Like Chanel No. 19, there's an uncanniness to its evocation of the forest. But where Chanel No. 19 was muted, vegetal and ethereal, Inoui is hardy and brisk — its aggressive opening of galbanum and lemon (lightly softened and sweetened by peach) is backed up by a forest whose trees, herbs and berries are almost medicinal in their aromatics (pine, juniper, cedar).
You almost forget there are florals in this perfume at all, although the quiet jasmine does act as a bridge to the soft, comforting drydown of myrrh, musk and the subtle-but-present civet, acting, as it always does, to provide a bit of disquiet and moodiness. Inoui is a symphony in the key of Fresh.
Top notes: Galbanum, peach, juniper, lemon, green accord
Heart notes: Pine needles, freesia, thyme, jasmine
Base notes: Cedarwood, myrrh, musk, civet, oakmoss (notes from Basenotes)
Inoui hits all the spots I'm fond of. I've smelled enough perfume to know that if anything has peach and galbanum in it, I'm a goner. (Y,Aliage, Givenchy III). These are two great notes that smell great together; they whet the olfactory appetite the way a Negroni aperitif gets your taste buds excited for a big meal.
Like Balenciaga's Fleeting Moment/La Fuite des Heures (with either thyme and tarragon herb notes), Inoui has moments of expressing what the blogger at Mossy Loomings describes as a "radiant herbal jasmine." These gentle notes float through Inoui's green forest like a soft breeze, though; its primary beauty is austere rather than delicate. Once its piquancy dies down, it still manages, even in the warmth of the base notes, to convey freshness through a kind of powdery, clean skin scent.
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Nothing can terrify and motivate a perfume lover more than the word, "discontinued." The engine of true desire is loss or impossibility, and, being a stubborn romantic, this is partly why I love vintage perfume. Yes, I love the history, I love the artistry, I love sniffing out ingredients that cannot be used now, and I want to understand modern fragrances by becoming acquainted with their antecedents — but I would be lying if I said that getting my hands/nose on something rare isn't a huge part of the thrill. (Inoui is available at the Perfumed Court, and you see it occasionally on eBay.)
I don't even know where I first heard about the discontinued perfume Inoui. Maybe, after hearing so much about Nombre Noir, I wanted to hunt down another rare Shiseido. Maybe I read about someone singing its praises. (Par-Fum's blogger, a perfume maker, is definitely a fan.)
I couldn't find any vintage Inoui ads, but stumbled upon this gorgeous Serge Lutens-styled Japanese commercial for Inoui cosmetics, which I suppose is the incarnation the Inoui name has now. Wow. It's like an Alain Resnais film refracted through the 80s.