At the start of the month I received samples of MiN New York’s recently launched Scent Stories Volume One, and over the past week I have been wearing, smelling and pondering over the eleven new perfumes. I have noticed sentiments increasing inside and outside the perfume industry, which are causing brows to be raised, followed by the comment “not another new niche perfume launch!” Niche is now a crowded space and I was very curious to smell what MiN New York’s Chad Murawczyk and Mindy Yang were serving up. As business partners, the pair own and operate one of Manhattan’s finest independent perfumeries. Their Soho boutique is a beautifully curated space, which supports the work of niche perfume’s foremost creative thinkers. How would the pair bring a fresh perspective to this densely populated market that thrives on newness? For one, the approach is different. Instead of allowing the collection to be distributed through multiple channels, this first volume of Scent Stories is available exclusively in the Americas from MiN New York. Small scale production plays into the way the collection is experienced, by appointment only from the Members Vault. Becoming a member requires registration. Applicants are evaluated not by wealth or social status, but by their interest in perfumes and what they can contribute to the MiN New York community. Another point of difference is the anonymity of the perfumer and although they are called Scent Stories, each chapter reads more like a poem, with a title and simply a line or two of text guiding the audience. By removing words and expectations that surround perfume, the audience is left unaffected by the celebrity of the perfumer and the product is granted space to speak for itself. It has been an interesting experience for me as a blogger. Although I have included a few of the olfactory landmarks that MiN New York provide on their website, I am writing from what I smell and my own scent stories these perfumes evoke. If you have experienced MiN New York’s Scent Stories, I would enjoy reading your own associations and favourites from the collection. Feel free to leave comments below.
Dune Road is one of my favourites in the collection. It speaks to me of subtle coastal charm, where a pleasing expanse of green and blue water pacify the mind. There is a delicate beauty in the way its crushed grass notes wash over my mind. Deepening with age, this effect develops into the mushroom-like odour of sea algae and the classic scent of distilled vetiver roots. The breezy top notes carry the smell of watery cucumber and a sea salt accord. Although the narrative is based on the sea, this perfume conjures a childhood memory of me sitting down to a plate of my mother’s freshly cut cucumber sandwiches. Dune Road has a floral heart that lingers on the periphery. These flowers bring a sense of familiarity, allowing me to appreciate this as a perfume I want to wear as my scent, rather than it being a series of disparate smells that reject the skin. This is often the fatal flaw of highly experimental perfumes; a good storyteller knows that a story is a only successful if it holds the attention of its audience. Gorgeously subtle, I am preempting complaints that Dune Road does not last long enough on skin. It is true, it may not be the most tenacious fragrance but I have often found some of the most beautiful moments in perfumery within these more subtle types of fragrances, not the ones that scream at you for eight hours non-stop.
Long Board is a sunny floral that makes me yearn for a holiday in the Pacific Islands. As a collection built around provocative odours, Long Board’s cocktail of tropical flowers and coconut is perhaps the most conventional perfume offered by Scent Stories. The perfume sets off with a “splash of orange blossom,” and is paired with a marine accord and coconut. Blending the lactonic facets of coconut with narcotic orange blossoms creates an accord in and of itself and this frangipani-like quality I find in Long Board will gather fans that appreciate white floral perfumes. As it progresses, Long Board warms up with oriental notes of vanilla and amber. Towards this sweet end my mind can place me facedown on a massage table in Morroco as much as I could be belly down on a long board paddling through the surf on a summer’s day.
Shaman is the scent of a leather pouch used to gather magical herbs and roots from the forest. A puff of minty freshness opens into a range of green smells, from fresh sap to dried leaves. Petrol-like violet and patchouli leaves give rise to fond memories of Dior’s Fahrenheit but Shaman is much too illusive to make this association clear. Patchouli naturally has dankness and there is something almost indolic about Shaman. It smells of a cave filled with hanging plant matter and animal skins. Shaman is an evocative perfume and it will undoubtedly hold many perfumistas under its spell.
Magic Circus is a carnival ride of amber decorated with geranium and cotton candy. Woods and patchouli keep amber’s sweetness in check but have no control over the momentary flash of fairground nuts and cotton candy that gallops across the nose in the form of ethyl maltol. A touch of pink pepper adds complexity to the top note and the dry down is a subdued and surprisingly transparent amber wood. Unlike L’Artisan Parfumeur’s circus-inspired Dzing! there are no wild animals present in MiN New York’s circus. Aside from the obligatory musk in the base, Magic Circus is a very clean affair, offering wholesome fun the entire family can enjoy.
