Iris is not really my thing. Or it wasn’t until a while ago. Some of it still isn’t for me: the chilly hauteur of Chanel no.19, the crisp, intriguing cleanliness of Prada Infusion d’Iris, the classic elegance of Hermès Hiris or the aldehydic sophistication of Chanel 31, Rue Cambon.
I partially blame my lack of Iris refinement on my growing up years. I wasn’t one of those children that could remember their mothers coming to kiss them goodnight surrounded by clouds of fine perfume: Shalimar, Chanel no.5, Opium or other iconic fragrances. Alas, in a communist Romania, my mother and I were lucky if we had our next cheap deo spray lined up. The market was completely devoid of any luxury products and more often than not of the bare necessity ones too. My olfactory memories consist mostly of my mother’s fabulous cooking aromas and the multitude of smells around my grandmother’s household. So many fascinating odours from the honeyed, deeply intoxicating fragrance of her huge, velvety, dark red roses to the less than pleasant but somehow homely and soothing waft coming from the chicken’s house. There were herbs of all sorts too and linden blossoms, chamomile and mint and a lot more flowers than just roses: lillies of the valley and narcissi, stargazer lillies and pure white lillies, geraniums and so on. And then in the late summer and autumn the smells of the fermented soft fruit fallen on the ground and of the sweet grapes being crushed to make homemade wine. Yes, I was a happy child surrounded by love and nature, even if I didn’t get to surreptitiously sniff my mother’s perfumes, for the simple reason there weren’t any.
The second reason which I hold responsible for myself and Iris not getting along from the very beginning is the fact that it’s cool aloofness and restrained, poised manner do not mesh well with my generally unkempt self. It always made me feel too darn self conscious of my scratched hands, messy cuticles and blunt nails, the ever present coffee stains on my t-shirts due to my job, my never blow dried hair and the list is endless. On a different level it kind of reminds me too of the restrictions and permanent self control imposed by our increasingly neurotic, politically correct modern society. That is why I tend to gravitate towards rich orientals, rock’n’roll leathers and deliciously naughty animalics for the sense of uninhibited freedom they give me, and towards roses and spring flowers because they bring me back my childhood.
But Iris, this glacial princess, has never been my friend. Or it wasn’t until a while ago, when I decided to get out of my comfort zone and look for something different: an Iris I could call mine. A somewhat unsettling and scary mission, but also exciting. So I’ve gingerly started to sniff around Iris fragrances, at first going back to the ones I’d initially rejected. Yep, still not love. Then I slowly expanded my search area and at a perfumisti meeting the Irish group had before the summer, I got to test a couple of Irises that, lo and behold, made a deep impression. First was Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Khol de Bahreïn, an Iris so scrumptious, rolled around in so many layers of chocolatey, musky resins that it feels like a decadent, indulging feast fit for royalty. Loved it, yes but after that, I sprayed Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist from one of those chic, black travel sprays the brand does for a limited number of its Paris exclusive fragrances, I wish they would expand them to the whole lot, wouldn’t that be a neat idea?
I sprayed Iris Silver Mist on and I was transfixed. I fell for it quicker than you can say Iris. The freaking thing was a fairytale, something meant to grace the skin of an otherworldly creature born out of seawater and damp earth. This was an artistic, mythological Iris, none of its difficult aspects toned down but rather enhanced. I could see Monsieur Lutens dressed in one of his beautiful black suits, leaning over Monsieur Roucel’s broad shoulders, asking him to put in more: “Just add in more, Maurice for goodness sake, MORE!” And more he got. The most assertive Iris ever made, a ghostly, powdery presence, fiercely vegetal and earthy with that unmistakable whiff of freshly dug out carrots, humid roots and a silken, cool aura like moonlight shimmering over ebbing waves.
The first hour of Iris Silver Mist it’s worth a Lutens bell jar weight in gold. It is simply magic and strange, a scented cloud of great poetry and a reminder that the world it’s still a thing of wonder and that underneath the fragile veil of reality, mystery roams free within the grasp of eager minds and souls. After the striking beginning the fragrance mellows into an ethereal, dry, soft woody Iris with a tiny hint of skin-like warmth. Still very good but nowhere near as compelling as that first surreal dive into the multidimensional beauty of this most fascinating perfumery material. But I have found my Iris and I would nearly sell my soul to get a version that would take that first hour and make it last for an entire day and with a tenfold magnified strength. That kind of Iris would take over the world, bathing it in pallid glow and leaving us at the mercy of poets and muses.
NOTES: Iris Pallida root, Galbanum, Cedar, Sandalwood, Clove, Vetiver, Musk, Benzoin, Incense, White Amber