The grey iris
A few years ago iris was the big thing. Everyone discovered overnight how iris is the most expensive note in a perfumer’s cabinet. How it takes 5 years of growing the beautiful flower and 3 years of maceration of the rhizome to extract the creamy, ethereal and austere note. Iris centered scents started popping everywhere and eventually I had to follow the trend. So I started my iris exploration. I was looking for an iris scent that I could wear of course. I had already tried Editions des Parfums Frederique Malle Iris Poudre and I didn’t think it was for me. Too obvious, too one track. Powder is of course one aspect of iris but I knew there is more to it.
The obvious thing to try next of course would be Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist. A mythical iris because the legend says that Serge Lutens commissioned Maurice Roucel an iris scent containing all available iris extracts and hence facets, in the highest possible concentrations. This is what I was looking for. And the fragrance delivered! A mysterious rooty, metallic opening that can only be described as carrots lands on the skin like a glass veil. Translucent but cold. Earthy and clean at the same time. Cooling is the word that best describes it. But as it settles on the skin it starts to warm up and the powdery aspect emerges. Not a classic powder, innocent, pink. This is a peppery, permeating powder. It must be just the right amount of clove added to the mix so that the sent becomes volatile and slightly pungent without ever allowing the metallic aspect of clove to shine through. While the scent started off feeling like a clean surface where you could reflect yourself on, like a tombstone made of white granite, it now feels like warm, humid velvet, like moss growing on the stone. You can smell the buttery, powdery softness of iris but the heart of the perfume adorns it with warm, soft notes. I almost wrote “cuddly” but there is nothing cuddly about this perfume. It is soft but never relaxed. There is always something a little disturbing. I don’t know if this comes from the notes themselves or from a special effect that seems to be incorporated in the composition: this is a skin scent of incredible intensity. It is like a sound in a subsonic frequency transmitted in the very high intensity: you cannot hear it but you can feel the vibrations and you know it is there. Its projection is minimal, it lasts only a few hours on the skin, but still its presence is always haunting. You can smell it when you least expect it and it fills like coming from different corners of the room.
I was curious about the legend of Iris Silver Mist containing all iris extracts to the highest concentrations because I expected something with stronger presence. After all this is an eau de parfum. So I decided to layer it with a couple of other fragrances to see how they would interact. To my surprise it devoured every designer eau de toilette I tried it with and it imposed itself on others from the Serge Lutens line. The combination with Vetiver Oriental is amazing but still an iris prominent mix. So how did Maurice Roucel did it? How did he manage to create a fragrance so low key that is always present? Only he knows. The name itself, Iris Silver Mist, brings to mind ghosts floating through veils of gray fog. And probably this is what this perfume is: the ghost of all irises.
Notes from Fragrantica: orrisroot, galbanum, cedar, sandalwood, clove, vetiver, musk, chinese benzoin, incense and white amber
*in greek: ίρις (iris) = 1. iris, the flower 2. the coloured part of the eye 3. the goddess of the rainbow, the rainbow