Parfum Satori Revisited: Perfume House

My picture with Ms Satori Osawa, the perfumer and creator of Parfum Satori. Her scent organ is in the background.

My picture with Ms Satori Osawa, the perfumer and creator of Parfum Satori. Her scent organ is in the background.

You may recall that I visited Parfum Satori in July last year (2015) and missed the perfumer Satori Osawa as she was away in France. Lucky me, for I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo again in the dead of winter (perfect for perfume, terrible for skin health). I e-mailed the perfumer (writing in Japanese) two weeks before I was going to be in Tokyo, and she was kind enough to entertain me for two hours despite her busy schedule. The atelier was an unassuming room on the eleventh floor of a regular building in Tokyo, near Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku. Stepping into the room was an overwhleming olfactory experience in itself. The walls and carpets had soaked up the deeply nostalgic and calming oakmoss heavy scent of old-school perfume. The cabinets were filled with perfume legends like many Guerlain classics. The scent organ was right there in front of me. I was in the right place.

Parfum Satori uses over 1000 raw materials, some of them extremely rare and expensive to source, like orris butter.

Over 1000 Raw Materials

Parfum Satori uses over 1000 raw materials, some of them very rare (such as natural civet, kyara – which is the highest grade of agarwood – this has a spicy woody scent profile that is distinctively different from oud of the middle east, which leads me to believe that they might as well be treated as different raw materials). Osawa also explained her fondness for using orris absolute – 100% natural – in her fragrances, as they lend depth and complexity to her perfumes. She was even gracious enough to let me smell orris diluted to 10%, which had an intense woody, powdery, dry, and earthy scent profile not unlike cardboard. I also had the pleasure of smelling jasmine sambac, which was an intensely green and sharp white floral with honey-like aspects, and jasmine – and I finally understood what “indolic jasmine” meant – it has a distinct animalic undertone, and as many perfumistas would attest to, it smells “horsey” and even borderline barnyard fecal.

Highlights

The key theme running throughout Parfum Satori’s creations is a Japanese Zen-like aesthetic with a focus on subtlety. None of the fragrances are overpowering or opulent. Many of them suggest sensuality rather than flaunting it overtly. There is a subtle sandalwood base running throughout many of them, and iris seems to be a recurring theme that exalts the true depth of the fragrances…

This time, I was able to revisit many of her fragrances. (Reviews coming soon!)

One of them was Iris Homme – a captivating citrus/iris composition that was certainly intriguing. The citrus gives zest, sweetness, and lift to the otherwise dry and powdery iris. The result is an abstract fragrance, which I have not come across in the world of perfumery as yet.

Satori Osawa is also a practioner of the traditional Japanese art of tea ceremony. I was treated to a very delightful cup of matcha (powdered green tea).

The first time I smelled Sakura, I was very impressed, for it reproduced the sweet, yet sour, and slightly green taste of cherry blossom. Come spring in Japan, when the cherry blossoms bloom, a lot of snacks and desserts made with sakura go on sale, and if you’ve ever had the good fortune of trying one of these desserts for yourself, you’ll realize how photorealistic Parfum Satori’s intepretation of the flower is. If you have come across other interpretations of this flower, please let me know in the comments below.

Another intriguing fragrance was Oribe, which is a tea fragrance. There have been several perfumes centered around tea, beginning with Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea, Bvlgari’s Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (which by the way, smells nothing like tea!). Oribe has a citrus aromatic vibe to it, and is very refreshing. Like all other tea fragrances, it is an abstract scent of tea, but I think this is a much superior execution.

I am a big fan of floral woody orientals, and Yoru no Ume (which means Night Plum), satisfies that craving I have. The fragrance is loaded with rose, balanced with spice, as well as wood and incense, creating a mysterious sensuality that does remind me of an abstract plum. Although marketed to women, I suspect that men who appreciate spicy orientals with a fair amount of rose like Chanel Egoiste or even Dior’s Ambre Nuit would like this as well. The style of this fragrance is very much in line with how a spicy-rose-woody oriental would be made, but with Parfum Satori’s Zen-like twist on it. You have to smell it to know what I mean.

Wasanbon, a traditional Japanese candy. Powdery, dry, and sweet, it is pure sugar. Behind: the fragrance inspired by the candy.

Gourmands are also not left out of Parfum Satori’s extensive range of work. Wasanbon, inspired by a Japanese candy of the same name, gave me a sugar rush. It replicates the dry, powdery, and overly sweet facet of this candy. I can only marvel at the perfumer’s technical skills in achieving such a photo-realistic replication of actual food.

But by far, my favourite of the line is Satori, which is the signature fragrance of the house. Boasting the use of real oakmoss and civet, this fragrance is extremely well balanced and lasts for days on paper. This is what Japanese incense smells like, and in fact I was tempted to buy it right away during my first encounter with the fragrance. I’m glad I chose to hold off the purchase until I got to a chance to meet the perfumer directly. I’ll be planning a full review of Satori once I get down to actually wearing it.

Summary

Parfum Satori offers an entire line of fragrances covering the major genres with a Japanese aesthetic twist. Inspired by Japanese culture, this house offers an overall aesthetic that is a marked departure from the European style of perfumery and the middle eastern style of heavy florals, spice, and oud. All fragrances are sold at eau de parfum (EDP) concentration although Parfum Satori also produces the extrait for the representative fragrance Satori packaged in handmade Arita-yaki chatsubo bottles. Prices start at 12,000 yen. For more information, please visit the official website. If you ever get to visit Tokyo, I highly recommend visiting this treasure trove of perfumery for an original take on the art.