Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Twin Peaks: Zino by Davidoff, Chanel Coromandel, Lutens Borneo 1834

Comparing an uncompromisingly masculine fragrance such as Zino by Davidoff with a unisex offering from Chanel, daintely named (Coromandel) after Chinese laquered panels which might sooner decorate the apartment of a woman or a gay male than the chick-trap of an abode of a bachelor might seem like a exercise in futulity. Heck, there's even a makeup line at Chanel's bearing the very same name! Yet the two fragrances, winking both at yet another patchouli-ladden beauty, Borneo 1834 by Lutens, bear the proud insignia of hard partying and bohemian airs which a rich, decadent patchouli heart knows how to provide so well.

And for those on a budget or searching for an easier alternative to savour the allure of Coromandel, Zino is a choice that can be found easily on discounters and online stores, being utterly underrated for absolutely no sane reason at all. I hope after this review a couple of people will summon the courage to search for it, as it's totally worth it. But perhaps the greatest recommedation would be that it has been gracing the oh-so-fine body of Captain Jack Sparrow, né Johnny Depp for quite some years now (Fittingly as it was first issued in 1986). Who can resist his charms, his chiseled face and bohemian attitude? Personally, I could see it on someone like Vincent d'Onofrio as well. If you're fond of aquatics and/or a fan of a girly Robert-Patterson-like allure (of Twilight fame), you can stop reading right now, it will only get painful.

I had written on my Chanel Coromandel perfume review, when I compared the scent to a cinnabar-hued brocade jacket, upper button undone with black camelia Chanel earrings: "The initial impression is that of a citrusy, orange-like pipe tobacco mix rolled in powder, much like the one encountered upon meeting that vixen little scent called Fifi by lingerie designer Fifi Chachnil or a slightly less milky Fumerie Turque. [..]Perhaps the orange impression derives from the inclusion of frankincense, a resin that sometimes gives off a sweet citric tang while burning. A sweet lush note throughout is echoing subtly like vanilla pods immersed in fruity liquor and it opens up and expands on the wings of aged patchouli, mellow, soft, sweet and inviting [...]with a touch of Borneo by Serge Lutens and Prada thrown in for good measure. [...] The pervading dryness along with just a touch of frankincense for a sense of mystery, not showcasing amber in any great degree all the while, provides a great balance to the sweeter vanilla elements and makes the whole not puff up in blue clouds of smoke, but stay the night on warm skin and well used sheets".

Zino starts on a classic masculine accord of lavender, clary sage and bergamot, bracing, nose-tingling like the top notes of Jicky, almost recalling a fougère, but immediately we're drawn into the maze of oriental woods, where the dark green of patchouli hypnotizes the senses with its sweet, beckoning and a little overwhelming scent and a trompe l'oeil hinting at tobacco (A Davidoff fragrance without some allusion to it? Unthinkable). Zino's big rosy heart worn on its sleeve is the perfect accompaniment to the green leaves with moth-repelling properties, and serves to smoothen the former, alongside the other subtle floral elements. Every ingredient bursts into life on the skin and despite the potent opening the scent manages to appear as rather subdued in later stages. Once upon a time touted as the "fragrance of desire", I admit that for this woman on this day, it still seems good enough to eat and amazingly sexy while we're at it too.

Sheldrake’s handwriting is all over 2007's Coromandel, which would make the comparison with his previous Borneo 1834 for Serge Lutens (2005) a natural fit. The two fragrances share a pronounced similarity at the drydown, a fuzzy, synthesized woody-amber drydown like ambroxan (much more pronounced though in -say- Lolita Lempicka au Masculin). Zino also shares in the traditional ambery fade-out after its scultural masculine top, its darkness an ink-like blob on thick matte paper, but lacks the distinct coffee note that runs through the heart of Borneo, instead opting for extending the note of patchouli to its chocolate-like extremes. Borneo on the other hand is an intensely camphoraceous patchouli laced with dark-roasted coffee and cocoa notes and much dryer, while Coromandel, perhaps due to its eau de toilette concentration and axiom of "application with abandon" alluded to by the big, honking bottle, seems airier and less saturated than both. Airier for an oriental woody, mind you! Its kinship with the original Prada should give you an idea of the ballpark we're talking about. The sillage of every scent is delicious; a mysterious wake that will have people swerve to catch a whiff and ask you what it is.
Ultimately, between the three, Coromandel is the daytime, easier and more powdery version, Borneo more suitable for evenings and trend-setters, while Zino is the one reserved for sexy men and for women not afraid of five-o-clock shadows on them. If you're among the latter, do try Zino for yourself too, you'll see it acts like a fedora over long hair.

