There’s a Miller Harris winner to receive the vials of all twenty scents and purty box. Name at the end. First, on with business.
You know something – I’ve been unfair to Miller Harris and given them an inappropriate amount of short shrift (can one do such a thing?), probably because I couldn’t look beyond the sharp ‘perfumeyness’ of the first few I ever sniffed. As my nose has matured, I’ve realised that there is a quality to some chypres and a few aldehydic fragrances that I classify as ‘perfumey’ and haven’t, at least until recently, wished to go any deeper. Call it the MUA grandma syndrome, if you wish. There’s been, for me at least, too big an area to explore elsewhere. But now, I’ve been sated temporarily in exploring the outer fringes of the niche world and perhaps should give myself a few lessons in back-to-basics. This doesn’t mean I’ll ever learn to love Eau de Soir or Baghari though.
On with the Miller Harrises. Twenty scents – too many to hold in your head, too many to be fair with in your appraisal. Tough luck, buddy. In no particular order (with the binomial MH scent description in parentheses):
Tangerine Vert (gentle citrus) – like so few fragrances, matches its name exactly in the first five minutes, then becomes an orange blossom whine and then possibly an invisible musk. Fleeting as a wink from a stranger. And less exciting.
Jasmin Vert (elegant floral) – jasmine weaves in and out of a broad brushstroke floral bouquet, with no poop nearby, unfortunately. Very pretty.
l’air de rien (sensual oriental) – so innocuous on paper, like its ee cummings styled name; on skin, you become sweet, salty, post-coital.
Fleur Oriental (sensual floral) – loud as a teenager-in-tantrums before, thirty minutes in, becoming a powdered caress from a favourite aunt. I know that’s an inappropriate image – somehow it feels right. Sorry. Blame l’air de rien.
Feuilles de Tabac (rich woods) – I thought I loved this. I was wrong. A spicy yet clean sweetness tempers the tobacco and makes it, in the end, too pale, too mild for me. I like a bit of rough. I’ll go for full on Vintage Tabarome or the elegant dominatrix Tabac Blond before this wan wonder.
Terre de Bois (woody classic) – my latest favourite. Opens with the crispness of verbena before developing a straightforward but still novel cologne quality, without losing a delightful woody/soapy focus. It smells like an old-school French fragrance for men, reformulated to make it better. I’d love a bottle for autumn please.
Geranium Bourbon (elegant floral) – I imagine this will be lovely commenter Elle’s nightmare fragrance, because it does smell very much like high quality Bourbon geranium oil, fancied up a lot. Multi-faceted in its rosy sparkle, it has an almost air freshener quality to it and to my mind would work best as a luxurious bath oil or candle.
Terre d’Hiris (light chypre) – an à¼ber-woman scent. She means business. High-pitched, clipcloppy heels. No messing. A ‘perfumey’ perfume for the first ten minutes, before becoming more raspy and interesting. But not how I like my iris buttered.
Coeur d’à‰té (innocent floral) – what’s innocent about a big banana, cos that’s where this starts off. However, aside from that, this is a light, playful, clean and remarkably inoffensive fruity floral, though more floral and less fruit over time.
Cuir d’Oranger (luxurious leather) – with that name, it sounds like it should be like Lutens’s Cuir Mauresque, in style, execution and development. But it isn’t, much. It’s very neroli to start with (too much for this occasional blossomphobe), but then, as it transforms into a mossy madam, invitingly slapping her leathery britches, there’s a magic to its ugly-beautifulness. Of all MH’s limited editions, this one strikes me as the finest. I admire it very much; I think I could love it. Whether it could replace the aforementioned Serge in my heart though…
En Sens de Bois (sensual wood) – less sensual, more anti-social. A quiet, reflective scent of smoke and faded greenery. A bonfire melds its final embers with the damp autumnal mists. A Keatsian scent poem where grey replaces sepia.
Piment des Baies (fresh spicy) – I should love this and in fact with every test I’ve wanted to sniff it more and more and more… It’s a glutton’s fragrance with its nutmeggy roundness; rich, but somehow clear and clean. However, there’s a little something in there – I can’t define it – that brings out the Quease Factor in me. Something too delicious like the final slice of cake that hurts, even as you scoff it? And, though my brain says, ‘Oh please mister, we want more’ (it’s the little people living there who talk in a chorus of pleading approval), my guts roll and boil and say, ‘We’re shutting you down!’
Coeur de Fleur (delicate floral) – how nice to rhyme, especially in French. The heart of this floral feat is supposedly sweet pea, a flower I know very well. But I get lots of rose withsome fruity sweetness underneath. A rounded perfume, nonetheless, without the rose’s sometimes acid yelp.
Vetiver Bourbon (classic vetiver) – Vetiver Extraordinaire is this chap’s country cousin, or perhaps how he appears when he’s off Bunburying. Back in the city, he’s polished his shoes, put on his fancypants and donned a cravat to match his smoking jacket. I’m not sure I can ‘do’ the earthy side of vetiver that well, but if you like it, this sophisticated take on the genre is excellently rendered.
Figue Amere (salty figs) – muted fig leaves made savoury and nutty by salt. I only have room for one fig in my heart, and the use of cedar and coconut in Giacobetti’s inspired Philosykos violently elbows this more muted green to one side.
Fleurs de Sel (sensual earthy) – Miss C. Sage goes to visit holistic uncle Sam Salt at the seaside for some shoulder salve.
Eau de Vert (green cologne) – herbal, truly delightful, but wildly expensive (£95) for a fleeting cologne. This starts vibrantly green in an artemisia style before becoming a musky mossy whisper of a scent.
Fleur du Matin (green fresh floral – the binomial system of classification has collapsed – this must be a cultivar… pathetic horticultural joke: apologies) – Fresh (a favoured word amongst perfume copywriters and the less nasally experienced, but here, true), crisp, sparkling. Like a l’Eau de l’Artisan where honeysuckle replaces grass.
Citron Citron (vibrant citrus) – actually quite sweet for a few minutes before developing a unpindownable hesperidic accord – lime and lemon and orange all at once. Grapefruit is generally my favourite citrus scent note, and this doesn’t have that bitter edge that I need in such a fragrance. Still, it’s high quality and long-lasting, whilst not holding my interest. A great summer easywear scent, like jogging pants and a T-shirt.
Noix de Tubéreuse (exotic tuberose) – winner alert! Bryan, have you smelled this? Lyn Harris makes great claims for its butteriness, but boy, is she right. So rich, rounded and creamy it seems edible. Sensual by default. Gourmand raunch (but it’s by no means a foodie scent). Probably too much for summer, too much for more than a couple of drops, but this beauty has given me the metaphorical horn. And they say men don’t like tuberose scents. Hubba hubba…
In summary, these aren’t the shrill, sharp old school terrors I associate with my primary school teacher (so fierce, she’d melt your face if she stared at you), but a varied and interesting range of worthy and sometimes exciting perfumes. And although the line isn’t exactly what I normally look for in scent, there are two bottleworthy numbers here (i.e. worth parting with my rapidly decreasing perfume cash for): Terre de Bois for me, and Noix de Tubéreuse for a woman with suitably buttery cleavage. Yoohoo! Chaya! I want to spray between your boobiedoos…
Ahem. The winner of this collection of 2ml vials (which I now wish I was keeping) is Elve. Who says the early bird catches the worm? Elve, I’m mailing you!