There's a large Japanese market and shopping center here in North Jersey with an incredible food court. Some of the counters there specialize in Japanese sweets. Despite the stunning presentation, these little treasures can be an acquired taste. I love most of this stuff: weird doughy or gelatined textures, ingredients such as mochi and red bean paste, and flavors that sometimes border on the savory yet are most definitely dessert. Sushi Imperiale from Bois 1920 reminds me of these mysterious little dumplings.
When Bois 1920 first appeared on the American niche market somewhere around 2006 it caused a bit of a stir. The name Sushi Imperiale was enough to create some excitement. The first connotation, raw fish, is not exactly the stuff perfume dreams are made of. But spicy orientals tend to gain fans and followers rather quickly, and I'm pretty sure that the mention Sushi Imperiale got by March of the Posse in her excellent Vanilla & Smoke article pushed even more people in that direction. Still, there were others who were already bored with this particular genre, and the fact that Bois 1920 in general (and Sushi Imperiale is a good example of that) makes nice, accessible fragrances that are not challenging or groundbreaking in any way, yet get that "niche" hype (and price tag).
I get both sides. Sushi Imperiale opens with a zesty and peppery bergamot note that we've smelled countless of times before. It creates a somewhat masculine impression at first and shares some DNA with a bunch of other Bois 1920 perfumes. The only other bottle I have from this line is the sweet fougere 1920 Extreme and I can see the connection (something about the vanilla and tonka bean of the base, but also the spice and aromatics that precede them). In any case, the similarities do point out towards the masculine aromatic-oriental direction. But it's the way Sushi Imperiale develops on skin and dries down into a fully grown and very rich oriental, with a hint of smoke, tons of spice (nutmeg, anise, cinnamon, cinnamon, and more cinnamon), and a pretty basic sandalwood that adds a dollop of cream and helps it all go done easily.
Easily. That's a key term with Sushi Imperiale. The smoothness and warmth that envelope the wearer are one part of it. But there's no denying that despite the exotic spices, the savory starchy hint (that's the part that reminds me of Japanese dessert dumplings) and whiffs of smoke there's also a very familiar and comforting aspect to this scent. Not just because vanillic gourmands are the definition of comfort scents, but also due to the fact that it's reminiscent of many other perfumes in this category (sans red bean paste) . None of this changes the fact that Sushi Imperiale is a terrific and very satisfying fragrance. Very satisfying, actually, since it's quite a powerhouse that stays with you for 18 hours and longer. It can be a getaway to niche for someone who's worn stuff like Givenchy Pi, Opium (women's or men's) or various Lolita Lempicka perfumes.
For another take on Sushi Imperiale read Victoria's review on EauMG.
Notes: citrus, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, Madagascan vanilla
Bois 1920- Sushi Imperiale ($205, 100 ml EDT) is available from Luckescent, MiN NY and Barneys.
Image via web-japan.org