New York City niche retailer MiN New York is now offering an exclusive preview of their forthcoming fragrance line: Scent Stories, Volume 1. Currently, this new collection is available for curated viewing/smelling appointments in their SoHo location with a more widespread fall release expected in both Europe and the US.
All eleven scents in the collection are built upon narrated memories shared by MiN founder and CEO Chad Murawczyk and Vice President Mindy Yang, some of which are rendered literally while others are kept more abstract. The assortment sidesteps obvious clichés associated with comprehensive collections that simply seek to “cover all the bases” in that the line is relatively experimental with fragrances spanning from user-friendly and accessible to somewhat challenging and provocative. However, a commonality that can be identified throughout is a degree of earthiness that keeps the scents from becoming unnecessarily abstract and arbitrary. Furthermore, even though the fragrances are built upon the stories and memories and associations of others, as with all good stories, it’s not hard to imprint your own interpretations onto them based on more personal, subjective experiences. While no single scent could ever appeal to everyone, there's enough variation in this collection for a variety of tastes and styles. So, having had the opportunity to spend some time with the line, here is my personal overview of what to expect:
A vivid, bodied, oak scent over clean soil
According to Mindy, this scent is a tribute to the speakeasies held in the SoHo store, and Barrel starts with a peppery, earthy oak accompanied by what smells like a coarse, cade-infused leather. A coriander note is set on high, and a patchouli / vetiver combo provides structure, but the emphasis is mainly on gritty, textural wood notes over a chord of clean, mineralic soil. Furthermore, there’s a boozy facet and some floral notes for lift with the overall form reading like more bodied and substantial take on L’Occitane’s Cade—warm, yet bracing. Although there’s a captivating raw material available to perfumers called Oakwood absolute that encompasses much of this concept, it reads quite fruity whereas Barrel offers an authentic impression of a dry oak barrel in its environment; there’s a real sense of space and place involved. Relatively linear, this one’s easy to enjoy in that it doesn’t demand too much from the wearer but it offers enough depth and complexity to maintain interest.
An exotic African spice market
Dahab is a former Bedouin fishing village on the southeast coast of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that’s a popular tourist destination, especially for diving. The name translates to “gold,” yet the synesthetic impression of the perfume is more of a coppery silk. It’s a phenolic, quasi-exotic scent in which smoked woods and spices are cast as the main players with emphasis on the spice—specifically nutmeg. There’s a slight culinary twist, and a hint of Black Agar-style sweetness, but those facets are suppressed beneath what is essentially an olfactory portrait of a bustling spice market. Warm, balanced, yet restrained, a leathery saffron pairs with the nutmeg to produce bustling dynamics. As the scent settles, it becomes a tad simple with the spices burning off to reveal a circumspect cedar, but it’s comfortable all the same. While I imagine the scent was designed with accessibility in mind, a slightly more risqué animal edge might have increased the focus on the evocative panoramas that the fragrance constructs. Then again, unlike Chad who spent time in Dahab as a child, I’ve never visited, so this one’s a challenge to reconcile with my own experience. Although quite far removed scent-wise, fans of the Black Afgano-type aesthetic should be drawn to the orientalist theme on offer with Dahab.
A green, botanical marine-musk
The Hamptons’ Dune Road is home to a stretch of oceanfront properties where verdant knolls and sand dunes converge. This scent aims to capture that environment by placing grass notes against a musky, salty backdrop. The result is unconventional; and my initial impression was of an oily Philosykos with a vodka twist. That’s not quite the take I get on my second visit, though. This is mainly grass, verging on more botanical blue grass kind of notes (cedar leaf, armoise etc.) against a marine backdrop that renders the scent as a shade of gray/teal. Vetiver is present, but subdued, and a botanical musk lends an airy quality to produce a fairly conceivable image of a beachfront space. With that said, I’m not sure who would want to smell like such a place as it’s a plausible rendering with a fairly hefty algae facet, and I can’t help but think that this may have been better suited as a candle of some kind. Dune Road's intriguing for sure and it wears more comfortably than it sounds, but it's perhaps not as easy to slip into as some of the others in the line.
