We happily arrive at my favorite – iris perfume.
Now, the thing you have to understand about Iris Perfume or What the Underpants are Hiding, they can’t capture the bloom’s smell except through headspace technology, and even that is pretty ephemeral, so you get the orris root, which is much earthier. An iris soliflore really wasn’t popular until tastes in perfume changed in the last decade or so.
There are a lot of perfumes containing iris, and I’m not even coming close to covering all the iris floral blends. I’m staying with iris-centric fragrances for this Iris Perfume Guide, but I’m sure you all will remind me of ones I’ve missed. As always, we will give away two sample sets of most of the perfumes mentioned in this guide (except the ones I don’t have) to two lucky commenters. See the bottom of the post for details on how to enter
Iris Perfume Monsters
Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist was the first Power Iris Perfume. The story goes that Maurice Roucel, when making it, kept getting feedback from Serge Lutens that it didn’t have enough iris in it. He finally went back to the lab and put in every iris compound he could find, and then Serge pronounced it perfect. And it is. It starts out rooty and fierce, and not just a few people plug their nose and head for a Brillo pad to scrub it off. But wait, seriously, and in 30-60 minutes Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist smooths out into silky butter with the most cunning little spice note. If it stayed like the open, I couldn’t bear it, but the journey it takes is enchanting. A couple of years ago Xerjoff Irisss$$ was launched. Based on an incredibly expensive Robertet iris compound, Xerjoff Irisss opens smooth as silk and slowly travels to a slightly more robust rooty iris. Iris Silver Mist and Xerojoff Iriss are my bellwethers that I compare all other iris to, and they are somewhat similar because they both show up with a dumptruck full of iris roots and completely make it work.. Other than the price tag, I can find no flaw in either. Hermes Hiris was one of the best power iris cheap thrills around. I’m not sure what happened to distribution on it, but it’s hard to find at that $20 price tag it used to have. You can still find it, and it is so great and way less expensive than the other two in this category.
What started it All
Guerlain Apres L’Ondee launched in 1906 and means “After the Rain Shower.” Exactly that. There is a melancholy joy that permeates this iris-violet creation that reminds me exactly of those walks you take after a rainfall, and the earthy smell rolls up through the rain. That smell always gives me a sharp pang of joy because it is so beautiful and I know life is too short, and it will be one of the smells I will miss most. Jacques Fath Iris Gris gets a mention here, though discontinued and impossible to get – and I don’t have any in my possession anymore – because it is s freakishly beautiful, and it is the perfume I wish most to come back exactly as it was. Iris and peach, earthy with a juicy sweetness. It’s everything a perfume should be. Now, no substitute really exists for it. I’ve smelled the recreation, and it does get the idea of it right, but I think the raw materials that went into it just aren’t available any longer. Having said that, try Ann Gerard Cuir de Nacre for an iris perfume that gets paired with leathery notes that very subtly hints at what Iris Gris was. Not directly, but overtly. Who doesn’t love a leather iris perfume?
Classic Iris Perfume All Dolled Up
Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile is on our beginner’s list, and there’s a good reason for that, it is a very accessible iris. It doesn’t let all that rooty iris beat you over the head on the open. That gives you a few minute to experience iris without recoiling,which can happen if you haven’t really smelled a full-on iris scent before. One of my least favorite iris perfumes is Le Labo Iris 39, and I can’t really tell you why. It’s more aldehydic on the open, and the drydown is fine, it just doesn’t speak to me in any real way, but it could work for you if you prefer your iris a little green and perfume’ish. Maybe it’s just that I can’t figure out the unique aspect to it.
If you like your iris perfume with a wee bit of suede and impossibly chic, Parfums DelRae Mythique is your date to the Iris Ball. This thing went on my Top Five iris perfume list as soon as I smelled it because it’s not just great iris, but it has a unique take on it – not a hint of powder you normally get in iris, it hugs you very close to the skin. Iris meets Hollywood glam fits Frederic Malle Iris Poudre – dark, mysterious, luxurious, sensuously powdery. It’s not baby butt powdery, but femme fatale lipstick, rouge, aldehydes and paint kind of powder. You know, I hadn’t put this on for years, thinking I didn’t really love it. While I’m never in love with wearing aldehydic perfumes, I really adore smelling this.
Another of my favorite iris perfumes is the seductive, smoky Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Cherie Par Camille EDT. I have both the EDP and EDT, and I love both, but the EDT is more about the iris, the EDP is more about the plum. Mon Parfum Cherie Par Camille (MPCPC) is the old world with a modern sensibility. Every time I wear it, I feel like I’ve gone back in time to when women were utterly feminine, batted their eyelashes, murmured huskily, and sashayed men off to their frilly, smoky lairs with only this scent to mark their passing. I reviewed it back after it came out, the EDP, with this bit “I love it because it is different and unafraid and uncompromising. It is Film Noir Woman interesting – when women wore tight sweaters with pointy bras and pencil skirts and aprons and pearls over it – but not of that time, just glancing backwards at the scents women wore that were interesting.” I hadn’t put this one on in a few months, and I fell head over heels in love with it again.
Ramon Monegal Impossible Iris pairs iris with violet jasmine, raspberry and ylang to make a very plush iris perfume that veers pretty far North of the rooty aspects of iris. Beautifully posh.
Iris Perfume Soliflores
Chanel 28 La Pausa is an almost perfect iris scent – a little green vegetal, bright, but be ready to reapply every hour or two, it tends to go poof really quickly. Prada Iris parfum is a straight-up soliflore, nicely powdered, rich and the perfect high-end iris without any other obvious notes to take away from the iris. DSH L’eau d’Iris is mostly a soliflore, but with a little violet, neroli and musk thrown in – easy to wear and one of my faves from an indie perfumer.
