I’m a bit late to the party in reviewing Van Cleef & Arpels’ “Collection Extraordinaire” – Octavian at 1000fragrances and Patty at the Perfume Posse have been doing a thorough job of it, and Robin at Now Smell This has expressed her appreciation of Bois d’Iris by walking her talk, and buying a bottle on the spot at retail price, which is saying something.
Nevertheless, I feel I need to add to the concert of praise, if only because sniffing this out of the bottle made me blurt out “It’s so beautiful”, something that only happens a few times a year… Actually, there’s only one thing I’d hold against Bois d’Iris: the name. Which is already taken by The Different Company. I can’t quite figure out how that happened. I can’t imagine Jean-Claude Ellena is too pleased about it.
In sampling Bois d’Iris, I was reminded of three other scents, not because they have similar smells but because they have allowed me to approach iris from a different angle. The two first, Guerlain Attrape-Coeur and Parfumerie Générale Felanilla because both, like Bois d’Iris, play on the cold-warm contrast of iris matched with an amber-vanilla base that simultaneously mellows out the chilliness of the iris and gives a backbone to the smoothness of balsamic notes. The third, Parfums DelRae Mythique, because Bois d’Iris also plays on a very tactile dimension of scent. But while the first is as velvety as the thinnest suede glove, the second has the pearly grey silkiness of driftwood, an effect that must have been deliberately sought out by its author, Emilie Coppermann, since it’s mentioned in the press release.
There’s nothing rooty or earthy about the iris in Bois d’Iris: as its name indicates, the woodier aspects of the note are brought out alongside the metallic-candied violet facet. The seaside evocation of driftwood is compounded by a skilful re-creation of the saline-mossy-suave ambergris note (possibly a trend, since an ambergris accord is also prominent in Prada L'Eau Ambrée).
As the scent develops, the woodiness of iris slides into the green, smoky scent of vetiver; in turn, this smokiness mingles with wisps of cold, mineral incense. These austere, ethereal notes cling to an enticing base of milky amber and sweet, almost burnt vanilla, shot through with cinnamon-y, resinous flashes of myrrh. So this is what iris smells like when it falls in love with skin. Your skin.
Image: Nude On Sand by Edward Weston (1936)