A bright, buoyant tropical tuberose
Apparently, this scent represents the West Coast parallel to the East Coast-centric Dune Road, stretching out as far as Hawaii through tropical shades and balmy notes. Although I’m not entirely convinced that my reading is correct, this smells to me like a big, candied tuberose with some white blossoms in the background. The floral notes split the difference between green and powdery, injecting a slight crispness and preventing the scent from becoming too mawkish. The overall effect is a fragrance that nods its head to the lipstick iris genre, but comes at it from a different and much more floral perspective. However, once the opening subsides, the sweetness really hits the gas, smelling more and more candied as the scent develops. Fortunately, this phase also subsides and transforms into a hum of sweet and powdery musks with a distinct shampoo-clean feel. At this point, the remainder of the ride is linear and more forgiving, but this is a scent that necessitates a specific palate—one that favors huge, sweet florals.
A sweet, gourmand-esque scent with woody facets
This is a maltol-driven sweet scent with citrus notes upfront over a somewhat buttery base. Unlike Long Board where the connection to the name eluded me at first, this one is very literal: cotton candy, fried candy, syrupy sodas, fried soda, soda candy etc. With that said, any cavity-inducing sweetness is undercut by a subtle peppery note that keeps the scent from becoming a saccharine warzone. Also, an impish wood note of unspecified species haunts the backdrop, smelling a tad out of place but suggesting the presence of a boardwalk—which, once again, is very literal. (However, after speaking with Mindy about this particular note, she pointed out that her vision for the scent was more of a traveling carnival set up in the middle of a forest rather than the image of the boardwalk that I had in mind.) As the scent progresses, the sweetness subsides to reveal a trenchant sour floral note that struck me as perhaps on loan from Momento. Despite this, the scent’s overall impression is of jocular sweetness with a slight vegetal edge. While I’d say it would best appeal to fans of more candied scents, it sustains an ominous and disconcerting tone throughout—which is perhaps the most non-literal, creative evocation of a carnival type space. Like Dune Road, Magic Circus demands a specific audience, and it’s probably not going to go down well with the dental profession.
A retro futurist take on the aromatic genre
Slightly pungent and reverentially old-school, I find that Momento smells like a mashup of an ‘80s powerhouse with an ultra-modern industrial product—a combination that’s striking within its context. Bitter citrus tackles waxy aldehydes to produce a novel opening sequence, giving way to a sweeter heart with soapy lavender facets. While I’m inclined to approach it as a traditional aromatic, I’m not sure that's really what it is as Momento hearkens back in some ways and looks forward in others. According to Mindy's impression, it's more mid-century, but there's flexibility in its chronology. After an hour or so, the base reveals itself to be an affable, yet simple sweet amber complete with floral nuances. I’d describe the overall effect as an unconventional candied twist on something much older that pushes up against the boundaries of genre demarcation.
Entrance to the vault where the scents are housed (Image courtesy of Seclectism)
A desiccated, mineralic abstraction
This is hands-down the standout of the line for me. It’s a stripped down and minimal béton brut affair, yet its complexity arises through evocation of totemic structures and cold stone. There’s a balsamic touch to keep the dominant wet cement effect from dragging it down, but the fragrance is centered upon a truly beautiful flint / ink chord akin to what Bruno Fazzolari recently captured in Lampblack. On the one hand, Moon Dust smells crude, but on the other, you can grasp the dimentionality by meditating on the components. It smells as though it’s structured upon vetiver and patchouli, but it’s really too gravely to be either one. Spices are present, but subdued, and I suspect that cinnamon and cardamom are doing much of the labor in this department. Despite the rain-on-concrete impression, the scent is dry as a bone. It conjures up a disaffected Ballardian landscape in a manner that lines such as Comme des Garçons and Nu_Be have favored, achieving a similar effect with aplomb. Moon Dust is by far the scent that speaks to my own tastes, and one that fans of ultramodern and rough-hewn aesthetics should keep on their radar. It’s kind of an overcast and melancholic effect though, so if you’re looking for uplifting and buoyant, this might not be the best option for you.
Old School Bench
A semi-gourmand wood scent
Puzzling name aside (I’m assuming it’s an “old bench from a school” rather than an “old-school bench”), this is another strong offering from the collection. In fact, while I personally prefer Moon Dust (and perhaps Barrel), I find this to be the line’s most successful realization of an experimental and articulate vision. It opens with what appears to be a bizarre yet engaging alliance of wood and chocolate that carries an insinuation of a boozy Turkish Delight. Despite this, there’s no overt sweetness as the chocolate notes are rendered with poise. Instead, what emerges is a musty note that becomes a dominant player in the blend—one that elevates this scent into truly distinctive territories. It shares some of Moon Dust’s sense of alienation, but adds an organic pulse through a chord that smells vaguely berry-like and varnished at the same time. Picture an old piece of oak furniture, dripping in character and history—one that’s been given a new lease of life through the application of a semi-sweet chemical process—and you’ll have a sense of what this is about. It’s fairly linear, but is surprisingly accessible and pleasant. I’m honestly not sure how this was accomplished, but it works very well. A real standout.
