My first encounter with Kisu was in New York city (at Henri Bendel, I believe), and my initial impression was of it being a light, subtle woody skin scent with rosewood and musk being the most dominant notes. It also reminded me slightly of Narciso Rodriguez at the time, only much gentler and a little less synthetic. Obviously, these impressions are very vague, and taking into consideration that they are based only on scent-strip testing (lack of time and skin space in a 4 day visit to The Big Apple), they don’t add up to much.
Now that I have a full bottle at my disposal some three years later, Kisu turns out to be a little warmer and more daring than I remembered it, giving off mostly the impression of dusky woods.
Kisu opens with rosewood indeed, but there is more to it than this ethereal, linalool-laden wood. Notes of ripe berries, and an underlining woody patchouli that escapes from the depth of woods that form the base of Kisu; which makes me wonder – which was the first fruitchouli? But fear not, this isn’t one of them…
The greatest surprise, however, was the violets: there is a whole bouquet of luscious, albeit a little abstract candied violets at the heart. Along with the berries, they form a decadent bite of violet-cassis macaroons, yet without actually making one think of food. They contribute greatly to the dusky wood quality of Kisu.
A sultry undercurrent of sandalwood and saffron also peaks through to the top and heart, which reminds me of two perfumes: Agent Provocateur, by the same perfumer, and also Evening Edged in Gold (Ineke). The Agent Provocateur similarity could be explained byt the fact that both perfumes were developed by perfumer Christian Provenzano uder the artistic direction of Azzi Pickthall of CPL Aromas (which are also currently working on Basenotes’ line of fragrances).
The saffron here is far more subtle though. While sandalwood notes usually don’t work well on my skin, here they are balanced with patchouli, vetiver and musk and work beautifully, creating a clean, woody-musky skin scent that reminds me a little of the dry out of Magazine Street.
And if you are still wondering what’s the meaning of Kisu: Really it is the Japanese name for the Japanese whiting (Sillago japonica), a fish which is prepared in various ways in Japanese cuisine (grilled with salt, raw as sashimi, or prepared as tempura). But I doubt that this was the intention of the creators of the perfume when they named it.
Kisu have also become another word for “Kiss” in Japanese, which is obviously a Japonification of the English word. Other than that, kiss is chuu, kuchizuke or seppun. While the bottle and packaging, with the cherry blossom label over black lacquer-like opaque glass is obviously Japanese inspired, I find the scent to be much less so. Some have mentioned a marine or watery accord, but I fail to find it (nor the ylang ylang!). There is a certain mineral, saltiness to it that is more brine-like than marine or watery.
Yes, this is a clean and dry patchouli and musk dominated base, perhaps remotely similar to that of Pure Turquoise, but it is not in the least watery. It is more of a modern, idealistic Orientalist view of the subject and while I find it very appealing and well made over all, I don’t think it delivers anything that remotely resembles a “Japanese bath ritual” as it assumes in some of the ad copies I’ve seen around. Nevertheless, it makes for a pretty bottle (and the oriental theme continues with the Tann Rokka's second scent, Aki).
I’ve been struggling to find an image to illustrate this review: it has a texture, and while it is quite sensual, being a skin scent and all, there is something very unisex about it that defies that kind of imagery. It doesn’t remind me of nature either – it is far too polished for that. So I just ended up making an image myself, though I can't say it's the perfect portrayal of what Kisu feels like.