Mini-Reviews Roundup, July 20, 2012: Neil Morris scents

The minor issue of how many times one wears a perfume before reviewing it came up in discussion elsewhere (if I could remember where I saw the discussion, I’d say so! Alas, my brain is sievelike lately.), so I thought I’d reiterate my usual modus operandi, which is Latin for M.O. 1

For full-fledged reviews, I always, always wear a scent a minimum of three times. For mini-reviews, one wearing is the norm, unless I feel that I didn’t really “catch” the spirit of thing. Sometimes I’ll attempt a mini-review and be baffled, and then wear the perfume enough that I think a full review is more appropriate, in which case I withhold the mini-review.

It’s Neil Morris Week! I have a handful of his scents to test, and to be honest,what this really tells me is that I need to test more of them. These are startlingly inventive and quirky and enjoyable, and I wish I lived in NYC so I could sniff more without ordering a sample of every single thing he’s created.

Seaflower – Neil’s kind handwritten message sent with my samples says that Seaflower is new. So in the spirit of discovery, I sniffed blind, without going to the website to read up on it. The name’s pretty evocative, too, so I did have that to go on. It reminds me somewhat of L’eau d’Issey: an ozonic opening, a light floral, a tiny melon accent. It all hangs together rather nicely.

There’s a salty aspect, too. Now, me, I’m not much of a salty-note fan. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t love that note, either. And the ozone thingy is sharp and pointy. It carries overtones of Mrs. Elma Swain, piano teacher, reminding me every thirty seconds to sit up straight and curve your fingers and put some expression into it, for heaven’s sake!

Eventually Seaflower relaxes a little bit, into a light floral with a bit of salt and white musk. It’s nice. Not very me, but nice. It actually makes me think of the way certain people have described Secretions Magnifiques, as a pretty, light floral with a bilge note (though Seaflower is more just “ocean” than “bilge”).

There is no information I can find on the website about Seaflower. It must be supremely new.

Woodland Strawberries – I have long been on the lookout for a true, fresh-strawberry scent, on behalf of my daughter Bookworm. Everything we’ve tried so far with a a strawberry note has smelled like jam (though we have not exhausted the possibilities). I thought this scent, with notes of black pepper and woods, would work well. It was once named Gala, by the way.

It does start off with a beautiful fresh-berry smell, no jam spoons in sight. Strawberries and pepper is a wonderful combination, by the way, in perfume as well as in actual foodstuff. But gradually, over the next hour or so, a strange garbagey note pops up to make me feel distinctly queasy. I usually get this sort of thing from mango/papaya notes (Calyx, for example), or from fruity chypres (Cartier So Pretty did this to me too, and Jubilation 25, and AdP Profumo), and I don’t know exactly what note it is – or whether it’s some combination of notes that’s disturbing my digestion.

After about two hours of queasy, the scent falls into a lovely woody drydown with a rich, sandalwood-like ambery hue. I love it. It’s gorgeous, and it lasts for several hours. I just struggle with that heart accord. Haven’t put this on Bookworm to see if it’s a skin thing – she won’t try it if I can’t promise her that it will not ook her out at any point.

From the website: Galbanum, sweet pea, black pepper, strawberry, cassis, geranium, sandalwood, oak, woody notes.

Le Parfum d’Odette – This opens up with a Big-Aldehyde, Old-School Real Perfume vibe. (Which I, personally, love, BTW.) It reminds me just a tad of Miss Dior and Arpege – the aldehydes, the flowers and dirt underneath. Rrowwrr. I wore this one without looking at the notes, and enjoyed playing nose detective with it. It lasted all day, so I was able to play a long time.

