A Scent by Issey Miyake is not at all what I had expected it to be. Having read that Mongolia and its vast expanses had been a source of inspiration, I had been eager to try the perfume to see if I would go back in mind to the absolutely and astoundingly beautiful virgin landscapes of Western Mongolia. The Japanese are also fascinated by the area where periodically a NHK television crew goes flying over the country to try to find the ciphers that will lead to the lost tomb of Gengis Khan. Its location is unknown since all living human creatures that saw it were killed to preserve the Secret. I am sure that Dan Brown can smell a story here for his next book about another lost key to humanity's parallel dimensions history (having said that, I enjoyed the nail-biter Angels and Demons as it was supposed to be, bottoms-up and in spite of all logic.).
The president of Issey Miyake Parfums, Nathalie Helloin-Kamel said about the brainstorming around A Scent that,
"There were some very important ideas for him, as well: That there is lots of air and space," she said, noting Miyake wanted people to have the sensation of being on a plain in Mongolia, for instance, where there is nature -- the green ground, blue sky and a very fresh breeze (via WWD, July 24, 2009).
Instead of the lush grass lands of Mongolia, the opening makes me think of a former perfume I used to wear followed by the plausible rendition of a nice upscale hotel smell, a bit like a green Costes meant to waft of the Grand Hotel in Ulan-Bator. I have to confess that A Scent makes me think of an upscale hotel soap at first more than anything else.
Something in it, the floral accord, makes me think repeatedly of the floral perfume Azzaro 9, created in 1984 by Alberto Morillas and Roger Pellegrino, a fact which is even more unsettling since this is the perfume I precisely wore one summer in a region nearby Mongolia. I might have unconsciously picked then a green and fruity summery perfume to go with the atmosphere of the place I was in. And here it is again in A Scent.
The composition was created by perfumer Daphné Bugey.
A Scent we were told and cued into thinking by the packaging is a green perfume. The galbanum instead of attempting to shock you out of your dogmatic torpor in the very beginning of the development comes into the setting of the scent at a leisurely pace and as if on a second thought. And when it does freshen up the scent with its armful of bamboo-shoot like verdancy crossed with a luxury soap, it feels like a quiet, purifying and spa-like accord of galbanum. It is a galbanum treatment which takes its distances with the historical reference of Vent Vert: it arrives fashionably late instead of slapping you in the face at the onset and it evokes peace more than vernal agitation which was rendered by the famous wind-ruffled galbanum of Vent Vert (Green Wind). I think I have already said this before, but kinetic motifs and gestures ought to inspire perfumery just like colors do more commonly.
In A Scent, there is a sense of a very deliberate movement, one of quieting down and focusing on a serene posture and state of mind.
As the scent evolves, it starts becoming less of a smell or set of smells and of taking on the tonalities of a gentle and elegant chypré scent with a note of transparent tobacco - perhaps the hyacinth - resting on a background of enduring, toned-down zesty citruses with hints of lemon grass and pepper.
In terms of the color atmosphere, A Scent is exactly the color of the bottle in which it is contained. It is a monochromatic pale green composition with a semi-transparent, semi-opaque polished sea glass feel.
It is a discreet composition. If I expected it to be a nod to the wilderness of the steppes in Mongolia, the sense of awe one experiences in its limitless grasslands, I have to realize that it is nothing like an excessive Gengiskhanian stylization of green. To paraphrase the name Muscs Koublaï Khan by Serge Lutens, this is no Vert Koublaï Khan. A Scent is airy, limpid, calm. In a way it smells exactly like one would expect a Japanese scent by Issey Miyake borrowing from Western tradition would smell.
The drydown is very pastel and watercolor-like and rests on a classic light chypre base which is similar to the one used in Idylle by Guerlain. It is visibly a base that is offered as replacement for not only the old-school chypres but also the neo-chypres that smell too much of a watered-down patchouli. Here the chypré accord is anchored by a tobacco and woody accord and then a mind-and-body-purifying soapy note. It all resolves itself into a skin-musk accord. The very last stages of the drydown feel cologne-y and betrays a quote from Thierry Mugler cologne, also by Alberto Morillas.
A Scent is minimal and ego-less. It is for people who are looking for a discreet perfume signature and have nothing to prove nor flaunt. It seems to be the anti-thesis of the word "clutter."
Going through some of the press material, I find that Issey Miyake did want A Scent to be "a smell as simple and beautiful that the air that one breathes." The design spirit of Miyake is described as "simple, essential and a luxury for oneself." All of these apply to the perfume.
Notes: hyacinth, galbanum, lemon verbena, two kinds of jasmine, musk, cedar wood, crystal moss...