My Wish Granted

I love saffron in perfume, but often it´s combined with my personal nemesis – rose.  I am quite fond of live roses; I have several wonderful, old fashioned scented ramblers and climbers.  There are even a few rose fragrances I like and have samples of, just to take out and sniff.  But mostly I don´t care to wear rose-enriched scents.

A visit to The Perfumed Court and the extensive saffron section confirms that almost every saffron-heavy fragrance they have has been contaminated with features a rose note, or an alternate heavy floral. Saffron/oud/rose is a pretty traditional combination.  L´Artisan Safran Troublant I love on the right day, but on the wrong day it´s all rose, and off to the shower I go.   Comme des Garcons 8 88 starts off promisingly, but 10 minutes later I remember why I don´t wear it – it´s so peppery and sour and more metallic than I like (although design-wise the metal is sort of the point of the scent).  My ancient decant of the original saffron-heavy Matthew Williamson (a stunning blend of saffron, Mysore sandalwood and incense) is probably as close as I´ve gotten to my ideal saffron.  And I´ve tried the Laura Tonatto, which is offhand the most straight-up saffron I can think of, and … I just don´t think is very good.

I asked Dawn Spencer Hurwitz about the rose/saffron combination in an email exchange (and tune in on Weds. for more with Dawn) and she said that saffron on its own can be bitter, and rose is one way to offset that.  Her own gorgeous Cimabue, one of my favorites from her line, has a good hit of saffron, with the rose conveniently buried (from my perspective) under a host of other floral and spice notes.

In any case, I approached Miller et Bertaux´ new fragrance, A Quiet Morning, with an equally quiet sense of hope.  The notes listed right on the bottle are turmeric, saffron, basmati rice, and essences of Palm flower and orange flower, Indian sandalwood and Tibetan cedar (I think I´m translating the French correctly) and that´s pretty much … it.

Before I go waxing all poetic, I need to stipulate that A Quiet Morning is, like its predecessors, of the Good Smell school of perfumery rather than A Grand Concept or something more ornate and … perfume-y.  In terms of weight and sillage, A Quiet Morning wears rather like Spiritus/Land and Green, Green, Green on me – soft but present, unlike the all-but-invisible disappointment that was Close Your Eyes and … (wonder where the fragrance is?).

The saffron note is, to my delight, the single most prominent note in the opening.  The turmeric renders it a bit bitter, but not awfully so –  turmeric´s pepper-mustard has the curious effect of shoving the saffron in the sweet direction, and (probably in concert with the basmati rice) the effect is to showcase saffron´s creamy, almost floral side.  Regular readers also know that merely typing the words basmati rice into this review caused me to start drooling reflexively, although not onto the keyboard.  Throw in some gentle non-rose florals to keep the ride extra smooth, and you´ve got … well, perfection.  Not Mitsouko-grade perfection.  Not even Malle-level quixotic genius.  But perfection nonetheless.  In my good-smell mental filing system (subcategory: comfort/woody), A Quiet Morning filled a spot that was totally vacant.  The more jaded and sample-laden I get, the harder a trick that is to pull off. 

If you´re a saffron freak and/or these notes sound appealing, and you didn´t kill off the other M&Bs in five minutes, this is well worth trying.  A Quiet Morning was still there, as a skin scent, on my arm the following morning, about 18 hours after applying.

Its co-release, Shanti Shanti, is a rose with further notes of iris, cardamom, patchouli and sandalwood.  I don´t have much to say about this one, because it’s rose – it´s in the woody category rather than girly-sweet.  The patch and sandalwood were quite prominent in the drydown on the skin.  This would make an excellent “masculine” for guys who want to wear rose fragrances but are secretly worried that somebody´s going to take away their man card (although I think your fears are unwarranted.  I adore rose scents on men.)  It wears, IMO, a little heavier than A Quiet Morning, but I´m so rose-phobic maybe that´s just my delicate sensitivities.

Both of these are available at Aedes and Luscious Cargo, as far as I know.  However, I´m going to put in a plug for the store I smelled them in – Art With Flowers in McLean, Virginia, whose owners Bill and Jose have been kind and generous with local perfume fans over the years.  They operate a florist business in the front, in a corporate/mall neighborhood, and perfume and candles in the back, and both have taken a hit in the current economic maelstrom.  If you´re going to phone someone up and order a bottle, these guys can mail a package just as well as anyone else can.  They also have L´Artisan, Serge Lutens, Eau d´Italie, Rich Hippie, SMN, Ineke, and other lines, and are literally the only store locally for most of these.  Did I mention a lot of candles?  Their phone number is 703-903-6837.  I think the bottles are $145 for 100ml.

image, Taj Mahal at dawn, flikr.com

  • Thanks, March. I have decants of 4 Rosines and they do last but oddly none of them smell very rosey on me. I should rotate through them again.

