‘Umami’ is the fifth taste. Not sweet, sour, salty or bitter, but ‘umami’ – a Japanese term that translates as ‘savoury pleasure’ or ‘mouthfeel’. And while this perfume by Florascent – a German fragrance house that apparently uses only natural essential oils – is not conspicuously gourmand nor notably edible, there is a certain texture or heft in this scent that is more than liquid; a soothing, binding, moisture-absorbing quality that is very comforting, particularly when it starts to get cold and even you yourself need binding.
The main theme of Umami (which I bought as a new winter perfume recently from Charis, my favourite aromatherapy shop in Fujisawa, the city where I work), is tonka bean (a warm, nutty, coumarin-drenched aroma), fused with black pepper, a dry, unsaturated sandalwood, and a pleasingly gentle, unsweetened vanilla. Chewy all-spice; ginger and a barely discernible osmanthus form the heart, while the all too brief top note of Japanese yuzu gets rapidly subsumed in the self consuming warmth. It has to be said that there is not a great deal of development in this perfume – what you smell in the bottle is pretty much what you get on the skin – but I was pleased I bought it.
Perhaps the closest comparison I can make to Umami is Guerlain’s Heritage, which in the rare to find eau de parfum used to comprise a stunning and enduring note of black pepper in its blinding initial stages, over a gorgeous, heady, male blanket of tonka, vanilla and a smooth, delectably oriental base. But while the Guerlain, as you might expect, was luxuriant, fluffed up, recherché, Umami is more…….. huggable (really, very huggable), particularly on a freezing winter’s day. An arran sweater lacking drama, you might say. But somehow that is what I liked about it: it is a completely dependable, go-to scent that never really raises its voice, so to speak, but stays tucked up and taut – and that’s somehow exactly how you want it to be.