Jungle L’Elephant by Dominique Ropion for Kenzo 1996

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Post by Chairman Meow

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Jungle L’Elephant by Kenzo 1996

Jungle L'Elephant FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

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.
Pernicious Plum

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.

Jungle L'Elephant MorgueFilePhoto 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.

Jungle L'Elephant Dried Plums WantChinaTimesPicture 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.

Jungle L'Elephant Kenzo Elephants MorgueFilePhoto Stolen MorgueFile

Further reading: Another Perfume Blog and Bois de Jasmin
Beauty Encounter have $45/50ml
Surrender To Chance starts at $3/ml

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

26 comments on “Jungle L’Elephant by Dominique Ropion for Kenzo 1996

  1. Tora says:

    Dear Chairman, this review is perfect. Not a wasted word. Such hilarious and spot on imagery. Reading this, makes me want to take up a pen and write. If I were an English teacher, I would give this to my students as an example of a perfect short essay. Not kidding.

    • Chairman Meow says:

      Thank you so much Tora, that is high praise indeed! I’m on comment 1 and my head is already swollen.

  2. Hail The Chairman!
    Plum?!?
    Not at all. I get the spices, but none of the soft fruit – aren’t our noses amazing diverse things.
    But mainly I get oodles of almond infused (the heliotrope one supposes) vanillic custard.
    Delicious served cold but best hot.
    Perhaps I need to try some of those dessicated plum snacks to get the note completely!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Chairman Meow says:

      Hi Dandy, as an avid but silent reader of your blog, I’ll just say here that is an honour to meet you, sir. This perfume malarkey can very much be like performance art can it not, where the creator throws elements together, and it is up to you, the viewer / sniffer, to interpret as you will.

      Do try a Wah Mui if you ever get the chance. Just proceed with caution, as they can be… uh… an acquired taste.

  3. Hey Hey Chairman,
    Welcome to APJ family. I hope this is the beginning of something long and beautiful, like you.
    I get body, musky, sweet, sensual bodies from this, no fruit and only some spice.
    Portia x

    • Chairman Meow says:

      Yo yo Portia, thank you, and thank you! I’m so chuffed to be here.

      Lady, I need to come and inhale this off your skin some day. What you’re describing sounds like a different frag altogether!

  4. cookie queen says:

    Did Professor Plum wear this when he killed Colonel Mustard in the conservatory? Great review. Bussis CQ xxx

    • Chairman Meow says:

      He most certainly did Queen, but only after despatching Mrs White and Miss Scarlett with Opium and Poison. He was in a particularly vindictive mood, you see.

      (And thanks!)

  5. susan says:

    I’ve just been reading some books where there is a cat named Chairman Meow! Perchance you’re a fan of the Mortal Instruments as well? At any rate, welcome!

    Haven’t tried Jungle L’Elephant, it seems like a fascinating scent that many people perceive differently.

    • Chairman Meow says:

      Why thank you Susan, I will need to check out Mortal Instruments as clearly the author is a genius.

      You really ought to try it! And please report back when you do 🙂

  6. poodle says:

    I haven’t tried this but it seems from the reviews I’ve seen it does wear differently on everyone. Great review.

    • Chairman Meow says:

      Thank you, that is so kind Poodle, with your familiar bespectacled avatar! Do try it! And then we can answer The Great Plum Question with a poll.

      • poodle says:

        Lol. “The Great Plum Question” sounds like the next big Hollywood thriller. I’ve almost blind bought this. Do you think it’s too strange a scent to take a chance on like that?

    • Chairman Meow says:

      This one’s a definite try-before-buy, Poodle. Please let me know if you are unable to get a sample where you are, I have plenty to spare!

  7. FeralJasmine says:

    Welcome, Chairman! Loved your review. Like the Dandy, I don’t get plum, but I think that you have captured the ambivalent nature of this scent. It’s a difficult one for many of us. And I love your comments about Nicheworld. I do love niche fragrances, but it’s true that an element of weirdness for the sake of weirdness creeps in here and there.

    • Chairman Meow says:

      Hi FeralJasmine, much obliged!

      Despite my irreverence, I do understand the need to make yourself heard (with excessive wackiness, if need be) when you’re a wee niche fledgling, jostling for attention and the consumer coin. Take Secretions Magnifiques, for example. Like it or loathe it, it got ELd’O noticed, and I for one respect them for that. I salute you on behalf of the people, oh frag company from a far-off bourgeois land entirely irrelevant to my own!

  8. Mary P. says:

    Hi there – great review! The Elephant doesn’t really work for me except for the late dry down which is as you said – a soft purr of vanilla and amber. I love that part the best, but the rest, uhhhh, not so much. It was so dry, and there was something that kept reminding me of spicy putty or caulking that put me off, and now that you mention those dried Chinese plums – yes, that’s pretty close to what I got and it didn’t really grab me (in a good way ;)).

  9. RuthF says:

    Brilliant review!

  10. SarahM says:

    Great review! The first time I sniffed this was on a blotter and I felt like I’d been slapped in the nostrils. The second time I soldiered through the initial assault, then found myself sniffing my arm all day – I was confused but definitely intrigued. The third time I surrendered the fight and bought the bottle. Strangely, I now find it’s one of my comfort scents.

  11. Chairman Meow says:

    Hi Sarah! like the image of being slapped in the nostrils by some tiny unseen hand (“HAI-YA! Pssht-pssht-pssht!”). I think I’m presently at stage intrigued confusion at the moment, but I can feel it growing on me.

  12. Natalie says:

    Great review! As always, it’s nice to see a new face, and I appreciate that you pulled no punches on Jungle L’Elephant. (Thanks for the link, too!)

  13. Whiffymoggie says:

    I’m with the would-be English teacher on this one: the quality of your writing made this
    long-time fragrance blog reader de-lurk! You had me at “Cinnamon…the spice equivalent
    of Bruce Willis”! Yippee-ki-yay!

    Your conspiratorially playful tone and gift for description make me want to seek this fragrance out.
    Especially loved the reference to wah mui (known in these parts as li hing mui). Can’t wait until
    your next review. Bravo!!

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