Well, it doesn’t smell like sushi, I can tell you that. Sushi Imperiale is an enjoyable spicy oriental with star anise, woody patchouli, milky black tea, and fougère elements that is done in a classical style reminiscent of other fragrances on the market, from Guerlain‘s L’Instant Pour Homme Eau Extreme (“LIDGE“) to YSL‘s Opium Pour Homme. For many, Sushi Imperiale seems to be delicious, cozy comfort scent dominated by either tart apple cider, or nutmeg-cinnamon apple pie. For others, it is a masculine cologne with a citrus and anise spice mix that turns more oriental. Almost everyone thinks it has monumental sillage, but no-one thinks it smells like any form of nigiri, sashimi, or maki. Given some of the oddities put out in today’s perfume world (such as Secretions Magnifique), one should be thankful for small mercies.
Sushi Imperiale is a fragrance from an Italian niche house called Bois 1920. As the date suggests, it debuted in 1920, but the company only lasted five years before folding. In 2005, Bois 1920 was brought back to life by the founder’s grandson. Fragrantica has a succinct explanation of its history:
Italian perfume house Bois (pronounced “boyce“) 1920 was founded in 1920 by Guido Galardi. Galardi’s first formulas were based around the lavender collected from the hillsides surrounding Florence. The original company was short-lived, closing its doors in 1925. The company was resurrected by Galardi’s grandson Enzo in 2005, who found his creative outlet in reinterpreting the fragrances created by his grandfather.
Designer Bois 1920 has 23 perfumes in our fragrance base. Bois 1920 is an old perfume house. The earliest edition was created in 1920 and the newest is from 2014. The nose who worked on the fragrances is Enzo Galardi. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
Mr. Galardi released Sushi Imperiale in 2005, though it seems that Fragrantica is incorrect in giving 1920 as its release date. It is an eau de toilette which Bois 1920 describes on its website as follows:
An intense beginning where the citrus notes blend harmoniously for an eau de toilette that speaks of love.
The heart releases its spicy personality: the vibrant and exotic luminosity of Pepper, Nutmeg and Cinnamon. The fragrance develops into a brilliant and almost nonchalant wisp of woods and Vanilla of Madagascar.
According to Fragrantica, the perfume pyramid is:
Top notes: bergamot, mandarin orange and lemon;
Middle notes: pepper, nutmeg, jasmine, rose, star anise and cinnamon;
Base notes: sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, tonka bean and madagascar vanilla.
Sushi Imperiale opens on my skin with sparkling, bright, crisp citruses that are laced through with spicy patchouli, then dusted with spices. A heaping dose of star anise accompanies nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon to help temper the crisp freshness of the scent. The patchouli is even greater, and adds a woody, spicy element that forms one of the main pillars of the fragrance. While the main players are very enjoyable, the secondary notes are more intriguing. A distinct touch of sweet milkiness weaves its way quietly through the notes, followed moments later by an aromatic, herbal woodiness, then tonka, and what I would swear is lavender.
To my surprise, the milkiness has a counterbalance in a subtle touch of maritime saltiness that lurks at the edges, no doubt from the star anise and patchouli combination. I recall the perfumer, Jerome Epinette, telling CaFleureBon that he used star anise in his Mistral Patchouli for Atelier Cologne: “Instead of using the usual commercial and synthetic notes like Calone; I thought to use Star Anise from China to give the fresh salty and watery effect to the fragrance.” Just to be clear, Sushi Imperiale has nothing resembling a calone aquatic note, but there is a slightly fresh saltiness that works really well with the sweet milkiness and the spicy, woody patchouli.
As a whole, Sushi Imperiale’s opening is an appealing mix of contrasting elements: bold spices, crisp citruses, woody-sweet patchouli, milkiness, and saltiness. It instantly recalled for me Guerlain‘s much beloved L’Instant Pour Homme Eau Extreme (or “LIDGE,” as it is called). There is the same heaping dose of star anise mixed with bright, zesty, crisp citruses, patchouli, and milky black tea or chai tonalities.
However, there are also differences. I think the spices are a little smoother and less pungent here than in the Guerlain, and there are also additional elements at play, too. Sushi Imperiale’s opening feels distinctly more herbaceous, thanks to the lavender which is nonexistent in LIDGE. Sushi Imperiale is also much woodier in feel, lacks LIDGE’s cocoa undertones, and opts for saltiness instead. While both scents share a common note of milkiness with black tea, I think it’s stronger in LIDGE. In general, the balance or prominence of the two fragrances’ shared notes differs.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that Sushi Imperiale feels considerably stronger, heavier, and bolder in terms of both its sillage strength and the heft of its body. That is not to say that Sushi Imperiale is a dense or heavy fragrance. It’s simply much stronger than LIDGE and more concentrated. Using 2 small smears equal to perhaps a tiny spray from an actual bottle, Sushi Imperiale initially wafted 4-5 inches; with 3 smears, the cloud was about 6 inches in radius. By the start of the 3rd hour, the perfume still had about 2-3 inches. I think Sushi Imperiale is quite airy in feel, but all of it feels larger and bolder than what I experienced with LIDGE, even in its opening moments. Since Sushi Imperiale is an eau de toilette, while LIDGE is actually the eau de parfum version of the Guerlain’s fragrance, I think that says something.
