I've never been a minimalist — not by nature, not by nurture. I'll never live in an airy space with bare white walls or limit my clothing to a capsule wardrobe. My taste in perfume typically matches my taste in clothing and decor, leaning towards retro florals and cozy ambers. But in fragrance, at least, I'll occasionally experiment to some extent.
In this spirit, I ordered a few samples from the Swedish-born, London-based indie perfumer Maya Njie, who founded her fragrance line in 2016. (It's only recently become available in the United States, where I live.) Njie describes her olfactory aesthetic as "the spirit connected to the classic 1970s Scandinavian idyll, combined with the soul of her esoteric Gambian heritage." That reference to Scandinavian 1970s style, plus the clean design of her perfume bottles and labels, made me expect minimalist perfumes.
Are they? Yes, in the sense that they're streamlined, focused, and unified as a collection; however, each one still has enough color and texture to hold my interest. I started with Les Fleurs. It's described as "green and vigorous...an unbound celebration of life, love and creation," with notes of bergamot, neroli, fig, "citrusy magnolia," floral musk and "unwilted wood." It was inspired by Minnie Ripperton singing "Les Fleurs" (do yourself a favor and listen!) and it's a transparent yet lasting fruity-floral that wears perfectly in warm weather. It gives more emphasis to its bergamot, sheer woods, and twiggy green notes than the fig or magnolia. I've come back to my sample vial over and over; it's relaxed and earthily romantic, and it hooks me just like that Minnie Ripperton recording did.
Next in my sample trio is Nordic Cedar, an "animated and spicy...warm and piquant" fragrance with notes of cardamom, patchouli, musk, cedar and amber. I like this one too. It's very smooth and solid, but not heavy; again, I was able to wear it in 90-degree weather without feeling overly perfumed. It's more wood than spice, although the subtle cardamom does chime in, and it has an almost vanillic base note mixed into its cedar and sandalwood. Nordic Cedar is a great option for anyone who wants to wear a woody scent that merges with the skin but finds Le Labo Santal 33 too blunt and musky, or maybe just too played-out.
Lastly, we have Vanilj, billed as "Nordic Cedar’s sweeter, more softly spoken sibling" and featuring a "distinctly traditional Swedish combination of Vanilla and Cardamom" for a "powdery gourmand" effect. Vanilj's notes include vanilla, cardamom, patchouli, musk, cedar and amber, and you can see that it does overlap with Nordic Cedar, yet it's also its own scent: more cream and sugar, more cloudy musk. It's a little boozy, but the cardamom saves it from being too sweet. And it brings back a hazy memory of L'Artisan Parfumeur Vanilia — discontinued, alas, so I can't do a side-by-side comparison.
I'd like to bring back my earlier reference to a capsule wardrobe, because I've tried layering these three fragrances and I found that they combine and interlock comfortably, due to their common threads of wood or spice. I'm especially fond of Les Fleurs over Nordic Cedar. I've yet to try Maya Njie's two other fragrances, Tobak and Tropica, but I'm imagining that they fit easily into this "family" as well.
All in all, this trio does what I always hope an indie perfume collection will do — embody a specific point of view through good-quality ingredients and creative (yet balanced) compositions, then convey its aesthetic with appropriate text and visuals so that I'm inspired to try it. And sometimes, as in this case, something that doesn't initially seem quite my style (too contemporary and minimalist?) will turn out to be just what I've been craving without knowing it.