Skip to main content

Note Series #17 – IRIS


Iris pseudopumila - Girolamo Giardina - Nov.14, 2006

According to Wikipedia, the word Iris means rainbow in Greek, which perfectly describes this elegant flower, the historic symbol of wisdom and loyalty, because it comes in every colour of the rainbow, plus every shade in between. There’s no denying the beauty of these tall elegant plants.

But the unmistakable iris note we love in perfume is found not in the gorgeous blooms but below ground in its roots, which are called rhizomes. To obtain the oil from the root, iris rhizomes are harvested, cleaned, cut, dried, and aged for up to five years, then the aged rhizomes are steam-distilled to produce a thick oily compound, known in the perfume industry as "orris butter". High quality orris is therefore not in great supply and is also extremely expensive.

Similar to the aroma of violets but with more weight, the scent of iris is elegant, soft, powdery, with a chilled earthy quality that feels meditative, a shaded contrast to the brightness of rose, jasmine, and other strong notes. The Iris note is so unique, so beautiful, it can make your heart ache.

Note Series #17 – IRIS

4 - 1ml. decants for $12.00, regular $16.00.

28 La Pausa by Chanel – rooty and milky and mesmerizing

Several of the Chanel Exclusives use the more expensive iris, and  28 La Pausa is one of them. Created by Jacques Polge in 2007, it is mainly just iris, with the merest whisper of vetiver in the dry down, making it a soft green floral that smells beautifully alive. At first the rooty earthy green iris note is dominant, very cool but soft, with a hint wild mushrooms. There’s a slight metallic nuance, and then the iris sweetens just a little and becomes more powdery, and unfolds into a pale violet-coloured bloom. And there it stays, pure, soft, until the vetiver comes up and 28 La Pausa develops a darker finish, transforming into a luxurious warm skin scent, creamy and smooth. Iris pure and simple.

Impossible Iris by Ramón Monegal – floral and fruity and sensuous

I love the gorgeous note of cool, metallic iris right at the start. Then there is a surprise: a note of raspberry that adds a little sweetness, echoing the sweet facet of the iris, but the fruit is tart enough to stop it from getting too sweet. As it blooms, the iris becomes more pronounced and would take over but Monegal matches it with exotic, indolic ylang-ylang and jasmine at the heart, making the cold iris sensuous and erotic without diminishing it. Virginia cedarwood holds it all together so discreetly that it’s more like a ribbon around a bouquet than a basenote. Iris is shot through this fragrance right down to the floral, woody delicate dry-down.

Infusion d'Iris Eau de Parfum Absolue by Prada – Cool and rooty and arousing

A zing of bitter neroli softened with sweetness from orange blossom tells me this is going to be special, and it is. While the top notes linge, powdery, dry iris shows up its cool nobility, playing off the warmth of the orange blossom. Iris is a powerful note and it certainly has presence here. It’s not aggressive or bold, but intense, rich and luxurious. At the base, resinous benzoin gives it a medicinal, almost balsamic note which adds depth. Tonka bean adds a spicy/vanilla dimension that complements the sweetness of vanilla, while white musk gives it an arousing, animalic feeling. Mmmmm.

Iris de Nuit by Heeley – earthy and understated and chic

Iris de Nuit is, to me, what iris blooms look like - light and pure. James Heeley's interpretation is just right, the natural earthiness showcased, and not covered up with florals. With top and middles notes of white cedar, iris, angelica seeds, fixed at the base with ambrette and grey amber, the overall effect is one of sensuality and delicacy, the iris note calmly claiming centre stage.  The scent has a light sillage and stays very close to your skin, to the point that you think it’s gone after several hours, but it’s not – it’s just being quiet. It comes wafting back, in a smart flirty kind of way, and reminds you that it’s still beautiful. Iris de Nuit is an understated, chic, intelligent, refined scent for men and women. Beauty with brains, I call it.

Note Series #17 – IRIS is listed in our Decant Store. 4 - 1ml. decants for $12.00, regular $16.00.