As time passes, Sushi Imperiale continues to shift and to veer away from LIDGE. Less than 15 minutes into its development, the perfume turns creamier and the black tea with milk accord grows stronger. The citruses diffuse and weaken, while the fougère notes grow stronger. Roughly 30 minutes in, Sushi Imperiale surprises me by turning into a patchouli-lavender scent with nutmeg, star anise, woody notes, creamy milkiness, black tea, and a hint of saltiness. I have no explanation for the strong lavender note which I detect, but I know I’m not the only one who detected an aromatic fougère element in the fragrance. (More on that later.) Still, it becomes stronger and stronger on my skin, and evokes thoughts of Patricia de Nicolai‘s Amber Oud which is a similarly misnamed fragrance, and one which is centered almost entirely on lavender-vanilla ice-cream with tonka and patchouli.
Sushi Imperiale isn’t a hugely twisting, morphing fragrance, and it remains largely unchanged from the start of the second hour until its very end. It is primarily a creamy, spicy patchouli fragrance with star anise, aromatic lavender, abstract woodiness, and an occasional wisp of freshness, all wrapped up in golden, ambered warmth. There are no florals on my skin but, once in a blue moon, there is a touch of something vaguely resembling apple cider. It’s not sweet or cooked, stewed apples, and certainly nothing akin to an apple dessert, but a tart crispness that is vaguely fruited in nature. Still, it is a fleeting, very nebulous and amorphous note, more akin to a suggestion than anything concrete, and it doesn’t appear every time that I have tested Sushi Imperiale.
In its final moments, Sushi Imperiale is a mere blur of woody warmth. All in all, the fragrance consistently lasts over 10.5 hours on me, depending on how much I use. With a larger amount, I experienced a duration just short of 12 hours. Sushi Imperiale usually turns into a skin scent on me by the middle of the 4th hour. However, until the start of the 7th hour, it never requires much effort to detect it if you bring your nose close to your arm.
On Fragrantica, Sushi Imperiale receives mixed reviews. There are numerous people who think the fragrance smells of either apple cider, hot apple pie with cinnamon, or hot mulled autumn drinks. Most don’t think that it is too gourmand or edible, but, rather, a delicious, cozy, comfort scent. Some bring up the “heavy patchouli,” the black tea notes, or detect ginger; a small handful mention experiencing the rose/jasmine florals; one or two talk about the saltiness; and almost everyone says the sillage is massive. Others think the citrus/spice bouquet is too unoriginal and distinctive, conjuring up many mainstream brands. A few think the scent is simply too powerful, strong, and oriental. Here are a handful of opinions:
- The apple pie scent I wouldn’t take too seriously. I just received my sample and was terrified of it smelling too much like baked goods. It has enough floral notes to soften it. Really clean dry-down (probably the Vetiver). I would recommend this scent to almost anyone. It’s cheerful and balanced. I think it would actually be best in Fall or maybe even Spring for the floral notes. Mostly a year-round fragrance.
- Wonderful scent! The beginning reminds me a bit of SL “Five o’clock au gingembre”, but it’s lighter. Lovely, warm, delicious.
- Warm, cudly, but somehow fresh. It has most amazing quality, the sillage and longelivity is beyond hopes 🙂 [¶] At the opening I can detect “black tea” F_A already mentioned, but the most noticable note for me is anise, which I greatly love – it’s fresh and sweet. There are bits of cinnamon and pepper spicing things up here. At this point the scent becomes a little bit masculine, but not too much. [¶] From the flowers I feel only rose which here is not dominant and just gives feminine and elegant twist to the all scent. [¶] And I must say – this is an extremely sexy perfume as well, it has this sensual quality that it’s hard to resist sniffing my wrist all the time.
- This is my definition of a comfort fragrance.. Smells spicy fresh and edible. An eat me up gourmand due in large part to the nutmeg and cinnamon.. Listed as unisex but definitely more masculine IMO. Has a woodsy, powdery dry down as the nutmeg/cinnamon combo subtly lingers on.. Love this scent!
- Sushi Imperiale smells EXACTLY like a special hot drink my grandmother made each autumn when I was a child. Fill a 6 qt sauce pan with half fresh squeezed orange juice, half apple cider plus one tablespoon of good quality vanilla extract simmered with 3 cinnamon sticks, 6 star anise pods and one Earl Grey teabag. The drink is delicious and so is this perfume. I swear I could smell each of those ingredients as notes in this scent. Spicy, citric, appley and slightly sweet with no discernable floral or resinous notes. Its a more classically masculine scent IMO, but with the right chemistry it could smell fabulous on a woman too[.]
