Mainstream and Morris

Apologies to all non-American and non-UK residents here, as this post assumes, stupidly, that you live in either place. I do actually know lots of you don’t. But I’m writing about American ‘fumes today.

I know we’re two nations divided by a common language, but sometimes I just don’t get why one scent, popular and ubiquitous over here, is only in a handful of stores out there, and vice versa. Is Dolce and Gabbana’s The One still hard to get hold of in the States? It seemed like the most overpromoted perfume on TV here during the Christmas spend. Though the spend itself appears to have shrunk a little as the wind of global recession blows down everyone’s now loose fitting trousers. What other women’s scents fall into this category? I know Light Blue doesn’t saturate the market here like it does Stateside.

In terms of menswear, a default setting scent across the pond appears to be John Varvatos. From what I’ve read at, wearing this is as natural a stage to go through as drinking too many kegs of beer, skinny-dipping and getting pleasure from farting in the bath. I’ve only seen it once over here – in Liberty of all places, amongst very exclusive niche numbers. Online, it’s overpriced compared to the nickel you can buy it for Stateside, though there does seem to be a grey market stash currently being auctioned on eBay. The ‘fell off the back of a lorry (aka truck)’ supply?

Well, I managed to get hold of some of this juice, so what’s a Brit man’s take on it? You know, it ain’t bad. But, to start with bad, I think the list of supposed ingredients is frankly hilarious (medjool, Mediterranean herbs, West Indian Tamarind tree leaves – Jamaican or Guyanan? It does make all the difference, ajowan, eaglewood etc.), especially if I’m meant to belief that medjool dates have been squeezed into the bottle. Hell, I love them, but I’m not sure that fruity accord is some special CO2 extraction of their innate essence. Equally hilarious is the bloke intoning over the fragrance concept section of the Varvatos website. I guess I should be thankful I’ve learned how I’m supposed to pronounce the name…

Onto the good. So, though this does the fruity top notes that linger and play before being joined by a woody oriental drydown (with a touch of leathery musk?), I get its appeal. It’s individual enough to stand out from the likes of Polo Black, yet without any quirky edges. Can I also say that the bottle design has feel appeal too, and I don’t often feel anything for bottles. It’s a very synthetic smelling scent, and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way, and though its vanillic drydown is generic, there’s enough to hold your interest lightly without it being distracting. I just wish companies could be more honest about their juices, instead of claiming that they’re the first ever to use eaglewood, or extract of Ladakh prayer flag…

And it’s a bargain everywhere. I wouldn’t mind young, good looking men smelling of this. Or ugly ones either. I might even wear it once or twice myself, though I’m definitely outside its market sector… Anyone sniffed the Vintage? I’m guessing that’s aimed – ha! – at the 30something market. Not that I’m there for much longer either…

Onto stranger and more delectable shores, to perfumes that do distract and hold your attention and tease and tempt. The siren’s call, in fact. Someone tie me up to the mast, cos Neil Morris is making me want to take the plunge. Louise was sent some samples by the ever-generous, ever lovely Chaya, and being the love she is, she sent bits and pieces of them on to me. There was a lot to sniff, and Louise being Louise, she threw all sort of other goodies in there (vintage Mitsy extrait – hello!). The two that have grabbed me, shaken me up (Judy! – Dickensian humour – sorry) and left me reeling are Dark Earth and Burnt Amber, the collaboration between Neil and the aforementioned Chaya.

Dark Earth does exactly what it says on the tin. Wet patchouli gives it a soil like quality, some musk (I think) an animalic edge and there are saplike green notes in there to brighten the darkness a little. But this is a forest of mystery and perhaps terror, an adult location for Hansel and Gretel stories, like the once inhabited Harrikin of William Gay’s disturbing Twilight, though the rain has ceased and there might be a way out yet. Now, this sounds menacing, but it’s actually beautiful. I’ve missed out the floral facets, the light that breaks through the loam and gloaming, in spite of the tall trees that hide the way you came. A perfume of solitary comforts, where the earth is the earth is the earth, the place from whence we came and to where we shall return.

(footnote – four hours later, I resprayed Dark Earth. It was all soapy clean fresh green and not dark at all. I’m blaming my off-centre nose and hoping my first impression was the more accurate one.)

Though I liked Dark Earth, the miracle is Burnt Amber, as it does the remarkable and makes me love an amber dominant fragrance for the first time (Ambre Narguile doesn’t count – it’s honey, spices, tobacco and apple pie to me). Sticky and fruity and maybe medicinal to begin with, but in the best possible lick-me-all-over way, it gets smoky and tarry and dirty and murky. My oh my, I need a bottle. For some of you, it’ll be too close to Patchouli24 with additional tyres burning in the background, and only a lone marshmallow or two being overtoasted on the brush fire. For me – it makes me hungry. Hungry and lusty (tmi? Blame the sirensong). And though it doesn’t quite make me feel better, I sniff it and no longer care that I feel unwell. Neil and Chaya – when’ll this be up on Neil’s website? A delirious fan needs to know. Pray tell.

  • Lee says:

    BBliss – here are all the Vault scents:

    Intimate Gardenia
    Intimate Lily
    Intimate Wisteria
    Intimate Vanilla
    Intimate Amber
    Intimate Tuberose
    Spectral Violet
    Flowers For Men-Rose
    Flowers For Men-Gardenia
    Flowers For Men-Lilac
    Flowers For Men-Jasmine
    Le Parfum, C’est Ma Vie
    Le Parfum D’Ida
    Le Parfum D’Odette
    Summer of Love
    Rose of Kali
    Spirit Of Air
    Spirit Of Water
    Spirit Of Fire
    Spirit Of Earth
    Midnight Tryst
    Midnight Sea
    Midnight Flower
    Midnight Star
    Midnight Moon
    Earthtones #1 – Dark Earth
    Earthtones #2 – Desert Wind
    Earthtones #3 – North Woods
    Earthtones #8 – Tropical Lagoon
    Earthtones #10 – Deep Jungle
    Dark Season
    Burnt Amber
    After The Rain
    Autumn Fire


    • BBliss says:

      Lee – you are too kind – that was a ton of typing! Sorry I missed it earlier, in my usual mad afternoon-dash to relieve and retrieve. It could have saved kind Mr. Morris a ton of time, too as he took me through much of the list this evening – so genuine and patient! (And he was very complimentary of you, too!)

