Shiseido perfumes was founded in 1872. Once the top pharmacist in the Japanese Imperial Navy, Arinobu Fukuhara turned away from historic Japanese medicine and practiced western medicine. Originally Shiseido did medicine, and then they moved into supplements, cosmetics and finally perfume. After Arinobu traveled to the United States, he was so enamored by our drugstores, Shiseido added a soda fountain to their stores, and then ice cream, which was the first time ice cream landed on Japanese soil.
Shiseido perfumes didn’t find their way out of Japan until the 1960s, and they hired Serge Lutens as their artistic director in 1980, and he wound up just taking over the whole perfume thing for them.
Much of the Shiseido perfume line isn’t available in the United States. We’ve gotten our hands on some of the rare treasures from Shiseido, but they are impossible to find, some are discontinued. Innoui, Hanatsubaki, White Rose. These have wound up becoming cult classics – partly because of how darn scarce they are, but also because they are beautiful.
The Pink Unicorn of the Shiseido perfume line is Nombre Noir. Long discontinued, expensive to make, packaging that cost too much, perfume that was rather delicate, it was a financial nightmare for Shiseido, and they axed it not long after they launched it. Rumor has it they ordered all the bottles shipped to one location and bulldozed. I think they missed some as there are still a few running around out there, but each year there are fewer and fewer. Their Orange Unicorn is Innoui – the gorgeous cross between a floral chypre and green floral, now discontinued and scarcer than hen’s teeth. Notes of galbanum, peach, juniper, lemon, green accord, pine, freesia, thyme, jasmine, cedar myrrh, musk, civet, oakmoss. Innoui is icy green on the open and seriously warm and womanly as she gets heated up.
Shiseido has others. Myth of Saso. You can find Saso still, the olive blossom that is just lovely, but Myth of Saso took it one step further. It was exquisite. If I’d known it was that rare, I would have bought every bottle I could have found, back when you could still find it.
Shiseido perfumes are varied between light and refreshing to the super-rare and exquisite.