Category Archives: Iris

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

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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.

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Flowers, Iris