      I went a little over the top, but couldn’t edit, as the names themselves are intriguing and make you imagine all sorts of wonderful possibilities – Hologram! Posh! Trance! – (these might have to make the next order along with the star and moon ones!) Goodies will arrive next week – to include some of those mentioned above, plus the violet, gala, the parfums – and I’m pretty excited. Thanks so much for sharing this treasure (and to Louise and Ida, too)!:x

      • BBliss says:

        Sorry must add – and Debbie, too – who pushed me over the edge with her other descriptions!:x

        Happy Weekend!

      • Debbie says:

        I am so glad that you ordered a bunch of samples! You have to report back on what you think of them. I think the names are enticing too.

        You know my boredom last night with En Passant? Well, I finally fixed it with Parfum d’Ida. What I learned last night is that fragrances probably should be worn more than one day before you make a final judgment about them. I loved it last night. True, aldehydes always shock me, but then I did smell the blackberry and the skank level was perfect instead of too much like the first time. Hmmm… why the difference? It rescued me from a boring Scent Night.

  • BBliss says:

    Lee –
    I am so late to this party – I need to try these!!! But, I’m confused – I just call NM up and ask for – what exactly? Is there a list of these special ones listed/posted somewhere? I think I need it spelled out, or maybe just more coffee this a.m. I feel like a dudl-) since everyone else seems to get this. Thanks for your help!

    • Debbie says:

      Er, I’m not Lee, but since I wandered onto your post first, I’ll add my two cents since I am definitely not shy when it comes to NM fragrances. Don’t feel badly; since the vault fragrances aren’t up on the site yet, no one knows it all except Neil himself

      Just call him. He is happy to discuss fragrances at length with you. His number is 617.267.2315. His email address is [email protected].

      A quick rundown of my favorites:

      Dark Season: the very epitome of sensuality. I just really can’t describe it beyond that. We need to get the notes from him. Just ordered a FB of this.

      Midnight Tryst: I loved this enough to order a bottle. I lose myself in this. The notes are (top) clove bud, magnolia flower, (heart) rose, narcissus, gardenia, (base) oakmoss, vetiver, jatamansi, myrhh, civet, orris, black agarwood, russian leather.

      Cafe: An expresso with pastry. It mellows into hazlenut coffee at the end….or the pastry had some hazlenut?

      October: a perfect apple crisp cooling on your windowsill while you’re sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. You can smell the leaves underneath a nearby bush and an evergreen too.

      Burnt Amber: see my review above.

      Summer of Love: what a wonderful musk! I think I’m going to have to get a FB of this at some point.

      Rose of Khali: at first, it is a wine-scented rose. Then it becomes a true red rose. I couldn’t keep it on because it reminded me too much of my deceased mom’s rose garden.

      Ghandahar: beautiful, fresh, spices from India. I need a FB of this too at some point.

      Midnight Sea: a perfect evocation of the ocean, walking along at midnight. Sensual basenotes. Waterlilly, vanilla, patch, dark musk, ocean musk, ozone.

      Parfum d’Ida is an aldehyde with some beautiful notes in it and a very animalic base. Unfortunately, I don’t care for aldehytes. However, if you do, then you might want to ask about this one.

      I’d love to hear about what samples you ordered and what you thought.

      • BBliss says:

        Debbie – fantastic – thank you SO much! I got my act together and googled enough to come up with Gotham, Dark Season, Dark Earth and of course Ida’s – I found Dark Season’s notes, too: French cinnamon, labdanum, oak moss, myrrh, fir needle, dark vanilla, Indonesian patchouli.

        I will call for sure – this is a huge help – because I’m a planner – and sometimes, I get overhelmed with too many choices and with having to make a split-decision (e.g., over the phone) – then I have regrets…I have these meltdowns too in restaurants with menu choices :d

        • Debbie says:

          You’re welcome! And thank you for the notes on Dark Season. It amazes me that myrrh is in it when I disliked AG’s Myrrhe Ardent so much. I thought I just hated myrrh. Guess not.

          • Lee says:

            Debbie – I often dislike myrrh, but every once in a while, it smells great when the balance is right. Like in Bois d’Argent.

            Had a lovely long chat with Neil yesterday!

          • Debbie says:

            I have never smelled Bois D’Argent. After reading the superlatives many people attached to it, it sounds like that I should add to the list.

            So did you learn anything new in the chat yesterday?

            Well, now we had the vault scents up here at least. I’ve asked for info on some of them to see if I should order samples:

            Spectral Violet
            Midnight Star
            Midnight Moon
            Desert Wind
            Autumn Fire

            Do you know anything about these? I can’t remember; have you tried others in addition to Dark Earth and Burnt Amber?

            I’m sitting here in Guerlain’s En Passant. Although it smells nice, I am bored.

          • Lee says:

            I learned most of all what a lovely man he is!

            I don’t know anything about these scents yet – we’ll see!

          • Debbie says:

            Yes, he is!

          • Debbie says:

            Um, I meant Trance, not Trace.

  • Lee says:

    I’m loving your comments… I think more people need to see them though. we need a Neil Morris follow up post!

    • Debbie says:

      Thanks, Lee. I feel a little insecure posting my impressions of the fragrances because I have so little experience. What if I get it totally wrong? I suppose we could argue that, well, it’s based on my body chemistry, nose and olfactory brain portions. But I’m sure you know what I mean.

      BTW, you actually sent me to the dictionary with “semiotics” on the other post. Turns out I did study it in Women’s Studies at OSU, but I don’t remember it ever being named.

      Maybe you can do a second Morris post when you get some more samples?

  • Lee says:

    Time for me to phone Neil. I keep putting it off…

    • Debbie says:

      Yes. I think so too.

      I just tried Midnight Sea. You can smell the ocean. It’s not the strange things labeled sea-like at the dept store. Much better and more real. It is NOT Cool Water. Then there is a blast of something indolic. Then that more or less disappears..something softer and rounder…animalic with a little floral and very pleasing.

      • Debbie says:

        On a second application of MS, I am smelling the sea through the whole thing so far (an hour). Really enjoying it.

  • Debbie says:

    If you have not checked out Midnight Tryst yet and love animalics, you must sample this one. Maybe some tobacco in there too? Something a little sweetish? Castoreum? Whatever, I am sitting here going, “mmmmm….mmmmmm.” No kidding. My favorite so far, even more than Burnt Amber.