As the aldehydic fog lifts away, about an hour in, I could swear I’m getting lilacs. (Perhaps freesia? But I think lilac, which startled me because you don’t usually find such a light-hearted, old-fashioned note in a Grande Dame Perfume like this one.) And jasmine, I’m pretty sure I’m getting tropical jasmine (sambac) as well. Under all these lovely florals is a deep, growly, naughty sort of base. I mean, it’s that animalic angle so familiar in classic perfumery – not quite the Ho Panties of Patou Joy, and not the leather of Jolie Madame, but something warm and sweetly filthy that kept pulling my nose to my wrist. Civet, perhaps, or ambergris? I can usually distinguish civet, but it isn’t quite that. Perhaps just a spectacularly dirty musk, though not the kind that smells like sweaty unwashed male. Instead there’s a warm milkiness to this thing that smells womanly. It smells a little like a vintage Caron, though I couldn’t say for sure which one.

Okay, I throw up my hands in defeat. I don’t know what it is. I would, in fact, find myself a little anxious about wearing Parfum d’Odette out in public, but I also find it enjoyably retro and grand and rather sexy. Certainly addictive.

After writing the above, I went to the website to ascertain the notes – looks like I missed a bunch of stuff, and perhaps it’s the narcissus that is my “addictive, sweetly filthy” angle. I do love narcissus, but I still can’t pick it out of Odette. Notes, from the website: Aldehydes, green tea, honeysuckle, tuberose (how’d I miss THAT?), narcissus, and (yes!) lilac. Basenotes of warm guaiac wood, musk, and amber.

Le Parfum d’Ida – I always enjoy Miss Ida’s delightfully quirky Facebook posts, and her reviews are charming, as well as her comments scattered about on various blogs. Someday I’d love to meet her in person! I did know that this scent had been created for her, with her input, and it sounded like something I’d enjoy.

The first time I wore it was on a busy Saturday filled with errands, and the impression I had of it was that it was primarily aldehydes and musk. Which didn’t sound right: I had a vague memory of the notes list being heavy on oriental accents like leather and balsams.

Upon the second wearing, it’s still strongly aldehydic. (Like I said, this is a good thing for me.) There are berry notes under the aldehydes, though, and it’s very pretty. Rose? There’s a jammy-floral sweetness to the thing. It continues being mostly aldehydes for a long time. After about two hours, it has a savory sort of smell, like… I don’t know, bacon. Barbecue. Something smoky-meaty. I’m thinking maybe myrrh and maybe some birch tar in this. I don’t smell leather, per se. Eventually it relaxes into a very nice comfortable drydown that seems to be woods and myrrh. Very, very nice.

It’s definitely interesting. But far less floral than I usually prefer, and yet sort of faint, as well as seeming not really cohesive. I’m still not sure I’m smelling everything that’s in there – perhaps there’s a musk blocking my perceptions. That’s happened to me often enough. And if that’s the case and some of the scent is blocked from reaching me because of a certain musk, that could lead to my assessment that the fragrance seems not to hang together well. Ergo, it’s probably me.

From the website: Blackberry, clove, elemi, aldehydes, geranium, gardenia, purple hyacinth, narcissus, ylang-ylang, oakmoss, vetiver, jatamansi, myrrh, civet, black agar, orris, and Russian leather. Wow. I hardly smell any of that. Especially the florals, I don’t get any of those. I did get the myrrh.

Okay, I’m gonna have to try this one again, out in the heat. I’m still missing stuff.

Moulin Rouge – I would expect a scent named for the famous Parisian girlie-show to be theatrical, over-the-top, luxurious, and at least a little bit naughty, but as I remember, I chose the sample for the notes and not for the name. At the time of testing, I could not recall the notes anyway, so it was something of a blind sniff as well.

The opening is strongly bergamot, very tangy. Then a creamy white-floral note, along with a soft petally, powdery rose, pops up. It doesn’t smell much like the red-velvet-curtain decadence I’d expected. This scent, too, is pulling up something that makes me feel slightly queasy and headachy, the way the Lauder scents do.

