The best perfumes are the ones that strike the right balance between art and utility. They are creative and wearable at the same time. With Civet, Zoologist stroke this balance. It's a fragrance that captures the imagination, fills the soul and doesn't make you wonder when you can actually wear it.
This combination of originality and wearability has turned into a trademark for the man behind Zoologist - Victor Wong. To tell you his fragrances are easy to wear would be a lie. They are interesting and often challenging. Yet, their wild nature is restrained by sober realism.
Perfume has to push the boundaries of the art but at the same time it has to be wearable. This is why, in his collection we don't see numbers like Secretions Magnifiques or other olfactory stunts destined for the archives of the Osmotheque. We need more of Bat, Beaver and Civet.
Zoologist's web site describes Civet as follows:
"Zoologist Civet pays homage to the age-old ingredient, civet, as well as chypre perfumes of bygone days – perfumes that refused to be intimidated by raw, alluring, animalistic musks. Civet is a moody and complex brew entwined in mystery. It opens with a spicy floral accord, threaded through with dark coffee tones. Slowly it prowls forward, unraveling base notes of leather, moss and vanilla that combines with distinctive civet musk to create a bewildering, sophisticated scent with the promise of a sultry nighttime rendezvous."
Indeed, Zoologist Civet has the feel of a classic fragrance. It is opulent and bold in the vein of Shalimar, Fetiche, and Vol de Nuit. To me, it smells more like a classic floral-oriental fragrance rather than a chypre.
If you define the latter as a fragrance that combines cool citrus notes with warm resin base, then, Civet is a chypre fragrance. What stops me from putting Civet in this genre, however, is the lack of an oakmoss accord (since the real thing is banned) and animalic undertones.
To my nose, the cool citrus opening gracefully transitions to a warmer gourmand base. The structure and blend of Civet is superb but I don't get any dirt or skunk from it. It is not raw or challenging even though the coffee note adds some grit and crunch. This is why, to me, the fragrance falls into the flora-oriental/gourmand family rather than the chypre one.
Regardless of how you classify it, the important thing is that Civet smells good. If you enjoy floral-orientals, this is a must-try.
Dig Deeper: What Does It Smell Like?
Civet captures you from the very beginning. Citrus and gourmand-floral accord dominate the first minutes of the fragrance. Bergamot, orange and lemon give lightness to a delicious combo of frangipani, hyacinth and helioptrope. This intro feels like a trailer to a movie. These first minutes are a tempered, freshened-up version of what is to come.
As the citrus slowly dissipates over the next 20 minutes, florals and spices come to the front. Despite the evident presence of the florals, Civet is not a typical floral scent. There is a certain gravity to it. Smoke, resins and coffee chime in to anchor the fragrance. The intensity of these accords is present in the heart but they are not yet dominating. At this point, you can easily say the composition is 60% florals and 40% resinous/gourmand notes.
Slowly, the floral domination recedes and Civet turns darker. Labdanum, musk and a coffee accord push their way through. The composition turns more gourmand. The most detectable accord at this stage is the coffee. Its bitterness nicely balances the sweetness of the smoky resins.
Despite the complexity of its composition, Civet never feels too heavy. It is not a brooding fragrance or one that takes itself too seriously. Similar to Macaque (also by Zoologist), it's a cheerful scent. Not in the way of happy-go-lucky but more like someone who is content with her life and appreciates its beauty.
On my skin, Civet dries down to a sweet coffee-resin-vanilla base. Once the dry-down settles (approximately three hours after application), I don't get much development in the composition. It slowly quiets down to a delicious skin scent.
Civet is not what I expected it to be. I knew it was not going to contain a real civet secretion but I thought it would have a certain dirty raunchiness or animalic undertones.
I suppose Victor Wong wanted to interpret the civet note in a non-literal way. His fragrance is a wink at the yester perfumes from the early 1900s. They featured a real civet accord, smelled grandiose and graced the necks and cleavages of the haute societe ladies of the time. It suggests their grand opulence but presents it in a more wearable and modern format.
Even though Civet is not what I expected it to be, I find it a very well composed fragrance.
Civet lasted over 14 hours on me and the projection was remarkable.
How to Wear Zoologist Civet
Civet is a pleasure to wear. It has an easygoing vibe of a scent that doesn't take itself too seriously. It never turns too heavy or cloying, which makes it perfect for almost any weather and occasion.
The gourmand facet of Civet makes it best suited for a colder weather. Winter would be the season when it would shine. Spring and fall would also be good seasons for it. I am curious to try it in the summer. The citrus-floral opening may work just as well as in the winter but the gourmand drydown may prove more challenging.
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I see Civet as a casual scent. Its strong projection calls for a moderate application (the perfume concentration is at 25%). If dosed correctly, however, the perfume will be appropriate for most occasions.
Just like many niche fragrances, this one also requires a certain maturity from its wearer. If you are in your teens, Civet may not be the right choice for you.
The Experts Say...
Aaron Potterman, Contributor and Vintage Perfume Expert for CaFleurBon.
"What we are left with is an absolute stunner of a fragrance. Without a doubt there is a vintage air to the composition, but done so with a keen eye on doing something contemporary and somewhat different than the traditional civet scents of the past. Marrying the different historical uses of the animal into one makes for a very interesting take and shows huge respect to the wonderful animal that begat it all."
Star Rating: None Given
Read Aaron's full review here.
Ida Meister, A Fragrance Collector and Sniffeuse
"We smell the warmth of dark coffee melded with photorealistic synthetic civet and dusky oakmoss, a rich lusty leather accord underpinning the panoply of sumptuous materials."
"Civet is an enigmatic perfume possessing all the stature of a fine chypre minus any fussiness/fustiness which some have come to associate with them. It triumphantly bridges classic and contemporary with aplomb, finesse, and a full measure of fascination."
Star Rating: None Given
Read Ida's full review here.
The Bottom Line
Civet is a very well composed floral-oriental fragrance that is interesting and very wearable. If you are looking for a dirty, animalic rendition of civet, this is not the one. If you love gourmand, coffee-infused florals, however, you'll be very pleased with Victor Wong and Shelley Waddington's creation.
Would you buy Civet by Zoologist?
I think Civet is definitely worth a purchase. It is not the type of fragrance that will sit in the back of your closet because it is too weird to wear anywhere.
Would I get compliments wearing Civet?
Whether you'll get compliments from Civet is tricky and it has nothing to do with the fragrance. Civet smells good but it is not a crowd pleaser in the stereotypical way. People who appreciate perfume will like it and may compliment you. The aromaphobics will find it too strong but then there is nothing that crowd.
How many stars would you give Civet?
It's a solid 4-star fragrance that is a pleasure to wear.
Bergamot, Black Pepper, Lemon, Orange, Spices, Tarragon
Carnation, Frangipani, Heliotrope, Hyacinth, Linden, Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang
Balsam, Coffee, Incense, Labdanum, Musk, Oakmoss, Leather, Vanilla, Vetiver
Bottle Size: 60ml
Concentration: Eau de Parfum (25% concentration)
*Price is subject to change.