    I have tried several others now:

    (1) Dark Earth. The first notes of this definitely took me back to my grandfather’s farm when rich earth had been newly tilled. Unfortunately, I couldn’t leave it on long enough because I thought I was going to go to Nordstrom’s and maybe sample some Miller Harris. Will try again, as there was something there after I washed that was really wonderful.

    (2) October. NM described this as taking a walk and smelling the leaves on the ground and a newly baked apple pie cooling in a window. The apple pie is perfect. It’s someone who knows how to bake too, because it isn’t very sweet and has the right amount of spice in it. I didn’t smell pastry notes as in Iris Ganache or (so I’ve heard) Fath’s Iris Gris, so maybe it’s apple crisp instead of pie. On and off throughout the fragrance, I smelled the leaves. What I definitely noticed was an evergreen smell. I was intrigued by this one. It was easy to imagine sitting in my kitchen (or on a covered porch), with the tree nearby and smelling both while I saw at the table reading. I have never worn fragrances based on the season, but this one could change my mind. It really celebrates fall.

    (3) Parfum d’Ida. Civet? A floral note right in the beginning and then the fragrance became too much for me. Not the floral but whatever else was in there; maybe civet. I don’t know why, and I need your more experienced nose(s) to tell me why (maybe).

    In fact, I need your more experienced nose(s) period for these and the others. I’ll be glad when Patty et al. gets theirs in so that we can see the writeups.

    • Debbie says:

      I didn’t think to have pen and paper ready when I was speaking to NM. He mentioned the notes…and now I don’t have them. 🙁 I had to bother him; will only ask when I order a FB.

      • Debbie says:

        I meant, “I hate to bother him.”

      • Lee says:

        Midnight Tryst sounds like a fragrance for me. Oh my…

        Parfum d’Ida smells old-fashioned aldehydic floral to me at first. But you’re right – that us grafted onto the rump of a stinky beast. It is very civetty. I love it for those contrasts, though it’s not something I’d personally wear. If the world smelled like it though, I’d be happy.

        I liked October too.

        I don’t think Neil would mind you contacting him at all! 🙂

        • Debbie says:

          Lee, I am absolutely in LOVE with Midnight Tryst. You *have* to try it! After hours of wear, it then turned into this lush, animalic floral. It reminded me of N’s Narcotic Venus. Except, it is even better. (And believe me, that is the highest of praises.) It also took me back, at one or two moments, to Bal a Versailles, one of my most favorite of perfumes and the one that introduced me to the world beyond department store florals. AND–treat of treats–I could still smell it a little this morning. It was like having had :”> fantastic sex the night before and still being able to smell your lover somewhat the next morning. Yeah, you can believe it when I say I’m buying a bottle of this. I just need to work through his other samples…as if I could afford two bottles at once, but you know what I mean. I want the whole experience first.

        • Debbie says:

          That was supposed to be a blush up there in my previous post.

          I might have to call today anyway to get a bottle of that. I mean, what if Boston had a tornado or something? Okay, so Boston never has very bad disasters except maybe snow or ice. My midwestern roots are showing through.

  • Debbie says:

    I received my 11 samples from Neil Morris. I can’t really name very many individual notes, so my evaluations of them will be more impressionistic.

    The first to be sampled was Burnt Amber. At first, it feels like a hard amber and a blast of smoke. It then rounds out to a fragrance feeling like amber and the smell of burning leaves–not right at your feet but in the backyard while you’re in the driveway. I really experienced this when I stepped outside into said driveway. However, it was like reality had been polished and handed back to me. It smelled so wonderful. The temperature was/is about 35 degress. It seemed like a beautiful fall day. There is sweetness in the burning leaves, but it is not a sweet fragrance. I definitely do not smell a candied sweetness.

    I think it’s easier to wear than AG’s Amber Fetiche. The persistence and sillage are pefect. My definition of perfection for both of those qualities: it lasts about four hours and while I can definitely catch a whiff when I move around (i.e., my nose does not need to be glued to my wrist), it does not announce itself across the entire room like a Montale did earlier this morning.

    I’ll report back as I try the others!

    • Lee says:

      I get a fair bit of sweetness, but you’re right – it’s a similar sweetness to CB Burning Leaves. I’m so glad you’re loving it! I love your phrase ‘like reality had been polished and handed back to you’. Love it!@};-

      • Debbie says:

        Thank you, Lee. That’s a wonderful compliment to get from someone who writes so well himself.

        Yes, so these will be “The Eleven Days of Morris”, to borrow a phrase from Blogdorf Goodman. On to Dark Earth….

      • Debbie says:

        I’ve never smelled CB’s Burning Leaves. It’s hard to imagine withou Neil’s amber.

  • Patty says:

    I am soooo far behind! I have the dark earth and very, very much like it, but that burnt amber sounds like perfection. Now I need to try that as well.

  • tmp00 says:

    These fragrances read so well- I’m going to have to investigate.

    Neil’s pretty tasty himself, according to his pictures.. 😡

  • Christine says:

    The Burnt Amber sounds pretty darned fantastic. Often very green things do terrible things on my skin…so I would guess the Dark Woods are out. But amber! plus burning tires! Yes, please. God, this perfume thing has made me a bit of a weirdo I’m afraid.

    Love your posts as always!

    • Lee says:

      If this ain’t a place for us weirdos to unite, I don’t know where is!

      Lovely to see you, as always.

  • Lee says:

    Karma, baby.:x

  • chayaruchama says:

    I’m at work, so I haven’t been able to pop in..
    So happy to see how pleased everyone is, and enthusiastic.
    Neil is a pleasure, and it’s lovely to see him gain some recognition , after so many years of hard work !

    So glad I had the opportunity to spread some of the love, and the jus, around…

    • Debbie says:

      Chaya, may I introduce myself? I’m Debbie Russell, in Ohio, and a fan of fragrance since my 20’s, starting with Shiseido’s Zen and Bal a Versailles. I’m now nearly 50. 😮 But it has been a wondeful journey, and fragrance beautifies my life.

      I have never been a fan of the insipid fruity florals that seem be everywhere. Thank God, literally, for the internet. My favorites: Chergui, Iris Ganache, Sweet Oriental Dreams, Cimabue, Botrytis, Amber Fetiche, Bal a Versalles, MH’s Rien, Narcotic Venus. It’s amazing to me that my love BaV hasn’t gone away. Is there anything so richly animalic as that one?