Old School Bench
Old School Bench is wonderfully rich and layered. I’m not a big fan of chocolate in fragrance but the sweetness I am not fond of is skillfully controlled. Old School Bench uses the richness of cocoa to provide an earthy sugar-free experience. Geranium is the predominant floral, which pairs beautifully with vetiver, patchouli and waxed woods. Their sobriety is uplifted with gourmand notes of chocolate, vanilla and rum. During lunchtime, this is the old school bench where the mischievous kids sit. Today one of them has smuggled dad’s hip flask of rum into school inside their lunchbox.
Like most things Japanese, the beauty of Onsen lies in the paradox of its complex simplicity. A number of exotic natural raw materials create a textured scentscape of green. This swirling mist of green aromatics evokes my memories of pinecones in winter, a smell that makes me feel energized but also at peace. Abstract floral notes give Onsen a radiant glow, which trails off into a dry down of vetiver and modern amberwood. Like CoSTUME NATIONAL’s Cyber Garden by perfumer Antoine Lie, Onsen brings nature closer to its wearer under the lens of modern chemistry.
In the dank still air of a partly shaded glasshouse, a pail of freshly picked apples rests in water. The Botanist is a daring scent to make. An untold number of low-cost cleaning products have scarred our appreciation of lemon essential oil and its remarkable beauty and similarly apple notes in perfumery are often viewed as being lowbrow; it is the common scent of shampoos or air fresheners and when it is used in fine fragrance, the note is often exaggerated to the point of being caricature. The Botanist is a very honest portrayal of this ancient fruit. Opening with crisp green notes, the fruit’s pale flesh is supported with hints of peonies, roses and muguet. Cypress, vetiver, musk and ambergris bring an earthy quality to the dry down, reminding me of the scent of moist potting mix. The Botanist is charming in a subtle way, much like Dune Road.
MiN New York calls Momento “the scent of lost treasures.” For me it is the emotion of finding an old bottle of perfume, long forgotten in a dusty antiques shop. That momentary whiff of oxidised terpenes, which comes from the first spray, and fading flowers that eventually leads to a glorious blanket of nitromusks and mosses dosed in criminal quantities. Momento is the most nostalgic perfume in the collection. It begins with an electric flash of aldehydes and citrus notes, which gives Momento a fizzy sherbet effect. Beyond this, a familiar unfolding of aromatics leads to rose and jasmine then on to woods and resins. The great fougeres of the late 19th century come to mind when I smell Momento.
Barrel is an unusually contrasted fragrance. Pristine white floral notes (tuberose and orange blossom) are sullied with oak wood, leather tannins and moss. Barrel begins with notes of peat and smoke. Behind this lies a line of spices and sun kissed flowers. As the leather notes develop, the fragrance’s woody character takes over. Gently warmed with vanilla, Barrel reclines into a sweet sillage of flowers and oaky cognac.
Dahab is the scent of burning embers, a charcoal fire wafting smoke through the winding alleyways of an exotic market, calling its morning patrons to wake and begin the day. Dahab’s ashen grey notes are given depth with wood, incense and a salt accord. Swirling in a halo of exotic spices, agarwood takes centre stage once the aforementioned notes wear down and Dahab becomes a pyre of burning bakhoor.
Moon Dust is another challenging fragrance amongst the MiN New York Scent Stories. A highly unusual beetroot accord gives the effect of wet earth, silt and river stones. A hint of benzoin brings sweetness and black musk latches this unusual ensemble to skin. It’s a dry, mineral and dusty fragrance, which has a cooling nature. Moon Dust is the scent of the dark side of the moon with an ozonic quality that defies earth’s gravitational laws.
Although this first series of Scent Stories takes its audience on eleven different journeys, the mood of the collection is cohesive. MiN New York Scent Stories avoids the overuse of accords and perfume structures, which lovers of fine fragrance are accustomed to wearing; the collection is in the vanguard of modern perfumery. Although the price point, access and availability of the collection will position it as a perfume series for connoisseurs, MiN New York’s fresh perspective keeps the collection feeling young, progressive and not at all bourgeois, which is what many fragrances that compete in this price range tend to aspire towards. The collection is currently available exclusively from MiN New York. Mail order within the US is possible once a membership request is approved. In September, MiN New York will begin showcasing the collection in Europe through a small number of curated retail spaces.
All enquires about the collection can be answered by the lovely people at MiN New York and I’d like to thank Chad Murawczyk and Mindy Yang for sharing with me samples of their new collection.
(product images supplied by MiN New York)