Alien Technology: Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist
I have been seeking out the Serge Lutens Exclusive range perfumes for a long time; oh how they do tease us, creating such sought–after fragrances and then not letting anyone have them who can’t come to the Palais Royale du Shiseido in Paris to pick them up. Every once in a while I get to try one and I have fallen for every one of them I have smelled so far – Fumerie Turque, Tubereuse Criminelle, La Myrrhe, Muscs Koublai Khan, Rose de Nuit. Then I ran into Iris Silver Mist, perhaps the most storied and unattainable of them all, and I just did not know what to make of it.
My first question was: is this really a perfume? It is? Then why doesn’t it smell, um, wearable? Like something that’s supposed to be put on your skin? It’s so very strange, like the atmosphere of a distant planet where humans need to wear space suits. Nothing about it is inviting to me but it is certainly oddly beautiful, a piece of chilly abstract art that hangs in a whitewashed gallery filled with cold blue light; you admire it from afar even if you are not sure what the artist meant by it, but you really don’t want to see it hanging on the wall in your own house. It would make you feel weird having something like that around all the time and it certainly would not go with the rest of your home décor, unless your name happens to be Seven of Nine.
I must admit that I am not an “iris person” when it comes to perfume. I like what it does to many compositions, but by itself it always seems remote, and sometimes even flat. There are only a couple of iris soliflore fragrances that I have really liked, including DSH perfumes Cyprian, one of the Perfumed Court series. For some reason I found that one to be very user-friendly. I adore the aroma of iris blooms, which smell delightfully of a number of things from lemons to grapes to wild strawberries to violets, but iris perfumes always seem to be aloof and bloodless. Iris Silver Mist begins with a super-cooled blast of iris that is immediately followed by a smell that is exactly like those Red Hots™ candies flavored with artificial cinnamon, creating an icy-hot pain rub effect, and then a very emphatic carrot chimes in, and an odor like a gutted Halloween pumpkin the morning after a heavy frost. It’s not until about half an hour later that it finally becomes eerily beautiful as it drifts through the air, but if I put my nose to my skin it is still iris root, carrot and little red candies. It’s the sillage alone that makes it work for me, floating in space and waiting for my breath to catch it, an otherworldly isotope of some rare element being distilled and refined out of the raw ore applied to my flesh. It is only then that I can appreciate the artistry that went into it, but it never comes close to adapting to my skin, as it simply sits on it refusing to make allowances for a mere mortal. There is a popular saying that you are no one until you have been ignored by a cat; now I know what it feels like to be ignored by a perfume.
Image credit: Actress Jeri Ryan as the Borg “Seven of Nine” on Star Trek: Voyager via wellyousaythat.blogspot.com, original source unknown