      Neil mentioned you when I called–that his Parfum d’Ida was created for you?! How wondeful! Of course, on hearing the description, I could not resist. I am so looking forward to that creation, along with several others.

  • Debbie says:

    I just spoke to Neil Morris. I am swept away by the images that lead to different scents. I am reading The Perfect Scent now, getting a feel for how scents are created and marketed, and it was just wonderful to talk to an artist creating some of the beauty that enriches our lives. I, er, ordered too many samples, but I couldn’t resist. Bad me….but I can’t wait to get them!!!

    • Lee says:

      Good for you Debbie! Report back…:d

      • Debbie says:

        You mean on the fragrances? Will you still read it if I post here after this page is archived?

        • Lee says:

          Of course – I get notified of each post – for a long time!!:d

          • Debbie says:

            Oh, okay. Sure thing then! I love to share what I think with other people who love fragrance. Just be warned–I ordered something like 11 samples. It will take awhile. Or it might be better to report after I try each one. Otherwise, I’ll have to take notes, given my memory or lack thereof. It (my memory) is pretty much limited to how much I liked it on a four-point scale: loved, liked, boring, hated. And there’s so much more to say about a fragrance than that.

          • pitbull friend says:

            Oh, Debbie, there’s no shame in taking notes. I have a system of notes, involving the dates tried, a number rating & a written rating. I’m well over 100 pages now. It’s fun to look back, too. –Ellen

          • Debbie says:

            I’ve thought about doing this, but then I wondered…how would I ever find something specific? I thought about a notecard system, then I thought, “No, computerize it!”, and then I gave up.

          • Lee says:

            Lots of people use Excel… Just sayin’.:-\”

          • Debbie says:

            x( Don’t I feel like an idiot. Of course, Excel! I had to use it to keep track of my medical expense for taxes. It’s great. I guess I’ll have to buy one of those little things for backup. (In my day, it used to disks. WTH are those little finger-sized things called?)

          • Debbie says:

            Memory sticks. 8-|

  • Billy D says:

    Darn these comment boxes: see below!

  • Billy D says:

    From a fellow narcissus fan: what other notes are you including? I’m trying my LA fleur de narcisse today with some poivre sacaramande. The poivre devoured the poor little narcissus quite quickly, and now I’m left with something that smells strangely like detergent.

    • MarkDavid says:

      Alright, now I feel sheepish. Im responsible for the disaster in alignment on this page. In an attempt to be amusing, I promise.
      If anyone has the power of deletion – go ahead and cancel out my childish Mary Poppins reference up there. I didn’t expect the page to crunch. I feel like an @ss now…

      Alright Billy – now to you. You like Narcissus, too, eh? Good. There aren’t many of us out there. Fleur de Narcisse is a scent I cannot live without – absolutely one of my top 5 fragrances that I own. Love it beyond words.

      The scent Neil is designing for me is not like that, though. That was Narcissus and Leather and was done to perfection already that I didn’t even want to try and top it – I wanted something entirely different. We have lots of greens in it – galbanum, basil blossom, sweet pea, then some aldehydes, rose, purple hyacinth, and the base, depending on which modification you smell has lots of incenses and precious woods. Nag Champa has been used but I think we’re going to go towards frankincense. And there is oud in all of them. Its gone from being a scent about Iris and Narcissus to being only about Narcissus, and now I think we’re going to go back and add the iris back a little at a time. I wanted a heavy floral heart with nuclear lasting power – that was one of Neil’s prompts.

      • tmp00 says:

        Nuclear Narcissus? Where do I sign up?

        • MarkDavid says:

          Does this mean a third Narcissus fan? Be still my heart…
          when its done, I’ll send you a smidge, hows that?
          both of you.
          And anyone else, for that matter.

          the volume of Narcissus keeps going up with every mod. Its very smilar to the story with Lutens and the Iris in ISM…Needs more Iris. I said to Neil, “I have this strange feeling I wont be satisfied until you accidentally knock the entire bottle of French Narcissus into mix.”

          In comparison – the levels we’re at now we have like, 4 drops of rose, 1 drop of this, 2 drops of that, then all of a sudden its “…and 47 drops of Narcissus.”

        • MarkDavid says:

          Does this mean a third Narcissus fan? Be still my heart…
          when its done, I’ll send you a smidge, hows that?
          both of you.
          And anyone else, for that matter.

          the volume of Narcissus keeps going up with every mod. Its very smilar to the story with Lutens and the Iris in ISM…Needs more Iris. I said to Neil, “I have this strange feeling I wont be satisfied until you accidentally knock the entire bottle of French Narcissus into mix.”

          In comparison – the levels we’re at now we have like, 4 drops of rose, 1 drop of this, 2 drops of that, then all of a sudden its “…and 47 drops of Narcissus.” (Exaggerated for emphasis)

        • markdavid says:

          ugh. only meant to post that once. its not my night, apparently.
          im making a big mess here. my appologies

          • Billy D says:

            The first time I smelled Fleur de Narcisse, I was just smiling uncontrollably. Just like Bel Respiro from Chanel, it makes me happy. If FDN isn’t gorgeous, I don’t know what is. I have two problems with it, and they almost seem paradoxical–it disappears quickly on me, but while it’s there, it’s extremely heady. I know some people get only smoke or hay from it, but I would have looooved them to ramp up the hay. That’s why I have so much fun layering it, but I do find most everything else eats it up quite quickly.

            I’m very strange actually—I love to smell it, but I think it’s a touch too feminine for me to wear, a little too soft and buttery. But I also wouldn’t want it, say, as a room spray or candle, which give me headaches. I like to just have it around to smell and put on, like fragrance dress up–fragrance drag, you might say. I wish I could afford a whole, big, beautiful bottle:-(I’m hopefully going to get a little decant of Vetiver Extraordinaire and see how they layer.

            My love for narcissus is solely based on FDN though–I don’t think I’ve ever smelled another one, and the only one people really talk about is Narcisse Noir, which I KNOW would be much too floral on me, and I’m a man who likes flowers. I would LOVE to see what Jean Claude Ellena could do with narcissus–or even Le Labo. Hell, even Chanel. OOOO or Serge. It really is underrepresented, isn’t it?

