20 ‘fumes in few words

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!

  • Solander says:

    Great mini reviews Lee! I must go to a Miller Harris boutique and smell them all… Cuir d’Oranger sounds especially exciting – I was a little sceptical about the orange/leather combo, which I usually don’t like (definitely not in the SL!) but you make it sound so goood…

  • Lee says:

    Thanks, D. Heritage is one scent I’ve never owned; I have mixed feelings about it but so limited a memory I can’t actually recall how it smells. Hmmm… Off to remind myself soon.

  • faizanjax says:

    Cuir doranger and citron citron are my faves from this line too.

    I much prefer Cuir doranger over the fruit-cake leather that is Queer Mauresqe though.

    • Lee says:

      Oh, I love that gluey fruitcake! d’Oranger is just a tad too neroli for me at first.

  • Dusan says:

    Such a master of words, aren’t you Mr. Lee Sir? I love your pithy takes on MH and right now I’m trying to persuade myself I don’t in fact feel miffed that I wasn’t drawn out of your top hat.

    Yeah, right :(( :(( :((

    Seriously though, I’ll print these reviews out and use them as an ABC of Miller Harris. ^:)^

    Oh and, how do you like Guerlain’s Heritage?

  • minette says:

    one of my favorite lines – even when i don’t want to wear one, i still respect it. but i love, love, love noix de tubereuse, and feuilles de tabac absolutely works on me (and gets raves every time, too), and citron citron is just so bright and citron, and then there’s the wake-me-up smell of fleur du matin, which is like fresh-cut flowers with some of the dirt. and i get confused by the names and don’t have the samples here, so it’s either terre du bois or bois d’iris that i also very much like. l’air du rien blew my mind when i tried it – it was pure barnyard manure for the first few minutes – then settled into a gorgeous dry down. but those first few minutes – wow!

  • violetnoir says:

    Boobiedoos? Oh my! 😮

    This may be a highly underrated line, but there is something about it, Lee, that is lovely and almost, I said, almost great. Problem is that I have owned two of her fragrances, Noix de Tubereuse and Coeur de Fleur, wore them incessantly for a week or so, and then just got tired of them. I liked Coeur d’Ete, but it reminded me of Guerlinade. 😕

    Anyway, I would love to explore them again, so please put me in the drawing.

    Thank you!

    • Lee says:

      Babe – the drawing happened two weeks ago. Sorry, my love.

      Boobiedoos is what my lovely friend Rachel calls hers. I like that way of talking. Sexy and silly – nothing better.

  • tmp00 says:


    Great read- Wilde and Jennifer Saunders in the same post! (unless “nutmeggy” is common use in the UK that is)

    I have not been completely drawn in my MH. Rien has a habit of being nasty for the first hour some days and some days FdeS hikes up its bog and leaves after a half hour, so no full bottles for me. I think you’ve spared me trying all 736 of the rest.. :d

    • Lee says:

      I don’t know if it is common usage or not, but it’s that Brit thing of adding a ‘y’ to the end of something to make it, well, somethingy, thingamy, whatjacallitty…

      Yeah, I wqouldn’t worry too much aboutr this line Tom – I’m not sure, from what I know of your tastes anyway, that they’re exactly YOU. In my mind, you’re not MillerHarrisy.

  • pitbull friend says:

    Ah, Nicola & Denyse are back, so much is right with my world!:d

    I know of no other board where so many people catch a Wilde reference just like that! When we play the “5 people from all time I would invite to dinner” game, I ALWAYS ask Oscar. So I’ll need to samp the Vetiver Bourbon.

    I’ve tried about half of these & not a winner yet. Perhaps she’s too subtle for me. But, as always, Lee, I love your reviews! And as a gal with a formidable sweet tooth, I adored the line “Something too delicious like the final slice of cake that hurts, even as you scoff it?” –Ellen

    • donanicola says:

      Dear Ellen, thank you! I’ve been on hol to Greece (my holiday ‘fumes were Eau de Merveilles and TF’s Azuree de Soleil ah!)and returned to lots of work. I have missed being here and PST I must say. Oscar would be the perfect dining companion – I rather love his latter day part incarnation – Stephen Fry. Nicola

    • Lee says:

      If ever we’re together, I’m saving the last piece of cake for you. I’ll be the one wolfing down the potato chips (savoury lover).

      It sounds like we’re going to be meeting a child’s birthday party… See you on the bouncy castle?:)

    • carmencanada says:

      Ellen, aw, now I’m blushing ! I wasn’t away but I was busy banging away at a French translation of Tina Brown’s Diana…
      Nicola, please give me Stephen Fry too. I utterly love the man.