Notes for Zino by Davidoff:
Top: lavender, palisander, clary sage, bergamot
Heart: geranium, rose, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine
Base: patchouli, cedar wood, sandalwood, vanilla
Notes for Coromandel by Chanel
Benzoin, patchouli, woodsy notes

Notes for Borneo 1834 by Lutens
Patchouli, Camphor, Cardamom, Cistus, Galbanum, Cacao

pic of actor Vincent d'Onofrio via fanpop.com, Sarah Ranes portrait via indiepublic.com


  1. What an inspired post !
    Great work, and very apt ;-)

    Another fan, here.
    Much agreed on the comparisons....

    [May the New Year bring abundant blessings, dear sister !]

  2. Oh, I will definitely give this a try first on my boyfriend (I'll present it as a gift for him) and I'll probably pilfer it from his wardrobe (I'm a fan of Coromandel).
    Loved the part where R. Pattinson Twilight fans should stop reading. :)

  3. Fiordiligi14:02

    How very interesting! Thanks, my dearest E, for these comparisons. I am a proud possessor of one of the giant Coromandel bottles and know neither Borneo nor Zino, but I was under the (mistaken) impression that there was nothing quite like Coromandel out there. Just goes to show....

  4. I'm not a patchouli fan, and so have not tested any of these, not even the Chanel. (Seems I can only bear patch in two iterations: either with vanilla, or very-aged, herbal and grassy.) And probably will not challenge myself in that direction any time soon, since there are so many other notes I love and want to explore.

    However, "works like a fedora over long hair" is a lovely, succinct phrase - thanks so much for that!

  5. Oh wow! Coromandel is one of my absolute favorites, and as a lover of patchouli I really should try this out. I have been wondering about the Borneo, as I smelled it in Barney's once upon a time and was not overly impressed, instead finding it too similar to A*Men to warrant purchase. But, since I love Coromandel so much, I really should try it out...and Zino is on my watch list, too.
    (PS, I still don't understand why Depp is sexy. I am totally missing it.)
    I hope it turns out better than my other patchouli endeavors...the Mazzolari, il Profumo, and Bois 1920 were all a disaster to me.

  6. Long-time Zino lover here... great critique, E. ! Love that Vincent image, too! ;-)
    Greetings, lillie

  7. Ida,

    thanks honey, appreciate your saying so! Hope everything is getting better and new year is good to you. I've been terribly busy alas and neglect my correspondence *hangs head in shame*


  8. Ines,

    cunning strategy!! ;-)

    Yeah, I'd picture a much more menacing vampire wearing this (these).

    Hope you're well :)

  9. D darling,

    it's no wonder Coromandel is the best-selling among Les Exclusifs: it's got something very "current" but also treated in a refined way. Borneo is rougher, Zino more masculine, but they're great perfumes to try out. Zino is so underappreciated, it needs some boosting!! (if there ever was any face balm in this it would make for the most magnificent hand cream for us ladies)

  10. Mals,

    wow, a hippie patchouli fan, love those two. You need to try the Reminiscence one if you haven't, but I can see how that wouldn't be a top priority.

    Glad you enjoyed the coda phrase! The pic tied with the image in my mind perfectly and I couldn't resists. :)

  11. Jared,

    discerning taste my friend, Coromandel is quite refined. The patchoulis you have sampled are more hippy-like, a bit dirtier I think, while Coromandel is motr gourmandish but not teenager-foody. Not an easy feat!
    I highly recommend you try Zino out: it's more traditionally masculine on top which makes it an easy test at the store and something that seems familiar (yet, it's much more complex than that). Borneo is quite camphor-like on top, making it more difficult. It's also one to dab rather than spray, this is quite important with this one, as it's so intense. Well, perhaps you don't absolutely need to if Lutens isn't your thing.

    PS.Depp: Well, only a personal interpretation so take it with a pinch of salt, but I think it's his very finely chiseled features (they're angular, aka masculine, but they're smallish too, making him pretty too) coupled with a nonchalant attitude and serious acting chops (I admit it's the latter which compells me; I seem not to be able to get crazy over inept actors; OK inept anything, I'm sure you understand)

  12. N,

    wow, you love Zino? It's scrumptious, isn't it? I get carried away when S.O. wears this.

