Around 3 weeks ago, on the Saturday after the day of crazy mad shopping stampedes also known as Black Friday, I dragged my luggage behind me as I trudged around SoHo, New York, in search of MiN New York, a perfumery that I had long heard of, but never had the opportunity to visit until now. I had taken the train down to Manhattan a couple of days before with a few objectives in mind:
- To visit a friend and celebrate Thanksgiving over the Thanksgiving break (although in my case the “break” involved plenty of studying)
- To keep in my tradition of participating in an annual celebration of excessive consumerism (Boxing Day in London, where I was previously based; Black Friday in the US)
- To meet up with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies and the rest of the gang (more on that later!) for some sniffing and catching up at Osswald NYC later that very same Saturday afternoon
Since Osswald NYC was a short 10-15 minute walk away, and I had time to kill earlier in the day, I figured why not do even more sniffing, since I was so olfactorially deprived in New Haven? And so it was that I arrived at MiN New York precisely 1 minute after the doors were opened – first customer of the day! I was greeted warmly by Jerry, who welcomed me into the boutique, which, with its dim lighting, wood panels, stone walls and brown leather sofas, was a stark contrast from the grungy, concrete urban vibes that I had gotten from the rest of Crosby Street. I have to say that I really was rather taken by the tasteful decor that conveyed understated luxury and relaxed comfort, a far cry from the over-the-top purple trappings of the previous Roja Dove Haute Perfumery at Harrods London (which I’ve heard is undergoing some remodelling). My only complaint was that the lighting was a tad too dim in some areas, which resulted in my having to squint to figure out what was there and to use the flash on my camera in order to get some decent shots. But that was a small matter; lookswise, I dare say that MiN was my overall favorite out of all the perfumeries and fragrance boutiques that I had previously visited, but that’s a matter of personal style.
But enough about the appearances; we fragrance junkies are here for what’s most important – the smell that can launch a thousand ships (or at least get us to part with a few bills from our wallets/purses).
Unsure of where to start, I asked Jerry to recommend some iris fragrances for me to try – I was looking more for something that captured the orris root rather than the flower. Within seconds, I was regaled with Houbigant Iris des Champs, a cool, earthy iris with some serious iris chops, Keiko Mecheri Iris d’Argent, a clean, woody iris, and Labo Olfattivo Nirmal, a peppery iris. Of the trio, the first was my favorite – I like my irises to be grey and melancholic, which was what Iris Silver Mist used to be before it became reformulated. This I obtained a sample of, which over repeated wearings convinced me of its beauty in its top and heart notes, but I was less enamored with the clean muguet-musk of the dry down. I wasn’t, however, a fan of the other two irises, since in those cases the iris wasn’t really the star as it was the supporting player. They were, I think, in dire need of an infusion of alpha irone, which for me is an essential, albeit expensive, ingredient that captures the butteriness, rootiness and powderiness of orris itself. And their bases once again veered too clean for me (on paper – I kept the strips). But then again one cannot judge a composition based solely on one’s preferences – I do think they adequately captured the vision that their respective perfumers had in mind if I were to look solely at their names. For now, however, I’ll have to stick with my beloved Après l’Ondée, which truth be told, is as much heliotrope and violet as it is iris.
I then remembered that I was there to try something that I had been dying to try for a long time now – Andy Tauer’s Sotto La Luna Gardenia. The bad news: they had run out of bottles and they wouldn’t be in stock until a few months later, and even then they weren’t sure when it would be back in stock. The good news: Sotto La Luna Gardenia was so good that I promptly proclaimed it the BEST FRAGRANCE OF 2014 (none of the new releases this year had really moved me). There was still a little juice left in the tester bottle, and happily they were able to make me a small sample to wear. I’ve written a mini review of it based off the wearings I’ve had from my sample, which you’ll be able to read on Basenotes’ upcoming ‘Best of 2014’ list. Take it from me that it is one of the most original works of perfumery that I’ve smelt in the longest time, and might even trump some of my other Tauer favorites such as L’Air du Desert Marocain and Lonestar Memories.
Following my jaunt into heaven and back, Jerry introduced me to MiN’s house brand, which was aptly named MiN New York: Scent Stories. And stories they were, with each telling a different story that I felt was properly captured by the fragrances themselves, instead of the usual hogwash churned by PR companies that have absolutely no bearing to the fragrances themselves. We can get into a discussion about the role that stories/advertising blurbs ought to play in the marketing of fragrances – should companies just provide a list of notes, an elaborate backstory, or an abstract statement à la Uncle Serge? I reckon, however, that this would warrant an entirely separate post completely, so I’ll save it for another time, but feel free to chime in if that’s what you’re passionate about.
