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May 17, 2011

Miller Harris L’Air de Rien : Perfume Review


Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

While the average US perfume buyer is put off by the idea of an animalic note in fragrance, for many fragrance aficionados (your author included), the mention of leather, civet or horse sweat is a selling point. Whenever I read about Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, a fragrance created in 2006 for the actress Jane Birkin, it will invariably be described in terms of dirty underwear and cats’ rear ends. Perhaps I draw a line somewhere after all, because it took me years to finally try L’Air de Rien. So now I can report that the musky amber of L’Air de Rien is reminiscent more of a moss festooned garden shed, rather than an outhouse. In fact, its slightly rough charm perfectly fits my image of Jane Birkin.

Like Etat Libre d'Orange Rien (Nothing), L’Air de Rien is certainly more potent than its name implies. The composition is built on an accord of orange blossom and labdanum, and the effect of this combination is quite enchanting. For a moment, L’Air de Rien is reminiscent of Guerlain Habit Rouge, where the orange blossom decorates the typically plush Guerlain accord of balsams, amber and vanilla. Yet, soon a vision of dandified elegance is completely obscured by the assertive sweet incense notes that call to mind Woodstock and tie-dyed skirts.

As L’Air de Rien dries down, the raw silk roughness of indoles that comes from the accord of neroli and orange blossom gives way to the balsamic amber and vanilla. Yet, even though I do not get particularly offensive notes from L’Air de Rien, it certainly has a musky animalic twist that eventually gets amplified by the dark orange blossom and resinous labdanum. There is something very comforting about the caressing warmth of L’Air de Rien at this stage. For a relatively dark fragrance, L’Air de Rien feels lighthearted and uplifting. Perhaps it is the combination of its French accent and English sense of humor. At any rate, a delight!

Miller Harris L’Air de Rien includes notes of neroli, orange blossom, oakmoss, amber, musk, and vanilla. Available directly from the Miller Harris website, Saks 5th Avenue, Luckyscent, New London Pharmacy, Fourseasons, Beautyhabit, or Min New York. In the UK, it is sold at Musthave, Liberty and the Miller Harris boutiques.

Sample: my own acquisition

Image credit: Jane Birkin from



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