If the Magi's gifts were strictly fragrance ingredients, and the event of gift-bearing was taking place today, there would have to be some additions, reformulations and re-interpretations. It would go something like this: amber standing in for gold as a symbol of friendship (replacing kingship as not sufficiently egalitarian) frankincense as a symbol of non-denominational spirituality (in the name of political correctness), myrrh as a symbol of eternity (can't have death, too morbid), orris as a symbol of understated luxury and oud as a symbol of jumping on the bandwagon.
I will go all numerological on you, and "analyze" 3 recent orris scents on the basis of 5 super-objective and scientific criteria (in all seriousness, these are the questions which I am asking myself, when I am smelling an orris-themed perfume):
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell?Cartier L'Heure Promise, from the brand's exclusive collection, Les Heures du Parfum.
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - At first- fairly recognizably; the orris-ness dissipates in a couple of seconds to give way to the pastel-green, powdery-translucent floralcy in feeling not unlike that of Apres L'Ondee or L'Eau d'Hiver
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - To me, it smells more like first violets might, probably before they even unfolded their petals.
3. Is it woody or floral? - Floral more than woody, but with distinct woodiness.
4. Is it powdery? - Somewhat, in a gauzy, delicate way.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Not particularly. It has the kind of simplicity about it, which, even though it, objectively speaking, might be complex and expensive to produce, does not make one (me) feel justified to spend a lot to buy it.
Conclusion: L'Heure Promise was to me the best of the Les Heures. Which is not saying that much, because, although all the scents have an elegant, quality feel, they fall rather flat for me and seem somehow like renditions of themes I've smelled many times before.
Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d'Iris, from yet another exclusive series, Collection Extraordinaire.
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - Not very, in a sense that, for the sake of the concept, it chooses to focus on the woody aspect of the multi-faceted orris note, thus sacrificing other qualities.
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - Neither. It is woody.
3. Is it woody or floral? -There are no flowers. The composition is all about wood, wood, labdanum, a touch of peppery incense and more wood.
4. Is it powdery? - It has a touch of powder, made of very, very finely grated wood.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Fairly. Because it appears to be choke-full of precious wood. Have I used the word "wood" enough times? Because this thing is woody!
Conclusion: I was not in any way excited by the fragrances in Collection Extraordinaire, and Bois d'Iris was no exception. Like its siblings, it is well done, but it is...boring, to me. As for the orris... if you are looking for a velvety yet dry, high quality woody perfume, go no further. If you are looking for orris, you might consider...
Irisss by Xerjoff, a new to me and molto lussuoso Italian line.
1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - Very. It is orris from start to, eventually, couple days later, because this thing lasts... finish
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - Definitely iris-orrisy. Not in an earthy-natural, dry-silky way, in which Iris Pallida or Hiris are irisy. This perfume is creamy, velvety, substantial, perfumey, although not as perfumey as the aldehydic Iris Poudre.
3. Is it woody or floral? - It's both. It showcases well these two sides of orris/iris, choosing not to focus on the non-refined earthy side of it.
4. Is it powdery? - Yes. But not overwhelmingly so. The creaminess of ylang (I assume) and woods balances the powderiness.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Molto! The question to ask here, quoting Pretty Woman, would be, exactly how obscene an amount of money are we talking about? Just profane, or really offensive? And the answer would be, really offensive. Borderline New Russian and/or Real Housewife of Whatever offensive. There is a certain chic about this decadently luxurious composition, something in the refined floral note, perhaps, which does not let the scent overstep the border between Elegantly Expensive and Nouveau Riche, but only just about. Irisss is hanging by a well-groomed, glossy hair over the abyss of furs, 10-carat pink diamonds, Maybachs and Louis Vuitton logos.
Conclusion: Beautiful. Sumptuous. Long-lasting. Screams luxury. Costs €590.00 for 15ml or €1.625,00 in a fancy Murano flacon!.. Ouch. The price aside, however, this is the orris scent that I liked the most in the sea of orris scents from the last couple of years.
Image source, Xerjoff.