            In sum: I’d love a squidge when you finish! Narcisse+frankinsence sounds heavenly, dahling (I’m celebrating Zsa Zsa’s 91st b-day today).

          • Louise says:

            Annette Neuffer (lovely jazz musician and perfumer) has a stunning narcissus perfume-Narcissus Poeticus, and several other fragrances worth trying. You can contact her at

          • Lee says:

            Wat a world of enablers this is!

  • Divalano says:

    I love amber on other people & amber as a note in a composition but I can’t tell you how many ambers I’ve blown through trying to find one that works on me. And then last month I fell for Ambre Fetiche. Gollygoshgeewillikers that stuff is amazing on me. Swoon, etc. And now from your description it looks like there’s another amber in the queue with my name on it? Don’t you guys have any pity on a middle income working woman’s wallet? Sheesh.

    OK, back to sniffing my wrist (Ambre Fetiche day) in between rescuing network denizens in distress …

    • Lee says:

      Same here M – on most of your points. Well, I’m middle-income anyway. Speak to Neil. You know you want to. What’s the harm with a $ or $$ on samples? Eh? >:)

      • Divalano says:

        You dirty tease, Burnt Amber is not listed as a sample available on Neil Morris’ web site. And I don’t dare click on the “custom fragrances” whoosie. So, that makes it entirely out of my reach. Right? Right.

        lalalalalala hiding under console lalalala

        • Lee says:

          None of the Vault scents are on the site yet. You’ll have to call him. Number up above. Just sayin’! :-\”

  • moi says:

    Howdy. I hail from Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA) and walked into our local independently owned and operated perfume shop (Model Pharmacy, rocks like no mall rat store ever could) last week and was sent home with a handful of samples of D&G’s The One. So if it’s readily available in Moi’s dusty Rocky Mountain burg, I’m assuming it’s becoming ubiquitous elsewhere as well.

    • Lee says:

      lol – thanks for the amusing heads up. Is that lack of sale dust, or NM dust?:d

    • Debbie says:

      You’re so lucky to have a store independent of the mall stuff. We used to have a great one, but it shut down. :o( Now there’s supposedly a new one, but it seems to have mainly Creed and one other one…. not what I was wishing for. I’m in Columbus, the capital of the state, and there’s NOTHING?! I have to go to Chicago or New York to find the niche fragrances being sold? That’s just sad. And ridiculous. I guess we’re a small town in more than just our friendly ways. Anyway, congrats on having a good store in your city/town, you lucky dog.

      • moi says:

        Lee: Both!

        Debbie: We used to have a REALLY good one. A huge shop in our main mall, run forever and a day by this very knowledgeable, if a bit stiff, middle aged man. I would visit at least once a month. Unfortunately it shut down about 20 years ago. Model, is pretty decent. Although the perfume shop makes up only about a quarter of the entire retail enterprise, it’s surprisingly comprehensive, the SAs are friendly, smart, and generous, and you can sniff and chat for days. Plus, they’ll order just about anything you want.

        • Debbied says:

          So jealous! You’re in Albuquerque, right? That is so beautiful geology-wise, and now to learn it’s beautiful in terms of at least one perfume shop….

  • MarkDavid says:

    Ah, Neil. As soon as I got a chance to smell his fragrances, I knew he was the man to create my custom scent. We’re still working on it, but the process is soooo much fun. Its a Narcissus scent.

    I have a bottle of The Dark Earth and find myself reaching for it quite often. What I love most about it is that I get a feeling of decadence as soon as I put it on. Its a complex melange of luxury, never gaudy – its edited, but not restrained. Just the way I like ’em.

    Burnt Amber is a bloody goldmine. Jesus. Wish I’d of thought of that one, let me tell ya. This is a Guiness amber, for sure.

    His Gotham is another star-fragrance, winners round on that one. My absolute favorite however, is his Flowers for Men: Gardenia – perfectly unisex, of course. Now, I hate Gardenia fragrances. Neil and I were talking one night on the phone, one of our marathon phone calls that would rival the Jerry Lewis telethon for length(or at least the Oscars) and we were discussing samples that he was going to send to me and he said “…And I’ll throw in Gardenia for Men” and I said “Don’t bother, I wont like it. Dont waste postage.” and he said “Well, I’ll risk it, you might change your mind.” Well, long story short, he managed to call my bluff – (and I’ll never forgive him for that,) but Im glad he did because I cant live without this fragrance. I want to marry it but apparently, thats not legal yet.

    No Pressure or anything (yea, right) BUT….Lee are you crossing the pond to come see us in April? I think you should, just sayin. With Neil and I in the same room – its more dimples than most can tolerate, I just want to warn you. And then add Ida’s vibrancy and the puppies – have you any idea what you’re getting yourself into? We may need to defibrilate…

    • Lee says:

      A Guiness amber. Damn straight. If you follow…

      I should try some flowers – we’re still not friends, at list in an on-skin sense… Maybe Gardenia for Men’ll change all that.

      As for Sniffa, I have a doc appt for a lung check and stuff on Fri – been a bit wobbly healthwise this winter. That, plus one or two other factors (both med and non-med) and I should be able to declare one way or the other next week. Sorry for the circular response…:d

      • MarkDavid says:

        well, let me know.

        Suggestions for preferrable ways of doing this:

        -pop out of a big gigantic box on my porch and tell me in person
        -send me a singing telegram dressed as a Yeoman
        -burn it into my lawn using a mix of bleach, honey, & Chanel No. 5
        -release your carrier Pigeon now as the weather is safe for a trans-Atlantic flight.
        -full-page ad in the NY Times, only $100K…good towards your yearly subscription, of course…

  • Lee says:

    Well, we know you have exceptionally good taste. And can crack a good joke.;)

  • Great post as usual, Lee.

    I am keeping my joke about Varvatos for the modern leathers on my Leather Series on the blog, but I agree with you on your assesment.
    The Morris scents (which Chaya was sooooo generous to let me sample) have their own quirkiness and deserve the written inches. Gotham and Dark Earth are both to my taste, as is Parfum d’Ida.

  • Neil says:

    Fragrant Greetings to all at! My business partner David informed me of the article regarding two of our VAULT scents and I just wanted to take a moment to thank Lee and all of you for your kind words. As a perfumer, it is the great joy of my life to introduce my creations to people who enjoy them. Olfaction is the divine sense, it moves us like no other. It connects us with memory on such a visceral level – but you all know that! I try to tell stories with my scents and if one of my “stories” touches someone’s heart… how wonderful!

