Mikmoi Vesper ~ fragrance review (and cocktail recipe)


To me, one of the most compelling aspects of fragrance is what an illusion the whole thing can be. Like the image that can be either a crone or a maiden depending on how you squint your eyes, a perfume can often smell like two things at once. Mikmoi Vesper is like that. Depending on the angle from which I approach it, Vesper smells like suede and rose or like a fresh crushed fig leaf. Either way, it's intriguing.

Mikmoi is a San Francisco-based indie perfumery run by nose Michael Coyle, who goes by “Mik.” Coyle studied with Mandy Aftel and Yosh Han before launching Mikmoi. (Mikmoi isn't all-natural. Coyle notes that he's self-taught with aroma chemicals.) I stumbled on Mikmoi by chance — I was dashing through a breezeway downtown and passed a tiny pharmacy I hadn’t seen before. On the shelves by the cash register were a few elegant Mikmoi bottles with caps wrapped in cords. I asked the woman working there which of the Mikmois she liked best, and she pointed to Vesper and said, “That one. I like fig.”

The slip of paper that came with my sample describes Vesper as “Sueded Incense” and adds “Cocktails trailing Bond girls. Aperitif tops notes, fig leaf, black rose and smooth suede redeemed in a myrrh and frankincense base.” The aperitif and Bond girls are lost on me (and believe me, I’ve had enough Lillet Blanc and Vesper cocktails to suss out that part of the equation). But I do smell the suede and the fig leaf — just not at the same time.

When I think “fig leaf,” I smell in Vesper the one-of-a-kind signature of crushed fig leaf: a whiff of milky green coconut and a sharp green that hints at cat pee. (This scent really comes out when fig leaves are warm. If you get the chance, try wrapping a salmon or steelhead filet with a fig leaf and then roasting or grilling it. When you unwrap the fish, you’ll smell warm coconut and pulpy stem — delicious.) A vague fruity warmth underlies the fig leaf.

When I think “suede” and sniff Vesper, suddenly a salty suede with a few green rose petals strewn on top comes to mind. The insistent tang that read as fig leaf and cat pee now becomes wet incense and cedar.

Either way, the fragrance is present but quiet and lasts about four hours before the wood and incense fade to a soft musk, then disappear completely.

“Vesper” might refer to night or to James Bond’s paramour Vesper Lynd or to the cocktail Bond invented and named after Lynd — or maybe to something else. But given Mikmoi’s specific reference to aperitifs and Bond girls, I’ll go with the cocktail. Except for the sensation of crisp and sweet and vaguely herbal, to me Vesper doesn't smell much like the cocktail. But here’s the recipe for those of you who want to find out firsthand:

Vesper Cocktail

Mix three parts gin, one part vodka, and a half part Lillet Blanc in a shaker full of ice. (Don’t skimp on the ice, or you’ll dilute your cocktail. With enough ice, the cocktail chills quickly enough to get the job done before the ice melts.) Strain into a deep champagne coupe and garnish with a lemon twist. Even people who profess to detest gin will like this one. Plus, this cocktail is a good reminder that not all cocktails have to be served in gigantic martini glasses — coupes work just as well, and thrift shops are loaded with gorgeous etched crystal glasses.

Mikmoi Vesper Eau de Parfum is $90 for 50 ml. For information on where to buy it, see the Mikmoi website.

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  1. sweetgrass says:

    It sounds nice, and the price isn’t too bad. I was hoping to see samples offered on the website, but if they’re there I’m not seeing it.

    Now what I’m really intrigued by is the salmon in fig leaf thing. Where do you get fig leaves? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them.

    The cocktail sounds tasty too.

    • Angela says:

      The salmon-fig leaf thing is delicious, but don’t eat the leaf! I have a fig tree, so that makes getting the leaves really once the tree leafs out. My neighborhood used to have a lot of Italians, so there are fig trees tucked all over the place.

      • sweetgrass says:

        Hmmm.. I think my friends had a fig tree. Not sure if they still do. Will have to ask next time I see them.

        • Angela says:

          And if you could get figs–well, even better!

    • Oakland Fresca says:

      I had the same thought. Here they are–4 2 ml samples for $30: http://www.mikmoi.com/products/sample-set

      Angela, I loved this review. Totally tantalizing! Thanks!

      • Angela says:

        You’re welcome!

  2. Aria says:

    This concept sounds really interesting. A scent that evokes different images when coming from it at two different angles. I wonder if this is restricted just to this one fragrance or if other fragrances occasionally have a similar effect?

    Either way, I’d love to give this one a sniff. Suede and fig leaves are two scents I’m rather fond of.

    • Angela says:

      It happens to me a fair amount, where I see the same fragrance a couple of different ways. It’s probably because I’m so suggestible. Someone says “suede,” and the suede notes pop right out! But seriously, I never would have though rose-suede-incense could mimic fig leaves so well.

      • Aria says:

        It definitely isn’t a combination that would pop right into your head as “fig leaf”, certainly. Welp, another scent to put on my “Gotta sniff it” list!

        • Angela says:

          My thought exactly. I think it’s the wet tanginess of the incense that nails it.

  3. dewey eyed says:

    Any hints on that tiny pharmacy’s location? Sounds like a visit is in order!

    • Angela says:

      It’s in the breezeway across Burnside from Powell’s. It’s a tiny place, but they also carry Santa Maria Novella (including melagrano soap, which I really want), Odin, a special Imaginary Authors that was made for them, and DS&Durga.

      • dewey eyed says:

        Oh! I know the place but haven’t popped in yet. Will do!

      • Joe says:

        Angela, Melograno soap is worth every penny (and it doesn’t really cost all that much). I hope you treat yourself soon.

  4. Carolyn says:

    As I very much doubt this will make it “across the pond” it’s on my list to search out during 2 US trips this year – The Woodlands, Texas in May & Seattle oin September. Any info from US readers of NST re independent fragrances stores in either of these locations (or indeed, surrounding area!) would be most welcome & much appreciated – Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom etc I am aware of already thanks to previous trips, but they’re always worth a look just in case, not least because for years they were so much less expensive when buying Annick Goutal!

    • Angela says:

      I can’t speak for Texas, but in Seattle you might want to drop by the venerable Parfumerie Nasreen. Seattle has a Barney’s, too, so you can catch up on your Frederic Malles, etc.

      • Carolyn says:

        Angela, thank you so much for this recommendation – definitely on my ‘to do’ list for Seattle in September. Have been in Barney’s there before, had an interesting chat with a lovely & knowledgeable guy there; Malle is easy enough to source here in the UK, it’s niche American smells I’m interested in exploring further.

        • Angela says:

          You’re welcome, and I hope you find lots of lovely things to smell.

  5. Joe says:

    This does sound nice, Angela — I’ve heard of Mikmoi through a friend in SF who’s a friend of his, I think. The idea of a scent morphing from fig leaf to rosy suede is unexpected and very attractive and intriguing.

    Maybe I’ll get to sample these at an indie fragrance salon in San Francisco that I’m going to in March.

    I need to email you, by the way, Angela, so be on the look out in case I get routed to your spam folder. ;-)

    • Angela says:

      I’ll be on the lookout for it!

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