At school, as a fifteen year old, as one of my exam subjects I chose Art. Although I had very little drawing ability, I simply wanted one class where I could daydream. Although this meant that by the time I had to present my ‘portfolio’, which consisted mainly of very boring, painstakingly copied still lifes  – a log and some cowslips here, a turnip there, some ‘surreal’ paintings covered in random eyes, or typical teenage pastels – in my case often obsessively of Boy George – I somehow, miraculously, succeeded in getting an A grade in the finals, principally I think because I was good at ‘talking up’ all the pictures I had strategically enhanced with what I thought were clever-clever titles in the margins that turned round the perception of what you were actually seeing: like Marcel Duchamp turning his famous urinal into a piece called Fountain and translating reality into a new dimension, I somehow duped the examiners into thinking that what I had produced was far more interesting than what it actually was.





You can see where this is leading. Although I quite enjoy some of the perfumes by Etat Libre D’Orange – even if I have truly fallen in love with none – at heart, I do think that the company takes a similar approach to my teenage self – essentially idea over substance. In the majority of their releases, which are often quite pleasant and wearable, well-blended commercial releases like I Am Trash but given an extra dimension with the addition of cheeky Dali-esque tags for a cerebral glitch, ‘She was an anomaly’ (‘for the one you will never understand’) falls into this category of perfumes that are given a peculiar focus almost entirely because of their names (Tom Ford’s Fucking Fabulous was another sweet, woody sawdusty iris scent that you would never have looked at, nor smelled twice had it not had such an attention clamouring name). This new release by Etat Libre D’Orange is yet another iris-led perfume by the talented current doyenne of the iris, perfumer Daniela Roche Andrier, who has authored such orris-based contemporary fragrances as the Prada Infusion d’Iris series as well as their Tainted Love and Purple Rain  – both of which I would happily wear if I found them at a reduced price tag-  not to mention the cosy, if almost suffocatingly comfortable and sofa-loving orange blossom iris that was the comely Gucci Eau De Parfum from 2003. Iris also features heavily in Ms Andrier’s recent Tiffany & Co Intense from 2018, a clear, benzoiny iris ; now the perfumer has created a less effusive, more introverted sandalwood iris musk that held my interest for a few minutes when the initial dry, papery notes tingled my nose but which then went somewhat flat and uninteresting (at least on me). Which definitely makes it not an anomaly.








It is probably inevitable that iris would eventually veer in new directions away from the cold and poetic desolation of the more shivering, disdainful varieties that are too well known to warrant mentioning here. And rather than the glimmering sugar vats of patchoulified zombie floral that dominate how a lot of the industrialised orris is utilised these days (in the ever popular megabusters such as La Vie Est Belle and Flowerbomb), there is also, it seems, a certain ‘middle way’ with iris in perfumes like the similar Fleur De Peau by Diptyque (2018), with its skinsoft ambrettoloide irisness breathed warmly through rectified sandalwoods; a perfume, again, that I couldn’t get excited about personally but which I can imagine being quite gratifying on certain individual for a certain solidifying , interiorised serenity. While Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Paper White (2018) – a perfume I received in the post yesterday, is a clever rendition of the eponymous narcissus varietal combined with a cool iris powder over a modern chypre base that is stark, arresting, and somewhat disturbing (this person would definitely pique my interest) – when smelling a wide range of  perfumes at Shinjuku Nose Shop the other day, I came across a more ‘gorgeous’, if typical iris perfume, Poudre Desire by Elisire (2015)  (‘a graceful aura of delicate flowers blooming in the sun right after the rain’ – and yes, it was clearly a homage to Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee, like so many others, from the high quality iris suffused with heliotrope, cedar and white flowers to the overall scope; just with less melancholia – years of counselling, and serotonin depletion-inhibiting pills having done the trick in bringing this creature back successfully into the folds of society…) – yes, the cold shivers of reality are certainly far away in this plumed bon bon of a scent by in-house perfumer Frank Salzwedel in collaboration with Alberto Morillas, an always feel-good perfumer I often gravitate towards, and who was also responsible for this year’s Tears Of Iris from Gucci’s Alchemist’s Garden series (a remote, watery angelica of an iris that comes in a beautifully Italianate bottle but which somehow does not entirely rise to the occasion – except, perhaps for a pale, and lachrymose, lace-wearing fashionista). Poudre Desire goes completely in the opposite direction to that perfume with a sensual – if immediately familiar –  composition that conjures the post-bath pleasures of the boudoir in convincing fashion, but which unfortunately (sorry, this is the second time I have written this post – the first one was much, much longer and much better and then I accidentally deleted it – hence the somewhat irritating tone; I was in such a good mood!  A furious bike ride for 40 minutes has not diminished my dismay –  and hence the negativity –  but I am putting it up anyway, grouchy or not); yes, unfortunately this very nice smelling perfume comes in a rather unappealing design (to say the least) – a bottle that could be any television or pop star’s 17th celebrity release (pink, with a big diamond on top – I don’t think I could stand such frou frou cheapness in my collection; in fact I know I couldn’t – and I know how pretentious that probably makes me sound ), but at 25,000 yen (about $233) I just need more multifaceted beauty for my money. To win the true perfume lover over completely, you need the full package: an olfactory  concept that feels genuine, which is executed beautifully, and is then contained in a flacon that is labelled and boxed delightfully enough for you to want to hold it, stare at it –  or if that sounds too maniacal (but I literally do stare at my perfumes, sometimes – I find it hypnotic and relaxing)  just enjoy seeing the bottle standing there on your dresser, or housed safely in your chosen closet; a scent that stimulates your imagination, yes, that you enjoy both visually, but of course particularly, when you then apply it to your demanding; skeptical, hard earned skin.











