Perfume Review: Liz Zorn Centennial (formerly named Historical Chypre)

I blame Musette. And ScentScelf.

These two ladies are some of my Favorite Bloggers Ever, and I love to read what they write.  Sometimes they move me, and sometimes they totally crack me up. We don’t always love the same things, although I share a love of Big White Florals with Musette and an appreciation of Greenies with ScentScelf, and I do know their real-life names. Word is that they live not that far from Chicago (as compared to the rest of the country), and both are devotees of  Liz Zorn Perfumes.

I cast a self-righteous pointer finger of condemnation in each woman’s general direction.

Because the other week, on one of the Facebook perfumista group pages, ScentScelf was nattering on about this wonderful Historical Chypre thing (which I always seem to read as Hysterical Chypre, probably because I am Not Having a Good Week, probably because I am approaching at least Pre-Menopausal Insanity, thus the Hysterical womb reference, which is probably ironic given that my teenage daughter is suddenly out there in the dating world, which hardly seems possible given that I frequently think of her as being nineteen-and-a-half inches long with nothin’ but peach-colored peach fuzz on her beautiful hazelnut-shaped head) .

Anyway, I noticed the chypre reference because that’s what I’ve been craving lately. I checked the LZ website, thinking about a sample, and then found that I couldn’t sample this one except as part of a set of six, and I’d already tried one of the set and didn’t like it (Oolong Ti), and three of the others sounded very Not Me by the notes, and that was bad odds so I forgot about it.

And thennn, Musette referred to Centennial in her recent post about craving chypres lately (where have I heard that before?), and she followed up that glowing reference with the shocking news that Centennial and several others in its line at Liz Zorn/Soivohle were ON SALE.

So I bought a bottle.

Soivohle Oudh Lacquer (couldn't find a pic of the Retro Collection, and my camera's being temperamental today)

At discounted niche/indie prices, it was still $18 for an 11 ml bottle of eau de parfum, which is not ridiculous, but still iffy for an unsniffed thing that I could wind up hating. And this package shows up the other day, and it has a little box in it that’s filled with a bottle wrapped in this exquisitely textured blue paper, a real joy to open.

So I opened it and spritzed.

Smells like Cachet,” I said to myself. I wore Prince Matchabelli Cachet, from the drugstore, when I was a teenager. Didn’t love it the way I did Chloe, but it was nice, and I decided that I’d give Centennial a real chance.

Liz Zorn’s website says this about Centennial: Otherwise known as our Historical Chypre, is a throw back to early 20th century Floral Chypres, with notes of Rose, Jasmine and Orange Blossom, wrapped in classic chypre veil. Now, you know me: I adore me some florals. I live in them. I never feel that they overwhelm me or out-girly me. I do not love those Fierce Green Chypres, Bandit and Scherrer and the like. They skeer me a little. They’re too mean. Miss Dior kept trying to shiv me when I first opened her vial, and I had to wrassle her to get her to behave.

But you throw me a floral with a chypre backbone, and I am happy. The intelligence and aquiline features of a chypre in the pretty silk-satin dress of good natural florals seems just about perfect to me, and Centennial does not disappoint.

Centennial opens up with a smack of bergamot and a little waft of what I would swear were aldehydes, as well as a hint of the inky-green, juicy moss-and-labdanum stuff you get in real chypres. It’s pretty bloomy at this stage, but two spritzes keeps it within my self-imposed three-foot radiating limit. It’s only after about half an hour that I really notice the florals, and they are so well-blended that I can’t even tease them out from the big bouquet individually. I think that I smell something else in there, too, a note that smells quite dirty to me. It’s not civet, or at least I don’t think it is – it could be narcissus, perhaps, with the barnyard connotion it sometimes has, something overripe. There’s a sweetness to the floral mix that I attribute to the orange blossom and maybe just a sweet-banana bit of ylang-ylang, and it balances out that inky pine green of the chypre base, and it is really lovely. There is also, at the end of this stage, a suedey peachy thing over the inky pine that reminds me just a bit of Mitsouko (which I do not love, remember?) but softer, closer to the skin.

After about three and a half or four hours, Centennial is down to a skin scent, a delightfully soft bathed-and-talcumed smell that reminds me of the far drydown of 1980s Coty Chypre or of Miss Dior parfum, the vintage stuff, with its wonderful contrast of skin warmth and cool powder. It is huffable, preferably with nose about a centimeter from skin, and really almost sexy, I’d say, in a cozy yet intellectual sort of way.

