Shi (Alfred Sung)

Some fragrances break all the known rules of good perfumery, yet still come out smelling great. Alfred Sung's fragrances in general seem to do this to varying degrees, although the latest version of the original feminine isn't very good. Sung Homme is overtly synthetic, a little harsh, overly-complex in its pyramid and structure, yet it winds up smelling very clear and fresh, a soapy masterpiece. I approached Shi with one thing in mind: it looks like what Tania Sanchez has dubbed "sneaker juice," a mall-rat perfume with a target demographic of children and teenagers. Sneaker juice is usually fruity-floral, saccharine sweet, and something sophisticated adults frown on. Once you pass the age of sixteen, you should really start exploring adult fragrances, because in a few short years you're technically an adult, right? I beg to differ. Shi is a good example of a casual, fresh, sweet fruity-floral that gets it right, and smells good on all ages (I had the pleasure of knowing a girl in college who wore it).

It breaks all the rules of course - it's very simple (it lacks complexity), it's linear (it lacks development), it's synthetic (it possesses no discernible naturals), it's overbearingly sweet (it's not serious), and has zero depth (there's little to no texture). Sound like a disaster? Shi has remained on the market for thirteen years, no doubt due to one saving grace - it smells good. Fragrantica yields some clues to its commercial longevity, as it appears that Shi smells very similar to a discontinued scent by Yves Rocher called Ming Shu, which has an avid fanbase. Since Ming Shu is no longer available, it makes sense that Shi is considered a viable alternative, and that probably helps to keep it moving off store shelves. Yet the fragrance itself is delightful, a bright accord of orange blossom, lily, mandarin orange, pear, and the usual green apple. Holding the fruits together is a sweet violet note, and everything is layered atop one of those cheap-smelling aquatic musks. Shi is shampoo-grade through and through, but it works.

The hotter the weather, the less likely I am to enjoy fragrance, so anything with a cheerful and fresh disposition is more than welcome in my wardrobe. With women, particularly American women, the impulse is to wear "body mists," those one-dimensional sugar waters sold at places like The Body Shop and Bath & Body Works. I was recently at the mall with three female friends, and we had an hour to kill before a movie, so we wandered over to B&BW to do some shopping. Two of them are exactly forty, while the other is sixty. I was surprised (somewhat) to see the sixty year-old was just as enthusiastic about the body mists as the other women. And in a way, I was a little surprised that two forty year-olds were interested in these obviously cheap products. But then again, this is America, and people are "anti-fragrance" by default, in that they don't want to broadcast their presence via scent. Body mists do not broadcoast much of anything. They are simple, sweet, direct, but also very quiet, so I guess they make sense.

I still think they could take one step up the hierarchy and buy a decent fragrance from a real perfume brand like Alfred Sung. Shi only lasts about two hours on skin (less in extremely high temps), isn't complicated, isn't loud, and has all the same sweet and fruity overtures as the typical body mist. Its difference is in its structure - I noticed that the B&BW mists were all two-note compositions, usually pairing a sweet fruit with a sweet flower or a musk - while Shi offers at least five or six notes in addition to the musk. To me that's a lot better than these barely-there $20 mists (they're grossly over-charging), and maybe it's the soft bigotry of low expectations, but if my adult lady friends switched from mists to base-level sneaker juice, I'd be a happier man.


  1. Many years ago a co-worker gave me a rollerball bottle of Shi from her set - and for a while it was my go-to scent for plane trips: pleasant enough and inoffensive. When I finished that small bottle I kept thinking I'd buy another one... And then I found Jo Malone, L'Artisan, Atelier Colognes. But I still think it was an unexpectedly nice perfume and I'm glad it got some attention.

  2. Thanks for sharing that Undina, it's certainly a pleasant little thing that doesn't bend any spoons, but manages to deliver on the promise of smelling better than nothing at all. Agreed that Malone & L'Artisan etc. are more intriguing fare, but it's always nice to revisit simple inexpensive fragrances now and again.


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