(Image courtesy of Seclectism)
A clean, minimalist ashy scent
Onsen’s a delicate scent to discuss as I feel like it’ll be too easy to dismiss for those of us who lean toward more challenging perfumes. The main reason is because this scent is inspired by a Japanese volcanic hot spring so it leans appropriately toward a calming minimalism with distinctly clean notes; safe, bordering on pedestrian—at least on the surface. Furthermore, the fragrance reminds me of a popular men’s deodorant, and, if you know the scent, that might be where your associations take you. It’s essentially an earthy, mineralic affair with a scorched sliver running throughout. There’s a dusty facet that’s crossed with crisp pine and woody notes, but the scent never veers into true forest territory. Instead, it references the four classical elements via a washed-and-scrubbed effect with a touch of ash. As it develops, it becomes increasingly effervescent (feeling somewhat exfoliating), and a standard oakmoss base closes the blend. More aligned to Mindy’s own heritage, this scent demonstrates the kind of elisions that can occur when cultural experiences differ: the scent is more nuanced than it seems, but it requires a specific frame of reference in order to avoid the kind of clunky western association that could be imprinted on it. It’s probably the most conventional and accessible of the line, but there’s far more to it than it seems.
A bright, candied violet
A mannered floral that’s driven almost entirely by a prominent candied violet with a stemmy edge. There’s something a little antiquated about this that makes it feel ironic—anachronistic, but self-aware and quite pop. As with several from the collection, this one’s rendered gourmand by its candied nature. To me, it smells like the way Choward’s violet candy tastes: a tad chalky, dry, and yet ultra-vivid. As it mellows, the sweetness takes over and the violet is pressed into a two-dimensional form that lasts for the rest of the scent’s life. It’s a decent enough violet, although perhaps pitched as a tad too saccharine and frivolous for my liking. Like Long Board, the association to the name evaded me on this one as it doesn’t strike me as particularly mystical or meditative. There is incense involved, but I struggled to get beyond the violet to really appreciate it. I also had a long chat with Mindy about Shaman as it’s one of the scents closest to her heart, and “violet candy” is not what she had in mind at all. With that said, what my interpretation revealed again spoke more to the nature of the project itself—that these “shared memories” are predicated on varied cultural experiences. Although it’s not for me, this is a big, cheery, uplifting violet scent with some sweet resonance.
A green and vegetal musk
Probably one of the more unusual scents in the line, The Botanist opens with crisp greens that are countered by a furry animalic chord. The greens are grassy and brisk, and the musk is akin to that of L’Ombre Fauve (minus the caramel). The result is slightly destabilizing; it’s adventurous, but I found it to be hardly the most appealing of juxtapositions. As with many grassy notes in fragrance, they subside fast and a musky amber is revealed beneath. The lingering greens assume a galbanum-like sharpness which, when paired with the oriental base, come across as a bit unsettling. While I give this one credit for experimentation, like Dune Road, I suspect that it’s a scent that would be easier to appreciate when not on the skin (although I’m told this wears much better on some people than others). A strange, disconcerting fragrance that, at least, gets points for going in a new direction.
The Exclusive Vault (Image courtesy of MiN New York)
So there you have it: the first volume. For my money, Moon Dust, Barrel, and Old School Bench are the real standouts, playing up the mineralic and musty facets in truly compelling ways. Despite the connections that I draw, Onsen would be one I’d revisit also. Listed at $180 for 75ml or $80 for 15ml, these are comparably priced within the context of other niche brands.* Because of the limited nature of the preview, initial access to these scents is somewhat restricted—largely because the collection is intimately curated (somewhat akin to JAR at Bergdorf Goodman). With that said, interested parties are certainly invited to get in touch via the MiN New York website for further information on how to gain access to and purchase from the line.
(unless stated otherwise all images courtesy of MiN New York)
* The pricing for this line has changed from the time of my initial interview with Mindy Yang. While MiN New York members can still purchase these bottles at $180, the price for non-members is $240 for 75ml.