Neil Morris has a lot of fans in perfumista-ville. He tends to make big-boned scents with good lasting power and a certain retro vibe to them, and I mean that as a compliment. He also knows his way around a rose. While I’ve enjoyed several of his fragrances (e.g., Dark Season), I hadn’t fallen sufficiently in love to want more than a small sample.
Then Louise met me for coffee, sporting one of the scents Neil Morris just released, I think at Sniffa: Midnight Shadows. I hoovered her décolleté with abandon, thinking want want want. This new fragrance is an interesting direction, more spare and strange than what I’ve come to expect from the line.
I’m going to drop in the list of notes further down, but I emailed Neil and here’s what he wrote:
“I was heading home after visiting with a friend one summer evening and decided to walk 20 minutes instead of taking a cab. Boston is a wonderfully walkable city! So my walk took me through one of our beautiful parks called The Esplanade and I remember it was around midnight. It was quite warm and humid but there was a breeze and a full moon. The shadows from the trees were dancing across my path and I remember picking up a sweet scent in the air that I couldn’t identify. It was floral but more than that. I wanted to capture my magical midnight stroll with its damp earthiness, sweet floralcy and midnight shadows…”
I’ve never been in Boston late on a summer evening, and I’m afraid the thought of downtown Washington on a humid night doesn’t inspire a fragrance I’d want to wear, ever. But I’m glad Neil was inspired, because what he’s come up with is (at its essence) a smoky incense with a hint of oud and a faint, delicate sweetness that femmes it up a little.
I’m a huge fan of incense frags, and/but it’s possible to reach a point where you think: well, this scent here is sorta like Avignon but with less x, or this kind of reminds me of YSL Nu only more woody. The cool thing about Midnight Shadows, and I think Louise agreed, is that it doesn’t immediately bring to mind any other incense I’ve smelled. It’s not churchy. It’s wonderfully smoky, but for those who fear the smoke because it’s got that edge reminiscent of grilling meat, this is different – more like the sweet maple-leaf of CB I Hate Perfumes’ Burning Leaves and less like a leathery birchtar bratwurst.
Notes (directly from Neil) are cade, caramel, oud, labdanum, Arabian frankincense, tuberose, civet, musk. Now you see why I dropped them in a little later. Caramel isn’t something I long for in my perfumes, although the rest of that list sounds pretty swell. And I never in a million years would have identified tuberose – or any floral, really. It’s more resiny than floral to my nose, and easily unisex.
A note on cade: I’ve never smelled the essential oil, which is used medicinally in various ways and for aromatherapy. It’s distilled from juniper shrubs and descriptors include smoky, green, woody, and dry, and it’s often found in incense. Some favorite perfumes (Cuir de Russie, BNTB Exhale, and SSS Fireside and Winter Woods) contain cade; the last two also have birch tar, which makes them smokier. My guess is birch tar, which is in a lot of leather scents, is the roasted-meat culprit.
Midnight Shadows needs about five minutes to set up properly on the skin, it definitely warms up and opens up sillage-wise, and thus I’m warning you – a little bit goes a very long way. Louise made my roll-on decant from a spray bottle, and I can’t imagine spraying this thing on. Three or four sprays might clear a building, but two discreet dabs (on the wrist, on the chest) is perfect.
Feel free to name your favorite Neil Morris fragrance(s) in comments, and what you like about it/them.
image: Midnight Shadows, Chez VH, studeo.blogspot.com