    Interestingly, I just added a bit more Shanti Shanti this morning since I could still smell it on my arm even after a day and a shower and now that arm smells like mildly sweet vanilla. I need to go look and see if that’s one of the notes. And to get this off so I can move on to soemthing else. I was generous as it seems to bloom and last best with a heavyish hand without gagging those near and dear.

    Maybe I’ll just put on some bedtime vanilla and start fresh tomorrow. I wonder if I have anything saffrony? Or I’ll just default to Sycomore since it smells like Sycomore no matter what was on your skin to start with. Way off topic. Time for bed.

    • KarenJoSeattle says:

      I do need to go to bed. This was supposed to be in re your comment way up at my first comment last night. Apologies.

    • March says:

      Yes, Sycomore is pretty darn powerful on me. And smells like absolutely nothing else.

      I’m sorry the Rosines don’t work better for you. I rather like their Ecume, which is an interesting salty rose, and their Pour Homme, which smells Guerlain-ish to me.

  • Susanna says:

    Thanks Joe – I have had a thing for rice/rice pudding scents this winter – I’ll follow up with that phone call.

  • susanna says:

    I am sorry to be tedious, but where can I buy “boiled rice’?
    I don’t see it on the CBIHP website – can someone clue me in?

  • Elle says:

    I definitely need to retry this one. I think I got a sample around the same time I got Olivia Giacobetti’s latest scents for Cinq Mondes and found it to be so similar to one of those I didn’t give it enough attention. I also have heard that the latest M&B bottles may not have the little ball in them – was so dismayed at that news that I think I also was slightly prejudiced against them for it. I *loved* those balls. Such a fun and unique addition! Yep, I’m an idiot and awkwardly obsessive about design details like that. 🙂 I need to go to Aedes and investigate more closely. If they still have the balls, I may need to get this one.

    • March says:

      I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember about the ball! Honestly, I think not. 🙁 I could be wrong, though.

      And I think it’d be lovely with boiled rice.

  • Natalie says:

    Saffron is one of those notes that I adore in its natural form (fennel/anise is another) but that just doesn’t smell as nice in the perfumes I’ve tried. Hope springs eternal, however, so this one is going on the (also never-ending) sample wish list!

  • violetnoir says:

    We try to support out local businesses as much as possible by shopping locally and eating out locally. Bless you for promoting your local perfume business, March!

    Now if the luckyscent folks would only open up a store on my side of town… 😉

    Hugs and love!

    • March says:

      If we don’t support the little guys who are living on their monthly income, who will? Okay, everyone — go out and help the economy by buying something from your local shops. :d Chocolate’s good too.

    • March says:

      PS I took my own advice at our little French patisserie yesterday. Tough work but somebody has to do it.

  • Disteza says:

    Thank you for highlighting Art With Flowers! Those guys are amazing, and always willing to help you out. So many small businesses, especially in non-vital markets, have gone under recently due to the lack of patronage. If you can afford spend even just $10 in a local small business, do it now–this is when they need you the most! :)>-

  • Jan L. says:

    I have already learned so much from this site, and now, new names and houses to sample. “A Quiet Morning”, and “Shanti Shanti”; aristocratic names. Not overly-wild about saffron but the names alone entice….

  • Musette says:

    A shout-out for Things tath Just Smell Nice. I was in a perfume dither this morning – nothing was working for me. Everything way too conceptual, too heavy, too….involved.

    Then I happened upon Agraria Bitter Orange which is just…….nice. Perked up my whole day. sometimes it’s ‘enough’ to just smell nice!

    xo>-)

    • March says:

      That’s funny, if I am in a fragrance dither, and it is winter, something citrusy is almost always the right choice. It must be like a shot of Vitamin C.

  • Divalano says:

    You are my saffron rose soul sister 😉

    I love saffron as a scent & as a flavor. Roses I like growing. In the ground. To look at. I have the same response to Safran Troublant & have had enough wrong days with it that I no longer keep a sample in the house, it’s just an accident waiting to happen. So, I was thrilled when I got a sample of A Quiet Morning from Aedes. The initial hit of saffron & basmati was so gorgeous that if I was a high ticket impulse buy type of person I’d have plunked the plastic down then & there. Luckily I’m not because by the time I was halfway home it had turned perfumey-floral … I’m guessing it was the palm flower because (sadly) I didn’t get any neroli at all.