    Dark Earth and Burnt Amber (as well as all of our perfumes) are available now for those of you who are interested. Simply give us a call (617-267-2315) and we’ll take care of your request.

    Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart.

    Fragrant Dreams…


    • Lee says:

      You’re welcome Neil – you’re bringing us great pleasure, you know!

      I feel the need to phone you!:d

  • Marina says:

    Whoa, what a cutie in the ad! @-)

    Burnt Amber is awesome!

  • Flor says:

    I have no idea what Varvatos smells like, and most likely never will since I fall into the category of people who do not live in the UK or US. The ad got my attention, though.

    Your first description of Dark Earth sounds haunting and beautiful, and your description reminded me of a passage in Wuthering Heights I always loved as it describes a perfume I would love to have someday: “In an afternoon in October, or the beginning of November – a fresh, watery afternoon, when the turf and paths were rustling with moist, withered leaves, and the cold blue sky was half hidden by clouds – dark grey streamers, rapidly mounting from the west, and boding abundant rain…..”.

    • Lee says:

      Those eyes, eh?

      Benefits of Brazil over northern climes? You don’t suffer the weather described by Bronte for 300 days of the year.. The reason it’s unclear whether it’s October or November? It’s always like that in Yorkshire. If it isn’t raining, it will be soon…:d

      • Flor says:

        There are times in the year where all I can think about is the rain and weather described in that passage. Here, all we have is hot humid weather, super hot humid weather, inferno. I would trade my weather for that weather in a heartbeat. – And yes, the eyes!!!

  • Malena says:

    here (= germany) john varvatos is widely avaiblable – at least i guess so, i always see it displayed in my favourite perfumery, but never ask for the price as – though the bottle doesn´t look that bad – i always assumed it´s an avergae men´s scent 😕

    you can´t overlook D&G the one, it can be found everywhere, it´s widely advertised on TV, bla bla bla – but :i never smelled it, either :”> i´m just not interested enough, too many other – more interesting sounding – scents & too little time…!

    about neil morris: i´ve never been so impressed with an american perfumer before (yeah, you can call be biased – i mostly prefer french perfume houses).
    thanks to chaya & another very lovely & generous PoL member i was able to sample some of his scents (& then placed a HUGE samples order via email/his website – i´d like to know how many scent he has created, at least 20, i guess).
    up to now, i love gotham & parfum d´ida the most, but burnt amber follows closely. it has such a delicious dark plum note – i really love your review 😡 but though i also think it has some meaty quality about it, i wouldn´t call it too close to patchouli 24 (another favourite of mine).
    the patch is more meat/smoke/vanila whereas burnt amber is plum/meat/amber/darkness.
    if i just could afford it 8-| i think i´d buy almost all of the scents in NM vault collection.

    • Lee says:

      Malena – you’re right – it isn’t much like Patch24, though I’m pretty sure those who like one will like the other and so on. My connection was more along the lines of ‘If you enjoy ‘Songs in the Key of Life’, you might also like to listen to Donny Hathaway’ kindathing. You get me?

      There’s too much to smell in the world already, so I think you’re quite right to draw a line somewhere…

      • Malena says:

        alright 🙂 i get you!

        because of your post i´m wearing burnt amber today –
        i think if patchouli 24 is autumn, burnt amber is winter.

        by the way, my space.NK scents already arrived – speedy delivery!

  • March says:

    Hey, I’ll take the (jail)bait! I like Varvatos and I like Varvatos “vintage” even better — trying to remember why (rum? tobacco? something, it was richer). Do I think they are winning any awards for novelty? Nope, and also I didn’t try them on my skin, so Vasily’s synth note might kill the whole deal for me (that tends to emerge on my skin). And yes you are correct, it is EVERYWHERE. You and I have had this talk before, I am fascinated by what are clearly marketing ploys. Although The One has caught up with Light Blue over here in the last few months IMHO in deployment if not in actual popularity. (Light Blue is everywhere, I smell it all day long.) Since I will now humble myself by saying I happen to really LIKE Light Blue, as you know, and I realized the other day prepping for my Penance sniff that The One is another tasty mass-market fragrance, I’m okay with that. :d

    PS Love, love, love Dark Earth and Chaya’s scent.

    • Lee says:

      And you see, I think it must be a Varv decision to skip the Brit market. I dunno why. Will sniff the Vintage when I’m in London.

      I wonder if we could compile a list of things ubi here, and not there, and vice versa. Maybe only you and I would be interested. Or maybe only me.@-)

      I can see why you’d love Dark Earth oh so easily… @};-

  • Anne says:

    You have entered the dark side at last, an amber you have fallen for! Welcome! Both of the scents you mention sound amazing. Off to email him regarding a possible release! :)>-

  • MattS says:

    Ummm…I kinda like John Varvatos myself, even though I’m sixteen years too old for its target audience. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d be accused of not acting my age. I actually bought a bottle on impulse once, eventually getting a little bored with it, but it is pleasant and inoffensive and I mean that in a good way. I still spritz a bit from time to time when I want to slide under the radar. I live in a small town where it’s not sold, so it doesn’t seem as ubiquitous as it probably is in larger cities. The men’s scent of choice in these parts seems to be Aqua di Gio, which is damn near inescapable.

    Now you could probably sell me on the Neil Morris stuff with that illustration alone. That picture sums up how PG’s Querelle smells to me. Love it.

    • Lee says:

      Exactly right Matt – it’s a darn pleasant scent.

      Querelle fits the Dore just as well as Dark Earth does. The difference is, if I were in the engraving, and it were Querelle, Munch’s screaming man would have to sidle on in too. Not that I don’t love the scent, but oh how it hurts my head and stomach…

  • Louise says:

    Ah, Lee, so glad the sample chain of Neil Morris’ made it’s way to you. Thanks to Chaya for introducing him to me and you and the Posse gang.

    I am so impressed with the man (he’s incredibly smart and sweet by phone)and the fragrances. Dark Earth is amazing-I just reprayed and am getting the deep, dark side, with some sweet. But it does have a seasonal aspect-a few days ago, it was the lighter green you note. It does for me what I hoped a couple of the CB earthier fragrances didn’t quite do-combine the soil with rich wearability.

