TENDER by MILLER HARRIS (2018)

On December 19th I will be doing an in-store book reading at the pop up Miller Harris store in Yokohama’s swanky newest department store, CIAL NeWoman. I have therefore been getting reacquainted with the house’s full range of fragrances : as with any company with an extensive catalogue of scents, I like some more than others – but it was interesting yesterday to re-experience Tender, a perfume by Bertrand Duchaufour that I had somehow overlooked.

Based on the final novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, a story of schizophrenia, decadence, lost love, and chronic alcoholism, the author apparently considered it to be his best, although it took several decades before it was recognised as being one of the Great American Novels and he died without being fully aware of its future literary and social significance.

A poignant quote from the book (which I adore for some reason, as it strikes me as getting to the very essence of things) :

” I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there will always be the person I am tonight”

– is written on the back of perfume’s box, and was the entire inspiration for the perfume. Miller Harris CEO Sarah Rotherham presented the idea and the brief to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, who immediately came up with the olfactory concept of blending the green scent of fresh tulips (very French riviera of the period) and the scent of the black ink of the immortal words that were printed on the page.

The scent itself is eccentric: complex, obstinately avant-garde, as you expect with the creations of this perfumer, for whom innovation and a strong desire not to repeat himself are some of his strongest artistic motivations: in perfumes such as Déliria for L’Artisan Parfumeur, or the cute oddball that was Tralala for Penhaligon’s, Duchaufour’s palette is always experimental (“ Strange children should smile at each other and say, “Let’s play.” , one of the famous lines from the book that also seems very applicable here).

Notes of

ink
black tulip
peony
hyacinth
cyclamen
aldehydes

cinnamon
saffron
leather
musk

styrax
olibanum
vanilla
patchouli

make up Tender, a sweet, charming, and gently symphonic perfume that immediately struck D and I yesterday as being simultaneously both truly nostalgic in some unplaceable way, and yet very modernist/contemporary (and we couldn’t put a finger on what it was that it reminded us of exactly: those dry spongey banana sweets you used to get in paper bags at the confectioners? Pink carnations? Some perfume we had known in the past?)

Piquant and emotive, both scintillating and soft ; sueded, this perfume strikes a nerve.

“Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy — one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.”

– from Tender Is The Night by F Scott Fitzgerald.

20 Comments

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20 responses to “TENDER by MILLER HARRIS (2018)

  1. So beautiful…the words you have written. Thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. I like a lot of Miller Harris fragrances but they are hard to find in the States and I found their web site to be difficult to maneuver.

  3. Robin

    Gorgeous quotes from the book. And what a book.

    I like the idea of the Tender, but given my experience with Duchaufour’s work and the eccentric list of notes, I’m not sure this would do it for me particularly.

    I’m reminded of one of his fragrances for l’Artisan, Skin on Skin. Not the notes exactly, but the novelty of them all together. With Skin on Skin, it’s saffron, whiskey, lavender, iris, rose, musk, “skin effects”, suede. More harmonious-sounding than Tender, really; I bought it blind for that reason, that it sounded unique and attractive and sometimes Duchaufour gets it right.

    As others have said, Skin on Skin is pretty bad. Maybe it’s those dubious-sounding “skin effects”, but it all adds up to a disturbing mess. Out of the mouth of babes; “Mommy! You smell like the swimming pool! BLECK!” mentioned a reviewer on fragrantica, who herself likened it to “a bouquet of purple flowers smothered by hot plastic and surrounded by an acetone cloud. Cyborg skin.” I’ve used it as room spray and then my little cabin just smells like a cheap roadhouse poker table at 5am. The packaging was amazing, so luxe, the bottle heavy and good-looking, all the rest. Damn.

    It sounds like Tender is much better. I can’t really get a bead on it, much as I try, even with your usual adept description. I will definitely try it if I ever run across it. I do like lots of quirky things (yes, I’m the lone wolf who likes Poupée) and I have liked an ink note before, in Comme des Garçons 2.

    That book jacket is sensational, by the way. Is it your book? If so, you lucky man.

    But the hell with all that. Bravo about the upcoming reading in Yokohama! I would be the first in line, book at the ready for your autograph.

