We think it’s important to have a fabulous and informative experience when you buy perfume, whether it’s just nipping into a store to stock up on your favourite scent or you’re spending time finding a new one. We want to highlight the stores making it easy and enjoyable to shop and In the second of our series of How To Buy Fragrance, we visited Miller Harris in Bruton Street London, to test the brand’s Fragrance Profile Service.
Who: London based Miller Harris is a favourite here at WWP, with its range of gender neutral (long before it was A Thing), beautifully constructed contemporary scents, edited into easy-to-understand collections. The brand is proudly British, it was started in 2000 by Lyn Harris and all its fragrances are made in the UK, in Tiverton, Devon. Although it doesn’t only use natural essences in its fragrance formulas, It does use large amounts, in fact globally, it is the biggest user of natural essence raw materials in the fragrance industry.
There is much confusion over naturals and synthetics, but a large dose of natural essences will ensure that each fragrance smells very slightly different on each wearer, as naturals – being made of hundreds of different molecules -add complexity and will react differently on everyone. Miller Harris sell only the more concentrated eau de parfum, which is a good thing in our eyes, as EDP lasts longer and ends up being better value. The company claims its scents – all of which have a minimum oil content of 15%, some are even higher, last on average around eight hours on the skin.
What: We were invited along by Miller Harris to trial the Fragrance Profiling Service, offered in the boutiques. We were ‘profiled’ at the lovely Bruton Street boutique, which is all minimal shelving and edited displays, a far cry from the over-lit and chaotic beauty departments we often experience. The service comes with champagne and nibbles – the macarons are very popular apparently – and for the Bespoke Service, the store will see you at any time that suits -day or night- and will close the store to all other customers, so it becomes All About You. Profiling takes around 90 minutes and teaches you a lot about ingredients and fragrance construction as well as finding the fragrance for you.
Fear Factor: This service needs to be booked ahead, so once you’ve done that, it’s just a case of meeting your profiler, sitting back and relaxing. The store is comfortable and very pleasant to dwell in. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
Service With A Smile? Absolutely. if you go, we’d suggest you ask for the super-knowledgeable John Horsman, who is Miller Harris’s sales and events manager and co-invented the profiling system. As well as being informed in all things fragrance he listened to what we wanted, tweaking and experimenting until he found our scent sweet spot. He is also adamant that the service should be free from intimidating perfume ‘jargon’ which can often feel elitist, and great fun, which it was as the 90 minutes whizzed by.
How It Works: After you are settled in with your beverage of choice -we stuck to tea in order to concentrate – John starts with the fragrance wardrobe questionnaire, a series of questions aimed at discovering your jumping off point for sniffing. Where you’ve lived, what you want out of your fragrance and who you want to be are just a few of many factors that can influence what fragrance you might like, and once completed -it takes no more than a few minutes- John selects three ‘lights’, three ‘darks’ and two wild card perfumes with which to begin.
Much like wine tasting, you start with the ‘lights’ (or whites, in the case of wine) which are the softer florals, citruses and green fragrances, trying each one on a scent blotter, knocking out those you don’t much care for and holding on to the ones you do. The ‘darks’, which are the woody, ambery spiced fragrances, tend to fill your nose so are best experienced after the gentler lights. Again you edit down the three ‘darks’ to the one you prefer. The wild card selection throws in two random choices from the range that John thinks might appeal. It’s a clever way to make sure you didn’t miss out on a left-of-field selection and adds a fresh dynamic to the selection.
Once you have narrowed down to three or four scents, you start to put them on your skin, which is the crucial part of the process. No fragrance should ever be bought without giving it plenty of time to sit on your skin. Again, we sprayed the lighter fragrances first, then the darker ones, all the while discussing and comparing, with John guiding us to decide if we liked one over another, so formulating a disciplined choice process.
This can be the hardest part, as what might find is you end up with two or even three really great ‘loves’, choosing just one can be hard! But there is no sense of being rushed, and John patiently explains how the ingredients in each scent will change over time, and points out how this might work for you.
Cost: For the super-bespoke service, where you can have the store closed and you can pick any time of the day or night, the cost is £250, which comes with a 100ml bottle of your chosen fragrance and 15% discount of anything else purchased. It is for one person, but if you have a group of you- up to five people can be accommodated- the company will quote separately, just give them a ring.
For 90 minutes in store opening hours and where the shop remains open throughout, its £100 and you receive a 50ml bottle of your chosen perfume. Trial samples of all of your final favourites are also included in your leaving package.
You can of course visit the store and get excellent advice from the store staff for free. Fragrances start at £65 for 50mls, £95 for 100 mls.
What You Need To Know: Miller Harris is on a bit of a roll currently in terms of successful fragrance launches, Vetiver Insolent, Etui Noir and Lumiere Doree all launched this year to great reviews, we loved them all. It is a terrific brand from which to buy a really good, modern perfume, as the quality is excellent and the scents all contemporary and interesting. We love the easy to understand and well edited collections, which don’t overwhelm and the clear presentation, always in gorgeous boxes, of the ranges in store.
Our Edit: As big lovers of warm, patchouli scents with a hint of rosy floral, the La Fumée Ottoman, with its deliciously warm spice and wafts of frankincense, was our final choice, although we could easily have chosen the Noix de Tuberose (one of the brand’s best sellers) or Feuilles de Tabac.
Other best sellers you might like to try include Rose Silence, a clear, warm rose, La Fumée Alexandre, a rich sandalwood and La Fumée Intense . A discovery box of eight 2ml samples is also available for those unable to get to a store.