    Thanks for the kind words on the writing too :-)

  13. Thank you for this post! I've been wearing Zino since some time in the early 90s (except for a 5-year-or-so stretch where I could not find it anywhere). I consider it pretty much my holy grail, smells amazing on me. It's always kinda irked me to no end that, of the Davidoffs, Cool Water achieved world domination, while Zino, well, er, didn't. Thank god it is still available online!

    Borneo 1834 is one of the first Lutens I have considered buying (the others being Gris Clair and Muscs Kublai Khan). The other Lutens I have tried have always come across as way too treacly for me, so I was glad to finally hit on some things that worked for me. I never made the Borneo-Zino connection, other than the patchouli. Now I can't wait to get home and compare the two!

    I've only sampled Coromandel once at the Chanel boutique. I've read comparisons between it and Borneo 1834. Since getting a sample of the latter, I want to try Coromandel again.

    Anyway, your post kind of explains to me now more why I am drawn to these two scents.

    Thanks for the Zino love! Spread the word!

  14. Glen,

    how fascinating! You had my rapt attention all the way through your personal history with all three scent, I can see how they appeal to you (and also I get a "feel" for your taste by the other Lutens mentioned, MKK is one I also love)and thanks for your kind words on the post.
    Funny how things work out, eh? Cool Water becoming the house-hold name. Well, I guess it coincided with an era when it was revolutionary to smell of sea spray and ozone, while Zino was not revolutionary. Plus people had been fed up with traditional, rich stuff and wanted something...linear? And very simple? Who knows...Pop psychology and sociology will only get me thus far.

    At any rate, yeah on spreading the word on Zino. I would love for people to get encouraged to seek it out!

  15. Wonderful comparison, E. I have a decant of Coromandel on the way, and you have reminded me that I have a yet unsampled sample of Borneo lingering in the pile.

    Have you tried the Nobile Patchouli? I really liked it, found it fairly similar to Coromandel. I might have even liked it better than C. but as it's not available here, I opted for the C.

  16. Anonymous23:53

    i love and wear zino. it has so many facets, it's fascinating. and yes, the fact that my favorite, johnny depp, wears it makes me smile each time i sniff it.

    thanks for bringing it into the light. more men and women should check it out. it's so much better than much of the modern juice out there.

    cheers, minette/scentsignals

  17. Anonymous23:55

    oh, and the last time i tested coromandel, it turned into shalimar's close blood relation. blew my mind.

    btw, the chanel rep at the n/m here wears it when she goes dancing. she says the men love it on her!


  18. D,

    thanks, glad it instigated a desire to compare and contrast. The SL is much drier and coffee-tinged, Zino is in between (and highly recommended).
    No, haven't tried the Nobile Pathouli yet, but noting it down as per your recommendation! ;-)

  19. Minette,

    I'm so happy that Zino lovers chime in with enthusiasm!! It's a case of "something old is new again". Definitely deserving attention, a complex brew.

  20. Oh and what a lovely recommendation of Coromandel! Now I can hear at the distance the "man magnet" chimes and whispers among women-wearers... ;-)

  21. Dear Perfumeshrine,

    I've got a quick question regarding this perfume which I've always loved over the years. My question is the authenticity of the perfume buying from online stores.

    I began to notice the design of the box and the bottle in terms of letter different from one seller and another. I once bought 75 ml and both the box and the bottle has the letter ZINO and DAVIDOFF written in ITALIC.

    However, when I bought 125 ml of Zino, only ZINO is written in italic on the box and bottle. DAVIDOFF letter is written in normal letter not in italics. I would like to know if Davidoff changes their design reguarlarly or do I need to worry about buying bad imitation by mistake? Would you be so kind as to enlighten me? Many thanks in advance.

  22. SD,

    thanks for your question!
    Given this is a very unsung Davidoff (unlike Cool Water which is a best-seller), I doubt there would be counterfeits in the market, as there wouldn't be much point going to all the trouble.
    Companies are indeed known for changing (subtly) the packaging when a reformulation/relaunch happens (which is practical for us to distinguish editions) and I think this is what happened in this particular case. If the cologne smells the same to you as it always did I don't see the point in worrying any longer. Enjoy!


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