(Digression: Several people have suggested to me that it’s Iso E Super that bothers me, and that’s possible. Apparently Woodland Strawberries does contain it. So does SSS Vintage Rose, which is another fragrance that I couldn’t manage although I typically do well with Sonoma Scent Studio. But I also know that the Ormonde Jayne line makes good use of it, and I can usually wear those scents without problem. On the other hand, I once sprayed about five spritzes of Ta’if, which I used to love, at one time, and could not wear it afterward. I had to swap away my decant, and even now I get shaky thinking about it. I thought I had just overdosed on Ta’if in particular, but now I’m wondering whether there’s a certain threshold of Iso E Super that troubles me. However, that aromachemical is new enough that I don’t think of the classic Lauders as containing it – and also, apparently it’s only on skin that the Lauders are nauseating to me. I did great with Beautiful on my scarf. So I’m still not sure what it is. Probably I should go get a sample of that Escentric Molecules thing that’s all Iso E Super, just to check.)

But once that queasy bit goes away, around the 3-hour mark, the scent is very pleasant again. Not at all what I’d associate with Moulin Rouge, but still very very nice – musk, and light woody notes. Maybe a bit of orris. And Iso E Super is usually thought of as a basenote, isn’t it? The thing that bothers me is gone by the drydown. This one, spritzed three times in the same place, lasts about four hours.

The official notes from the website for Moulin Rouge: “A sultry blend of Black Tea, Gardenia, Jasmine Sambac, Plumeria, Rose, Musk and Wood Notes.” Of which I only picked up the jasmine sambac, rose, and musk, which is a little embarrassing. I am SO not getting the “sultry.”

So Le Parfum d’Odette is the Winner of the Week, and I’m probably going to try Le Parfum d’Ida again too (and sneak Woodland Strawberries onto Bookworm somehow)… and I think I really must find some more from this line. Possibilities are opening up.

1  A former colleague of mine at the auto parts shop where I did the books for several years was training to enter the field of law-enforcement forensics – like on CSI. I asked Jon once about the college classes he was taking, and he explained them to me in great detail, tossing off that very phrase in a knowledgeable tone of voice. He was taken aback when I burst into laughter. It made perfect sense to him. To this day, The CEO will look at me slyly and quote, “It’s Latin for M.O.,” when he wants to make me laugh. It’s pretty childish of me, but I still think it’s hilarious. It’s a little bit like saying, “Automated Teller Machine. You know, that’s English for ATM.”


8 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews Roundup, July 20, 2012: Neil Morris scents”

  1. Thanks for the mini-reviews Mals! I so love reading your blog. It’s like visiting a friend for coffee! I have a bunch of Neil Morris samples that I gave a few passing spritzes. I will have to re-visit them.

    1. You’re very welcome! Come by and we’ll have lattes some time…

      Report back on your NMs if you like – there are so many, and they’re so different, that I don’t know how I’ll get to all the ones I’d like to try.

  2. Initially excited by your description of Woodland Strawberries and now…um… not so much, because I too, wish to avoid the “garbagey note”. I was trying something called Fragola Salaato which is strawberries and salt, in the car yesterday driving down the shore. No garbage, but some jam and I dunno, ethyl maltol? Something that smelled like cotton candy, much remarked on by other family members who were ready to roll down the car windows! So I guess the strawberry hunt continues.

    1. Oh, that garbagey thing. Bleargh. Calyx just killllls me.

      Now, where did I read something about new strawberry fragrances? It might have been Kedra Hart of Opus Oils… will check.

      1. Yes! I just tested two new strawberry fragrances that are a collaboration between Kedra Hart and Monica Miller, who runs Perfume Pharmer. I was inspired to try them by a review on EauMG, and Sheila from Alembicated Genie just reviewed them as well. I really, really like them – they are very mild as they’re naturals, but the strawberry note is very true. You can get samples of both for $10. I’m seriously considering buying the purse spray in Green.

  3. I have and enjoy two Neil Morris fragrances, and recommend them for your testing: Scrumptious (it is!) and Tea House (which reminds me of a lighter Tabac Aurea). I also tried and liked Mystic Dragon during Sniffapalooza a couple of years ago, and got to meet the delightful Mr. Morris himself!

    1. EVERYBODY says Neil is a sweetheart. EVERYBODY. I’d love to meet him too!

      I’ll look those two up – thanks for the recs!

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