Sunday, January 06, 2008

Michael Storer Perfumes

Much ado is made these days about the lack of originality in niche perfumes. Many mainstream perfumers are trying to "go niche," while other classic perfumers, like Guerlain, are releasing less-than-stellar perfumes in order to find a new audience. As a newcomer who has yet to try even many classic perfumes, I can't sincerely jump on the bandwagon and complain much about the lack of interesting releases. I'm too busy catching up. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm immune to suggestion. In fact, quite the contrary, so when I heard people I trust say good things about Michael Storer's creations, I listened, and I responded.

Michael Storer currently offers six perfumes on his online site, but he's adding a new release to the mix as well, a fig-based scent called Kadota. I've had the pleasure to try all seven (Bob tried three). I've listed them below, although I have to say that overall, they're all stunning. I can see how every perfume lover needs at least one of these scents in his or her collection.

A funny story here: The first Genviève I tried was not Genviève at all, but Stephanie. The vials got confused, as did I, so that when I wrote my original review, I was using the correct notes and the wrong scent. That pretty much messed with my head (or my nose, as it were--I thought I had lost my mind when I smelled white flowers but hardly any were listed), but I'm on track now.

The notes in Genviève are:
Top: Damask rose, green tea, muguet, rhubarb, ambrette seed
Heart: Bulgarian rose, raspberry, peach, ylang ylang, mimosa absolute, jasmine absolute, violet leaf
Base: angelica root, tolu balsam, ambergris, musk, tonka bean absolute, sandalwood, civet

I generally get a sense of whether or not I will like a fragrance as I apply it. A sure sign is when I can't put down the vial and have to keep dabbing it on, as I'm afraid other people won't be able to smell the magic that is THIS perfume. With Genviève, I dabbed and dabbed, sniffed and sniffed. This is a refined, elegant scent. The rose is soft and fresh, and as the scent deepens, on me the fruit honeys the scent, rather than adding any juice, opening the way for a warm and sexy dry-down. It's cozy enough to wear in winter, but it also has top notes that lend it to summer, with whispering green notes followed by a scent that never overpowers the wearer.

Some fragrances don't lend themselves to words. Ironic then that upon first sniff, Monk makes me think of a Medieval scriptorium, where words are holy. I think Monk is one of the most complex fragrances I've encountered. At opening, it's rather dank, the smell of an old room, of the mildewy pulp of old manuscripts, of the lingering tobacco smoke of ancient scribes practicing their craft late into the night. The animalic undertone here is visceral and almost overpowering, but after an hour or so it mellows to an ancient powder. I thought I detected heliotrope, unusual in a man's scent but also rather sexy in contrast to the usual wood notes, but none was listed in the notes, which are as follows:

Top: acacia flower, bergamot orange, bitter orange, galbanum
Heart: linden blossom absolute, blond tobacco absolute, cistus oil, ambrette seed, cocoa absolute, Bulgarian rose absolute
Base: Aged Indonesian vanilla, tonka bean absolute, civet, sandalwood, Texas cedarwood, benzoin tincture, jasmine absolute, birch tar

My guess is the cocoa and vanilla temper the woods, but this is decidedly not a gourmand scent. It is the scent of knowledge through time. That may sound overblown, but you must try this scent before you judge.

As for Djin: When I opened the vial and sniffed, I literally said these words out loud: "Sexy! Awesome sexy!"

That's right. I turned into Austin Powers.

I took the vial straight to Bob and bid him to try it. Let me leave this little story for a sec to tell you about the notes:

Top: lemon, grapefruit, ivy leaf, muguet
Heart: oolong tea absolute, cardamom seed, pink pepper, galbanum, geranium leaf over roses, lemon verbena
Base: teakwood, sandalwood, castoreum, musk

Bob is always a willing participant in my perfume trials, so he gave Djin a go. Sadly, this fragrance seemed to be all ozone on him, and left what seemed to be hot in the bottle rather cold on his skin. I could see this working better in the heat, as I imagine the ozonic notes would work with the humidity to let out the more animalic notes in the base.