    Bummer, man.

    Still looking for that perfect saffron. And the perfect jasmine.

    Hey! Saffron basmati jasmine. And a hint of creamy sandalwood? Who’s with me?

  • sara says:

    Both of these sound like must tries! And thanks for the shout out to Art with Flowers. I have only visited there twice (Tysons is a schlepp for a non-driver!) but it’s lovely and the owners and charming and generous.

  • Nava says:

    Another shameless plug here for Art with Flowers. Not only was Bill completely charming, the fragrance/candle selection was nothing short of spectacular considering the location. Kind of like what Aedes de Venustas would be if they franchised themselves in every upscale shopping mall in the U.S.

    March, I know how you feel about rose fragrances, but have you tried People of the Labyrinths A.Maze? Henna and saffron are the top notes and by the time the rose comes into focus it’s not quite as “rosey”. I was also surprised by the bitterness of saffron on its own. The threads pack quite a wallop if you’re not used to their scent.

    Can’t wait to read your DSH post. Cimabue is a favorite of mine, along with Piment et Chocolat and countless others. 🙂

  • Lee says:

    If the pound hadn’t taken such a nosedive against the dollar b-( I’d order something from AwF just cuz I can…

    xxx

  • Melissa says:

    Louise, my scent-sister above, just stole my post. Love saffron, love rose, love oud. Maybe this has everything to do with skin chemistry because mine immediately sucked up every scent molecule in A Quiet Morning the one time that I tried it. A Silent Morning? It did wear very nicely on a friend. And now, another vote for Art with Flowers. Thanks for the reminder about the candles March. I don’t burn them very often, but a recent craving for one has sent me web-shopping. Better to buy from Bill and Jose.

  • Carol Sasich says:

    Sounds right up my woody alley too…I’m interested if it is similar to Sinfonia Fleur de Santal…thanks for the heads up on a small business that is into perfumes .

  • Shelley says:

    In the unending parade of scents to try, Miller et B remains on my list, especially Green(4). But this one sounds promising, too…not just worthy of investigation for knowledge’s sake. I like woody, I like spice, I appreciate comfort…and I have no problem with something that “just” smells good–because I don’t often need to make a statement, and besides, in a way, I can be picky about what is “good.”

    Bravo for supporting a local business. If I were within the right mile radius, I’d just drop in. There is no waving dude, so I’ll just say :d/ to the shop owners…

    • March says:

      I am sure you have your local perfume shops out there as well. In this market probably everyone is taking a beating. Hence the need for comfort scents… ~o)

      • Shelley says:

        Yeah, but the funny thing is, I tend to find those shops where I *don’t* live, because visiting time generally is when I have poking around time. (At least that has been true this decade.) I know of a cute little shop in Tacoma, a charming shop in the little finger of Michigan, a nifty place here, a funky place there… maybe my contribution to the economy will be to take time off to discover funky shops w/in 50 miles. :d

  • Louise says:

    I adore saffron is all forms-ingested, sniffed, and as a fabric color (the fellow next to me at the post office Saturday had a fantastic saffron-colored cap to go with his floor-sweeping robes,

    Fortunately, I also love rose, and my favorite saffron blends are from the Arabian Oud shop-rose, saffron, oud, spice- expecially their Prestige spray and Cordovan oil. Several Montales are lovely, but don’t handle the oud/saffron blend as smoothly, IMO.

    The MetBs wear very lightly on me, except the surprise hit-Green x 3, or 4, is it? A Quiet Morning was just too, um, quiet on me, though lovely on you; I must retry Shanti Shanti in warm weather-I think a good dousing would hang around.

    My favorite saffron is Costume National 21-milky spices and a very slightly metallic saffron-cozy with an edge, yum:x

    A huge shout of support to Art with Flowers! I had always focused on the Art part until wandering back to the florist section one day last year. I discovered the most exquisite arrangements-artful, eccletic, creative. May they thrive @};[email protected]};[email protected]};-

    • March says:

      How many greens is it? I think four… yes, plenty of scents out there to make rose/oud/saffron lovers happy as clams. Assuming clams are happy and not just sitting there waiting for us to put them in a pasta dish.

      How come I can find a gazillion bottles of CN Scent online cheap-cheap but not 21?

    • lee says:

      Note to self – must try CN21…

    • Susan says:

      Louise, thanks for rec. the Costume National 21. You were once so helpful in putting me on to the Montale/Rose/Aoud frags. Sorry to be an internet stalker/lurker – but I always look for your posts – (convinced we are fragrance twins!)

