Friday, November 26, 2010

Shiseido Murasaki: the Poetry of Perfume

image: Murasaki from

Murasaki was released by Shiseido in 1980. It has top notes of gardenia, galbanum, peach, hyacinth and bergamot; middle notes of lily, orris root, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and rose; and base notes of leather, sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss and vetiver. Or is it a tender green floral with notes of roses, chrysanthemums and lilies on a soft, dry powdery base enhanced by galbanum? I think both descriptions fit it fairly. Named perhaps for Murasaki Shikibu, the 11th-century Japanese female poet who became most famous for her novel- the huge 6 volume- 'The Tale of Genji'.

image: scentdirect
Murasaki also means the color purple, as in wisteria or violet blossoms and the color purple is featured in all of the perfume's presentations. The older style bottle is of dark colored glass- it appears reddish but the glass color is actually a dark amethyst purple. I think the newer bottle style pictured below with a purple & clear crystal stopper is prettiest, however the juice in the older dark purple style (which is the version I'm reviewing) is best smelling

Like a Japanese haiku this scent has a beautiful construction. It is gentle yet with real presence. The fragrance resembles Anais-Anais but Anais-Anais smells overly sweet, plasticy and crude next to Murasaki; the lily of the valley note is especially clunky by comparison. Murasaki is deceptively complex as well; it displays only a fleeting sweetness, balanced by lasting greeness, along with a bit of spice held nicely in check by dry vetiver and musk, and it is all hidden under an impeccable floral. Murasaki lingers on the skin leaving an impression of the lightest dusting of a fine French chypre powder.

Murasaki was designed for the Asian audience, who are known for preferring a lighter style in perfumes... The richness of the ingredients have been perfected by the lightness of the formula. The green aspect of galbanum is set off a profusion of jasmine, gardenia, rose, lily and hyacinth; the creaminess of sandalwood and musk is balanced by chypre touches of oakmoss and leather. All these sumptuous ingredients are rooted by the incense-like quality of orris root and vetiver. Complex yet transparent, each note is essential but none is allowed to dominate another. Murasaki even inspired me to compose a haiku for it:

"The violet blooms
 while trees sleep under silent skies...
Purple shines through" 

"月百姿 石山月" Lady Murasaki at Ishiyama'
Tsuki Hyakushi
by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

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