By Chelsea Nusbaum, Fragrance Contributor
Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!
Perfume and Memory: Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel Review
Herbaceous, rugged, and tethered to the earth that inspired it, Fleurs de Sel reminds me of my hometown. But my tiny coastal town perpetually shrouded in fog was not what perfumer Lyn Harris had in mind when she created this fragrance: hers was. She has a family home in Batz sur Mer, a small village in Brittany, France, where she says she spent her happiest times. She composed Fleurs de Sel using materials found at the nearby salt marshes. It was released in 2007.
Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel is a fragrance I never would have worn as early as a year ago, and now I count it among my favorites. Name aside, it isn’t floral—at least not in any obvious sense—and its opening is smoky. I hate smoke. Red thyme gives it an antiseptic edge that I’m also not fond of. Up until falling in love with Fleurs de Sel, I liked my perfumes floral, or at least sweet. Fleurs de Sel is pungent and aromatic. It didn’t fit my idea of how a perfume should smell. But I kept thinking about those salt marshes that inspired it, and the estuary I grew up near. Nostalgia led me to take a second sniff, and then a third. Once I got past the nose-crinkling opening, I was combing the internet for a discontinued bottle.
In addition to the smoke, Fleurs de Sel opens with a bundle of herbs and a kick of ambrette seed. I’ve learned to appreciate the opening, but I don’t really love Fleurs de Sel until about 20 minutes in, when the smoke evaporates and the wildflowers blossom behind a curtain of herbs. The herbs have such clarity that this fragrance still feels modern, in spite of its country roots. The antiseptic quality mellows considerably as the fragrance wears.
Extended exposure to Fleurs de Sel will make you think Harris’s family home is actually near a salt mine—it is very, very salty. The big salt accord is buoyed by the host of herbs from the top notes: red thyme, rosemary, and clary sage. The “fleurs” are there, but not so distinguishable that I could pick them out note-by-note, although the official notes list iris, narcissus, and rose. Rather, they form a sheer backdrop to the earthier aspects of the fragrance; herbs and salt are what take center stage.
Fleurs de Sel’s musky base comes courtesy of ambrette seed, with a woody assist from vetiver, which to my nose usually smells dry and earthy, but here is rendered as wet, freshly dug earth. There is a touch of leather.
It is not my signature scent—I’m incapable of olfactory monogamy—but it is the fragrance I consider the most “me.” When I wear it, I smell like where I came from.
Ambrette seed—the soul of Fleurs de Sel —is expensive, and I suspect it’s partially to blame for the unusually high price tag. Miller Harris perfumes typically retail for about $100. If you’re up for paying full price, £110.00 for 3.4 oz of eau de parfum (about $170, plus international shipping), you can order directly from Miller Harris. Or you can pick it up for about $20 less and save on shipping at online discounters Overstock and Fragrance X.