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The 12 Scents of Christmas No. 4: Miller Harris Fleur Oriental

Light, airy, whispery, uplifting:  those are all (flattering) words I associate with Miller Harris, the fragrance house created by talented British ‘nose’ Lyn Harris.  But warm…?  With the exception of the enchanting fairy-juice that is L’Aire de Rien, and Un Petit Rient (inspired by Jane Birkin and reviewed here by The Scent Critic), that’s not really how I’d describe this swirlingly-packaged line of fragrances.  This, though, is to me the winteriest of Miller Harris’s creations:  a cuddle-icious scent, all snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug with spicy, woody, sweet elements.  A little bit candied fruit, a little bit throw-another-log-on-the-fire – but definitely, one to be worn with velvet and your best pair of dangly earrings.  Maybe even a boa.

Its name – Fleur Oriental – positions this perfectly, actually.  If this was an Amazon review (thank heavens it’s not), this might suggest:  ‘If you like Shalimar, you’ll like this…’  How come?  The pretty powderiness which runs through Fleur Oriental’s DNA has persistent echoes of that perfume legend – not in a derivative, just a kissing-cousin sort of a way.  It’s very like Shalimar while the orchestra’s warming up, for sure:  snatches of hespiridic notes (there’s neroli in there, and bergamot too, I’d say).  At the heart, it gets sassily spiced up – partly down to the carnation, which is too-little used in contemporary perfumery, if you ask me.  (And so the Amazon-esque recommendations continue:  if you like carnation, do check out Caron Bellodgia, which is the best example of that you’ll ever find.) Classically, rose and jasmine scamper over the trellis that is Fleur Oriental’s pretty little heart.  Soft incense trails compound the exoticism – and it all starts to warm up nicely once it’s been on the skin for a quarter of an hour or so.   Slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y as a Le Creuset pot of mulled wine on an Aga’s back burner…

The signature bitter-almond edge to the heliotrope stops it being over-sugary.  But there is a softness, a sweetness, with a vanilla-amber quality that smells – well, ‘friendly’ is the best way I can put it.  Comforting.  Cleverly, no single element in Fleur Oriental overpowers the others:  it’s just a delicious, smooth-edged fusion – right till it’s breathed its last.  (Which was a full 24 hours, on my skin, without bathing.)  Where it most definitely differs from Shalimar is its subtlety and gentleness.  Shalimar is a magnificent diva, a drama queen, a look-at-me!-and-darling-I-HAVE-to-tell-you-what-happened-last-night belle of the ball.  Fleur Oriental is the shy, quiet beauty smiling intriguingly in the corner, who turns out to have a degree in English Literature, has climbed Kilimanjaro in aid of Macmillan Nurses  and gives up her Christmas to feed the homeless.   You’d want to be friends with both:  one for her obvious party-girl glamour and gossipiness, the other for her depth and steadfast sweetness.

Now, I always think that Lyn Harris should be more widely recognised internationally than she is.  She’s in the vanguard of British perfumers who are really starting to show that the French (with their never-let-you-forget-it-for-a-moment fragrant heritage) – and the Americans (kings of marketing-driven scents and responsible for the whole celebrity fragrance thing) – needn’t have it all their own way.  I give you Ruth Mastenbroek, Michael Boadi – and the revival of Grossmith, one of England’s quaintest (and oldest) perfume houses.  And of course, our own walking perfume encyclopaedia, quite some nose himself, Mr. Roja Dove.  As far as Lyn goes, I think this is one of her finest creations – and definitely the most winter-worthy.  Any Oriental-lover would be happy to find this under the tree, or – in the case of an Oriental-lover’s lover – on the neck of their paramour, as she drifts into the vicinity of that seasonal bunch of mistletoe.  (Note to self:  STILL haven’t got mine…)

PS  This review is of the whacking great limited edition Eau Parfumée.  There’s also a parfum, apparently, which I haven’t yet tried…

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1 comment to The 12 Scents of Christmas No. 4: Miller Harris Fleur Oriental

  • Pip

    I love this review, it sums up the scent perfectly! I’ve recently been deliberating over whether to buy Shalimar and you’re totally right about the similarities between the two.

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