Friday, 10 May 2019

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel, and a four star way to pre-empt 'post-perfume purchase cognitive dissonance'

Guerande salt marshes~ Source:
I did the unthinkable the other day. I bought a nearly full bottle of perfume on the Facebook Fragrance/Sale/Swap/Split UK site. A woman was offloading her entire collection - or so it seemed - at very reasonable prices, and I quickly joined in the buying frenzy that ensued within a short while of her post going up. "MH Fleurs de Sel please if still available". My fingers tapped out the order as though with a life of their own. The very next day the bottle arrived, mine for £25 all in. Mint condition, with just 2ml or less missing.

I was very, very shocked at this impulsive behaviour. As regular readers know, I have absolutely no need of any more perfume, given my 60? strong bottle collection, countless decants, and innumerable samples. And while I do hanker after a few things: more/back ups of DSH Foxy and House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved, for example, plus samples of Chanel 1957 and that new rose Hiram Green people are raving about - Lustre, that's the one - it is a big old leap from hankering to actually acquiring any of the stuff.

UPDATE: I have broken off writing this post to go and order samples of Lustre and Slowdive from the Hiram Green website! And was also bidding on eBay on a BNIB bottle of 1957 that is running at £75 at the moment, so I have accepted that while it is still a bargain at that price it is too much to pay, and way more juice than I need, so have bowed out of that particular fray...


But back to my 48ml of Fleurs de Sel. I wasn't lemming after this scent - not remotely. I only have a dim recollection of how it smelt, though I do remember it as haunting in a flinty, grassy, salty way, as well as being splendidly evocative of the Brittany coastline with its wild, wind-whipped vegetation, spiky thistles underfoot as you tread on hot sand. Well, hot in the summer, maybe. You may recall how I am quietly obsessed with this particular hair gunk from Label M, which sadly makes my locks greasy, but has the most wonderful scent imaginable, far superior to many non-functional fragrances.

I blogged about the Label M mousse here, and note that I incorporated a mini-review of Fleurs de Sel into my post, along with one of The Different Company's Sel de Vetiver, of which the hair goo also reminded me:


Notes: rosemary, thyme, clary sage, angelica, iris, rose, narcissus, leather, amber, oakmoss and vetiver

This is very piquant and aromatic and an excellent rendition of the wild grasses in the sand dunes  and the beach. It is grainy in texture and a bit salty too, as though someone had gone for a swim and then rolled around immediately afterwards in a carpet of marram grass, sea rocket, holly and spurge. Maybe even the odd sprig of mouse ear hawkweed.

So notwithstanding its strongly vegetal focus, I think FdS is a very successful olfactory interpretation of the Breton coast which was its inspiration."

Well, well, I appear to have appreciated how Fleurs de Sel captures the Breton seascape way back then, even though this is the furthest thing from the style of scent I usually go for - vanilla-forward orientals and sultry white flower florals being my go-to genres for the most part.


And in that split second when I perused the Facebook seller's list and typed my request to buy her bottle of Fleurs de Sel, a switch must have flicked in my brain and reconnected me to that beautiful rocky wilderness, even though I have never in fact been there. I have been to Brittany, mind, to interview a company that made cling film, but saw very little of the area. I just looked up where the factory was - in Pontivy - which is about as far inland as it is possible to go. Now that I have the house in France I am perhaps more drawn to perfumes inspired by anywhere in the 'hexagon', as the French refer to their country.

