous says:

    I thought Kenzo Air was boring almost beyond human endurance (not everyone agrees with me, obviously), but Anisia Bella is gorgeous–fresh and airy, anisic but not at all licorice-y, grounded by a hint of root vegetable (like a fresh parsnip) and a bit of wood. It's so nice! I bought it unsniffed from a discounter (Imagination Perfumery) and it turned out to be a very smart buy.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Robin, I love KenzoAir. It's one of that unpretensious fragrances, that makes you feel good on hot summer day. To me, the intense version, the one i own, is all about anise, vetiver and cumin. The cumin gives it a little bit sweaty thing, but to me the key here is the dance between anise and vetiver. On the intense version, is like they play wih each other in the air, with sometimes the anise showing its bright side, and with sometimes the vetiver giving a airy, sheer woody leafy thing. It really makes me feel like a childish, one moment in my life that sometimes i miss a lot. And the bottle is stuning, it really looks in the intense version like a piece of the sky in a summer day.
    I recommend the intense version, that is much better then the original one.

  22. Anonymous says:

    About the bottle, it looks like only the intense version is made of glass. It's mixture of glass and plastic, something very different. This is a picture of the intense, i think that maybe you can see the glass and plastic thing:

  23. Anonymous says:

    LOL at “boring almost beyond human endurance” — sounds like the makings of a poll!

    Still can't believe they discontinued Anisia Bella.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear, you're trying to make me order the Intense unsniffed, aren't you?

  25. Anonymous says:

    That's a MUCH nicer bottle than mine. Mine looks like a kid's plastic toy.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Are all of the Kenzo 20ml that ugly? I ask because I just received the 20ml of Kenzo Flowers that I ordered and it's in this horrible ugly plastic blob. It was a tester, so I didn't pay much; I just wasn't expecting the sheer ugliness of it.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Robin, thanks so much for your suggestion on layering Guerlain Vetiver with another perfume in another thread. It worked very well !
    I have the Kenzo plastic and I live in Europe….. looks ugly, but scent is lighter than other vetiver scents. Still on the testing stage ;)

  28. Anonymous says:

    Did you like Kenzo Flowers ?

  29. Anonymous says:

    If i weren't so far away from you Robin, i'd be glad to send you a generous sample of it :)

  30. Anonymous says:

    Cynthia, I don't know — too bad about the Flower since the larger bottle is so pretty!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Good, glad it worked for you!

  32. Anonymous says:

    LOL — that's kind, but no worries — it's cheap, and I think you've inspired Kevin to order it unsniffed!

  33. Anonymous says:

    I'm pretty sure that I remember liking it, but it's been awhile since I tested it. It was pretty inexpensive and I was trying to hit the magic free shipping total on my order, so I threw it in my cart. I'll probably test it again over the next few days, but I have a cold and can't smell anything right now.

    I decided to wear Burberry Brit Red today because it's cold here and it make me feel cozy.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the suggestions! I'm a fan of a well-complimented cedar (Un Jardin En Mediterranee comes to mind) and it sounds like Anisia Bella will probably be up my alley when the weather gets warmer. Will investigate the Etro Anice more, and already planned a trip to find the Kenzoair…

  35. Anonymous says:

    Let us know if you find another we didn't think of :-)

  36. Anonymous says:

    All those comments about the hideous looking bottle!

    That's TOO FUNNY because:

    The bottle design won a best design award in Europe following its launch!

    I actually personally find it to be visually appealing but I don't own a bottle in order to comment on how it feels once held. And I don't think I'll buy one either…

  37. Anonymous says:

    True, but my bottle is clearly not the original design!

  38. chrissyinoz says:

    i just discovered this scent today…autumn here in aussie going into winter & i find it an absolute comfort scent coz of the licorice sweet notes….absolute bargain $39AUD for 50ml….highly recommended

    • Robin says:

      Glad you found it, plus found a good deal on it!

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