Thank you, Perfume Magpie, for helping me with my indecision about which Miller Harris fragrance to try first from my new La Collection Voyage set! There are two sets for women: La Collection Voyage Pour Elle, and La Collection Voyage Fleurs. Both include three 14 ml spray bottles of different Miller Harris eaux de parfum. La Collection Voyage Pour Elle has: Terre d’Iris, Tangerine Vert and La Pluie. Side note: I love the 14 ml size! Plenty of fragrance to sample freely without a major commitment to a full bottle; and these travel sets are priced very reasonably: 60 GBP for 42 ml of three different fragrances, as compared to 65 GBP for the 50 ml bottle of one. And the 14 ml bottles are adorable.
The Miller Harris website describes La Pluie as “a story of tropical showers in the balmy climate of Mauritius.” More specifically:
La Pluie captures a moment in time: when the sun shone through the clouds after a tropical rainstorm in Mauritius. Sparkling yet tranquil, the opening of tangerine and lavender refreshes a sweet heart of cassis, sultry ylang ylang and dewy jasmine. The calm after the storm is extended through an ethereal treatment of vanilla bourbon from the Reunion islands and vetiver.
La Pluie opens with an unusual top note not mentioned in the poetic description above: wheat. It is partnered with tangerine, bergamot and lavender. Fear not, lavender-averse: I can barely smell the lavender, but it does play nicely with the other notes and I think it contributes to the overall sense of fresh air. In order of strength according to my nose: wheat, tangerine, bergamot, lavender. The wheat note is very pleasant: light, yeasty, warm without spice. The tangerine offers a gentle fruity counterpart without screaming FRUIT! the way so many “fruity florals” do these days. It is sweet without being sugary, just like the real fruit. Bergamot lends a little bite and greenness to the opening. La Pluie’s opening is lovely.
As it fades away, the white flowers of the heart notes emerge: ylang ylang, jasmine, and something else, maybe orange flower (which is listed as a note in some descriptions, but not all). Again, the sweetness of those notes is balanced with a tart note, here cassis, but the cassis is not central to the heart of this scent. It just complements the sweet white flowers in a way that lightens and freshens them. The vanilla slowly emerges in the drydown, tempered by a soupcon of vetiver. If there is a theme to the structure of La Pluie, it is that sweetness is balanced throughout with notes that are warm, or tart, or dry. For a fragrance dominated by ylang ylang and vanilla, it is remarkably — and pleasantly — unsentimental.
Miller Harris’ website includes something very interesting for each fragrance: a “scent mosaic.” It is described thus: “A visual interpretation of fragrance, the scent mosaic is made up of a series of colours, each representing a heart or top note.” Here is the scent mosaic for La Pluie:
I will confess, I don’t really understand this one, as the only listed notes that seem to match the purple shades shown are the lavender top note, which I barely smell, and the cassis heart note, which I pick up only in the contrast it provides to the sweet florals. And in spire of La Pluie sometimes being described as a “floral aquatic”, probably due to its watery name, to me it does not have any resemblance to so-called “aquatic” fragrances. If you cut off that right side of the mosaic and left only the warmer shades with that touch of green, that would more closely reflect what I smell. But the scent mosaics are fun to see and they offer another way to think creatively about fragrance — nothing wrong with that!
In an interview with Italian Vogue, Lyn Miller Harris gave more details about her creation of La Pluie and the nature of the rain it is meant to evoke:
I was thinking about La Pluie for many years, but since it was my own project I let it arrive in its own time. I was always fascinated by the smell of water, even in London. But I wanted to capture a particular moment, when the clouds are black and heavy with rain in tropical downpours. I found the scent on Mauritius, and it was only there that I got to the essence of it – to the humidity in the air coming before the rainstorm that soaks that luxuriant greenery so intensely.
It’s a perfume designed for women that, I’ve found, men like too, thanks to its notes of bergamot, lavender and wheat. The spirit of the place is in the ylang ylang – which smells naturally of wet flowers – and it’s everywhere on the island, but it finds a warm base in the vanilla bourbon and the vetiver typical of nearby Reunion Island.
La Pluie is a soft scent, soft like a tropical rain before or after the true downpour. It doesn’t have strong sillage but it doesn’t need it. This is not an in-your-face scent; it hovers on your skin, and it makes your skin smell wonderful. It reminds me of what people used to say about Jacqueline Kennedy in her early years: that her voice was pitched low and soft, so that people had to lean in to her to hear what she was saying; and that created an air of intimacy around the conversation that participants never forgot. I have a feeling that La Pluie would have the same effect.