    • I would love you to be there as well. Although we will all be masked, I think I am going to use that afternoon as my birthday party as lots of friends will be coming and we might go out with some of them afterwards, although I do have to think seriously about the Covid implications.

      Funnily enough, I was looking through Duchaufour’s resume today and saw Skin On Skin and thought kin-ELL, that one was vile. I remember how foul it was. There was another one as well in that series that was intensely problematic. I applaud the avant-gardery, but it does need to smell nice as well!

      I don’t know that I would actually recommend this to you, but yes – if you ever get the chance, do smell it. There is something I really like about it, even if it perhaps works better in the bottle than on me personally.

    • To get an angle on this one, I would say it is a little similar to Traversee Du Bosphore in general tenor, but spikier and deeper. It definitely smells very ‘pink’.

      • Robin

        I really like Traversee du Bosphore, and spikier and deeper both sound good, so there’s hope for Tender yet.

      • There is!

        Another thing: it was funny – I was at the new department store in question one frumpy afternoon, schlepping around in my shit work clothes and a mask, at Santa Maria Novella thinking miserably to myself before I went off to the nearby school (where that person I don’t get along with works) – Ugh, it’s so ironic: no one here would ever believe that this ogre in slippers is a perfume writer with a book out – and then two days later I got the invitation from Miller Harris. It was a DELICIOUS boost.

      • Robin

        Things can turn on a dime, I swear. Good timing: when boost clearly needed.

  4. Z

    Oh how wonderful and strange!! Would love to find a sample of this, as well as read the novel. Currently working thru Lawrence’s Women In Love.

    Side note, had a Maurice viewing party with my love after your mention of it, we both truly enjoyed and were moved by all 2+ hours of the film. Have you seen Knife + Heart?? Beautiful french queer horror, quite seasonal, stars Vanessa Paradis…!

    I do wish I could support your reading in person, hope it feels lavish and splendid.

    • Thank you. I would also like to meet you.

      And Maurice : : my god, how perfect is it?

    • Tell me more about Knife + Heart.

      I know I do adore Swedish band The Knife, even though they have absolutely nothing to do with what you are talking about (although they kind of do…….)

      • Z

        Do love The Knife, the soundtrack is by M83 so you aren’t far off!

        What to say.. It was trippy and heartbreaking and I just thought really excellently done for a contemporary horror film. Someone is murdering beautiful young gay porn actors and nobody knows who or why, the police won’t help, the director goes to find out herself. The brutality starts right away, and it is brutal, and some spots lag, but beneath all that there’s a compelling mystery and a romance, all in this gorgeous grungy 70’s underworld… All the reviews refer to it as “stylish”, I would have to agree, and note it’s essentially a modern giallo film. I watched it on my birthday this spring, simmering down after quite the eventful party, and it really left a mark. Please let me know if you see it!

      • Oh we will definitely be seeing this ( if I can access it : I am not very good at downloading etc )

        Thankyou for the recommendation.

  5. Tara C

    I read this book aeons ago in university, but love this quote:

    “Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy — one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.”

    So relevant for 2020, when many of our everyday pleasures are gone.

    There is no where to test MH scents that I know of here, but this one sounds appealing, especially if it is reminiscent of Traversée du Bosphore, which I love. Bertrand Duchaufour is one of my favourite perfumers, although my admiration is not universal – he’s made a few I detest. But when he gets it right he really gets it right, and his work is not boring.

  6. Congratulations on the book reading, I am sure it will be wonderful.
    I have enjoyed some of the older Miller Harris offerings and I enjoy many of Duchaufour’s as well. Sadly, the only place I would have been able to smell this would have been Barney’s, which sadly is now a memory in the states here; there are some locations within Saks Fifth Avenue, but not many fragrance offerings. I can’t even find a stockist in the states, so sad.

  7. emmawoolf

    Just lovely. I read the book aeons ago, and then again relatively recently, for my book group. It’s beautiful and sad. (I also vividly remember the BBC adaptation in the 80s, with Mary Steenburgen. Do you?). Try as I might, I can’t love any MH perfume, but I am fond of many, and really like Noix de Tubereuse, the only one I have in my small collection. It’s a bit trashy, but that’s why I like it. CONGRATS on the forthcoming reading and book event. That in itself is some achievement. In the middle of a pandemic, even more so. Do go out and celebrate in a Covid-secure way! All love xx

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