I went into the new Miller Harris store at Westfield London recently to try the pair of fragrances launched in January this year which were inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.
Miller Harris gave a passage from the classic novel to two perfumers and asked them to interpret it in scent as they wished.
Here is the text: –
“…She walked on, between kaleidoscopic peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window – until, as if the scherzo of colour could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid-air.”
It was clear from the packaging alone that the perfumes were very different and I discovered it mirrors their contrasting characters. I kept muddling up the names because Scherzo is very tender, while Tender is very striking.
Scherzo (by Mathieu Nardin)
Top: Tangerine and Davana
Heart: Olibanum, Narcissus, Pittosporum and Dark Rose
Base: Patchouli, Vanilla, Oudh and Sweet Note
I had to look up what ‘scherzo’ means. It’s a musical term for a composition that is light and playful in character. Now I understand why this feel-good fragrance is named as it is.
The opening of Scherzo is the best part for me. I love a tangerine note and the juicy, fruity opening is fantastic. I would have really liked to get those heart notes of narcissus olibanum (incense), pittosporum (Mock Orange) and dark rose, but after 10 minutes it has morphed into a fluffy vanilla. I don’t pick up on the oud.
Scherzo takes its inspiration from the ‘pink clouds’ and ‘sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window’. The SA said they only had two bottles left and I can well imagine it pleasing a wide range of people.
Tender (by Bertrand Duchaufour)
Top: Pink Pepper, Aldehydes, Green Hyacinth Note and Cinnamon
Heart: Black Tulip, Leather, Saffron, Geranium, Cyclamen, Incense and Turkish Rose
Base: Amber, Cedarwood, Myrrh Absolute, Patchouli, Frankincense, Vanilla Absolute, Storax, Sandalwood and Musk
If Scherzo is more mainstream in appeal, then Tender is more niche. Where Scherzo seems to focus on the word “fragile”, Tender seems to take its lead from the word “intensity”. It picks up on the kiedoscope of peonies, black tulips and mauve roses in the passage. Its character is as introverted and stealthily seductive as Scherzo is buoyant and innocent.
The first chapter of the perfume is the scent of a bed of green hyacinths; deep and heady in the shade. This combines with the black tulip accord and rose in the heart to create a dark floral aroma which is uncommonly gorgeous.
This gradually slides into the familiar Duchaufour base of musky woods spiked with incense. It’s not as strident as it can be, but it’s still not something I’ve ever enjoyed in his work. All the same, I still favour Tender over Scherzo because I’m not much of a vanilla fan and up until the base, I find it quietly intoxicating.
Are you attracted to perfumes inspired by literature? Which of this pair of fragrances is more your style?
14 responses to “Scherzo and Tender by Miller Harris”
Oh my, I‘m afraid next time I open the tap there will be Duchaufour instead of water – he‘s everywhere these days…
I generally very much like the idea of literature-inspired parfum, especially when it’s such a mighty piece of art as Tender is the Night. In fact, in this very case, Fitzgerald is the only reason I‘d try these two parfums.
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Hahaha! Too funny, M. When I spoke to him a few years back he was working on 20 perfumes at any one time.
Perfume with a literary connection tempts me too. Tender is the Night is the next classic on my to-read list.
I love Tender is the Night, and Scott Fitzgerald generally! But that said, associations with a work of literature wouldn’t majorly enhance a perfume’s appeal to me I don’t think, just the way all these exotic travel-inspired ranges don’t particularly transport me. I like the sound of the ubiquitous Bertrand D one more out of the two. It is more complex and interesting, plus davana can be a tricky note, going right back to Jasper Conran Mister, haha. 😉
Sorry V, I must have dreamt that I replied to you yesterday.
Tender really is a gorgeously deep, dark purple floral. The complete opposite to a Big White Floral.
I’m a sucker for the literary scent-trap. Having said that, I had to laugh at Lady Jane Grey’s comment; yes indeed, Duchaufour is everywhere, and I find it tedious. However, his “Tender” is more appealing than the fluffy vanilla of “Scherzo.” I like the name “Scherzo” better and feel it should “be” Tender, because I’d have difficulty spending on something called “Tender”–but the notes sound richer and more opulent if such a thing exists in his oeuvre. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of Fitzgerald–and I teach English writing (cringe). I’m waiting for a perfume based on the opening passages of Absalom, Absalom!
Ooh now I’m thinking what book I’d like a perfume of. Currently it would be Rebecca because I just read it and it’s so evocative.
Tender is rich in a cool and gently intoxicating way. I can’t think of anything like it. Most dark florals are based on rose.
When reading your comment I went to the book shelf right away, to get Absalom Absalom – I wanted to read that hot, dusty first passage, with a hint of Wistaria ! And now I cannot put it down anymore…
Okay, I need to add this to my ever-growing To Read list.
I’m not attracted by the fact that some perfume is inspired by the literary work, but when that work is one of those that I like (as it is the case here), it makes me interested in perfume much more than I would have otherwise. So, if I ever get to try these two, it’ll be mostly because of that association.
I used to be annoyed at the “ubiquitous perfumer” (and for a while ignored his creations because of his work for the dictator’s daughter), but I realized that do like many of his creations (and the dictator is gone), so I do not care any more that he produces more than 1 perfume per month: however he does it, he does it.
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Yes, you’re right, I’m more interested when it’s a book I like.
I’m not bothered that Duchaufour is everywhere except for the fact that he keeps using that same woody base. I guess he has to have a way to speed up the process.
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I never really enjoyed the original MH line, so when I saw these in a shop I actually passed them, without as much as a sniff at the nozzle.
‘It’s character is as introvert and as stealthily seductive as Scherzo is buoyant and innocent.’ Gorgeous! Unfortunately I’m so bored by the Duchaufour base, that even your seductive words probably won’t make me rush to try it.
I hear you, Asaili, If it weren’t for the base, I would seriously have contemplated a purchase.