On a whim, I googled Batz-sur-Mer, the childhood home of perfumer Lyn Harris, which provided the inspiration for Fleurs de Sel. And lo and behold - it isn't in Brittany after all, but a bit south and round the coast in the Pays-de-la-Loire region, specifically the Loire-Atlantique department. Maybe there has been a deliberate spot of geographical fudging, as Brittany is so close, and more people would have heard of that area than its sister region. I have also pegged the salt marshes that provided the aromatic trigger to the scent's creation as those of the Guerande peninsula, also in the Loire-Atlantique (Pays-de-la-Loire). Frontier quibbler, moi? Oh, and I so wanted to put 'Quimper quibbler', but Quimper, being about as inland as Pontivy, doesn't come into it.;)

UPDATE: further research has uncovered the fact that the Loire-Atlantique department was spun off from Brittany in 1941, but was part of 'Old Brittany'. Apparently there is a big kerfuffle about it all that is still raging on, with many of the locals eager to be reintegrated into Brittany. More on the controversy here:

Batz-sur-Mer ~ Source: Tripadvisor

So anyway, the bottle arrived, and the perfume was just as I remembered it: bright, granular, herby, salty and earthy. I am pleased to be adding a bottle by Miller Harris to my collection - I have had one or two in the past - including Fleurs de Bois, for sure - but must have sold or lost them. Obviously I would not dream of suggesting I might have actually used them up!

Oh, just checked the notes of Fleurs de Bois - now discontinued - and it is classed as aromatic-citrus. I must be a closet herbal fan after all...For there's rosemary and grass in there!

Notes: galbanum, grass, Sicilian lemon, tangerine, rose, rosemary, iris, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver

I have been wearing Fleurs de Sel for two days now, and it is as haunting as I remember - and as 'not-really-me-but-I-like-it'. Then, because it was so out of character for me to buy a whole bottle of something so vaguely remembered and so far from lemming status, I felt I needed extra validation for my - if not blind exactly, but definitely somewhat myopic - buy. I turned to Bois de Jasmin first of all, whose taste happens to be closely aligned with mine, such that many of my most loved perfumes historically have been ones she has awarded four or five stars. And blow me if she didn't give Fleurs de Sel four stars too...;)

In her review, Victoria writes:

"Fleurs de Sel is one of the best examples of Lyn Harris’s ability to marry a lush, nature-inspired quality with modern minimalism. The result is nuanced and elegant, with an interesting twist on the classical theme."

On a reviewer roll here, I dared to consult the original Perfumes The Guide book, and was delighted to see that Luca Turin gave Fleurs de Sel four stars as well! He calls it "this elegant, highly original herbaceous-marine composition", adding that it cannot have been easy to compose.

So I feel completely vindicated now.  I Did Not Need this perfume - and didn't even know I wanted it until a moment before I committed to buy - but it feels like a distinctive and special addition to my collection. Intimately bound up with my happy links to France. And as I have a friend in Nantes, the nearest city, maybe I will visit the Loire-Atlantique one day...



Tara said...

Lovely post and a successful impulse buy, V! I was surprised when FB informed me of your enquiry but very happy you went for it. It was clearly meant to be.

P.S.A sample of 1957 may be yours by the end of the month :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I am mighty surprised myself, having protested about a non-buying policy for so long now. Though I did crack last year and spring for a travel size of Myrrhe Eglantine - for similar money indeed.

Ref your PS, the 'giant'(!) 1957 sample - still going on UK eBay at £75 plus postage for any readers who might be up for a whole bottle - eluded me, and I was about to scour the site for individual samples. I will now desist from that, and thank you. x

Undina said...

"my - if not blind exactly, but definitely somewhat myopic - buy" - that made me laugh.
As much as I do not usually approve blind buys, at that price you might consider it a large sample, so it wasn't a huge risk. But I'm glad you like it. And, in my opinion, it is healthy to do something spontaneous like that.

I have to mention a serendipitous event: just a couple of days ago I suddenly decided to re-test several samples from the brand that I haven't touched for more than 5 years - just to confirm that they weren't good any more. Luckily for me, back when I tested them first, none of attracted me, so I'm not sad they are gone.

I've never smelled Fleurs de Sel so on one of the next perfume mule runs I'll ask you for a ml or so (but not more since these days I'm trying not to let more perfume than absolutely necessary to "die" in my possession :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant review - you almost got me yearning for this, even though I am not a "marine" note lover! Isn't it funny that we have a need for support when we've bought a bottle, and seek out positive reviews of something we've actually already spent money on? At least I do! I suppose it's guilt, not just because of the dosh, but also because I really, really do not need any more bottles .....