I could not give up on a fragrance that was so stunningly sexy in the bottle (or vial, as it were), so I decided that today I would try wearing it myself, and I am so glad I did. On me, the scent warms a great deal. After a crisp start, the rose and leather are the most prominent, with a light dusting of woods underneath that add a sexy whiff of heat. Chemistry is a mystery. This is a sensual, sexy rose.

If you've smelled Yvette, and if you've spent any time at Sweet Diva, you might be as surprised as I was at how much I like this fragrance. I've said before that fruit and I do not mix, and in fact I will go out of my way to avoid any scent I think will be overly fruity or in the least bit gourmand. I'm happy to say that Yvette falls into the same category for me as Pomegranate Noir--in other words, a fruit-based scent I can wear, and even enjoy.

Where Pom Noir begins with dark juicy fruit and ends in warm woods, Yvette begins with a green, almost medicinal opening. As the fragrance warms to the skin, the fruit begins to appear, dark and fleshy, a bit jammy but not overly sweet. A powdery note softens the intensifying fruit, and while the green, herbaceous tones of the opening disappear entirely, the scent remains as fresh as a newly ripe plum, never ripening to the boozy headiness of some fruit-full perfumes.

The notes in Yvette include tropical flowers, rose otto, muguet, heliotrope, tonka, sandalwood, spice and tarragon. I find this one a better scent for cooler weather or drier climates. In the deep South, the rich depths of this scent would be quite heavy for summer. That said, I can see it being an excellent choice for February or March, as one awaits the promise of spring.

I'm taking a huge risk with this one, as Michael has yet to list the notes for it on his site, but was generous enough to include it in the sample pack I purchased just before Christmas. I've had relatively little experience with fig fragrances, but they've been positive in both instances (Diptyque Philosykos and Anthousa Fig & Vetiver), and Kadota is not an exception. I'm finding it much greener than the beachy Philosykos, and heartier than the Anthousa. The top is true fruit that instead of growing sweeter actually grows greener, not unlike a tree that releases its ripe fruit before its leaves have reached full maturity. To me, this scent also smells a bit wet, like the aftermath of a storm in springtime.

The Michael Storer site describes Stephanie as "the headspace of a gardenia." The first whiff of it in the vial bears this out: This scent is unmistakably lush. This is not a green gardenia, not the experience of the full plant in flower, but rather, the flower itself. The notes in Stephanie include pink pepper, black pepper, galbanum, angelica root, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose, and chrysanthemum. The top is crisp, but soon passes straight into the white floral heart where the tuberose is prominent but not overwhelming. The pepper adds an unusual and interesting touch to a white floral which would otherwise be rather straightforward (not that that's a bad thing, not at all). I like that instead of going for fresh or creamy, this perfume dirties the flower a bit. It makes me think of Katherine Hepburn as Tracy in The Philadelphia Story where she worries about being on a pedestal--this flower is not a goddess, but a real woman, and all the more beautiful for it.

il giardino
I found this to be the most straightforward of the bunch, and it's the only one I didn't try myself, as green fragrances often do not agree with my chemistry.

The notes in il giardino are as follows:
Top: lemon, bitter orange, cognac oil, green cassis bud
Heart: grapefruit, black currant, neroli, orange blossom absolute, jasmine absolute, philodendron, juniper berry
Base: ambergris, musk, sandalwood, Mexican vanilla, tonka bean absolute

Simply put, this scent makes me think of summer in a backyard at twilight, sitting near a pool, smelling the neighbor's freshly cut grass, sipping a gin and tonic, staring up at the violet sky. A dog barks in the distance, children on the street are still playing, eking every advantage of remaining daylight. I find this fragrance to be more of an experience than a perfume, but it would blend wonderfully into any summer night.

Michael Storer's fragrances are very reasonably priced ($75-$85 for 2oz.), especially considering their terrific lasting power, and are available through his online store (with the exception of Kadota, which has not yet been added). You can email Michael at with questions. You'll find he's very helpful and kind.