Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Issey Miyake A Scent: fragrance review

After the definitive 90s bestseller L'Eau d'Issey and the definitive 90s commercial "tank" Le Feu d'Issey (affectionately termed "Phew d'Issey" by its detractors, but rhapsodised by fragrance critic Luca Turin for its undoubted olfactory innovation), Miyake who has been held on public record saying he doesn't like perfume and never wears it, launches his third "elemental"-inspired scent. A Scent, inspired by air, no less! Much like this would seem like a joke, I assure you it is not.
The fragrance is very, very pleasant if not groundbreaking and I would like to think that the inane name is merely a break-down of Ascent, denoting ascendant, a rising and optimistic sign that points to the skies above. After all, air can be charged with its own aroma, especially before and after a springtime thunderstorm! A Scent by Miyake does reprise an airy electricity-charged green smell that recalls spring mornings of crushed greenery underfoot, still holding dew on it, and it's a mystery why it was launched for the autumn-winter season. I suppose they figure it will pick up sales-wise come February, when people are sick and tired of the drab days of sleet and mud-trampled snow and will want the promise of sharp cool air in the tall grass, the touch of a dryad...

Created in collaboration with perfumer Daphné Bugey of Firmenich (who I am reminding you is responsible for those reportedly amazing Coty classics reconstructions and the mean vanilla of Kenzo Amour), designed by Arik Levy and produced by Beauté Prestige International, the Paris-based fragrance division of the Shiseido Cosmetics Corporation, A Scent had all the prerequisites to become a new "classic". Will it? Only time will tell, but it doesn't seem as original as it should for it to become so. Then again, technically neither was L'Eau d'Issey: In the aqueous ozonic stakes, drenched by gallons of Calone (the melon-fresh aroma-ingredient that characterised the decade), New West by Aramis beat it by three years coming out in as early as 1989.

Is Miyake's A Scent “a scent as simple and beautiful as the air we breathe” as purported in the ad copy? I would venture that for the average urban dweller this would be an ironic line, but let's not digress. The green notes of galbanum (nothing too bitter in this interpretation) and hyacinth, reminiscent of the re-issued Vent Vert, Guerlain's Chamade opening and Chanel No.19's verdant patches ~before the iris takes over in plush~ fold the floral heart while a lemon note echoes throughout. The core is garlanded by vivacious hints of citrusy-green notes (verbena apparently) and a carnal-devoid diaphanous jasmine. The remaining tonality is a white-musk-infused base that whimpers off skin infrequently with slightly soapy reminiscences like just showered bodies. Comparisons with Estée Lauder's Private Collection Jasmine White Moss are pretty obvious, as the same citric and green spike emerge on contact and the common lineage is none other than Chanel's Cristalle, especially in the more hesperidic-toned Eau de Toilette. Arguably however the predecessor is much more daring and stealthy, while the limited-distribution parable by Lauder is more polished and lasting (especially in the wonderful extrait de parfum), leaving A Scent in some kind of limbo state despite its surpreme wearability by both sexes.

Green chypres are becoming popular again (just contemplate Cristalle Eau Verte, a twist on the refreshing classic) and they have taken on a new mantle it seems, one of intense subtlety (there's your oxymoron!) and seeming attenuation, one of less conviction if you please. More an environmentalist-streak running through the market, rather than a "let's get back to nature" 60s song, they seem catered for the urbanite who is commuting to work with i-Pod at hand. But in a world that is almost faced with complete extinction of that venerable fragrance family I can live with that rather than hundreds of fruity-florals and fruitchoulis, I guess.

The bottle looks like a slice cut out of a block of transparent slob (jn fact it is) which is perfectly cool in its own tongue-in-cheek way (there's luxury products for you!) and fitting with the scent image.

Notes for Issey Miyake A Scent: galbanum, hyacinth, verbena, jasmine, "crystal moss" (A Firmenich patent on a mossy substitute for oakmoss)

A Scent by Miyake is available in department stores in a 5 oz Eau de Toilette ($115.00 USD), a 3.3 oz Eau de Toilette ($89.00 USD), a 1.6 oz Eau de Toilette ($65.00 USD), a 6.7 oz Moisturizing Body Lotion ($48.00 USD) and a 6.7 oz Moisturizing Shower Gel ($42.00 USD).