Filed under Flowers, Iris


  1. Any other iris recommendations ? I know I am missing out on some irisian goodies somewhere or other.

  2. Susan Murphy

    Amazing, congratulations, I look forward to seeing the reality as I can get the written words into focus on my screen . X Momma



  3. Robin

    Love “glimmering sugar vats of patchoulified zombie floral.” Very precise. I find that any possible iris note in these ones is drowned by that loud synthetic sweetness.

    Sorry that you lost that first draft. Grateful you found it in you to produce the second.

    I really like the art class duping analogy. Works good. In terms of fragrances, for some reason, without even thinking about it, I ignore the attention-seeking releases like Fucking Fabulous. I don’t want to be part of the dupe, the gimmick; I don’t want to support any sales that might encourage the Tom Fords to further mine that vein. As a consumer, I feel mildly insulted and definitely turned off. Oops. Don’t want to sound all grumpy. I’m just more fatigued by having to wade past the phoney stuff when there’s just so much out there as it is.

    I hate ugly bottles. I must try staring at my attractive ones for the mental health benefits you describe!

    I won’t go through all the usual iris suspects, but a couple that you might find interesting are Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental and Cuir d’Iris and the Italian label Odori’s Iris. I don’t think they’re easy to find, however. The PGs throw a lot of other things into the mix at about the same volume, whereas the Odori is more orris-centric. Somewhere I read that it smelled like a pillow fight in heaven. That’s pretty close.

    I do find that Chanel uses an orris note that underlies many of their Exclusifs that I’m captivated by. It’s very airy and radiant, having that Hiris-style freshness and clarity but with more refinement. It was used in abundance in the first 28 La Pausa edt along with a sweet, melancholic floral iris note. The replacement — La Pausa edp, without the 28 — bears little resemblance to it. The orris in that one is more like the woody, slightly stuffy orris found in Dior Homme.

  4. Tara C

    My favourite orris sandalwood is the dearly departed Apoteker Tepe The Peradam. Fortunately I was able to buy three bottles before stocks dried up. I love iris in general and have a lot of scents with that note. The only Byredo I really enjoy is 1996, an iris patchouli scent. I like Coromandel edt as well.

  5. Bob / Chicago night

    Whatever you may feel about this post, the last sentence is direct, hard-driving, and very satisfying! Bravo!

    • And what DO you feel about this post ?

      • Bob / Chicago night

        Elegant, thoughtful, with – somehow – an anguished tone to it. Also very personal. I like it a lot.

      • I don’t :

        seriously, the prior version was entirely different as I write completely spontaneously and am incapable of replicating a piece once it has been ( disastrously : DISASTROUSLY! deleted – – you mistakenly get rid of one window too many and your inspired morning work just vanishes into thin air).

        Usually I just try to pretend the piece never happened in order to salvage the rest of the day – on this occasion I just felt like I needed revenge and so quickly banged out an alternative summary.

        Glad it turned out to be ok anyway.


  6. Mrs Dalloway

    Oh yes, bottles definitely matter! Some of my favourite irises: Masque Milano L’Attesa (which by coincidence I’m wearing today), Cartier L’Heure Promise, La Parfumerie Moderne Belles Rives.

  7. Robin

    I’ve waited long enough, my darling N. Feeling left out. Was it something I said?! 😉

    • God no – your comments always go STRAIGHT to my vein -it’s just an anomaly

      My brain is all over the place though and with my phone I don’t always see things. I note some interesting differences here actually : I detest La Pausa, and never got on with Parfumerie Generale. I always found there was something repulsive lurking in the base of their perfumes that put me off…

      • Robin

        Nice to know. I sort of figured, but . . . Thanks, Neil. Weird how easy it is for me to feel like the unpopular girl at school.

        Yep, La Pausa edp was a slap in the face to die-hard 28 La Pausa fans. If that’s what you meant.

        Lucky for me that my nose doesn’t catch the repulsiveness of that something in the PG base (perhaps the elderliness of said nose is the blessing in disguise) because many of Guillaume’s releases are among my favourites. I do know how that happens with certain houses, though.

      • Trust me: when you went AWOL after my dreadfulness, it sent things helter skelter

      • Robin

        That makes me want to give you a motherly hug!!!! I do think of you as a kind of favourite son. I’m so in awe of your success . . . and humility.

      • Nonsense!

        (and you are much more like a big sister)

      • Robin

        I’m definitely down with that. 💕

  8. Very brilliant writing, as usual. I agree with you completely about scent and a lovely bottle, which doesn’t seem to happen much these days. I am just tired of blingy things and mediocrity, it seems to be a match made in capitalistic heaven. I long for the days of a great juice, in a nice bottle. Where even if the bottle is plain, the design and print looked nice.
    Now as far as ELdO is concerned, I have three of their fragrances, but truly love not a one. They are nice enough, but not fabulous. I will eventually get around to smelling Anomaly, but it probably won’t be an amazing adventure.
    Iris fragrances: my two favorites are Iris Silver Mist by Oncle Serge and Irisia by Creed. Both are polar opposites and are wonderful for it.
    Speaking of Oncle Serge, you must smell his newest scent. It is called La Couch du Diable and smells quite similar to many of his classics at the opening. It eventually goes off in its own direction and smells glorious. Definitely worth a try. I am partial to his scents though.

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