Skip to main content

One of my favorite smoky scents is La Fumée by British indie perfume house Miller Harris. I’ve worn it on and off since I first discovered it in 2011 and, dare I say, it is as close to a signature scent for me as I dare to go.

When I wear a scent I like, I like it stay the same. The thought of a beloved fragrance being reformulated gives me the collywobbles. And don’t even get me started on flankers! I don’t get ‘em. It’s the old if-you-love-mashed-potatoes-you’re-going-to-love- mashed-potatoes-with-other-stuff-added-to them-even-more idea. This reasoning didn’t work when my mother tried it on me when I was four years old and it doesn’t work on me now. What if I don’t like the other stuff? What if the potatoes are ruined? Why can’t I just have what I want not what she wants me to have? But, if with gentle coaxing, my mom wore me down and got me to just try it, more often than not I LOVED it. As with the potatoes, I can name, and have written about, quite a few fragrances where I like the reformulations more than the original. As for flankers, some of them can be quite fabulous too, like La Fumée Arabie.

A while back I was sent a package of decants from a scent-friend along with a note saying: ‘I thought you might like to try these. They’re all pretty good, but one is a real stand-out for me. Let me know what you think’. This scent-friend has a great nose and she knows what I like, so I wasted no time checking out what she sent me - decants of Le Fumee flankers: La Fumée Alexandrie, La Fumée Arabie, La Fumée Intense, La Fumée Maroc and La Fumée Ottoman. Is it possible to be elated and disappointed at the same time? If so, I was. La Fumée (mashed potatoes – yaaaay!) other stuff – wah, wah).

There’s an old mother-in-law joke that goes like this: Two cannibals are quietly stirring a big pot of stew over a blazing fire, when one cannibal lets out a big sigh and says: ‘I really hate my mother-in-law’ to which the other cannibal replies, ‘So, just eat the potatoes’.

Taking this sound advice, I decided to focus on the La Fumée aspect of each of the decants. I spritzed, I sprayed, I dabbed and I sniffed and you know what? I found a new fragrance love: La Fumée Arabie. And, I think, maybe, perhaps just possibly, I like it more than La Fumée.

La Fumée Arabie opens with labdanum, fresh at the start then morphing into a warm leathery, richness. It’s flanked by spices: sweet-tinged cardamom, woody coriander and earthy cumin. It’s pungent, aromatic and woody. That labdanum moves to the heart and links with a note of incense. Together they give this EdP a deep, dark richness that really defines the fragrance for me Cedarwood, spicy and resinous, boosts the woodiness of La Fumée Arabie and then there’s the birch tar – it’s burnt rubber aspect is held in check so that it’s smoky more than it is tarry. At the base, oud keeps it resinous and thick. I was pretty happy getting lost in La Fumée Arabie at this stage and then, it got better – yes, better! - with a note of rose – floral, fruity and feminine it adds a note of rich beauty that complements the resinous/smoky/spicy/woodiness of the fragrance. A touch of sweetness from vanilla seals the deal.

La Fumée Arabie is so well-blended, there’s no harshness or sharpness. The woodiness here is dry and rich with a strand of labdanum that goes right to the drydown.

So, I wrote my scent-friend and thanked her for the decants, told her I tried them all and reported that La Fumée Arabie was a winner for me. Turns out it was her least favourite.

I smell a rabbit hole….

La Fumée Arabie is listed in or Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.
 

Iamge - millerharris.com

 

Anyone who’s poked their nose into the perfume world, and done a little experimenting with niche fragrances, has discovered Serge Lutens. For some, the Serge Lutens fragrances are the ones that send them on their journey down the perfume rabbit hole. The very first place we visited on our first perfume pilgrimage to Paris almost a decade ago was the Serge Lutens boutique in the Palais Royale, where we bought four of the bell jars. Two each – Muscs Koublai Khan and Bois de Violette for me, and Iris Silver Mist and Tubereuse Criminelle for Gwen, each regarded as iconic fragrances by perfume critics and enthusiasts. To say that we are huge fans of Lutens is an understatement, since collectively we own thirty-eight of his fragrances, all of which are listed in our Decant Store.

Over the past few years Serge Lutens explored new creative territory, seguing from his dense lush Oriental “Lutensian” style found in Ambre Sultan, Santal Majuscule, Arabie, Cuir Mauresque, Feminite du Bois, for example, into more abstract, focused, simplistic fragrances which were interesting to me more because of their difference from his signature style, rather than because they smelled spectacular. I missed the resins and balsams, the spices and amber and musks, the warmth, the shiver of anticipation I’d get when I’d sniff a Serge Lutens for the first time, knowing that I’m in for some very serious pleasure. That sweet feeling had disappeared with the newer releases……but now it’s back.

Le Participe Passé (Past Participle), his most recent release from Fall 2018, takes us back to his signature Oriental style. He says: “Take time to revisit our past and bring to light a consciousness. When the sap of our history deafens our memory.” Serge Lutens  With the very first sniff, Lutens took me back to the warmth, the radiance, the fiery spices and resinous woods, the dark indulgent sweetness and narcotic opulence found in the very best of his oeuvre.

Egyptian balsam is the core of Le Participe Passé and the waft from the first spritz is fantastic. Like snowy pine needles crushed and rolled between ungloved fingers, the balsam is slowly warmed by body heat so that the resins release their cool green notes . The sensation of warmth gains momentum as more wood resins and spices are added, creating a softly sweet incense accord with burnt sugar and smoky facets.

In the heart, the heat builds and the spiciness intensifies with notes of dried fruits and a faint maple-curry waft of immortelle, creating a delicate layer of caramel sweetness over the balsamic resins. In the base, notes of soft sueded leather and dark bitter patchouli balance the resins and caramel notes, cooling them into a blanket of opulent warmth, slightly sweet and boozy and golden ambery. The long dry down has a dense velvety waft which has me repeatedly lifting my wrist to my nose for another sniff.

This fragrance is deceptive. Since it opens with such a powerful balsamic statement, and is quite dense, it may be perceived by the inexperienced nose as too linear in its development, a one-note samba. But it is filled with contrasts and complexity, moving from cold to warmth, resinous to sweet, dark to ambery. Have patience and wait for the magic to play out on your skin. 

Le Participe Passé is our thirty-ninth Serge Lutens fragrance, and it has rekindled my deep admiration for the creative vision that he and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake have shared with perfume lovers over the past two decades. I'm fired up to rediscover the beauty of the other thirty-eight Serge Lutens fragrances in our Decant Store. Which one will I try first?

Le Participe Passé is listed in or Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.

Image - sergelutens.com

 

Welcome to perfumeniche.com

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.

WHAT WE DO

We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
 
We hope you enjoy perfumeniche.com, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.