      • Lee says:

        Good luck with your banging, D. Do you ever get to see Stephen Fry’s QI on TV across the channel?

        • carmencanada says:

          No, it hasn’t made it on BBC Prime (the international, cable version of the Beeb). But I did get to drool over Absolute Power.

  • delizt says:

    Thank you for the wonderful reviews of this line of perfumes…I’ve only tried a couple, Fleur de Sel (which didn’t love me as much I wanted) and L’Air de Rien (which I really enjoy) but you have me interested in the others!

    • Lee says:

      Well most of the others are much more ‘traditional’ in style and execution, I think. Fleurs de Sel and l’air are quite markedly different from the rest of the MH line.

      Thanks for your comment.:)

  • donanicola says:

    Enjoyed these reviews, thanks Lee. I have the tester set and a bottle of Td’H (love high heels too!)which I wore for about 6 weeks a year or so ago then not at all since. Recently they had a party to launch the new salty one and because of the afore mentioned purchase I got an invite. Very pretty shop and presentation generally lovely I think. I agree with you totally on the FdT,JV, and NdT. I was told Lyn Harris is the only english female nose to have studied in France – you know went to Grasse and all that (I’m not jealous, oh no). So maybe she is only seen as niche because although traditionally trained she is english and female, most untraditional qualities.

    • Lee says:

      Perhaps… in the UK at least she’s available in lots of high end department stores (she’s in my locla ‘Ladies who Lunch’ one, at the very least. My place for a bottle of TdB I think). So I guess she’s not niche in the same way as l’Artisan or Serge here, who are in fewer places overall. The smells though aren’t particularly niche.

      I do love that maximalist floral packaging more than the scents though… Well, apart from my three exceptions.

      *goes off to picture Nicola as glam and tanned and radiant*

  • Marina says:

    Noix de Tubereuse is a winner for me too, as is L’Air de Rien and Vetiver Bourbon.
    Great reviews!

    • Lee says:

      I was dreading doing them, but actually they flowed out pretty damn quickly. Thank you.

  • Patty says:

    Great reviews, darlin! I need to try that Vetiver Bourdon.

    The MH’s generally are a little more pedestrian, but very wearable and lovely. I think that they get thrown in with the niche “edge of the world” stuff makes it harder to keep up with the weirdos.

    • Lee says:

      Problem is, I like running with the weirdos most of all. I’ve always been the same. Look at the company I keep…>:d<

  • Kelly says:

    Wonderful reviews – was that all 20? So much fun to read it didn’t seem enough…

    “Fleeting as a wink from a stranger. And less exciting.” is about the cutest and most descriptive review I’ve ever read!!

    Several of these I’d love to try!

    • Lee says:

      It was all 20 (I counted…:-b )

      I love a stranger’s wink in a crowd. Tends to happen MUCH less nowadays. Perhaps I’m so darn beautiful I’ve started scaring ’em all off…=))

  • Elle says:

    Brilliant, succinct reviews! I admire several MH scents and actually bought a few, but find I rarely wear any other than Noix de Tubereuse (although I don’t think I have cleavage worthy of it) and Rose en Noir.
    Yep – Geranium Bourbon was an olfactory Steven King experience for me. I did actually try it because I’m afraid I’m compulsive about trying everything and my tastes have changed often enough that I never say never, but it appears I still am severely g*ran**m phobic and the name here is not misleading (bitterly thinking of some leather scents which promise my beloved cuir and yet fail to deliver even pleather).
    Jasmine sl*t that I am, I wanted that one to work for me, but, like you, I’d have appreciated some nearby poop. Feuilles de Tabac is one I was *sure* I’d adore, but I’m afraid it strikes me as being a tobacco scent for the politically correct. As you said – clean, mild. Yawn. I’ve been diligently sampling Piment des Baies for a year now. I love it, but you’re so right about the Queese Factor. I think a tiny bit from a dwindling sample is all I’ll ever need. Absolutely must retry Cuir d’Oranger.

    • Lee says:

      How similar we are scentwise, in so many ways. My latest big addiction is your love, Nuit Noire. Can’t. Get. Enough. And do you like the jasmine in Oiro? Love it.

      • Elle says:

        Could mainline Oiro. Gorgeous! Wish Mona’s business people would get their stuff together and make it available to the US and Canada. They’re apparently being very hard to deal w/. This makes me nervous that they may not stay in business for an extended period of time (Victoire Gobin-Daude’s similar problems spring to mind). May have to resort to some stock piling, which I *wish* I’d had the sense to do w/ a couple of the G-Ds.

        • Lee says:

          That’s incredible that it’s not available in the US. You know, whilst it’s a little too beautiful for me to wear in the top and middle notes, it has the most addictive drydown I know.

