I debated whether I should review Shiseido White Rose Natural, because it’s expensive and available only in Japan. For some, this may be a tantalizing combination, for others (and we are in the majority), the ultimate frustration. But if you’re a rose lover, a perfume history buff, or like me, have a strong interest in Japanese fragrances, White Rose is hard to resist. Given Japanese perfume tastes, it’s somewhat of a puzzle–a rose that doesn’t smell at all like the fresh watery roses that grace the regional top seller lists. White Rose Natural combines the boldness of American perfumery with the refinement of French, but the end result is that smells remarkably Japanese, even if it doesn’t follow the established trends.
Last year Shiseido celebrated its 140th anniversary. Its story is full of interesting tidbits. Did you know that the company was founded by the ex-head-pharmacist to the Imperial navy, Fukuhara Arinobu, when he was only 23? Or that Shiseido is believed to have introduced ice cream to Japan? White Rose may not be an expected Japanese perfume, but then again, Shiseido doesn’t always play by the rules.
To find White Rose at the Shiseido boutique, you have to pass the makeup stands, skincare aisles and the rows of neat Serge Lutens’s bottles. Tucked in the back of the boutique are the shelves holding the retro styled bottles of Shiseido’s classical collection–Zen, Koto, Saso, Suzuro, Inouï, and White Rose. It was first introduced in 1954 and subsequently relaunched in 1976.
For all of its refinement, White Rose is not a dainty and precious fragrance. You’re pelted with soft rose petals the moment you uncork the vial. When the lush tropical note of ylang ylang rises to the top, you aren’t quite sure if you’re smelling rose or jasmine. It’s an interesting interplay of fresh and sultry, cool and warm. The drydown is subtle–a sheer layer of musk that sticks to the white petals and makes them linger.
White Rose may not worth a trip half way around the globe for its pretty rose character alone. I would instead recommend Serge Lutens Sa Majesté la Rose, which happens to belong to Shiseido (via its associations with Serge Lutens). On the other hand, if you’re interested in Japanese perfumery or love dewy roses like Creed Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare, this sparkling rose is a charmer. Also worth sampling are Saso (1988), a dark and rich chypre that can be considered an endangered species, and Suzuro (1976), a perfume so green that it feels surreal.
Shiseido White Rose Natural is available directly from Shiseido; 32ml parfum/¥22,000 (around $245).
Photography by T.Kiya, via Flickr, some rights reserved