Skip to main content

Vetiver grass used as windbreak

Regular readers of this blog know that vetiver is a favourite fragrance note of mine. The roots of that aromatic grass that grow in Haiti and India is the star attraction in many of the scents that I own: Vétiver pour Elle by Guerlain, Vétiver by Annick Goutal, Vétiver Oriental by Serge Lutens, Coeur de Vétiver Sacré by L’Artisan, Vetiver Dance by Andy Tauer and Route du Vétiver by  Maître Parfumeur et Gantier. So, why did it take so long for me to discover Vetiver Insolent by British perfume house Miller Harris, I wonder? I could come up with dozens of excuses on my part, most of them involving work and family, but part of the reason was the way the brand was handled.

Miller Harris was founded by perfumer Lyn Harris in 2000. She built a home business into a global one and sold it to London-based global investment outfit Neo Capital in 2012. After Harris left in 2014, the brand seemed to shift in to idle for a while and was often overlooked despite producing some outstanding fragrances that are vegan and contain no phthalates, artificial colorants, parabens and formaldehydes.

Then, in 2016, Miller Harris went through a rebrand. Perfumers like Julie Pluchet and Bertrand Duchaufour created fragrances for them, and they changed the packaging and presentation of the scents. This was also the year nose Mathieu Nardin, of Robertet, created Vetiver Insolent.

Vetiver Insolent opens with a note of fresh, bright nose-tingling bergamot, joined by earthy, woody black pepper, sweet cardamom and smoky, resinous elemi. It is fresh, rich and spicy and could easily go to the dark side if not for a floral heart of earthy, powdery iris and fresh, herbal, aromatic lavender rounded out by resinous, balsamy amber. As it evolves, vetiver at the base starts to rise up through the fragrance. Truth is, the vetiver had been lurking there right from the top, but now it blooms rich, deep and dense, each facet highlighted by what came before so that all its aspects – woody, green, earthy, smoky - are on display. Even oakmoss evokes the forest floor, while tonka bean gives it warmth and sweetness.

The drydown is balsamy, resinous, woody and earthy, but not dark and heavy. Vetiver Insolent is so well designed that the vetiver has enough space in it to allow the other notes to lift it while still keeping the fragrance vetiver-centric, making it smooth and alluring and giving it a vintage vibe that draws people in. It is simply a superb piece of perfumery.

The Miller Harris website says that Vetiver Insolent ‘conjures the summertime tradition of weaving vetiver roots into a curtain, placed at a window and drenched in water to cool and scent the air.’ This is precisely the experience I get from wearing Vetiver Insolent.

Some vetiver fragrances are best worn during cool/cold temperatures, a few are better suited to warmer days, but Vetiver Insolent can be worn all year long. I think this is one of the things I like most about it, cause now that I’ve found it, I want to wear it all the time.

Vetiver Insolent is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00. for 1 ml.

Image - wikimedia commons - Vetiver grass windbreak at Pono Grown Farm Centre, Maui , Hawaii, Forest and Kim Starr, Nov. 23, 2015

I have an older friend who has travelled all over the world, every continent, except maybe Antarctica. She’s given me great advice about how to plan and enjoy a big in-depth trip, and during a lunch date last October, I asked her: “What was your most favourite, which country would you go back and visit again?” Without missing a beat she said “Turkey! I’d go tonight if you gave me a ticket! The landscape, the culture, the people, food, music, art - and the incredible history. I fell in love with Turkey.” 

History is my friend’s passion. Wherever she travels she makes a point of visiting the actual places where “real sh** happened”, as she puts it. Pulling out her phone, she showed me pictures of her visit to Ani, the ancient walled city “of 1001 churches” that was one of the world’s largest cities a thousand years ago, the capital of the Armenian kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. A renowned centre for trade between east and west, Ani was home to an estimated one-hundred thousand Armenians, filled with churches, mosques, palaces and protected by fortressed walls.

Over ten centuries, Ani was invaded and destroyed by armies, Byzantine, Ottoman, Mongol, and natural events like a massive earthquake, and in 1921 was claimed by the Republic of Turkey, which ignored the need to preserve the site and its antiquities until 2016, when Ani was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and suddenly became a tourist destination under the global spotlight.

Shortly after our lunch, I read that Nishane, the Turkish niche brand built over the last five years by Murat Kutran and Mert Guzel, had released a new perfume collection, No Boundaries, which expresses their belief that perfume, like all art, has a universal message that crosses and breaks down all boundaries.  One of the fragrances was named Ani. Ping! I know all about that name…Armenia, Turkey, wars, borders, ruins. Reading further, I learned that the perfumer they hired to compose it was Cécile Zarokian, one of my favourite noses, who is of Armenian descent and also knows something about pushing creative boundaries with stunning results. I bought it right away, unsniffed.

According to Murat Kutran and Mert Guzel Murat, their Ani perfume was created for its story which tells the true tale of a city torn by war…with the hope to use scent as a way to heal Armenian and Turkish people…ANI also means “memory” in Turkish.”According to Cecile Zarokian’s website, Ani “…was created under the romantic inspiration of a popular Anatolian folk song called “Sarı Gelin” (in Turkish) or “Sari Gyalin” in Armenian. Ani is an oriental fragrance, warm and spicy, with fruity, musky and woody notes.”

Right off the top, I can tell Ani is special. Bright crisp limey bergamot wrapped in watery green notes burst out of the bottle. Where am I…the South Seas, Madagascar? I’m not in Turkey! As I try to get my bearings a gust of fabulous spicy ginger and pink pepper takes it up a notch, forming a vibrant accord that floats through the green humidity, opening the path for dewy vegetal notes of vanilla to waft up, the exact scent of the pale yellow-green buds of vanilla orchid opening on the vine. 

As Ani begins its slide into the heart the vanilla accord slowly appears, and the peppery ginger makes room for cardamom and the delicious aroma of Turkish rose, slightly herbal and aromatic with a fruity earthy sweetness from blackcurrent. Vanilla owns the heart of Ani, but it’s such a unique and unusual vanilla when mixed with these other notes, not sweet and boozy, rather a subdued yet powerful vegetal vanilla, humming with energy from simmering spice and floral underneath. 

The vanilla accord sings in full voice in the base when matched with resinous and aromatic wood notes, like sandalwood, cedarwood and benzoin, which immediately give it depth and strength and warmth. The green notes fade, replaced by the sensual warmth of patchouli and the animalics, ambergris and musks. As Ani dries down, the vanilla becomes darker, richer and velvety, but still whispers its beautiful green-ness. The waft is deceptively soft and very powerful…a single spritz lasts on skin or clothing for more than twelve hours, so apply sparingly. Best of all, Ani is non-gendered perfection, not too sweet, not too floral, not too spicy or woody, just mellow, and hauntingly beautiful.

Ani, whose name translates as "memory" in Armenian, was created with a mission: create a scent that honours a place, its people, and shared traditions so that boundaries between two cultures, both real and imagined, disappear. Cécile Zarokian has created a beautiful fragrance through an inspired out-of-the-box interpretation of vanilla as the conductor of an olfactory symphony. Alternately fresh, spicy and vibrant, drifting into floral, then woody, warm and deeply comforting, Ani exudes an olfactory power that goes far beyond words, connecting memories and inspiring feelings of shared humanity, calm and peace.

Our world could use a lot more of that right now.

Ani is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.

Image: Wikipedia, Church of St. Gregory of Tigran Honants, Ani, Turkey, by S. Kaya, Oct. 24, 2009

Ani background info: wikipedia

Welcome to

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.


We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
We hope you enjoy, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.