I've not had much success with Miller Harris, but there was one that I loved, Jasmine Vert - I think it was the boronia, a flower I'd never heard of before, that made it smell special to me. Sadly discontinued.

I like to justify purchases on the basis that they have a special connection, eg bought a perfume because it's named after the same flower as our house. I have Undina to thank for bringing that particular one to my attention as otherwise the thought of acquiring a scent that was connected to our home would not have occurred to me, but when I saw the name I had to have it!


Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I like the idea of considering my purchase as a 'large sample'. The travel spray of the Hermes was pretty much that for the same money, as I say. ;)

I am glad you don't regret the turning of those samples - always nice to throw things away!

You shall absolutely have as much - or as little, given your comment - as you like of Fleurs de Sel. ;)

Vanessa said...

PS Have still not quite got to the bottom of your sample bag - there have been some gems in there, thank you!

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Thanks for your kind comment about my review / story - I don't know where it all came from - it certainly wasn't in my official 'post pipeline'!

I really do think it is human nature to seek reassurance that we have made a good purchase, on any category of consumer goods indeed, and in my case I do this despite usually having spent hours *up front* researching the whatever. I shouldn't really need to do that. But this seeking of validation was 'back loaded' as it was such a spur of the moment buy.

Love the idea of the perfume named after the flower in your house's name. Undina is very good for that, with all her soliflore posts in particular.

I think I liked Jasmine Vert now you mention it. My brother and SIL are quite big MH fans, and I do also very much like L'Air de Rien, which is an unusual scent for the line.

Gosh, I got a lot more comments in the old days! And I don't think Blogger was noticeably less clunky. But maybe there are more blogs out there nowadays, and most of them more comment-friendly.

Anonymous said...

I sadly think that blogs are fading ... many have disappeared, or only emerge occasionally now, and even the big ones these days attract fewer readers and comments. Interestingly Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle has just discussed the rise of the vloggers, who seem to be replacing good old fashioned bloggers. I much prefer the written word!

Tee hee, I've just read your review of L'Air de Rien, but I am not tempted by that one!


Vanessa said...

It is true that many blogs have disappeared, indeed I just had a cull of my blog list as a good third were no longer active. And my posts have been patchy of late too, I know, which could give people the impression I had also gone under, whereas I am merely spinning other plates!.

That is so true about vloggers - they are everywhere, not just in perfume and make up, I see that people are doing video diaries of their daily lives nowadays, notably millennials like my friend's son who grew up with social media.

Tara said...

I agree with Undina. I know we have more perfume than we can use up at this point but if we never feel the irresistible urge to make a purchase it would be sad state because the passion really would have gone.

Tara said...


Vanessa said...

Yes, I think you are right, and am glad I am not at that stage yet, far from it. Finally caught up with the Olsen twins perfume line thanks to a sample that came with my Fleurs de Sel, that in turn coincided with a tip off by Diane, whom I met at the gig in my previous post. Am very impressed! Seems Mark Behnke and Kafka were as well...

crikey said...

I bought Fleurs de Sel unsniffed ages back when I found it at TK Maxx for a silly price. I went back and bought another about three months after, too. It migrated over to snarl's side of the perfume stash pretty fast, but I do steal it back quite often. I think it's the only Miller Harris I've really fallen for, and the only one I have.

Vanessa said...

Hi crikey,

Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment - the dysfunctional Blogger no longer notifies me of these in a timely manner, and it has been a madhouse here with work and Airbnb comings and goings.

Anyway, delighted to learn you are a fan of Fleurs de Sel, and that your other half enjoys it too. Bold of you to buy it unsniffed, and great that the gamble paid off. I was working off quite a distant memory myself in springing for this!