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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Alien Technology: Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist

By Donna

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, original source unknown

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Anonymous Kym said...

I couldn't agree more with your assessment. I know many, many people love this one, but I just don't get it. Carrots.

12:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Tama said...

Ha, I'm watching Jeri Ryan in Warehouse 13 right now. 7 of 9 is the perfect spokesperson for Iris Silver Mist. Believe it or not, that was the first iris perfume I ever smelled! I have had a few hurdles since then to learn to appreciate the note.

12:31 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Kym, it's an odd one all right! I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it lived up to its reputation for sure.

12:35 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tama, that's funny! I can't imagine this being my first exposure to an iris perfume - I 'd be askeered of trying any more! :-)

12:37 AM EDT  
Blogger woodgirl said...

I'm with Kym on this one. Intrigued with the description in The Guide, but all I get is the image of someone grating very fresh carrots one room away. After 5 minutes, it's all gone. Obviously, I'm missing some important equipment up the nose.

8:33 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only been able to try this in the wax sample and quickly in Paris on a paper strip, because my arms were already full-up with other perfumes! haha
But on the wax sample, it was yummy carrot and iris, very soft and earthy, less metal. Maybe this one should actually be sold as a solid??

2:38 PM EDT  
Blogger Tammy said...

With the exception of Sa Majest La Rose, Uncle Serge never works for me. This one, Bas de Soie, Filles en Aiguilles and Sarrasins all broke my heart. I should have loved them, and they were all either weird or just plain ol' meh on my skin. Must be my hillbilly ancestry.

3:29 PM EDT  
Anonymous Monica said...

Is it just me or does this actress look just like Anjelina Jolie?
I have to say I don't feel like trying this perfume now..even though the name is lovely. But hey...if a bottle passes through...I'll sniff it!

8:27 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun review, and perfect spokesperson!

ISM fascinates me, but it all too often repels me as well. That cold metallic iris note can turn to dirty hair or weird chemical hairspray on me in an instant. Somehow, I never smell carrot in this; I'd probably find it more wearable if I did. I have a tiny decant of this, and pull it out occasionally to retry. So many bloggers I respect love this. It is just not me.

Except when I want to be lovely, yet coldly alien :) Be well. --HemlockSillage

9:23 PM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I fell in love with this and ordered it- unsniffed-
When I read about it years ago.
I was not disappointed !!!

But I can see how it is polarizing...

10:51 AM EDT  
Blogger Colin M. said...

I had really big expectations on this, as I am a fan of iris-based fragrances, and a big fan of Lutens. I thought this would have been MY fragrance. When I finally purchased it and it arrived home, to be honest, at first I just smelled... lipstick. Then, lipstick. Even the drydown smells lipstick! I was not even disappointed, I was just a bit shocked. I expected something totally different. It's also honestly too much plain for me - basically one huge single note from the start to the end, with very little variations.

However I will try some different approaches to "learn" to appreciate this, as it seems everyone loves it.

3:48 PM EST  

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