Colours of Iris* Part 1: Iris Silver Mist


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


Notes from me: frozen carrots, granite, pepper, clove, powder, haunted forest

*in greek: ίρις (iris) = 1. iris, the flower 2. the coloured part of the eye 3. the goddess of the rainbow, the rainbow


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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

12 comments

  1. Iris… wonderful note. My fav at the moment.

  2. This is the second within a week great review for this perfume in my “blogoroll”. It must be fate! I should seek and try this iris.

    I enjoy this note in perfumes and I’m fascinated how different it is just in several perfumes that I currently like: Iris Poudre (Frederic Malle), Infusion d’Iris (Prada), Iris 39 (Le Labo) and the newest one – Chanel 19 Poudre. I suspect there are even more sides to this note and I’ll keep exploring it.

    • It is a unique scent. It has a coldness that never feels uncomfortable. A fragrantmanian has also written a very interesting review. You can look for her blog in my blogroll. It is really worth it.

  3. NikosP

    A spotless marvell of the perfumery ART up today. Too bad I cant think of any living human being that “deserves” to call it “my everyday scent”…

  4. This is a great review! I love what you say about ISL being like a sound transmitted on a subsonic frequency. And it´s very interesting how it devours other scents when layered, I have to do some experimentation on this as well :)

    • Thank you Singrun. Although would never call it a “strong” scent it always shines through anything it is layered with. I often layer to experiment how different notes interact with each other. But it usually works best with perfumes from the same house.

  5. Iris…my favorite!
    Iris Silver Mist – well, I have this problem with SL. I think his fragrances are like puzzles. At the very end you know you have a beautiful picture and it is almost finished, but there is always one little final piece that the manufactor did not include in the box. In his case, his fragrances are always lacking something. They don’t have the finishing, they are a work in progress that never came to an end.
    Chanel has amazing iris notes. I love the almost salty irises. I love the powdery ones…the silver gray ones.
    I planted many in my garden and they did not take that much to grow… but little do i know about cultivating flowers.
    What is your favorite iris combination? Mine is iris-patchouli.
    I wrote an article about iris last month and gave a list of fragrances. I would love to know which ones of that article you love. I would love to discuss iris with you – here or there…wherever you choose. Sounds like a date LOLOOLOL!

  6. It is a date! I have seen your article with the extensive iris categorisation and I must admit there is a lot in there I have not tried (I have a sample of Iris Ganache on the way!) I will comment on the ones I have tried though.

    I can’t really say which notes I like with iris because unfortunately my brain does not work that way (when it does work that is…. LOL). I can’t break down notes very well. I can get the general idea, the big picture and I am pretty good in the “this smells like” game in a conceptual level. I can tell you which end results I like but I cannot pick certain notes that would go well with iris.

    I must tell you though that ever since layering Vetiver Oriental with Iris Silver Mist I have been looking for a fragrance that will have vetiver and iris walking hand in hand. Any ideas…?

  7. Pingback: Serge Lutens De Profundi: the mystery remains « Memory Of Scent

  8. Pingback: L’Atelier Bohème Rhizomes, Kaféïne and Immortelle: jolis parfums, parfums français | Memory Of Scent

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