    Unfortunately, I turned Burnt Amber a bit sour, and that makes me sad, because I do love amber, and admire the composition greatly. Neil has a number of other amazing “vault” perfumes-I bought Dark Season (a rich, piney , patchy ode to Finnish nights); Gotham, a rose chypre under serious consideration for a purchase soon; the stunning Parfums d’Ida; Midnight Tryst, a little yummy gourmand spice piece, others. It’s worth a call to Neil to discuss your preferences-he’s so intuitive and savvy, and sends enormous samples at very reasonable cost.

    • Elle says:

      Oh, no! A rose chypre? I will have to call him back and ask about the other “vault” scents. And he really was incredibly nice to talk to on the phone.

      • March says:

        Elle, FT — you *need* to check out the Dark Earth. I need to re-ask Louise, but I am pretty sure that’s the one I wet myself over, along with Chaya’s.

        • Elle says:

          I ordered a sample of that one. I have this sinking feeling that the discovery of NM scents does not bode well for my budget.

        • Louise says:

          Ah, March, it was Dark Season that caused your excitement. That’s the fir-patch-oakmoss-deep vanilla confection that I bought a bottle of. Need some more?

    • Lee says:

      I’m glad I know you for many reasons, and not just as my Neil Morris facilitator.:x

      And I know I’m calling Boston very soon.

    • Elle says:

      Called him again about the vault scents. He took a huge amount of time talking to me and suggesting scents from the different series that I might like. Could he possibly be any nicer or more interesting? SO looking forward to trying all of them.

      • Lee says:

        The person behind the scent always makes it for me. So good to hear. I never doubted it; he’s Chaya’s friend after all.

  • dinazad says:

    Le Labo Patch Plus Burning Tyres? Oh dear, now I HAVE to get hold of that. And anything that smells of the rotting leaves aspect of patchouli is a must have anyway. Two brand new lemmings. Just what I needed. Sighhhhhhh…..

    • Lee says:

      Well, it’s very different from the Patch, though people who dislike that will also, I’m guessing, feel aversion to Burnt Amber. Oh it is lovely.

  • Billy D says:

    Blech, it’s that horrid combination of synthetic and vanilla that makes me gag. As any pretentious TV cook will admonish (unless Nigella is having one of her delightfully de-posh-ifying ‘comfort food’ days wherein fried marshmallow pancake pudding makes an appearance), one must always use natural, high-quality vanilla.

    Plus, I freaking hate that stupid bottle. Can anyone come up with a bottle concept that is not based on a flask these days (Varvatos is the most ubiquitous, but there is also Diesel, the new Beat by Burberry, cK 1 of course, etc. etc.)? And that tacky faux-snakeskin leather girdle–yuck yuck yuck.

    That being said–I used to really like Polo Black:-* The iced mango did it for me. I can’t wait until someone creates a frag called “Blasphemy” and the ad copy says it includes the blood and body of christ or something like that. The day is not far off. It would probably be called “Blaspheme Noir” though.

    Enough parentheses for you?

    • MJ says:

      What really qualifies a fragrance as vintage ? It doesn’t seem that long ago that I aqiured some men’s samples at Nordstrom’s, during my quest to purchase my Son a new fragrance for Christmas. The first time that he tried it, I knew that “Varvatos” was the Scent he had to have. Even now when I’m close to him, I’ll still ask ” What do you have on?,” inevitably, it’s always “Varvatos.” He has never worn this fragrance anywhere, that he hasn’t been asked,(by women especially)what he’s wearing,and told that he smells “scrumptious.” Maybe, those of you who dislike the scent so much, just don’t have the right skin chemistry to wear it!
      My Son, seems to have made it his own, he wears it “Sumptously”.

      “Out of ten womenwho wear Shalimar there will be six who will wear it normally, one on whom it will smell dreadful, and two who will wear it differently. And then there will be one who willwear it Sumptously. It is to her that people will ask for the name of her perfume.”–Sylvanie Delacourte

      • Lee says:

        Sumptuous and scrumptious – he’s clearly doing something right. Good for him, and you with such a wise purchase.

        You’ve sent me off to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang land…

    • Lee says:

      You’re in feisty mode Billy! I like it!

      1) I think it’s a more sophisticated synthetic than vanillin, but I could be wrong;
      2) I can’t get enough of hip flasks! (hic);
      3)Polo Double Black is where it’s at;
      4) What annoys me is how these designer scents are all frontloaded, cos no-one cares for a drydown in the world of the spur-of-the-moment buy;
      5) Love the parentheses
      6) Wasn’t the Pardoner touting Blaspheme Noir in The Canterbury Tales, way back when?
      7) I wonder how much of your horror of Varvatos (Var-VAYYY-tos) is its ubiquity? And my, it’s no-brainer good attitude its rarity? You can tell me to go make Biblical with myself if you like…

      • Debbie says:

        Regarding #7, Chandler Burr mentions that in his latest book. I can’t remember if he says it or if it’s Ellena, but someone in the industry says that once a fragrance becomes too popular, that very popularity will kill it.

        • Lee says:

          There you go…:d

          • Billy D says:

            Oh, well, you caught me there, not that I would ever try to hide my ultimate disdain for ubiquity. Acua di gio smells perfectly lovely on my bf, but I that does not change the fact that every frat boy from here to California is drenched in it.

            Nevertheless, I do think there is a difference between popularity because it’s “easy” and popularity because it is “good.” For example, let’s say No. 5 is just as popular as Angel (albeit with different segments of the population). Angel is popular because he is easy–a slut, if you will. Cheap, accessible to everyone. No. 5 is popular because she is smart, tells good stories, and is assumed to be sophisticated. Of course, I prefer Cuir de Russie, so…

            PS: You flatter me that you assume I’ve read The Canterbury Tales. You or Judith can explain that allusion to me later.

          • Lee says:

            Your post has made me think of Immanuel Kant, categorical imperatives and all sorts of other stuff. And that doesn’t happen every day. I like your point, though I’m not sure good things float to the surface in and of their own nature and become popular, any more or less than ‘easy’ things do. I could make an easy scent tomorrow to fit with the formula that’s popular right now, but it ain’t gonna sell.

            However, I will say that though I’ve never worn Acqua di Gio and never hope to, it’s an extraordinarily well executed scent and totally of its time. It’s good popular and easy popular – they can live side by side. The marketing of No. 5, alongside Chanel’s price point, lack of grey market material and so on means that somehow that very of its time scent has floated out of its historical limitations and is still worn. It could easily be labelled a grandma scent, but it isn’t because of those factors above.