  • Judith says:

    So now it shows up, with one of the emoticon directions slightly skewed (i was supposed to be blushing). Please, then, discard this and the previous post. Thank you!\:d/

  • Judith says:

    Well, I did post, but must be thrown in the trash. Can you dig it out (you can cut the offending part if you wish).

  • Judith says:

    Wonderful reviews!! But for reasons having to do with chemistry, most of these just don’t work for me. The two that do are Geranium Bourbon and, my favorite, Vetiver Bourbon (these two also layer well; I guess I just like bourbon):) I have to say that I like VB even better than VE (which comes across as more straightfowardly masculine on me), so I guess I will just put on my green carnation and head for the country (can a woman Bunbury? with the right appliances, I’m sure she can! :"&#62;)

    Some that sound like they might work on me but don’t include l’air de Rien (great on the paper, wretched on me), Cuir Oranger (too much orange, too little cuir), and Fleurs de Sel (well, this is really nice at the beginning, but something goes slightly wrong in the drydown). So I will stick to my bourbons!

    PS Have you tried Soir de Lune? It’s beautiful (better than Eau de Soir IMO).

    • Lee says:

      I *think* I’ve tried Soir de Lune but probably need to give it another go…

      Honey, I imagine you’re the best of the Bunburyists, with or without carnation.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Mosey on over, Sam Shepard.
    Terse masculine prose, yee-hah !

    I really enjoy sniffing most of these, but don’t really feel the need to own most of them; agree that I’d rather Tabarome and TB than Feuilles, even though it’s a lovely scent.

    Maria and I agree on the Fleur de Sel- on me, it’s just a heartbreaker, a “roll, roll, roll in ze hay “kind of beauty.
    No VapoRub here…

    L’Air de Rien I adore,must and all…it becomes a great comfort.
    And Noix is a creamy little devil, unctuous as hell.
    Me likee very much-
    I would happily wallow around in it with Denyse, for your private pleasure alone; you know I’m not the bitchy or selfish type !
    I’ve not had the chance to sniff the Cuir d’Oranger, but it does sound appealing to Ms. Perversity.

    Sending you scented kisses and cavy cuddles….

    • Lee says:

      Now when am I going to get to sniff all three scents on you, that’s what I want to know…8-|

  • carmencanada says:

    Ah, Lee, I’ve been wanting to butter my cleavage with Noix de Tubéreuse for a while… Must dig out sample at some appropriate time (whilst teaching English to French portfolio managers, for instance). But what with Tubéreuse Criminelle, Carnal Flower and Fracas all clamouring for boobie space, it’s got little chance of making it to full bottle.
    Oh, and thanks for “bunburying”! One always need a little Wilde before breakfast.

    • Lee says:

      Wilde is perhaps the easiest English writer to recall at a moment’s notice. I agree with you on the tuberose issue. I think I’d place this one third in my own floral list. Fracas drops into fourth place…

  • helg says:

    Dear Lee,

    those were brilliant as a guide through Miller Harris’s collection. Very useful.
    I have to say that I do love Piment des Baies (adore the fresh spice!), L’air du rien (cozy “dirtiness”) and Cuir Oranger, which is so distinctive and sensual to me.
    I also find that Fleur du matin has the limpid and astrigent character of Cristalle EDP with its floral nuances scattered on a palette of citrus. I find it mouthwatering. As I do Jasmin Vert.
    En sens de bois is not my favourite incense but it sure is interesting. I think Lynn makes interesting fragrances with good ingredients.

    Would you think I’d like Vetiver Bourbon?

    • Lee says:

      I’m sure you’d find VB appealing, E, yes. That is, if you like those darker, more earthy vet scents. This is quite a sophisticated take on that form, but still very much in that category.

  • Maria says:

    I enjoyed your horticultural joke. We plant geeks need our laughs too. :-b

    Of these I’ve only tried two. Although I grow several scented pelargoniums, I just didn’t like Geranium Bourbon. Too sharp, too masculine. I gave my sample to my DH who is free to decide whether to wear it or not. It’s better on him.

    I liked Fleurs de Sel. In fact, I think I enjoy it more than (forgive me) Sel de Vetiver because of its herbal nature. You seem to have had the opposite reaction.

    I’m on a big iris kick these days. Along with a lot of beauty, this has brought up an annoyance. When Hermes stuck an H in front of “iris,” I thought it was cute because of Hermes’ initial. But what’s with Lyn Harris doing it too? The French for “iris,” believe it or not, Lyn, is “iris.” And the proximity to Terre…well, that just brings up an Hermes I’m positively frightened of.

  • Amarie says:

    Oh mighty Lee,
    you impresario of the concise narrative.
    All hail
    your marathon of succinct verbiosity.