Iris Perfume Grown in the Woods
Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d’Iris is one of my favorite iriseses (Irii?) Iris perfume. I reviewed this one as well back in 2009. It’s wrapped in a warm, fetching incense and vanilla woods that makes it much more than a woody iris. The Different Company Bois d’Iris walks in the woods much more purely, drying down to something much less rooty and more floral, and it is a solid iris perfume you can wear almost every day and not tire of. Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir sits in the sophisticated woody iris category. Grounded in the Ormonde Jayne perfume base, it’s not that dark, but it is gorgeous spiced incensed woods where it plants its lovely iris roots.
Silky Smooooooooth and Very Diverse Iris
March reviewed Cartier L’Heure Promise a couple of years ago, and I’m just going with what she said, the pairing of sandalwood and iris is luxuriously beautiful. She said “So here’s a final happy aspect of L’Heure Promise – iris and sandalwood as a combination. Or, looked at another way, a sandalwood that has not been
contaminated infested tainted by paired up with rose. The soft sweetness of the sandalwood with the dry, woody iris? A match made in heaven. This made me almost as happy as … sandalfig.” Smooth, not heavy, and happiness-inducing. Well, except the price tag. Serge Lutens Bas de Soie is iris and hyacinth and icicle-laced stocking. Well, they don’t list the icicle-laced stockings as a note, but it is chilly, as I noted in an old review, but not in a bad way Hothouse iris flowers just pulled from the chiller.
Parfum d’Empire Equistrius is I think one of the most oddly beautiful iris perfumes, paired with rice and chocolate, which sound so vapid together, but is perfume genius. I never get the horse the ad copy for Equistrius refers to, but, hell, I don’t care. I can live with a ricechocoiris horse Hermessence Iris Ukiyoe is a little too aquatic iris for me, but if you like your iris drowning in a lovely oriental pond surrounded by water lilies, you won’t find anything else that fits more perfectly. Fruity iris? By Kilian Flower of Immortality is more peach than iris, but it flirts with the Iris Gris combo of peach and iris enough that it needs a nod in an iris perfume post. Plus, I really love this perfume for summer. Scratch that, I love it year-round, but summer makes it amazing.
Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is a better version of Chanel 19, incredibly green iris with big doses of galbanum that smooths out to soft, dry iris. Anne-Marie reviewed it a few months back. Speaking of Chanel 19, it’s really not my thing at all, but it is an iris blend so now it’s been mentioned. However, Chanel 19 Poudre focuses a little more on the iris, and it is a lovely, more moderated version of Chanel 19. In other words, it’s wearable. Chanel 19 lovers can tar and feather me now, I’ll be leaving through the Blog Back Door. Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Fleur d’Iris isn’t my thing at all because of how powdery it is, but I know a lot of you love you some iris powder. If you do, this is a great way to go. You’ve probably noted my lack of enthusiasm for all the perfumes in this paragraph. I don’t really like green iris or powdered iris. Ruins a perfectly great root.
Iris Perfume that Won’t Eat all Your Cabbage
Christion Dior Dior Homme is not only one of my favorite iris perfumes, but one of my favorite scents of all time – economical and yet still very sophisticated iris – smooth, just a touch rooty, unisex. Prada iris Infusion for men and women are obscenely economical and really lovely. They aren’t particularly unusual, but they are well made, easy to wear, and you can get a vat of it on eBay for about 1/2 the price of a Serge bell jar. Bvlgari Omnia Amethyst, despite that clunky and impossible bottle design, created a nice iris fragrance that wraps the iris up in heliotrope. I’d missed this fragrance, despite having it in my perfume drawers for the last four years, but hey, it’s never too late! Really nice and cheeeeeep. Hermes Hiris goes in this category as well the Power Iris category.
There are a number of discontinued iris perfumes or some I don’t have and can’t comment much on, so I’ll either briefly talk about them or link to another review:
- Guerlain Iris Ganache – discontinued, but a pastried iris. I loved it, but not a lot of people did since Guerlain made it disappear. Bitches.
- L’artisan Iris Pallida – discontinued, but a lovely rooty iris that I miss like crazy. It was a limited run, and as they say, when they’re gone, they are gone.
- Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental (formerly Parfumerie Generale Iris Taizo) – I remember this as Iris Taizo and loved it, but I can’t remember specifics beyond that impression
- Keiko Mecheri Iris d’Argent – Fragrantica has several reviews of this and Iris Poupre, which I missed as well.
- Heeley Iris de Nuit – I know I’ve smelled this and liked it, but just can’t remember specifics. EauMG has a review on it.
- Donna Karan Iris – don’t have it, not sure if they still make it, but I thought it was a great soliflore.
- i Profumi di Firenze Iris de Firenze- really nice soliflore, and if you’re ever in Florence, stop in and pick up bottles for like 27 Euros.
- Santa Maria Novella Iris – soliflore, I Smell Therefore I Am has a review of it.
- Miller Harris Terre d’Iris – I know I’ve smelled it, but remember absolutely nothing about it. Good thing Robin and Marlen at Now Smell This did a review of it
Okay, clickety click the gadget below this, after you comment, if you want additional ways to enter to win a sample set of most of the iris perfumes listed in this guide. Entries accepted through midnight next Monday 6/17/13. What’s your favorite iris perfume? Do you like them rooty or beautiful or odd?
Samples reviewed and provided for giveaway are iris perfume samples found at Surrender to Chance.