Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shiseido- Inoui (Vintage Perfume)

Inoui, a long-gone 1976-born  Shiseido perfume, is a breathtaking green pine chypre. This alone should tell you a lot about what Inoui is like: green, chilly, possessing a certain 1970s crisp elegance (obviously not everyone was wearing bad pants and polyester shirts while disco dancing and smelling of drugstore musk). Inoui predates the reign of Serge Lutens over Shiseido, so don't expect the signature style of Uncle Serge.

Instead, Inoui is cool and almost aloof (but not quite). It opens up green and coniferous. There's a chill in the air, like an early morning or twilight hour by a lake surrounded by evergreens- Japanese pines, maybe. The outdoorsy feel becomes less apparent as the darker and more bitter green note of galbanum appears on the scene. It might be just my association of galbanum with the likes of Chanel No. 19 and its more urban connotations, but I do feel a change in the landscape as Inoui develops on skin.

The aloofness I mentioned above is reversed in the heart notes. I couldn't put my finger (or nose) on the cause of the sudden soft luminosity until I found the actual notes: it's peach! Not a fruity juicy peach, but more as an impression. A watercolor drawing of peaches in a porcelain bowl by a window open to the green yard outside. Still, throughout the journey Inoui remains strongly  smelling of evergreen. The pine needles and the resinous tree bark are very dominant, and the dry-down is woody and mossy. It takes a  meditative quality, not so much of the actual forest but more of a Japanese tokonoma where a single tree branch is on display.

Shiseido discontinued Inoui many years ago, even before the restriction on the use of oakmoss in perfume.  It's become painfully hard to find and even more painful to pay for. If you come across it give Inoui a good sniff and sigh in regret.

Notes: Galbanum, Green Notes, Cypress fruits, Lemon, Peach, Jasmine, Freesia, Thyme, Pine Needles, Cedarwood, Myrrh, Civet, Oakmoss.

See also these reviews on Perfume Shrine and Yesterday's Perfume.

Art: Princesses Presenting Young Pines by Totoya Hokkei, 19th century.


  1. I really loved this fragrance and also they had another fragrance in a purple bottle that I cannot remember the name of and loved. I used to sell Shiseido in the 80's when Serge Lutens was the creative director - it's changed alot since then.

  2. "not everyone was wearing bad pants and polyester shirts while disco dancing and smelling of drugstore musk"-Ha! that sentence describes the times perfectly. I had to laugh.

    I liked Inoui well enough, but much preferred Zen over all of Shiseido's perfumes. It is still nice; I noticed some just the other day.

  3. Sarita-the perfume in the purple bottle is one of my all-time loves, Shiseido's Murasaki, an ethereal iris with a delicate leather/incense drydown. The new(er) clear glass bottles with the purple top are redesigned and not as beautiful to my nose.
    I was a fragrance SA back in the day and still have a bottle of the original juice. It's astoundingly beautiful. Things certainly were different back in the day; having looked back over the years, and seeing the changes to the products/ads, Serge was a genius (imho).

  4. Hi Gaia,
    You're reviewing one scent I'd love to try someday, the top notes of cypress, peach, and freesia with a drydown of myrrh, pine, oakmoss just hits all the right bases in my book. I will have to probably sell off a body part (or two) to acquire this one.

  5. I would like to try this scent. I love fragrances and I do collect some of them. If ever I would love the scent of this then this will be included in my collection. By the way, how much does it cost?

  6. Brilliant review. I recently acquired a tiny, tiny bottle of Inoui. The cedar is still there, as is the pine. I get Japanese woody incense in the form of a classy 1970s perfume. I'm saving it for a cold, crisp day in San Francisco.

  7. I loved Inoui dearly in the day, and was finally able to procure a bottle of extrait last year. The extrait is, naturally, more dense and really needs to be sprayed rather than dabbed. Testing L'Heure Mysterieuse by Cartier the other day, I was suddenly struck by the similarities between the two in feel (and even in notes), though Cartier lacks the very green and powdery-fresh/minty top of Inoui, which was much part of its magic. Still, by now I prefer Cartier's XII over the extrait - it seems almost blasphemy to admit it.


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