Tree in the form of a woman via heandfi.org, bottle pic via popsop.ru


  1. Typical Issey. I smell nothing.

  2. L,

    LOL! It is a subtle fragrance, true. Then again you might also be anosmic to the musks in the base, which would explain this further. It seems to fade quickly too!

  3. There's something about Issey and Kenzo, I hardly smell most of their fragrances. On skin, on paper, just in general, either they are too subtle (but I don't have problems with many others) or they use the same musk:)

  4. Well, three quarters of the industry uses Galaxolide and Adoxal in their bottom notes so I wouldn't be surprised if they do use the same musks in most of their fragrances. (Do you have the same problem with other scents featuring musks in the notes? They could be quite potent in the other notes but you just might not be smelling the musky ones ~both of those ingredients mentioned are "clean" ones btw)

    On the other hand it could be a matter of aesthetics: the Japanese aren't famous for their strong perfumes, so...Although I personally find Kenzo to be the least Japanese out of the Japanese, but his perfumes are generally light, true. Then again there's always Kenzo by Kenzo ~now known as Ca sent bon.
    Or possibly Kenzo Amour
    Let's not mention Jungle just yet... *snicker* (I'm sure you've tried that one, possibly one of the others too, but do let me know)

  5. I think that musks are pretty much in everything so it may be hard to say. I do smell pretty well Le Male, which, I hear, is built mainly around and from musks, and I think I'm fine with that soapy sort of musks (the drydown of Barynia, for example) - if I don't get it wrong and these are not some sort of aldehydes, nitriles or who knows what.
    On the other hand, I sent you a sample of Hanatsubaki - this is a subtle fragrance, it holds to the skin pretty much but I'm okay with that.
    You're right that the Japanese stuff tends to be rather subdued, on the other hand, at least Shiseido has a few powerhouses.

  6. I hadn't thought of ascent rather a scent- oh dear i can be slow! it is very sweet- in character I mean not smell- but lacks that more ish come back to me aspect for me. Still it is much better than many, many recent releases.

    I was fond of Le Feu like Luca Turin, it's a shame it didn't catch on. It was unusual but wearable I though.

  7. L,

    that's definitely true. There are just so MANY musks and people are so often anosmic to a couple that companies usually use 3-4 in every scent so that someone picks at least one or two. Love to see what goodies you assembled, I sent out some things myself, hope you get them soon!

    And yes, Shiseido has some stronger perfumes, but remember it bridges East and West since its beginning (and under Lutens it's a different story altogether)! ;-)

  8. K,

    honestly, this is just my idea on the name, I could be totally imagining things! LOL
    There is a certain sweet-sour thing about it, the top is sharp green, then it's sweetly soapy-musky, then poof, it's gone!

    Re: Le Feu, frankly, like you I found it completely wearable, I don't know what everyone is talking about!! It was a milky composition before lactonic notes were disassociated from florals (like Fleurs de Rocaille etc). I guess it was before its time.

  9. I liked it. And yes, better this than the fruitchouli. I'd rather have Cristalle myself, but it doesn't smell like every other thing on the shelf, and I've been out with two women now who smelled it and promptly bought a bottle. We could do worse in terms of fragrances on the subway ;-P

  10. March,


    I'd rather have Cristalle as well, but it's a breath of fresh air in the subway, agreed (after all the fruitchoulis). Somehow it seems like this is the new trend and tell you what, I couldn't be more relieved. I was sick of smelling all the Angel clones...

    I kinda prefered the more polished extrait de parfum of Jasmine White Moss over this one however, although I have to admit the EDP is louder than the parfum (typical in Lauder scents). Did you prefer the Miyake or the Lauder? (inquiring minds)

    PS. smutmuffin moi?? Pffffttt ;-) LOVE that EDC, simply love it (included it in the quintessentially French perfumes)

  11. Oh and I forgot to say that March, if you liked the Miyake (and Cristalle obviously!) and want a bright, fizzying green floral, then you should try the new Tiare. ;-)

  12. You know, the EL didn't work on me at *all.* I don't know what the issue was, it was great for the first fifteen minutes, and then I seemed to burn right through the interesting bits, leaving me with an adequate floral-musky thing. Maybe it was anosmia and it *was* there but if I can't enjoy it, what's the point? ;-) A Scent (and certainly Cristalle) don't do that.

    That smutty Bal EdC, other folks commented too about it! I'll check your link...


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