- Star Anise, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, fresh Pepper meet Patchouli, Vetiver, delicate florals and vanilla – then they briefly mingle with the citrus notes which are not overpowering in anyway, they exist just enough to give everything else a little bit of extra shine. It’s sweet yet salty, spicy yet fresh, floral yet in NO way girly, feminine yet masculine…AMAZING.
- I really did want to like this one — it has so many notes that I love: spices, vanilla, citrus, tonka, sandalwood. But, to my nose it is just a bit too overpowering. It has huge sillage and lasts forever, but unfortunately, it is headache-inducing on me. It is definitely borderline gourmand, but the spices, along with some vetiver and heavy patchouli in the base put it more on the oriental end of the spectrum.
People debate about where Sushi Imperiale falls on the gender scale. A number of women love the scent and think it is “cuddly,” but others think it is wholly masculine. One mentioned that her friends or co-workers thought she was wearing a man’s cologne. I suspect that it’s due to the combination of the aromatic fougère notes (like the lavender) with the crisp citruses and spices.
Dr. Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchards Perfumes had the same impression and specifically mentions “fougère” qualities in her Fragrantica review, but her main problem seems to have been the apple note that skewed too “foody” for her tastes, while also having a creaminess reminiscent of men’s shaving products:
At first this smells like a fougere made with a huge dose of tonka, but soon it takes on a light, almost metallic floral note. Within a couple of minutes it morphs into a spicy, fruity, apple pie scent that’s not overly sweet, and then just stays that way. It’s the filling of the pie without the crust, just fruit and spices, mainly cinnamon, nutmeg, and a sugary sauce. It’s a pleasant quasi-gourmand scent that eventually dries down to a nutmeg-tonka combination that reminds me of a men’s shaving product. Sillage is considerable, and it lasts at least 6-8 hours. [¶][…] The bottom line is that Sushi Imperiale is a spicy, fruity, dessert scent with some incongruous masculine touches, one that’s a little too foody for my taste.
Detractors find Sushi Imperiale to be like “a well done version of a typical men’s designer release.” One commentator, “Alfarom,” dismisses it handily as a spicy oriental from the past, and brings up Opium Pour Homme in specific. It has been a long, long time since I smelled the YSL fragrance. As most of regular readers know, my Holy Grail is regular Opium in vintage form, and I think the men’s version is both bland and as full-bodied as water. However, what I do remember does have a tenuous connection to Sushi Imperiale. It’s largely a generic one, simply because both scents share bold spices in a citric opening that subsequently turns to its focus to patchouli, woodiness, and warmth. However, I don’t recall any fougère elements in Opium Pour Homme, lavender, or saltiness. Opium has much more of an amber focus than a hardcore patchouli one, and the whole vibe of the two scents is just very different, in my opinion. Plus, if Sushi Imperiale really does emit apple cider or hot apple pie on a lot of people’s skin, then there is no similarity whatsoever.
Nevertheless, there is one blog that finds Sushi Imperiale to be a lighter, easier version of the classic Opium pour Homme. Perfumomania is in Polish, so I can’t really quote the analysis here for you, but the gist via Google Translate seems to be that Bois 1920 is men’s Opium Lite and has been “slimmed down” to avoid the latter’s overwhelming character. Personally, I’ve never thought Opium Homme was overwhelming or massive in any way whatsoever, but it all depends on one’s personal yardstick and definitions. At least we agree on Bois 1920’s lightness.
Given the similarities to other fragrances, I can understand one of the Fragrantica criticisms from a few posters, which is that Sushi Imperiale is over-priced. They’re not wrong. Enjoyable as it may be, nothing about this scent is so original, distinctive, or unique as to warrant a retail price of $205 or €145 a bottle. It may be a 100 ml, but it is still an eau de toilette that has been compared to more affordable fragrances from YSL or Guerlain. Sushi Imperiale may be smoother, less synthetic, and better quality than anything put out by YSL, but $205 is still a little steep for this scent. However, I’ve found Sushi Imperiale at a discount price on some American and European sites. The lowest figure I found was $124, which I think is ideal. Even better, the company (Scent Monkey) ships worldwide. In Europe, one retailer sells the 100 ml bottle for €123 which isn’t a huge discount off of €145, but a German drug store offers a rare 50 ml bottle for €95.
All in all, I think Sushi Imperiale is a pleasant scent and worth a sniff, especially if you happen to be fond of apple notes, patchouli, spicy orientals, or things in the vein of LIDGE. I don’t know if Sushi Imperiale will be very apple-centric on your skin, or gourmand at all, but I can guarantee you that you won’t smell of fish.