Neil Morris is an independent perfumer in New York who recently made a number of his bespoke fragrances available to the public for purchase. I recently ordered three of his creations to try, having heard rave reviews about them on other blogs and discussion fora. Before I get to the fragrance part, I must say that customer service from Neil Morris is outstanding. The samples were shipped promptly and securely, and Neil included a handwritten note. He seems like a darling. If you would like to sample his fragrances but are at a loss as to your choices, I recommend you email him via his website and I have a hunch he'll point you in the right direction. Samples of "Vault" fragrances are $5 each, but are very generously sized in 2.5 ml atomizers. Find them at http://www.neilmorrisfragrances.com/vault.html.
Since we're closing in on fall, I decided to first sample Neil's October. According to Neil's website, this fragrance was inspired by New England woods in the fall. I spritzed and was immediately enveloped in a fruity cinnamon cloud. My first thought? Potpourri. Not bad potpourri-indeed, I wish I could find some that smelled this good. The cinnamon is not nostril searing or too spicy, as in many perfumes featuring that note. As it settles, I smell very nice, real apple coated in caramel. There isn't a hint of artificiality to the apple note, and I really like it. I don't usually like fragrances featuring some form of sugar, but the caramel in this is very well tempered by the spice. Further into the drydown, frankincense and a hint of pine also emerge. The official notes according to Neil also include leaf, bitter orange, pumpkin, patchouli, carnation, caramel and myrrh, but my nose can't pick any of those out individually.
The verdict? I adore the way October smells, but it's the way I wish my car or my living room smelled. It makes me long for a Neil Morris candle line. I'm just a teensy bit uncomfortable smelling like potpourri myself-even a marvelously well crafted and scrumptious potpourri blend like this one. In fact, I think I shall try spritzing my apartment with my sample and see how it goes.
Let me preface the following statement by saying that I have sniffed a LOT of violets. I love woody violets like Keiko Mecheri Genie des Bois or Parfumerie Generale Iris Taizo, and I am equally fond of sweet, green violets like Caron Aimez Moi or L'Artisan Verte Violette. Neil Morris' Spectral Violet, though, is one of the strangest violet fragrances I've ever smelled.
It starts out somehow fruity, violetty, and resinous all at once. I can't say I'm a fan of the combination-there's too much going on, and it clashes together rather than blending. The galbanum is not my favorite rendition of that note, for sure. It is so bitter and oily that it makes me think of gasoline. It soon fades, though, and a few moments into the dry down the fragrance changes dramatically. It gets very, very soapy, though there is still a violet heart to it. The fruit disappears completely in a cloud of clean musk and mossiness. The moss and the musk war for a while during the drydown. On my skin, the moss won, with some help from the vetiver. It even beat out the violets that had so gamely hung around through the galbanum.
While this scent was very interesting to sample, I cannot say I enjoy wearing it at all. None of the phases are anything that I want to smell like, however innovative they may be. Nonetheless, I know this scent has captured quite a few fans in the perfumista realm, so by all means try it yourself and prove how our noses differ.
OK, so thus far I had been mildly disappointed with the Neil Morris samples I ordered. One I liked as a roomspray but not on myself, and one I couldn't scrub off fast enough. So, I sampled the last one, Woodland Strawberries, with a mixture of trepidation and hope. I needn't have worried. With this one, I see the genius of Neil Morris. Woodland Strawberries is a grown up fruit fragrance. It smells exactly like it's named. The berry blast in the top notes is not sickly sweet, but genuinely fruity, like warm berries left in the sun. The fruit fades a bit in the drydown, leaving a greenness that is both clean and dirty. I can almost smell the soil of the strawberry plant underneath its green leaves, and I can smell the bark of a nearby tree as well. A phenomenal piece of work, this one. Why, oh why, does Neil only sell his fragrances in 2 oz bottles for $150? I'll be making do with my sample for a while, and then try to find a decant somewhere. This is a must try for anyone who enjoys strawberry notes.
Official notes: galbanum, sweet pea, black pepper, strawberry, cassis, geranium, sandalwood, oak, wood.