The timing was impeccable. Just as I started excitedly gorging on Season Five of The Crown, a package arrived in the post from the lovely Rose Strang, containing some rather regally bearing perfume.

It has been a very good teaching term. Taxing, but I feel close to the students and have been enjoying it – yet still, I am also now already close to burn out ; ready to disengage: immerse myself fully in lives other than my own – even royals in caricature (Elizabeth Debicki as Diana :::: spectacular); (Jonny Lee Miller as John Major! Olivia Williams as Camilla ! Is Imelda Staunton the best sovereign portrayal yet?)

Yes, it might be a bit soon after the death of the Queen, and the series might not be fully ‘historically accurate’ – much to the fury of the British tabloids (but in that case, neither is anything, in truth, not even the utterances from our own mouths, which do not strictly always concur with the ‘facts’ even when they happened mere seconds ago, our memories intrinsically unstable…..) Personally, I don’t hold to the idea that everything presented on a screen about living or historical figures should attempt to be carbon copy of ‘reality’; a dramatization is not a simulacrum; fictional, artistic license a given not warranting disclaimers. For me, these are thespian explorations, attempts to personalize and bring fully to life otherwise rather cardboard, and two dimensional figures that supposedly represent us, parading themselves inside our consciousness; ( and do we pay for them). All film and TV, it could be argued, including news programmes, all fonts of public information, are ultimately, basically, made for us to consume as forms of entertainment, and so I can’t really understand all the furore surrounding The Crown, particularly when so much is objectively verifiable – the mortifying transcripts published in the Daily Mirror of Charles dirty pillow talking to his married lover, for instance, and in a country which traditionally has little deference for authority ………..with Judy Dench writing an indignant letter to the Times — it all feels a bit like a storm in a teacup; one which I am sure has the Netflix executives clapping their hands together in glee.

Whatever your take on this subject – whether these people are touchable or untouchable – it certainly makes for very good television. Even if you ‘hate watch’ this series (quite easy for those who despise its subject), The Crown is compelling, brilliantly crafted, deeply riveting stuff.


This time three years ago, I was secretly in Florence, awash in memories and the rain, attending the opening of The Firenze Perfume Library on street leading to the Duomo (which stocks my book in both English and Italian). Naturally, I spent some time at the Santa Maria Novella flagship, an apothecary shrine of perfumed beauty that, though having studied in Florence for a month or however long it was back in the nineties as a young university student, I had somehow managed to never discover – this was actually, unbelievably, my first time entering this sacred space. Wow. The farmacia, cloistered in a centuries old building, is divine for the perfume lover – almost too much to cope with- the paper-enwrapped soaps religious reliquaries; the original Iris, one of the many editions of acqua di colonia, a cool, floral aldehydic I wrote about admiringly several years ago.

The new, recently released and more modern eau de parfum edition, L’Iris, is a very welcome addition to the venerable Florentine stable. Silvery, soft, metallic; feminine and undeniably posh, the soapy fresh lift of magnolia, geranium, Sichuan pepper and neroli in this new version is the gateway to a rather traditional (you might call it timeless) iris, ambergris and musk that has an immediate ‘social rightness’ and acceptability, faultless as a dressed up scent for lunch – with any kind of ladies – or afternoon tea. Redolent, vaguely, of Hermes Hiris, or a far more bookish and ethereal relative of her more business-like cousin in Milan, Prada, L’Iris is green, appeasing, perhaps a little grating in its sheer nicety (‘magnolia’ tends to get on my nerves) but, still, undeniably rather lovely.

Wearing its wealth and simultaneous opulence on its sleeve (though in a rather chunky and ugly bottle) is the gorgeous Heritage by Fragrance Du Bois: a very rich, rather swoonsome floral amber with smooth oud in the base I had never heard of before that feels like the most beautiful, hypnotizing soap. With a similar texture and scope as Puredistance Opardu (but without all the lilac),, Amouage Gold, or some of the mellower Montales, this is one of those immaculately blended sandalwood-based, orris-vanilla jasmine incenses with a heart of aldehydes that you just sink into, or rather let sink into the skin on your wrist with its long-lasting, unhurried sillage and moreish elegance. With its eye-watering price – $600-$800, I will not be buying a bottle, but I will certainly be cherishing my sample, saving it for silent and soothing reality-evasion ; times – like the vastly enjoyable and guilt free bingeing, yesterday, on all the top level acting, costumes and set design (and the music!) – that ingeniously frame all the spoiled – but historically traumatized, British royals, with their loves and their betrayals, grievances for one another, always musing and pontificating on their immutable roles in society; trapped, staring out, onto the garden grounds hidden behind carefully curtained, embroidered lace.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Santa Maria Novella is one of my favorite perfume houses. Their signature ambergris note is sublime. Such classic style, vintage with a bit of Italian bombast.
    I am amazed that with the general public’s ever diminishing attention span (ie TikTok) the prime time soap opera survives.

    • Are you a fan ? It is so… ridiculous in many ways but I can’t get enough.

      This Iris is very well done, very pretty

      • I have not been watching any sort of fictional dramas for like 3 years now, the worldwide real life drama seems more than sufficient.
        I’ve been digging all the creativity on YouTube, everything from watercolor painting, makeup, pharmacology reviews, intense interviews with interesting people, embroidery, medical rounds from my university, documentaries of all sorts- the list goes on!

      • YouTube is amazing : sometimes I am just so fascinated though by all the artificiality and graft of visual fiction and expensive series on this scale; on the other hand I would usually choose to read the New York Times or non-fiction than a novel. The painful self-consciousness of so much fiction makes me cringe

  2. I have the small bottle of L’Iris. Santa Maria Novella is such a beautiful perfume house. I have been there many times but not in recent years. Thanks for the photos!

  3. rosestrang

    That was a hugely enjoyable Monday morning read, thank you! I knew you’d enjoy those two scents – L’Iris is indeed beautiful and I agree it has something of Hiris, but richer and quite posh. Heritage is gorgeous I agree but those aldehydes never sit well on my skin somehow – I think they suit warmer skin somehow.

    I love The Crown, I’m saving this season up for a few episodes so I can binge watch it. I watch it guiltily almost, since I woudn’t be described as royalist, but I can’t believe the furore and The British Institution, akaJudi Dench, writing an open letter about how shocked she is. As my sister commented ‘is this a new low for society that we need reminding of the nature of fictionalised drama?’

    What did you think of the D’OTTO perfumes? I wasn’t entranced, but they’re interesting concept-wise!

  4. OnWingsofSaffron

    How does this new L’Iris compare to Santa Maria Novella’s original Iris? The old one—I just sprayed some on me—is curiously metalic. The is no sweetness at all, it is slightly vegetal, cool, very distanced and austere. I think this might be the ultimate scent for some Italian aristocratic family tracing its origins to a time when Dante lived; not necessarily rich but my goodness, with spades of altezza!

    • Exactly. Very beautiful, actually. I once saw a bottle at a recycle shop but smelling it I thought that it had turned too much to warrant investing in it. The new version is much more middlebrow – definitely not aristocratic: perhaps the granddaughter, who now works in publishing.

  5. I have ordered so many bath soaps over the years from SMN, but do not own a single one of their fragrances. I know I do like their Potpourri one, but have never purchased it. I probably should treat myself to it soon. The iris scent sounds interesting, but I just love my Hiris so much I don’t know if I need another.
    I’ve never heard of the Heritage fragrance before, but it might be worth a try.

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