From Sweet Olive to Saso – Shiseido Saso

Patty graciously invited me to be a guest blogger on her site. It´s a nice arrangement — it keeps me off the streets, fulfills my parole requirements, and provides an excuse for an interest that, in terms of consumption of both money and small glass vials, is starting to look like a crack habit.

I´d like to tell you a little bit about how I “met” Patty, and how we felt a deep bond of connection right from the beginning, and how she talked me into driving to C-Mart north of Baltimore to feed her Armani Prive addiction, even though we´ve never met. But that would be boring, and who cares? So I´ll start somewhere else.

In May of 1989 I took a trip to Santa Fe. The Big Cheese and I had been looking for somewhere new and different to live, somewhere that involved mountains and sun and four seasons and no immediate family. We flew into Albuquerque, rented a car, and took the scenic route north to Santa Fe on the recommendation of the rental folks, who even drew us a map. By the time we made it to Madrid on Highway 14, I knew two things: 1) it´s the high desert, but it´s still the desert, so get out that liter bottle of agua and start drinking; and 2) I wanted to move to Santa Fe.

I was drinking the bottled water, musing on the quality of light, wondering why the hell they pronounce it “MAD-rid,” and… hey …waitaminnit … hey, HEY, what was that smell? What was that unbelievable, gorgeous smell? Where was that perfume coming from?

And so I proceeded to sniff around along the dusty road – looking high, looking low. I finally asked someone, is there something blooming? Something right around here that smells good? And it took a couple of tries and some baffled looks, but someone finally pointed out the Russian Olive.

Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a crap tree, it´s a pest, a transplant from Europe that, like tamarisk, is hogging more than its share of the Desert Southwest´s precious natural resources (i.e., water). It has thorns that´ll take your eye out. But right around Memorial Day, for a couple of weeks, it has something else: blooms that perfume the surrounding acreage with a sweet, heavenly, jasmine-y smell that is, of course, not exactly like anything else I´ve ever smelled.

Now, it took me awhile to figure out that Osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans) is also called Sweet Olive. Osmanthus turns up pretty regularly on the perfume blogs, so I got busy on Google, hoping to discover that Sweet Olive and Russian Olive were one and the same. No such luck – although I guess they´re kissing cousins, and are both olfactorily compared to the green lusciousness of jasmine. Someone with a better understanding of plant genera than I have can sort it out.

Anyway, I stumbled across some great information on the Shiseido website about Saso (aka Russian Olive). Cribbing from the Shiseido site:

“Saso is a deciduous shrub of the Oleaster family. It has leaves similar to that of the olive tree, and has tiny bell-shaped, yellow flowers… Aromatic compounds of Saso include such ester compounds as ethyl cinnamate, ethyl phenylacetate, and ethyl benzoate…These compounds provide a fruity aroma similar to that of the fragrant olive (Osmanthus fragans). Its high ester content produces a strong and sweet, fruity aroma. It also contains an animal-like scent similar to castoreum, taken from the perineal glands of the beaver. The mixture of these two provides a heavy, lasting fragrance. “

Now, that´s something to think about, isn´t it, next time you´re spritzing?

If you´re bored with the whole Olive thing, no hard feelings. Just click over to Cait´s blog and read about pudeur.

But if you´re still tuned into my pursuit of the Olive, you have to follow the link here for the really entertaining stuff – about the great Chinese beauty Xiang Fei, and her bodily Saso aroma, and how Chinese parents fed their girls special perfumed herbal tinctures in hopes they would grow up to smell beautiful. And, best of all, it links to a perfume — Shiseido Saso — which I should try but haven´t.

Yep. This is ultimately a review of a perfume I haven´t smelled.saso.jpg

Why not? As delicious as the notes sound (top: Aldehyde, Bergamot oil, Fruit Notes, Green Note, Hyacinth, Lemon; Middle: Jasmin, Lily of the Valley, Orris, Rose, Violet, Ylang-Ylang; Bottom: Amber, Benzoin, Civet, Musk, Sandal, Tonka, Vanilla, Vetiver; courtesy of, it´s supposed to smell like an olfactory representation of Xiang Fei in all her corporeal lusciousness. It doesn´t sound like it´s going to smell like a Russian Olive. Not one blooming in late May, that is, while I sit on my stone patio in the shade (as I did for 10 years), drinking iced tea, taking in that smell, looking up at the red foothills Georgia O´Keeffe painted, and feeling lucky to live in one of the most beautiful small towns in America.

One of these days, I´ll get online and buy Shiseido Saso.

  • Qwendy says:

    What a wonderful time I had reading your guest’s post, my you gals sure can write, and are so natural, it makes me feel a bit shy! Note to self: must try scents only available in Japan, or only available anywhere but here,! :wave: (I love these little things, they are so silly, I guess MACs are too serious for them).

  • marchlion says:

    Cait — thank you too. Watch out, I may be cribbing from you again re: petillance, you inspired me.

  • Cait says:

    March, thanks this is so evocative! As a former parole attorney, I highly approve of your guest-blogging. It should prove very rehabilitative for you and be edifying for your audience. That’s us! I have never yet had the pleasure of smelling Russian Olive, nor have I seen the red hills of New Mexico. Thanks to March and to Patty for this post.

  • Victoria says:

    Wonderful post, March! I have never tried Saso, but Shiseido has a number of fragrances that are released only for the Japanese market. Sounds intriguing!

  • Patty says:

    But of course! Especially if it turns out to be a stinker, you’ll be getting the whole bottle. 🙂

  • marchlion says:

    Patty’s already given away the punch line — she emailed me that it was on eBay for 42 bucks, and I diddled and dithered and considered. And by the time I went to look, it was gone. I was so annoyed I clicked through, until I could see who the buyer was — Patty! And this is one of the great things about Miss P — while I’m cogitating, she’s pushing the Buy it Now button. Oh, well — I bet I can wheedle a taste out of her…:smile: Thanks for the kind words!

  • Robin says:

    Hey March, congrats on your first post! And now I’ve yet another fragrance to look for, LOL…

  • Marina says:

    aiee!!! Good for you!!! I am obsessed with Japan-only Shiseido. I love their Message from Orchids. Chant du Coeur is lovely too. Murasaki is nice. I haven’t tried many more. There is that one Japanese ebay seller…I want everything he has :banghead:

  • Patty says:

    Marina, I actually couldn’t resist, once I read this and picked the darn thing up. I love that Russian Olive blossom smell, and I have to see if this is close.

    What other ones are good from them? I was nosing about a bit, but Im’ at a loss.

  • Marina says:

    Welcome to blogging! And what a great post.
    By the way, when you do finally get online to shop for Shiseido Saso, it is available on eBay, very reasonable price for parfum, straight from Japa. Just though I’d let you know :devil:

    Now that I know what it smells like, I might just get it myself.( I am nuts about Shiseido scents unavailable in the US.)