Centennial does not last much past the four-hour mark. It is a little less long-lived than I’d like, especially for an EdP, but I know that mostly-natural perfumes tend to last a shorter period of time on my skin, and the drydown is so pretty that I forgive it for being short.

I went to pick up Gaze from school about an hour after spritzing Centennial; he’d had after-school band practice. He got into the car and commented, “Hey, you smell really good. I like it.” I asked him if it reminded him of anything, and he thought for a moment before responding, “It makes me think of an old church just letting out after the service. In the summer. Like… old ladies’ perfume, but like outside too, sort of fresh.” Oakmoss must remind him of church in some way; I remember that his comments on Roja Dove Diaghilev, another chypre, mentioned “old churches” as well (but were less complimentary!).

I am rather sad to report that Centennial has sold out. I have been addicted to it for the past three days, only abandoning its dregs for a hit of DSH Chypre, or the modern floral chypre Mary Greenwell Plum, or my sample of Liz Zorn’s based-on-Centennial fragrance called Love Speaks Primeval, the one with Africa stone in it.

My outstretched pointer fingers have become a potential embrace, just waiting for the time when I might meet either Musette or ScentScelf face to face. I want to thank them – for the laughs, the thoughtful connections made, the word “palimpsest,” the cow emoticons, the whole bit.

And for Centennial. You gals got it right. Thanks. Really.

Photo of Soivohle Oudh Lacquer from Nathan Branch.


10 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Liz Zorn Centennial (formerly named Historical Chypre)”

  1. Ooh, Liz Zorn sale. That Quan Yin sounds really nice (rose, geranium, carnation, moss, woods, musk). Do you know if that retro collection is all natural or mixed media?

    1. Quan Yin was the only other one of the Retro Collection that appealed to me, too. Unfortunately I do not know if it’s all natural, though it’s my guess that at least Centennial is. (Was, I guess.)

  2. Liz Zorn sale. Hmm. Must check that out.

    Isn’t it great to be able to connect with people who also love perfume, even when you’ve never met them? I know this is such a simplistic thing to marvel about, but it still amazes me sometimes. Interwebs, you are amazing.

  3. You are welcome, sweetie. And I am so put to the blush, here. You are such a wonderful writer (your evocative post on your day in the fields, culling cows, still haunts me) -for you to say such nice things about my paltry scribbbbblins……well…thanks!

    Liz is going to bring Centennial back (she said). It might be in another form – I dunno. But it’ll be back. It’d better, lest she get the whole ‘villagers with the flaming cudgels’ experience!


    1. Kudos given where kudos are due, m’lady. No more, no less! (And thanks for your kind words.)

      More Centennial? OH GOOD. I think I could live in it, it’s that comfortable.

      Oh! And I have been using “flaming cudgels” as an epithet. It works pretty well. Explodes out of the mouth appropriately.

  4. Bwa ha. Bwa ha ha ha. Ha HA HA ha ha ha!

    Erm, I mean…whatchoo talkin’ about? 😉

    I loved your accounting of Centennial. I allowed myself to hang out either in non-analytic having fun land, or figuring out if I was crazy in thinking I was starting to identify an accord that ran through Centennial and Love Speaks Primeval and probably Bottleneck Blues and were there others?, that I didn’t do a proper sussing of Centennial.

    I think you got it. And I think Gaze did, too; what a perfect picture of an updated “old lady chypre,” right? An outdoor freshened church lady. Nice.

    I’m reaching back, btw. You were on my list, when in a fantabulous conversation with Bonkers (now out as Vanessa), I replied to the question “Who would you like to meet in bloggery?” The rumors just might be true, btw. I just might be in the vicinity of the city that shoved the blame onto Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Something I bring up because that’s generally as close as I get to cows, unless I’m visiting my parents in a state that looks like a mitten, where their back property line is shared with a dairy farm.

    Someday. My cow town, or yours. 🙂

    1. Talkin’ ’boutCHOO, of course. 🙂

      I really enjoyed doing that zoom in/zoom out thing on Centennial, looking at forests and at trees. And I love wearing it, outdoor-freshened church lady or not… (The church we used to attend was where The CEO grew up. The building is now about 125 years old, though the congregation was formed in 1769, and there is a certain dust-and-must factor there. Not to mention church ladies.)

      Cowtown party would be great, wouldn’t it?

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