I've been called a perfume snob. Sometimes that epithet is hurled my way as a knee-jerk reaction to a negative review of a mainstream / department store scent...or to a positive review of an expensive perfume that's hard to find. Can't win for losing! I am not a perfume snob; I always give inexpensive colognes a try (and occasionally buy). Though I visit supermarkets about as much as Bill Gates and Oprah (that's what husbands are for, right?), last weekend I went to Seattle's Eastside to the Asian Food Center to buy (strangely realistic) faux ham and bacon. See, I'm not a food snob either; these (more-expensive-than-the-real-thing!) products from Taiwan allow this Virginia boy to eat "ham" without guilt...or gagging. While in the market, I dropped into the toiletries aisle to see what was new from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, mainland China and Japan. I found something new: Liushen Florida Water from Shanghai.
Liushen Florida Water is NOT related to Murry & Lanman Florida Water (gasp, now sold in flimsy plastic bottles). Liushen Florida Water is China's most popular brand of "Florida" ("floral") water. I bought a $5 bottle at the market; the cashier gave us a pointed look as she took the bottle to ring it up. Maybe it's rare for white guys to buy Liushen Florida Water or she felt we didn't know what we were buying — every word on the bottle is in Chinese.
Shanghai Jahwa United Co., Ltd. (once known as Kwong Sang Hong Ltd.) is one of China's oldest producers of toiletries (this year it celebrates its 120th anniversary); Liushen is one of its brands. If you love the delightful, vintage Chinese cosmetics calendar posters from the early part of the 20th century you're certainly familiar with the Kwong Sang Hong name, albeit in an advertising format.
Liushen Florida Water is supposedly produced with traditional Chinese medicine ingredients; it's used in China not as a fragrance, but as a mosquito repellent and a wound sterilizer and to ease skin irritations (itching). Liushen has a cooling, mint/menthol effect on skin when first applied. It's "perfume air conditioning" in hot and humid weather. Reading online, I found that non-Chinese in China use it for many things: as a perfume and aftershave, a muscle soak (added to bath water); the most unusual use: swab ceramic tile and stone floors with water and Liushen Florida Water to cool (and scent) the environment as the mixture evaporates.
The aroma of Liushen Florida Water instantly takes me back to Los Angeles's Chinatown; its scent is a combination of the sandalwood and jasmine soaps I'd buy there as well as the stores that were full of the aromas of floral incense burning on shop altars. Liushen Florida water has an intense, "volatile" scent when first applied: camphorous/minty notes, strongly scented "spring" flowers, jasmine incense sticks. If you apply lavishly, and why not...you can get a case of a dozen bottles for $55!, the scent will linger on skin for hours (with not much sillage). I enjoy wearing Liushen Florida Water as a light cologne; if anyone ever calls me a perfume snob again, I'll direct them to this post and say, "I wear bug spray as perfume. So there!"
To purchase Liushen Florida Water (195 ml for approximately $5 U.S.), check out your local Chinese markets (there's also a bath gel). This review is of the "classic" Liushen Florida Water formula; Liushen has added different scents to the floral water line (in cute bottles) but I've not seen them sold in the U.S. yet.
For fun, watch a Liushen video.
Note: top images for Kwong Sang Hong Ltd. by artist Kwan Wai-nung are used by permission of Hong Kong Memory.