It's not customary for me to review several fragrances in one go, but seeing as I was sent some new Vault samples from the trismegista Ida/Chayaruchama and some others from a representative of Neil Morris, the temptation to group my thoughts on these was immense and I couldn't resist. Days of consecutive testing left me with the impression that people who are very much attuned to the richer, ambery and woody end of the spectrum in fragrance preferences should have no trouble at all finding something in the extensive Neil Morris portfolio to fall in love with. I found some surprising hits and some misses myself where I didn't expect to, so sampling is the only way to go (as if this needed further insisting upon). This last May they were celebrating their one year anniversary of the introduction of Vault fragrances and I am at a loss on how they could manage to have so many there already! (For what is worth I always loved the wondrously leathery Gotham from his Signature Collection)
But who is this ultraniche artisanal perfumer, Neil Morris? According to Where Magazine, he "takes the cake as Boston’s resident fragrance artiste” and I admit I can't think of anyone else hailing from this untraditional locale (which evokes universities and the rare urban deliquent or two to my mind). Can you? It might sound superficial, but knowing the good, trusty relationship that Ida has had with self-taught Neil over the years has feeling sympathetic to the man through reflection of Ida's wonderful warm personality, even though I don't even know him! I also appreciate the fact that in times of recession he's trying to accomodate perfumistos and reduces the size and accordingly the price of his creations. He's on top of a trend obviously and more people in the business should pay attention to their audience! And I love that I have been twice given the chance to sample compositions that were custom-made for a friend: first Le Parfum d'Ida which has entered the mainstay collection at the Vault (and it's highly recommended to sample this!) and then Rêve Foncé, translating as "dark dream", a leathery smooth potion containing no aldehydes to her specification.
The newest 2009 Vault fragrances have something for everyone it seems.
Rumi, inspired by the Persian mystic, poet and philosopher, literally took me by surprise with its warm rosiness and incandescent resinoids. I had decided not to read any notes before sampling so as to have my mind free of associations, but if the ouris in Muslim heaven wear this, the promised rivers of milk are guaranteed to run forever. It's so delectably ambery, with a powdery veil of golden warmth, its core vibrating with good rose absolutes that I stand corrected in not usually liking roses. I love this one! Considering I have been impressed by Andy Tauer's Une Rose Chyprée lately, it looks like I need to devote some airtime to rose fragrances in general.
In that vein Vanille Rosé was a posteriori another surprise: This one is taking the other road of rose, the traditional rose of yore, a Tudor rose so to speak. It reminded me of something my mother wore beautifully in the past, which I couldn't place, until I realised it was a simple but pretty rose essence she had received from South of France from a poet friend residing in Marseilles. There is a beautiful vanilla tonality that lasts well in the perfume and I detect a citrusy touch which highlights the more crystalline, fruity facets of the rose. While I am usually leery of roses which never quit, I satisfyingly wore this the whole day and with the leaping realisation we get when we catch ourselves in a mirrored door in the background: "Hey, stranger, who is this? Oh gosh, it's me!!"
Maria in her laconic Midnight Forest review stresses its "touch of magic, but no monsters" and I can't but agree. The initial blast of galbanum, bowlder-like bitter, has an intensely bell- pepper green aroma which took a couple of prisoners along the way and I admit I was hesitant, but the drydown is resinous woody with a delectable myrrh trail that provides a mystical touch of vielle église.
Red Sky begins with an intense, piquant lemongrass note that petters out to a resinous background, meant to evoke the Southewestern sky at sunset. Mystic Dragon on the other hand, inspired by a Chinatown walk during the Chinese New Year's celebration, utilizes a mixture of cocoa absolute ~which smells uncanningly like real melted chocolate (and will give you ideas, but sois sage!)~ and warm patchouli, its natural chocolate-y facets complimenting the absolute. Both fuse into an amalgamation of beckoning sweetness on the skin. A little too sweet for my personal tastes, but I can see it becoming popular with folks.
Mariner is a standard masculine around citrusy, rosey and woody notes, which is pleasant if not too distinctive and I would have liked it to be more wistful, like it fits those who go down the sea in ships.
In Vapor Neil Morris took a risk: The fragrance feels like a ball of almondy pastry suspended into an invisible veil of pincushions all around, its sharp opening tingling with frost, giving way to the resinous-ambery base that Neil Morris so loves.
I was more impressed overall by City Rain, the first tentative drops on the hot pavement and the creosote slowly becoming an enveloping sensation when you think you're in a viridian whirlwind travelling at God-speed towards a hidden cool colliery where the sun only tentatively shines. And if that whirlwind accidentally gushes you in a terrain where exotic blossoms raise their heads from enchanted pits that whisper to you to lean and see the darkness up close, then you're face to face with Prowl which is as prowl-worthy as its name. The soiled white-floral ache is meowing through the tall grasses.
Regarding Neil Morris for Takashimaya, Chandler Burr described it as "luxury retro with power and a high-gloss, premodernist effect. The scent is purplish fruit, big pinot noir and dark ripe plum, plus the scent of a 1930s boudoir: the fragrances of the old-fashioned creams and makeup and the scarlet velvet drapes thrown in". The fragrance is full of dark fruits drenched in pear eau de vie and is intended for the hedonists among you.
Notes for Neil Morris Vanille Rose: Orange blossom, heliotrope, green tea, red rose, dark vanilla, musk.
Notes for Neil Morris Rumi: Ylang ylang, rose, benzoin, patchouli, amber.
Notes for Neil Morris Midnight Forest: Galbanum, redwood, dark musk, nagarmotha, oak, myrrh, and myrtlewood.
Notes for Neil Morris Mystic Dragon: Jasmine, amber, patchouli, smoke, cedar, chocolate.
Notes for Neil Morris Mariner: Italian bergamot, Damask rose, geranium, white musk, cedar, sandalwood. Notes for Neil Morris Red Sky: Lemongrass, lavender, narcissus, delphinium, oakmoss, amber, black musk.
Notes for Neil Morris Vapor: Aldehydes, water lily, tonka bean, heliotrope, frankincense, amber, musk.
Notes for Neil Morris City Rain: Green tea, ozone, heliotrope, honeysuckle, blue musk, green patchouli, earth note, golden musk.
Notes for Neil Morris Prowl: Black pepper, honeysuckle, jasmine sambac, tuberose, patchouli, oakmoss, amber, civet.
The Neil Morris Vault fragrances can be purchased directly on the official site , 70$ for 1oz/30ml and they ship internationally. They also offer generous samples for 5$ each.
More info: Neil Morris Fragrances, 221 massachusetts avenue, suite 501, boston, ma 02115 tel 617.267.2315
Joseph Mallord William Turner painting Peace via funeralatsea.com. Illustration Voyager by Chris Moore via angelart.com. Pic of Neil Morris and client via his site