            And I’m not sure Angel is that easy – it makes me decidedly uneasy!

            I’m no relativist, I do believe some scents are better than others, but judging contemporaneously is so much trickier than judging with hindsight or technical knowledge. Doesn’t mean I aint gonna judge. Does mean I’m ready to be wrong.

            Oh, and no Chaucer? For shame! The Pardoner pardonned sins by selling holy relics. He and his buddy the Summoner are two of the most repugnant characters you’re ever likely to meet in Lit. Red face and lank hair, I call em.

            I’m enjoying our chat!

          • Billy D says:

            I’m actually reading Paul de Man’s analysis of Kant, Nietzche, and Locke right now. I’m liking de Man a lot, but he’s so unrepentently pessimistic. Major downer.

            I was being incredibly simplistic–there are so many levels to explore that dictate a fragrance’s popularity and/or ubiquity. The “aura” around Chanel is unlike almost any other fashion brand, although I think Guerlain and Caron might give it a run for its money in terms of fragrance. That perceived aura of authenticity (signified>signifier, hehe) has to compete with the supposed “freshness” of a new scent, etc. etc.

            Acqua di gio is very nice. We were in Provincetown once waiting for a table at a cafe when this big old queen comes out and says to bf, “It’ll be another 20 minutes honey, you with your Acqua di gio!” Then again, bf also wears Polo Blue and (TURN AWAY NOW!) Vera Wang quite nicely. Just fyi, that bottle is almost gone, and he won’t be buying another any time soon. He borrowed a scarf of mine the other day and wore the scent, and now it won’t leave me! I think he smells lovely in almost anything though–that’s love I guess.

            Oh wait, except for Burberry London. BLECH! He smells like a big vat of chocolate icecream and tacos for some reason.

            I’m sure in the UK, there’s a much bigger emphasis on Chaucer than here. We generally go from Beowulf right to Shakespeare. I actually skipped Shakespeare too and went right to other playwrights of the English Renaissance–Tamburlaine, The Revenger’s Tragedy, etc. (sadly, no ‘Tis pity she’s a whore). My instructor: lilyofbp herself.

          • Lee says:

            There was a big scandal about de Man and Nazi stuff back in my postgrad days… Oh, so long ago…

            I love Burberry London! lol

            And you skipped Shakespeare? Lord a-freakin-live. (my head is shaking). Though I’m a big fan of that Jacobean grand guignol stuff (Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young) and *some* Restoration comedy… Aphra Behn’s The Rover most particularly…

            Okay, enough – this thread is way too skinny for comfort now!

          • Billy D says:

            It seems like everyone has a Nazi scandal these days doesn’t it? We were watching a special on the royal family the other night (bf is a bit of an anglophile) and he just loves how Wallace and the prince were Nazy sympathizers. Maybe that is the most taboo fragrance that they could come up with–“Third Reich,” with notes of moral bankrupcy and delusions of grandeur, coming this spring from Etat libre d’orange.

            Now this thread is positively waif-like. Mossian, if you will.

            I’ve just never felt particularly compelled to take Shakespeare in college. I read Hamlet at GREAT depth in AP English in highschool, and that felt like the pinnacle for me. I’m also a Spanish major who has never read (the complete text of) Don Quijote. Crucify me now!!

          • Lee says:

            Poor poor Cervantes!

            The Shakespearean pinnacles are King Lear and The Tempest. Jmho, of course…

            Third Reich – that’s an awfully funny (funnily awful) idea. Though that Skarb crap is supposed to have Nazi atrocity references, in amongst its men crying schtick. Beyond bad taste. And that’s not jmho.

            My ribs are cracking now.

          • MarkDavid says:


  • Vasily says:

    I tried Varvatos a month or two ago – my notes are sparse (I threw the sample out after one trial), but referring to them I read I found it unoffensively modern and young, and totally unremarkable. There was something harsh and chemical about it on my skin which I found quite obnoxious. I think when I was 25 I might have worn it and convinced myself I was oh so sophisticated. My wearing it at this age would be the olfactory equivalent of my dressing in hip-hop clothes and listening to 50 Cent. Varvatos is best left to the youngsters, I think.

    Both Burnt Amber and Dark Earth sound intriguing – hopefully Mr. Morris will have them on his site soon. I’ve always loved that Dore engraving – “I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost”. Your comments on Dark Earth remind me of one of my favorites, Ava Luxe’s Midnight Violet: sudden beauty & light shining dimly in the dark wood.

    • Lee says:

      I don’t find it harsh at all, though it’s undeniably synthetic. But, like I said, I don’t mind that. After all, I think Iris Silver Mist overdoses on synthetics yet it’s glorious. JV isn’t in the same league, the synthetics are probably cheaper but, you know, for what it is, and who it’s for, it’s damn good.

      It is a great engraving, isn’t it? I should have indicated who it was in my post, especially with the Dickens joke and all… This makes me wonder which circle of hell is special to dumb schmucks.

      And I’m definitely going to try Midnight Violet – I’ve put so many Ava Luxes off for so long…

  • Elle says:

    Just called and the Burnt Amber and Dark Earth, as well as Chaya’s scent are available for order over the phone – including samples. I came *very* close to skipping the sample phase and just getting bottles of the Burnt Amber and Chaya’s scent, but am trying hard to exercise restraint these days, so refrained. Thanks for the review! They sound incredible.
    I’m not sure I’ve sniffed the Varvatos yet or not, but, unlike w/ the Morris scents, I’m not tripping over myself to place an order or run to the mall. Sounds nice, but not essential.

    • Lee says:

      I’m sure you’ll love at least one of the NMs. The JV – you’re bound to come across it at some point in time.

  • Debbie says:

    Burnt Amber? Mmmmmm…. Right now, I’m sitting here in a haze of Memoire Liquid Voleur with Aquolina Chocolovers, and wow is it delicious. The former has amber in it, and the latter has added a burnt sugar note. Whereas Chocolovers was too sweet on its own, now it is great. So I wonder if the Burn Amber is anything like this.

  • Maria says:

    So, Lee, I’m guessing this appeared twelve hours early. A 24-hour clock mishap? Glad to see you whenever. :d