Beware of the celebrity endorsement; it might get you in trouble hunting for rare, long lost treasures to the detriment of your wallet: The first time I became seriously intriguied by Inouï was upon reading an interview of Greek singer Anna Vissi, more than a dozen years ago, declaring her longing for a bottle of this discontinued Shiseido scent: "If anyone still got a bottle, I'm paying double for it". Makes a girl move earth and sky to find some, doesn't it! Inoui, or rather Inouï with the requisite umlaut, launched by Shiseido in 1976 and quickly vanished from the market in the late 1980s, its quirky name meaning unprecedented in the sense of stunningly gorgeous.
There is nothing really warm or conventionally seductive about Inouï , the bitter galbanum resin and chilled alοof florals giving a Brechtian detachment, a sort of stoic Britannic phlegm even on the face of the gravest tragedy; or maybe -more plausibly- it's just the Japanese aesthetic of keeping one's cool and always appearing composed. At the time Shiseido was not yet in collaboration with Serge Lutens, the maestro who would bring Gallic passion to the Eastern refinement with Nombre Noir and all the rest of their collaborative opus, and suppposedly the company was meaning to break up with their oriental tradition at the same time, hence the name of the fragrance one would assume:
'An international product developed by the joint efforts of Shiseido staff in Japan, the U.S. and Italy, Inoui was introduced in 1976. Under the sales theme of the “New Working Woman,” the image was of a new woman with a cosmopolitan mind. She lived a beautiful lifestyle of jazz dance, yoga, jogging and other new activities of the time, while easily handling her work as well. “It's not her beauty. It's her lifestyle.” clearly expresses the concept behind the product.'Thus ran the official blurb on the fragrance on the US site.Somehow it doesn't sound very fetching to me. I can think of better things. But times have changed; back then "modern" woman apparently dreamed about the "beautiful lifestyle of jazz dance, yoga, jogging and other new activities, while easily handling her work as well".
Yet history disproves this assertion of breaking with tradition: Saso and Myth of Saso, other Shiseido rarities, are unusual and unpliable with no "lifestyle" concept behind them, yet roughly contemporaries. But for every Saso there's a Koto; easy, breezy, refreshingly cool for active lives, so Shiseido is obviously consciously catering to a multitude of women and respective markets. Later on, the Japanese company launched a make-up line by the same name (and the follow-up, Inoui ID) which was put into stunning visuals by Lutens himself, the choreographing of the models an exercise in cobra mesmerising human eyes.
Inouï is a fragrance which, underneath the crashed stems and sap, lives and breathes in human form and yes, warms up somewhat with an exquisite jasmine heart, halfway between birth and rot, flanked by the pungent accent of herbal thyme, like a seasoned woman who knows what she wants and what she's capable of. This is why it feels at a crossroads between floral chypre and green floral; but Inoui is friendlier than angular No.19 by Chanel, soapier and sweeter than Alliage by Lauder and less BCBG than Hermès Calèche. It's so pretty, deep and undemanding that it poses a mystery on why it got axed so soon! Then again, might we recall the dire straits of Paco Rabanne's Calandre; who knew such an easy, loveable fragrance would become hard to get!
The opening accord in Shiseido Inouï is sap-like, crushed greens with a hint of soapy aldehydes and at the same time reminiscent of the lemon-peach top chord of classic Diorella: fresh, but registered an octave below, mossier. Soon the warmth of ripe jasmine anchors the peachy lactonic notes and gives oomph, fleshing the sketch of the greens and deepening the feminine impression. The impression of green floral sustains itself cuddled by a lightly mysterious base, like that in Y by Yves Saint Laurent, deepening as time passes, mingled perfectly in one unified chord, while its murmur is only audible to those who come close by.
Vintage batches (the only kind, really, since Inoui is long discontinued) crop up sometimes online, for really huge prices somewhat unjustifiably. Those which retain a fresh, green floral and a tad soapy note have kept well. If your catch smells sour, you've been out of luck: the perfume deteriorated through the years. There is an eau de parfum version and an extrait de parfum in sparse, architectural bottles, both worthy additions to a distinguished perfume collection.
Notes for Shiseido Inoui :
Top: Galbanum, Peach, Juniper, Lemon, Green Accord
Heart: Pine Needles, Freesia, Thyme, Jasmin
Base: Cedarwood, Myrrh, Musk, Civet, Oakmoss
Since it's such a rarity, one sample out of my own personal stash goes out to one lucky reader. Please comment on what appeals to this genre to qualify.