But anyway, here are the Scent Stories in the order they were introduced to me. Do bear in mind that the majority of the mini reviews presented here are based on a process of quick sniffing in the boutique itself, with a few further sniffs a couple of hours later for the dry down; I haven’t actually worn most of them on my skin. With that in mind, here are my cursory thoughts:
- Dune Road. I got major Comme des Garçons vibes off this one. It opened with urban seaweed (whatever that means, that’s what I scribbled down in my notes) sprinkled with a dusting of cis-3-hexenol and finished off with an aquatic melon drydown. Compare it with Imaginary Authors The Soft Lawn for something in a similar, but less aquatic vein.
- Long Board. Your standard lightly salted, coconutty, white floral fragrance. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, having been preceded by Hermès Eau des Merveilles (salty orange skin) and Maison Martin Margiela Beach Walk (salty suntan lotion). The drydown was a tad astringent, but a welcome change from the soft fuzzy musks that tend to plague this genre of ‘beachy’ fragrances.
- The Botanist. A beautiful peony and rose bouquet touched by a hint of greenness and earth. I was indeed transported to a garden tended lovingly by a botanist. Far, far superior to Penhaligon’s Peoneve, which for me became dull in order to pander to the ‘masses’ craving ‘young, pretty girl fragrances’. This was, surprisingly, my favorite of the line – surprising because I’m usually not a fan of the genre, but was rather moved by this one. I took home a sample of this to enjoy it further.
- Momento. A bracing cologne. I’m not a fan of colognes myself, but I can appreciate why houses tend to include a token cologne in their ranks. It is after all probably the money-spinner for people who don’t really like to push the boundaries. At $240 for 75ml, all I can say is, “Eh.” Go for it if you want a good cologne and have heaps of money to spare.
- Shaman. Spicy, peppery patchouli. Oh boy that is some heavy stuff. I reached for the water.
- Barrel. This was a tarry leather that seemed as though an Ardberg had been thrown onto a smouldering fireplace. Nice, but it had a little too much going on for my fatigued nose to appreciate it properly.
- Old School Bench. Smoky pencil shavings! My second favorite of the line.
- Magic Circus. This was definitely the most surprising of the lot. It started off with an oily, metallic and rubbery incense, which I found intriguing and tough to smell at first, but a couple of minutes later, it had morphed into a sweet, cotton candy, caramel treat. Huh? It’s… MAGIC! I’ll have to revisit this one for sure. As of now, all I can say is that I’m thoroughly surprised by the stunt that was pulled off on this fragrance.
- Dahab. Heavy, dense, and cloyingly so. There was a lot of birch tar going on, giving this the impression of a camping trip in the woods where the protagonist warms his hands over the outdoor fire only to veer a little too close, thereby singing his hands.
- Onsen. Another seaweed, calone-y concoction, but heavier and less green than Long Board. I preferred the former.
- Moon Dust. I loved the name, but felt that the disconnect between the name and the fragrance was the most severe with Moon Dust. Flinty, mineral tobacco and tar. It felt like the love child of Dahab and Barrel.
There has been a trend where perfumeries release their own house brands (think Jovoy) on top of the fragrances that they have already been distributing. I can see the allure – immediate branding, with full profits going back to the house. MiN’s house perfumes were, all in all, a rather solid offering, although I felt that some of them could have been polished a little to smoothen out the rough edges. But do check them out if you’re ever in the area.
After Jerry had explained the Scent Stories to me, Olya took over entertaining me (I’m sure I must have been one of the most difficult guests they’ve encountered, what with my numerous requests). Being the fragrance nerds that we were, we hit it off immediately, with Olya recommending a stream of her favorite perfumes that I found to be great choices. I tried on a couple more fragrances, including Heeley Bubblegum Chic, which I had previously written off as too much of a promiscuous tart with its overwhelming sweetness at the start, but which I now found would eventually bloom into quite a beautiful, creamy tuberose. I also tried Sushi Imperiale by Bois 1920, which wasn’t sushi at all, contrary to my naïve expectations. Instead, I got some flinty woods that I wasn’t quite a fan of.
I’ll end off the text with another standout and my most likely purchase after Sotto La Luna Gardenia – Unknown Pleasures by Kerosene, which paired earl grey tea (bergamot) with caramel and warm fluffy pancakes to make for a spectacular, winning combination that would be perfect for whenever one’s spirits need uplifting. Mmmhmm, ’tis some good stuff right there.
And so I left with samples of the five perfumes that are pictured above, a happy, contented Smelly Vagabond who’d finally had his fix of new sniffamajigs.
If you’d like, you can continue scrolling down for more pictures of MiN New York:
~ The Smelly Vagabond
Details – MiN New York
Address: 117 Crosby Street, New York 10012
Telephone: 212 206 6366