Perfume Review: Miller Harris / Jane Birkin L'Air de Rien
L’Air de Rien was created by Miller Harris in collaboration with Jane Birkin who first had the idea for this scent when she was staying at her brother Andrew's house in Wales playing in a perfume lab he had created while writing for his film, Perfume. In Birkin’s own words, she “have never liked perfumes" and always preferred to carry pot pourri in her pocket instead. Creating L’Air de Rien thus “was an interesting exercise” in finding out what she didn't like. And what she did not like were “all the things usually associated with heady, dark-haired women like hyacinth, tuberose and lily-of-the-valley”. In her scent Jane Birkin wanted “a little of my brother's hair, my father's pipe, floor polish, empty chest of drawers, old forgotten houses." (From Vogue.co.uk)
L’Air de Rien is one of a couple (I almost want to say the only one, but I probably should not overlook Cumming) of “celebrity” scents that truly feel like bespoke fragrances created by a perfumer for her famous clients, to perfectly suit the client’s wishes, tastes and personality, with no thought given to whether anyone else might possibly like the scent too. The supposed preferences of general public were not taken into the consideration in any way here; L’Air de Rien is strikingly original, strange, not at all a “pretty” scent, in short it is what might be called an acquired taste. Jane Birkin’s taste. It seems so “personal” somehow that at first I felt as if I was intruding, as if I entered Birkin’s private space, smelling and wearing her perfume. I felt a little star-struck and a little self-conscious. As time went by, however, the scent settled or rather melded into my skin and, feeling much more comfortable and “at home” in it, I understood the idea behind the name, “Air of Nothing”. Birkin meant for the scent to be worn “simply, like a veil over one’s body”, and indeed, when enveloped in the warm, earthy ambiance of L’Air de Rien, one does not feel as if one is wearing a perfume. Instead one feels as if one is existing in an attractive and strange world of a wistful and vivid dream.
The scent starts powdery, subtly sweet and dark green; the oakmoss note, which I smell throughout the scent’s development, is appealingly and unexpectedly sweet in the beginning, softened and warmed by vanilla and amber. Little by little the cozy softness starts to dissipate and the fragrance grows darker, sharper, and drier. It acquires salty, wet earthiness, it makes me think of the smell of peat, of seaweed, of the murky surface of a pond in a neglected, enchanted garden of an “old forgotten” house. The very distinct and very dirty musk note that enters the scene somewhere in the end of the middle stage is incredibly attractive. Combined with this dark-wet-green accord, it makes the blend all the more sensual, all the more atmospheric. The drydown brings us full circle, back to the softly-mossy, powdery, ambery beginning. It is subtle, elegant and enveloping.
I am captivated and extremely impressed by this unusual, evocative fragrance. I cannot think of a single other perfume that smells like it. L’Air de Rien is refined, understated and striking. It is a little melancholy, it is haunting. It has that ugly-beautiful quality that I adore in perfume. It is, to me, one of the most interesting new releases this year. It is a must-try, and, for me, a must-have.
I believe it is not sold in the US yet. Right now it is available at MillerHarris.com, £75.00 for 100ml.
The photo of the bottle is from Vogue.co.uk. The painting, Le Bassin aux Nympheas by Claude Monet, is from Allposters.com.