New Perfume Review Costume National J- Sakura Shoji


There are a set of perfume brands which seem to have stopped making perfume only to surprise me after a long hiatus. This happened last year when I realized the fashion brand Costume National was releasing two new perfumes after having gone five years since their last new release. Costume National J is the one which caught my attention.

Fanny Bal

The two new fragrances were given the initials I and J. They stood for the two countries which influence the clothing, Italy and Japan. Creative director Ennio Capasa wanted to make a set of perfumes which captured the different senses of style. For I he turned to perfumer Julien Rasquinet who produced an ambrox-heavy powerhouse which overwhelmed me on testing. With J he asked perfumer Fanny Bal for something much lighter in tone. This is the canard of perfume for the Japanese market needing to be minimal and transparent. I have enough evidence to know that isn’t as true as it is taken to be. I also have found perfumes which do take that hypothesis as basis for design to make something great. Which is what happens with J.

Mme Bal chooses to work with the most iconic perfume ingredients associated with Japan, cherry blossom (sakura) and rice. What she fashions out of this is a perfume of delicate opacity like a scented sheet of rice paper in a shoji.

It begins with a delicate neroli and lime top accord. The citrus is feathered in with the neroli such that it picks up the green aspect of the neroli. This is isn’t that bright sunlight kind of citrus accord. It is the sun as shining through a pane of rice paper. The delicate sweetness of cherry blossom appears next. Mme Bal has fashioned a gorgeously delicate accord. It lilts in a soft breeze with puffs of fragile floralcy. The base provides the starchy contrast of rice. I giggled to myself it was a bit like cherry blossom sushi roll occasionally. It works to provide some structure to a fragrance which has been so transparent. Cashmeran adds in the woody crosspieces to this cherry blossom scented shoji.

J has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have been enthralled with J since I got my sample a few weeks ago. It allowed me to experience the local cherry blossoms even though I couldn’t. I sat cross-legged on my tatami breathing in my sakura scented shoji.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke