Perfume Review: Tableau de Parfums Miriam

I’ve been looking forward to this one for months now. I’ve been a fan of Brian Pera’s writings on I Smell Therefore I Am for a couple of years now. I’m a fan of Tauer Perfumes, too. As I’ve said before, the scents either don’t work at all for me, or they work beautifully and make me feel a little like I’m flying. Even the Tauers I don’t enjoy are well-made and solid and have distinctive personalities of their own. Furthermore, I am a big fan of aldehydic florals, so when I heard that Brian’s A Woman’s Picture project (see Evelyn Avenue website) would include a collaboration with Andy Tauer, and that one of the associated fragrances would be an aldehydic floral, I was thrilled.

Thanks to a very generous giveaway instigated by Andy Tauer and A Woman’s Picture, and hosted by Now Smell This, I won a full bottle of Miriam.  Miriam is now available at Lucky Scent, at $160 for 50ml plus a copy of the Miriam segment of the film and some other goodies.  I’ll just say now, I have rarely been so pleased to receive a box of perfume in the mail! Just look at this gorgeous packaging, will you?

Look at all these goodies! Complete with handwritten note from Andy Tauer, too.

I admit to enjoying a nice bottle, but I have never bought a bottle simply because it’s pretty. (Hey, if that’s what you like, more power to you. I’m not judging.) But I squealed like an excited little girl, opening Miriam last week. The pretty box holds an insert with a lovely jacquard-like pattern, die-cut to fit the Miriam bottle, as well as a DVD of a portion of the film and a notepad  the Miriam booklet (duh, I hadn’t gotten the chance to open it yet). There are silver strings and a frosted glass cap, and pretty pink stickers, and a simulacrum of an old-fashioned cut-paper silhouette, and the whole thing is so intricate and adorable that it could have been any Christmas present hand-wrapped personally for me by my artist sister, for whom such things are Serious Business.  Also, the liquid is a very soft yellow-green, one of my favorite colors.

I have not yet viewed the entire DVD. I have seen clips from the Miram segment, and also from some of the other segments that make up the ongoing A Woman’s Picture project, and they have all been moving, thoughtful pieces. Briefly, though, the Miriam segment focuses on Miriam Masterson, a middle-aged woman whose career is in jeopardy, whose relationship with her layabout boyfriend is deteriorating, and whose mother, with whom she has a complicated and painful relationship, is in a nursing home as her mind and health fails. All of Miriam’s anchors have been lost, and a storm is approaching.

What drew me to the fragrance, in particular, was the notes. Regular readers know that I lurve me some aldehydes, and when someone as talented as Andy Tauer does a vintage-inspired aldehydic floral – well, I wanna smell it. The official notes list for Miriam includes aldehydes, bergamot, sweet orange, violet blossom, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, violet leaf, vanilla, orris root, sandalwood and Ambrox.  From the Evelyn Avenue website, here is the inspiration for Miriam:

The dream of a hug, the vivid bitter sweet memory of her perfume,
her hair shining golden in the morning sun, so fine,
the violets from the garden in her hand,
freshly picked with the dew pearls dropping one after the other,
the green May roses on the table, lasting forever.
It is a dream of days long gone, with a smile on my lips.

Miriam is undoubtedly a Tauer fragrance, despite its being something of a departure from Andy’s usual style. The Ambrox (something of a signature note for Andy) is definitely noticeable in the first few minutes, and although it’s more muted than you might expect, it’s a little thread of Andy running through the composition, with its sweet-salty-rich chord. Up top, there are the aldehydes and a light-hearted citrus note. I’ll make a prediction that if you don’t like aldehydes, you certainly won’t like Miriam; the aldehydes are sweet, and both powdery and candle-smoke-y. Soon I notice the beautiful rose and jasmine heart, very classic and reminiscent of 1940s feminine perfumes, and the violet flower seems to drift in and out. As the fragrance develops, the sandalwood and vanilla become prominent. I don’t smell iris on its own, but I often notice that orris root seems to disappear into rich floral scents, contributing mostly a satiny texture and keeping sweeter elements like vanilla or amber from being too sweet, in much the same way that adding a small amount of salt to batter makes the flavors blend well. The sandalwood in this, according to Andy’s blog, is a mixture of real Mysore and Australian, and it is the most delightful part of the fragrance for me.

Andy Tauer has been quoted as suggesting that Miriam is “slightly provocative,” and “not naughty, but bold,” a fragrance in the tradition of the grand parfums of the 1940s and ’50s.  I don’t find it bold or provocative in the least – rather, it strikes me as being very soft and cloudlike.

Miriam lasts quite well on me, typically about five hours with a very gentle waft. It is recognizably perfumey in that “Mmm, somebody’s wearing nice perfume” sort of way, as opposed to the “Something smells nice” sort of way that has drifted in and out of fashion since the stripped-down, anti-perfume perfumes of the early 1990. I like that. The CEO likes it too, and mentioned that smelling it reminds him of his college years, going to the department store to pick out Christmas fragrance gifts for his then-girlfriends (none of whom were me). It didn’t remind him of any scent in particular, but the general perfumeyness of Miriam resembled the air in the department store, and recalled for him the pleasant excitement of good, “feminine” smells.

I will admit to being surprised that there isn’t any oakmoss in Miriam, not even a little bit, because Miriam’s mother’s fragrance purportedly contains it. But it seems that Miriam, the fragrance, is more based on Miriam, the character: it is nostalgic, soft and powdery atop a strong, comforting base. It is on the sweet side, with the aldehydes, sandalwood and vanilla contributing to that facet, but it’s a rich woody sweetness rather than a sugary overdose. There seems always to be a gentle wistfulness about rose-and-violet scents, and Miriam is very wistful.

The mother of a young friend of mine died suddenly about six months ago, and there is a certain stricken wistfulness I’ve seen on his face at unguarded moments, particularly if I’ve been playing with my younger son in the friend’s presence. Taz loves to roughhouse and be physical; it’s a primary avenue of affection for him, and I try to indulge it. Taz won’t always be eleven, asking for “mommy hugs.” I keep wishing I could offer that kind of affection to my young friend, and I hope that sometime soon he’ll feel able to accept it.

Miriam the fragrance conjures images of motherhood for me – partly due to the film, partly due to the fact that my own mother, with whom I have a good relationship, has frequently been so comfortable in aldehydic scents, and partly due to the wistfulness in my young friend’s face over the past few weeks. Wearing Miriam feels bittersweet and emotional, tender and wrenching and beautiful. It smells like a memory of love to me, and I will cherish it.

A few other reviews of Miriam: Carol at WAFTThe Non-BlondeMarina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things,  Perfume Shrine.  Here’s a post from Andy’s blog, with some of his thoughts concerning Miriam, too. 

And one more thing:  I also won a sample of Miriam via the drawing at The Non-Blonde, but wasn’t able to get hold of Gaia to request her to consider redrawing for it, so I’ll offer a draw here to one commenter, and my immense thanks to Gaia.  Draw will be open, as the original was, to US residents, from the time of posting until midnight Eastern Standard Time Friday, November 4, 2011  Draw is now closed. 

(I will post the winner of the Pandora sample on Wednesday.)  All photos mine.


30 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Tableau de Parfums Miriam”

  1. Thanks for the great review of Miriam! Brian Pera’s movie, Woman’s Picture, is screening this Saturday afternoon (5 Nov) at the IndieMemphis Film Festival. I’m hoping to attend, especially since Brian is a Memphian and is scheduled to be at the showing. (I’m also a fan of his perfume blog.)

  2. Your review moved me to tears, Mals, reading of that boy’s loss of his mother and thinking of my own mother. My Mom loved the orientals, Emeraude being one of her favorites in the 60’s, but she also loved her Chanel No. 5!

    Excellent review, Mals. Break a leg on your NaNoWriMo!

    1. He’s been on my heart a lot this week, T. It’s hard to lose a parent – my mother, who’s now in her 70s, is still struggling with the loss of her mother five years ago – but even harder at a young age.

      And thanks so much!

  3. Hi Mals – I must say that this fragrance has piqued my interest more than any other new release this year. And I don’t say that lightly – there have been many great new fragrances lately! I’m a huge fan of vintage perfume – I really love ’em old school and Andy Tauer’s take on that style must be something special. The inspiration for this scent also intrigues. All of the clips I’ve seen from Woman’s Picture have been captivating and hold such a personal and special appeal for perfumistas. Brian Pera has shown such empathy and sensitivity for his characters and their circumstances.

    Please enter me in the draw for the sample and thanks so much for the chance!

  4. Hi Mals, please please enter me in the drawing. Miriam sounds totally delicious. I love vintage fragrance. I have a very tiny bottle of 1940’s Emeraude that I dole out only on very special days.

  5. Your review is wonderful. I feel in particular for the young man who lost his mom. I will keep him in my thoughts prayers this holiday season…no matter how old we are, when we lose a parent it is an extreme disruption of the soul.
    I love aldehydes..I swear, absolutely habit-forming! I am a Chanel girl, and Miriam seems so right.

    1. Thank you, Maureen. He’s a wonderful kid and doing very well in general, but of course you know it’s the nature of grief to come and go.

      I think Chanel fans would do very well with Miriam.

  6. The best compliment that can be paid to this review is the one from Andy Tauer on his blog today: “I feel understood.”

    I am fortunate to have won a sample of Miriam (so don’t enter this unqualified Canadian into your draw) and find it very lovely. Definitely for an aldehyde lover. I was worried at one point that it might get a little too sweet, but then it settled into the smooth sandalwood. The adjectives from your review that resonate with my experience are: beautiful, tender, wistful.

    The wait for this review was worth it. Hoping that it will eventually be ok to give those hugs.

    All the best for NaNoWriMo.

    1. So glad you have a sample, Linda! It is such a lovely, emotional thing, isn’t it?

      How lovely of Andy to share. I haven’t commented on his blog yet, but I certainly will. He is a lovely person, in my short experience with him, and I think it takes an emotional, sensitive person to create this fragrance that touched me so much.

  7. Your review is beautiful and has me wanting to try Miriam even more.
    Thank you.
    It is a good thing that PET-Boy has someone like you in his life, who is willing and able to give a little of what he misses so much now, I hope he will be able to take it eventually.

  8. Mals, this is a beautiful post (well, all your posts are beautiful but this one, particularly so). Miriam is, indeed, a beautiful scent and the scene on the clip DVD is so harrowing it made my heart stop for a second! The scent caught me by surprise as well, being evocative of the types of fragrances my mother wore – and I wear now (like you I love aldehydic florals and this one is done very well). I think it captures the emotion of Miriam (the film idea) beautifully.

    Regarding your young friend: I would encourage you to Just Do It. Put an arm around him, just in passing. Don’t make a big deal of it (I know there are extenuating social circumstances) but he’s in your space often enough now that a casual shoulder-hug would not be amiss. And you’d be surprised at what good it could do. I’ve been there, I know. And I’ve given those myself, so I know the value of them. The human touch is far more powerful than any words could ever be.

    Notwithstanding his great loss, he’s a very blessed young man to have you caring about (and for) him!


    1. I didn’t remember your post on Miriam, and it seems that it was one I missed! Can’t believe it. Looks like it whammied you in the gut the way it did me. (Must go add it back in to the review list, too, especially because it’s a lovely one.)

      I shall have to just start with PETBoy. I’ve been limiting myself to the occasional pat on the arm, because I don’t know where he falls on the Hug Me/ Don’t Hug Me continuum. He hugs Bookworm, but goes out of his way to make sure that it’s where The CEO and I can’t see! And I’m a toucher, especially with my own family: picking Taz up and swinging him around, playing with Gaze’s hair or patting him on the shoulder, that sort of thing.

      1. I think just a casual ‘one-armed squeeze’, in passing, would work wonders for that young man. No embarrassment with a ‘one-armed squeeze’. and it’s like those babies who die from lack of contact – you will be giving him much-needed connection to LIFE!

        You really are such a blessing!


  9. Beautiful review of a beautiful scent!

    I got a sample of this recently (I’m not qualified for the draw) and I absolutely adore it. Bittersweet and nostalgic. I plan to buy a bottle with the money I will get this Christmas from my 95-year-old grandmother.

    1. It is beautiful, isn’t it?

      Oh, and cherish your grandmother! I lost one of mine about 5 years ago, and the other this past Christmas – they were both 92. I feel lucky to have had them in my life that long.

  10. Mals, it’s a very warm and sincere review. Thank you.

    More Andy’s perfumes haven’t worked for me than have (though there are exceptions) but I like the idea of this project and are curious to try Miriam. Please enter me into the draw.

    1. Happy to! On the Tauer continuum, so to speak, it’s more floral and less heavy on the incense/Ambrox stuff than many of his. Which ones work for you? I like URV and URC and I think Carillon pour une Ange is amaaaazing. I also like Le Maroc, but it’s hard for me to wear, so rich.

      1. URV is my absolute favorite, I’m thinking about buying a bottle (not that I need a full bottle of this scent, it’s very potent and a small decant would be sufficient for years but I want to have at least one FB of Andy’s perfumes). I’m still in testing mode for L’Air du desert marocain, URC and Zeta. I like them but not sure if I like them enough to wear beyond a sample or two. I was amazed and couldn’t believe how awful Carillon pour une Ange was on my skin. It wasn’t my regular “not sure”, “not me”, etc. It was a very strong dislike. And I had such great hopes for it! 🙁

        Sorry for the long reply 🙂

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