Category Archives: Iris

SHE WAS AN ANOMALY by ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE (2019) + SOME OTHER RECENT IRISES

 

70774990_10157729312006869_928613620642742272_o.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Iris

IN PRIVATE: : THE PERADAM by APOTHEKER TEPE (2015)

f31245e1d1817b36de86e1b5c87129ef

The very first few seconds of this strange and curious perfume from the house of Apotheker Tepe remind me of Guerlain’s fragile but stoic masterpiece from 1906, Après L’Ondée.

True Iris, or orris, as I have written before, stops time. I am lost for a few suspended moments within the cool, white haze of its clay; its powdered, floury shimmer. Dry as dust; iridescent. A loneliness. Iris can be actively depressing – see Le Labo’s Iris 39 – but it is raining outside as I sample this perfume; big, warm late-May droplets onto the dark green hydrangea leaves, camellia, and ivy of the front garden beyond my window, and an iris scent (the imperial flowers, set to come into flower in a meadow specially for them quite soon at the back of Meigetsuin temple just down the hill in the valley) can only accentuate the beautiful, and removed, sense of isolation. At this precise moment, as I write this, it is a feeling I enjoy.

The allusions to the classic Guerlain here are very brief. Where Après L’Ondée is virtuosic in concealing the complexity of its cold, seamless poetry, The Peradam (‘that which you have been seeking’) is a modern, stripped down niche perfume, a very pared and contoured composition formed principally of three, natural ingredients that vy and court with each other until the final skin scent is expressed : iris, sandalwood, and jasmine absolute. I smell none of the lily that is mentioned in the other reviews that I have read, an addition that would have made the composition more expansive, but this is still a quietly intense, but also very private perfume that although not quite my thing personally, could be, for the right wearer, a treasured elixir.

I often find with iris perfumes that although I can be seduced, in a chaste and unsexual manner, by the crêpe grey blue mists of the opening notes, it is almost as if I become extra sensitive to what comes next; that I can’t bear for that suspended, gossamer fantasm to be ruined. This does not mean either that I want a completely untempered iris soliflore – I found L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Iris Pallida to be far too stark and depressing; and though also serotonin-challenged, I do enjoy and wear Hermès Iris on occasion for its aerian clarity and freshness, even if it does not quite have the powderiness that I ultimately want to find in this type of perfume (Après L’Ondée is perfection in terms of art, technique and inspiration, but quite absurd on me both in terms of skin chemistry and personality – far too abstruse and dignified, feminine).

But I don’t really like my iris sweet (Iris Ganache), and I don’t like it too woody either (Aedes De Venustas’ Iris Nazarena has an opening salvo of perhaps the most beautiful iris extract I have ever smelled – I was hypnotized for a few moments in Shinjuku Isetan a couple of years ago when I smelled it, but then it later begins to go down the familiar stripped down synthetic woods of modern life that for me would have rendered it unwearable.) Iris Palladium by Les Eaux Primordiales takes a more centred, savoury approach, but for that style I already have my Tubéreuse Capricieuse by Histoires de Parfums (see post below) which takes a truly gorgeous iris and manages to combine it with cacao, tuberose, saffron and yet never becomes too voluptuous or sweet.

There is definitely a place, in my book, for more androgynous, boisé irises. Not every ‘powdery iris’ needs to end up as charmingly self-confident as the almost camply feminine perfume Chanel Misia or Editions de Parfums Iris Poudre. Armani Privé’s quietly intoxicating – if somehow incomplete for me – La Femme Bleue, for example, contains a beautiful iris note combined with a cedar wood, sawdust-like balsamic aroma that leaves a quite compelling sillage in its wake and almost makes you dream, while always keeping you (quite deliberately, I think) continually at arm’s length. The Peradam, to me, reads as still more private, personal and contained. Though the essences contrasted in the perfume with the excellent iris note – an indolic jasmine grandiflorum that reminds me of the potted pastes you can get in Indian markets, more tinctured and putty-like than the newly opened flowers; and a dose of true Mysore sandalwood sourced from sustainable trees that grounds and anchors the perfume and ultimately become its signature – might from these descriptions sound risqué or even flamboyant, in fact, to my nose, they are surprisingly muted, if still tenacious (and more carnal as hours pass), as if filtered through the bottom of thick glass, or seen looking down from the surface waters of a clear pool to the deeper, murkier sediment of the base.

Ultimately, I prefer my perfumes more generous in spirit. The Peradam, I think, will appeal particularly to the more unexpressed, even passive aggressive individual, one who appears tranquil on the surface to the untrained eye, but who to the perceptive will be transparently burning from within and probably needs such a perfume to help him or her express what they find, in the majority of their daily lives, to be inexpressible. In a world of dressed up trash, though, where perfumery is often nothing but an unthinking, vulgarising lacquer, at least this perfume is psychological. You could, in certain moments, even describe it as passionate, obsessive.

13 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Iris

THE DUSKY SLUMBERS: OMBRE MERCURE by TERRY DE GUNZBURG (2012) + LYS FUME by TOM FORD (2O12)

Image

 

 

 

 

Ombre Mercure is a woozy, classical modern – a salted, thicker Apres L’Ondée, diffused with the modernistic fumes of Violet Blonde, a touch of Une Fleur de Cassie, and some of the floral warmth of the first Gucci Eau de Parfum….