  • I’m wearing Shanti Shanti right now and on me the rose holds and stays dominant all the way through. It’s going on 10 hours since I spritzed it on and it’s just softened and lost its sillage but still smells like tea rose with a little iris root and a touch of sandalwood underneath. It’s the first thing I’ve found that holds the rose scent on me since a Tea Rose perfume by Princess somebody-or-other that I used to sample constantly in the mid-70s until the poor little shop that carried it went under. I should have bought that stuff.

    Usually I wear not-sweet spices and woods these days, so I should try A Quiet Morning. It sounds like it might work for summer in Seattle’s middling heat. I could use a summer spice and wood scent.

    My bottle of Shanti Shanti EDP is 100ml and was $145 or so at Essenza, my local small niche perfume and other yummy stuff store. I hope they make it through, too.

    • March says:

      Thanks for the great review of Shanti Shanti. Have you tried many of the Rosines? I think those are really nice roses, and theoretically they stick around.

  • Bryan says:

    I understand your Rose resentment. I love carnation scents but I can’t stand clove. Yeah, I know, good luck, right? JAR’s Golconda is better than most, but I digress.
    I have never been a spice kind of guy (scent wise, wink wink), but your post has me itching to try some saffron. Other than these, any suggestions? What about that Matthew Williamson incense (original version)? Where does one find that little sucker? It never shows up on ebay, but I keep hearing about it. 😕

    • March says:

      Um, YEAH. Carnation but no clove? You are even more SOL than I am, buddy! 😉

      In theory old bottles of MW are still out there, but I had it in my eBay search for more than a year and got tired of wading through the new bottles. I know they have it on the Perfumed Court.

    • Natalie says:

      I’m in the same pickle vis-à-vis the love for carnation and aversion to cloves — if you find that mythical beast, please let me know!

      • March says:

        You know what? Duh. Come back on Wednesday. Dawn will be over here answering questions and I know she does a carnation absolute, and people like her carnations. I’m going to post this to Bryan as well.

        • Natalie says:

          Don’t worry, I’m here every day! But I’ll make extra-sure to check in on Wednesday for clove-free carnations…

    • March says:

      Duh. Come back on Wednesday. Dawn will be over here answering questions and I know she does a carnation absolute, and people like her carnations. Maybe hers is clove-free? 😕

      • London says:

        I love DSH’s Oeillets Rouges. It’s my absolute favourite carnation and I don’t like clove much either so it might work for all those clove haters. It’s more green than spicy (to me anyway). But then I absolutely hated a quiet morning and got just as much iris as rose out of Shanti Shanti which I liked a lot so I may just have a weird nose.

        I also love Dawn’s Gelsomino, Rose Vert, Poivre and Celadon and her new ones sound very interesting. Can’t wait for Wednesday.

  • Joe says:

    I haven’t ever tried anything by MetB, and this sounds good. I’ll mentally file it away with the other 147 “sounds good” candidates I’m working on. Speaking of rice, did you ever check out that CBIHP “Boiled Rice” accord? :d

    I actually get all the saffron I need (and more) from Montale Red Aoud. And in case you’re wondering, I actually mailed back my man card a couple years ago. That thing was really more trouble than it was worth half the time. Thus unencumbered, I went ahead and went in on a split of Black Aoud a few weeks ago, which reminds me that I’ve got to wear that rosy, aoudy goodness sometime soon. Maybe this week.

    CSP Sultan Safran was mentioned just the other day on NST; can anyone comment on that?

    • March says:

      Boiled Rice is on my to-do list. To be honest, I have such a ridiculous backlog of samples and things to try that I know I’ll get to it eventually but haven’t yet.

      Oh, so that’s how I got my man card! It came in the mail… I know zip about Sultan Safran, need to investigate. I’m betting it has rose in it. 🙂

    • Divalano says:

      That Boiled Rice accord is really nice for toning down things that are too sweet or too flowery … I really enjoy having it.

    • Disteza says:

      I tried Sultan Safran, and it was ok (which for a CSP, is like saying it’s mouthwateringly-delectable, or insert-your-own-breathless-review-here). It starts of with some citrus, but goes quickly into a nonchalant bit of sweetish saffron and flowers. There’s some musk and wood in the drydown, and I’ve heard rumors about there being patch in there too, but I don’t get them on me. Honestly, I think guys in general would like the Miller et Bertaux better: there’s less sweet, and more of the spices. It smelled great on my SO, so much so that he bought himself a bottle.

  • Nika says:

    That sounds fantastic, I love saffron and aside from Black Cashmere and some Montales haven’t found anything that satisfies that craving. Wait, does it say 1.7 ml for $145 at the end? :d