Monday, January 9, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Five: Panda, Beaver & Rhinoceros

Panda, Beaver and Rhinoceros were the original perfumes introduced in 2014 by  Zoologist Perfumes, brainchild of  Canadian Victor Wong. Since then five more perfumes have been added to the lineup, all of which I have reviewed except the newest, Civet. I look forward to reviewing it when I return to the States in a month where my sample awaits! I saved these three until the end, partially because I think of them as the originators of the brand, and partially because reading the list of notes, I knew they would probably be the most challenging for me to wear and write about, as pale green scents get eaten by my skin and leather and I don't always get along. While I do know what notes work best on my skin and I wasn't incorrect in my assumption, I found I very much appreciated the craft and creativity of these three perfumes and that there is an appreciative audience out there for them.


Panda  is, as you might imagine, about bamboo, green tea, and other Chinese elements. Paul Kiler is the perfumer for both Panda and Rhinoceros but some may recognize his name as the founder and creator at PK Perfumes. With Panda, Mr. Kiler took the route of showcasing the panda's surroundings with the perfume notes. Here is part of the description from the website: "Panda is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves to send you on an unforgettable aromatic adventure. Your journey begins at a quaint Sichuan pepper farm surrounded by mountain streams and then leads you through a forest of osmanthus flowers as you finally make your way into a cozy garden filled with juicy mandarin trees and blooming lilies."

Notes for Panda are:
Top Notes: Buddha's Hand Citron, Bamboo, Sichuan Pepper, Green Tea, Mandarin, Zisu Leaves
Heart Notes: Osmanthus, Orange Blossom, Lilies, Mimosa, Incense
Base Notes: Sandalwood, Pemou Root, Cedar, Fresh Musk, Bourbon, Haitian Vetiver, Damp Moss

The opening of Panda has a mellow bamboo note but the Sichuan Pepper (pandas are found in the Sichuan Province of China) makes a strong and spicy statement. These two notes clash a bit; one smooth and gentle, the other more caustic. This serves to give what could be a bland opening more interest. My nose says this is not a combination of scents it has encountered before. I also smell the zisu leaves (in Japan they would be called shiso leaves) and this has a piquant, green and herbal note. The opening of the top notes lasts some time before the panda begins moving down the garden path, so to speak. I smell the green tea and slight aquatic notes in the second stage before the floral notes appear, a slightly leathery osmanthus and lily. The lily is quiet and understated and not at all sweet. Panda gives me the sensation of breathing fresh air from the bamboo forest, along with gentle notes that lend an Asian vibe to the overall feel of the scent.


I usually laugh when I see a perfume note like "fresh outdoor air" but miraculously that is exactly what I smell when I first spray Beaver. This is somewhat of a surprise because I remember when Beaver was originally introduced in 2014 hearing it described in ways that I thought it might be a challenging wear for me. Chris Bartlett is the perfumer and in 2016 he and Victor slightly reworked the perfume, taking away some strong animalic and smoke notes is my understanding, and making the scent less aggressive and more user friendly. I never tried the original, but this Beaver is a very easy-wearing fresh scent.

Notes for Beaver are:
Top Notes: Fresh Outdoor Air, Linden Blossom, Wood Shavings, Wild Vegetation
Heart Notes: Damp Air, DryWood, Light Musk, Water
Base Notes: Heavy Musk, Dark Woods, Vanilla, Amber, Castoreum, Leather

Like Bat, Beaver intially presents the watery habitat of the cute buck-toothesd creatures. I've only come across beavers once--on a canoe trip in Maine--but I remember the fresh air smells, cold river water, wood and forest vegetation. Beaver gives a very realistic snapshot of this scene. The immediate spray of perfume does indeed smell of fresh air, followed shortly by the linden blossom. The linden is not sweet but just adds a slight floral note to the air. After an hour or so of development I get the effect of damp air and cold water. It's interesting because it does bring to mind the beavers home, built of wood and branches in cold rivers and streams. This phase lasts quite some time on my skin. Eventually the fresh notes are joined by notes representing the beaver itself. Let me preface by saying I've noticed in reviews lately that where other reviewers get strong animalic notes in any particular perfume, I invariably find those notes to be much more subdued on my skin, so take this description with that fact in mind. I get very quiet musk and wood scents. A mere touch of dry vanilla appears, just at moments, not present all the time. The castoreum and leather note, meant to bring to mind the beaver's fur covered body and leather paddle tail are very quiet on my skin, a mere whisper.  For me Beaver wears more as a fresh airy watery scent.


Rhinoceros has a strong opening on my skin. I get blasts of rum and wood, followed by hints of the lavender and pine needles. Soon the tobacco note comes into play. The tobacco mixes with the rum note to give a darkly rich and fragrant smell reminiscent of humidors.  Wood notes play in the background, but mostly I'm smelling the tobacco.  Eventually a dry leather note enters the mix. This is not the supple leather of a fine Italian handbag. It is the thick, hard armour-like leather of the rhinoceros. This fragrance smells big and bold, and dusty and leathery, and I can see the charging rhino, kicking up dust in it's headlong charge.

Notes for Rhinoceros are:
Top Notes: Rum, Bergamot, Lavender, Elemi, Sage, Armoise, Conifer Needles
Heart Notes: Pinewood, Tobacco, Immortelle, Geranium, Agar Wood, Chinese Cedar Wood
Base Notes: Vetiver, Sandalwood, Amber, Smoke, Leather, Musk

The Zoologist website calls Rhinoceros a "leather stampede" and this seems spot on to me. The copy goes on the say, "Like a wild drunken beast, it cavorts until it comes to settle into a slow, rhythmic yet relentless beat--the rugged, raw aroma of leather. Rhinoceros is a complex, intimidating, and masculine scent that makes a bold unapologetic statement. Go forth and explore your world. Don't ask permission." Although I don't shy away from trying masculine scents, this one, I admit, is just too macho for me. Within about an hour the scent tames way down, and I'm left with mostly leather, musk, tobacco and a touch of rum. Leather lovers, this could be your new scent!

See more reviews on the Zoologist Perfumes line in Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Top photo Next two photos Google images. Perfume samples my own.


Paul Kiler said...

:-) So glad you like the Zoo...

Paul Kiler said...

Thanks for your wonderful review! ;-)

Cynthia said...

I found your creativity amazing! You were really able to make me feel the surroundings of these animals. Art in a bottle!

richpot said...

I really enjoyed your comprehensive review of the line. Soon I will get Civet. I want to try nightingale.

Cynthia said...

I get the idea I will like Civet, Richopot. I like retro-style perfumes. One of the reasons I like Nightingale.