 

‘Reminiscent of loose powder, red lipstick and the classic chypres, it is especially designed for passionate characters’ says Mlle Gunzburg, a renowned makeup artist who released her first collection of fragrances last year, and I can quite easily imagine some people falling for this soft, gauzy perfume, which is definitely shadowy, as its name suggests, though not in the least mercurial.

 

Essentially an earthy iris butter with powdered violet over a ducksdown of patchouli, benzoin and musky vanilla, it is a very slow, drifting perfume, like mauve-reflected clouds in a painting. Seamless and unjarring; enveloping.

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

What it lacks, though,  is that indefinable something, or ingredient – wit? – that would take it into the realms of the irisy sublime. On the other hand, its anchored slowness and immediate romantic appeal could easily make it someone’s signature.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lys Fumé is another immediately likeable perfume, though one that is not remotely worth its extravagant price tag. Having said that, it is an interesting take on the lily. Unlike many spotless, altar-inhabiting lilies, this is more like a lys of the underworld……….

 

As a part of the Jardin Noir collection, it succeeds in being, if not quite ‘smouldering’, then certainly, at the very least,  shifting and quixotic – a hip young Gucci-clad beauty sitting downstairs in some private members’ club, a bit unsure of herself, perhaps, but defiant. This perfume would rise in coils from her shoulders and slowly seduce.

 

 

The lilies are not smoked, as you might expect, but underlying the top notes of lily, mandarin and pink pepper, is a strange dusting of nutmeg and turmeric, an unusual note in a floral perfume that gives it a blurry, caliginous edge. A dollop of rum and a sultry base of styrax, oak and labdanum take this impression even further.

 

 

 

Lys Fumé is not as intriguing as I am perhaps making it out to be – like most Tom Ford perfumes there is something plasticky and self-conscious about the scent. At the same time, I can imagine being sat next to this girl with her fixed, restless gaze, and being intoxicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

15 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Iris, Lily, Perfume Reviews, Powder, Violet

Gardens of melancholy : Amyitis by Mona Di Orio (2008)

IMG_0215

 

 

IMG_0223

 

 

 

IMG_0210

 

 

IMG_0212

 

 

 

 

IMG_0206

 

 

 

 

IMG_0213

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0205

 

 

 

 

Mona Di Orio, whose untimely passing robbed perfumery of a true pioneer of the mysterious,  was to perfume what some avant-garde musicians are to music :  so far beyond mainstream tastes as to be almost indigestible. Though clearly made of rich, natural materials, many people have found her creations to be quite simply bizarre. From the shocking orange-blossomed animalia of Nuit Noire, to the soiled,  tainted bloomers of Carnation and Lux, I was convinced I would never be able to wear a single perfume by this house.  However, Amyitis, one of Di Orio’s less celebrated creations,  managed to continue the perfumer’s reputation for stubborn, curious originality while veering off into cooler, more poetic tangents with an iris and sage creation that is austere, otherworldly.

 

The perfume was inspired by the hanging gardens of Babylon,  and a sense of breathing, living greens across the spectrum of the plant world is captured with a freshly cut top note of verdurous new leaves plus an unusual botanical herbarium of savoury, sage, cumin and caraway. The fresh, soil-grounded iris/violet flowers at the heart also contribute to the composition an intellectual, writerly quality, while touches of saffron and opoponax add flesh.  On smelling Amyitis I was immediately reminded of the character played by Geraldine Page in Woody Allen’s ‘Interiors’ (1978),  a depressive, sensitive artist with a similarly waxen complexion and pallid melancholia. An aesthete, hair scraped into a bun, staring mournfully out onto a trailing, moss-covered courtyard.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0214

 

 

 

IMG_0217

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0218

 

 

 

IMG_0216

31 Comments

Filed under Green, Iris

Iris Silver Mist (Serge Lutens)

IRIS SILVER MIST / SERGE LUTENS (1994)

A nebulous cloud of pallor and refinement, but with very icy substance, Iris Silver Mist begins with a phalanx of iris, soil-wet yet ashen. It is very grey, scary even, before mellowing somewhat with notes of cedar, vetiver, white amber and incense: notes that lend a softer quality to the blend, like sun-warmed motes of dust.

Only available at the Paris boutique.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flowers, Iris, Perfume Reviews

Summer Flowers: Iris

The price of quality iris root being what it is, it is inevitable that niche brands have all been coming up with showcase irises in recent years. Much of current mainstream perfumery is vulgarizing trash, and the cool, powdered elegance of this material presents the perfect opportunity to make an obvious differentiation – iris is aloof and removed. The flowers themselves are even regal: at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo are the famous imperial iris gardens, which flower in late June, guarding the emperor and his wife – tradition has it they ward off evil spirits.

While many irises are almost odourless, some of the purple, white or yellow flowers have a rich, almost oily, deep violet smell hard to imagine in perfume. In fact the scent of iris is not obtained from the flowers but the roots – a labour-intensive process that takes around eight years, from planting the flowers to obtaining the oil. Three years after the bulbs have been planted, the roots are harvested, washed, and sun-dried on lattice trays (the famous Florentine ‘iris saunas’), after which they are dehydrated for about five years. When deemed ready, the bulbs are ground down and macerated in cold water before being steam distilled. Finally, orris butter, one of the most expensive and coveted essences in perfume, is produced, and ready to be made into scent.

4 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Iris