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