I was talking to a friend on the phone the other night and at the end of our long conversation she was asking me, so have you discovered any good new perfumes recently, and while I was trying to come up with an answer – because nothing came immediately to mind at that particular moment – she said well have you smelled Rebel Violet by a French perfume house called Berry, and I told her I hadn’t…….oh you definitely should : god it’s gorgeous – really rooty, earthy, hardcore iris and violets – I absolutely love it (she often goes for iris-heavy perfumes by the likes of Xerjoff and Parfums MDCI…) —– you should try it.
I will (I had never heard of this brand before). We have similar taste, I love violets, and if there is one perfume ingredient that sends true perfume lovers into a delirium, it is definitely iris: I know several people – this friend included – who are permanently on an unceasing secret mission to locate the ‘Ultimate Orris’: something about the chalky, pulverous, cool bitey texture of this rooted powder, with its mauve and indigo hue of lilac and heliotropic dried white bulbs drives wrist addicts into a frenzy (perhaps for its calm sense of haven – the exquisite retreat from vulgarity and noise; a warm cradle of cold elegance to curl up inside, and breathe….)
Japan’s finest independent perfumery, Parfums Satori, is focused on drawn-back, dignified – if usually still sensuous – fragrances, and I really love both of the house’s iris perfumes, Silk Iris and Iris Pour Homme, which in reality are almost the same fragrance – coupled lovers respiring gently on the cool soft sheets of an imaginary room. While neither of these perfumes has the requisite heartbeating suspension : (that moment, in, say, Iris Nazarena by Aedes de Venustas, or The Peradam by Apotheke – and particularly, for me, in Tubereuse Capricieuse by Les Histoires De Parfums, with its initial cloud of pure, disorienting iris – when the grey compressed chalk of crushed particles in the florous top notes that ionize the air around you can be so breathtaking that only disappointment can only ensue – and it always does – when this moment is over) – I also prefer the Satori iris fragrances as overall compositions. Neoclassical in treatment, Silk Iris is a smooth and translucent scent based on iris/rose/violet, with a touch of mimosa and fresh top notes of green leaves and bergamot in the opening prelude, while a delicate olibanum, sandalwood and white musk finish ensures that nothing is ever less than discreet. Pour Homme, which I possibly prefer, and intend to buy for myself at some point at the boutique in Tokyo, is only marginally more ‘masculine’, with a touch of vetiver in the final skin accord and and some of the floral prettiness of the Silk toned down, but still leaving enough to please the person who is in the mood for some general relief ( who isn’t, at the moment?); introversion — and pared down refinement.
Florentine Iris by Ermenigildo Zegna is at the far other side of the binary masculine spectrum. While some commentators and fans of this powerful boardroom ur-scent talk of the classic Tuscan orris butter at the heart, for me this composition e is far more hard-bodied and unrelenting; a sharp bergamot violet iris, shot through with a bone of erectile oud and clean musks that renders it very direct, jaw-lined and quite simply put, impressive. Recently, I have been talking on here about the ‘savoury’ in perfumery, or the ‘aromatic’: in Japanese this word – the opposite of sweet, or amai – is the simple shioppai, or ‘salty’, a definition that is not really what I mean here (D in fact has a liking for salt-based fragrances (Lush Salarium, Nebbia Spessa) and I do actually quite enjoy that genre, particularly the more oceanic type of niche fragrance worn at the height of summer). What I am referring to, rather, is a form of mellow warmth, almost foody, that I love in perfumes like L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Eau Du Navigateur (one of my favourite perfumes of all time); or the sawdusty, dune-kissed semi gourmand that is La Femme Bleue by Armani Privé (the vintage Hermès Amazone edp I was raving about recently also has some of this quality): a mid-registered, flavourful alto aspect in some perfumes that I find quite persuasive. On D, who in fact has a full bottle of Florentine Iris given him by a friend, this perfume, while up close, is a touch too ‘note-discernible’ and stark (the very opposite of Satori in this regard), as a trailing sillageon him it is nothing but gorgeous: like a rarified, sharpened Calvin Klein Eternity Redux – so if you love that classic for women from 1988 as I do ( I find them very similar in overall impression), then you definitely need to smell this perfume: to me it reads almost as a more expensive and luxurious homage, extraordinarily magnetic on D and a current staple: : he is quite taken with its overall silveriness and robust energy.
A perfumer who is always very much drawn to unclichéd renderings of classic raw materials is Thai perfumer Pissara Umavijani. Many reviewers of her recent Splendiris mistakenly compare this high quality complex creation to ‘similar’ powdered irises by Guerlain such as Insolence, when to my nose, it is obvious that nothing could be further from the truth. Where those frou frou, vanillic coquettes bat their eyelashes in a swirl of Champs Elyséean anisic sweetness, Dusita – whose perfumes I often find quite mind- bending, almost hallucinatory – is within seconds going in all kinds of unexpected directions simultaneously: you are being whisked willingly along an unfamiliar dream whorl, with subtle references that have absolutely nothing to do with the typical gourmand, gallic nymphet. Yes, there is a very attractive, powdered violet-laced orris accord in the top that is initially familiar, but quickly you find yourself being drawn into an unplaceable, hypnotic alternate universe of salted ambergris, fig leaf, vetiver, cedar and carrot seed that is a million miles from the typical iris perfume ; androgynous; addictive, – again, quite ‘savoury’ – and strangely plaintive. Unknowable (her trademark), Splendiris is odd, but I now have come to rather like it – of the perfumes in this post it is by far the most innovative and intriguing (and I would love to smell this on someone walking by me) – even if ultimately – like all the irises I describe here, it might not be the final, haunting ‘silver chalice’ in the perpetual iris hunters’ Holy Grail.