dimanche 12 juillet 2009

R.I.P. Iris Gris

About a year ago, someone from Parfums Panouge tracked me down and phoned me about smelling the Iris Gris I’d blogged about on The Perfume Shrine. I was easy enough to find, since I’m in the book and I’d written I found my bottle in Paris.

Parfums Panouge had just bought the license for Jacques Fath fragrances, and they were considering re-releasing Iris Gris. This was fabulous news, since it’s one of the very best fragrances in history.

I immediately told Luca Turin, who answered it should be feasible with the new cheaper orris butters (I suppose he was thinking of the Biolande product, which takes a lot less time to make than the traditional stuff). I also told Jacques Polge, who was more skeptical.

I never met with the Panouge people: I had to cancel our appointment because of a last minute business trip and they never called back.

And as it turns out, Polge was right. The Scented Salamander has recently published a lengthy post about the “new” Iris Gris, which pretty much boils down to this: there isn’t going to be a new Iris Gris.

First of all, because the “modernized” formula is nowhere near the true one. No peach. And peach is what made the difference. Bergamot, wisteria, pink pepper, sure, but not a smidge, at least in the notes, of good old aldehyde C-14, aka undecalactone, aka peach lactone, aka Persicol. You know, the one in Mitsouko? Why anyone at Panouge thought that skipping on it would make the scent more modern escapes me. Iris Gris couldn’t be more modern. In fact, if it turned up in the Hermessence line, everybody would be shouting “genius”.

And as a matter of fact… Fabrice Biré of Parfums Panouge also told The Scented Salamander that, lo and behold, the name Iris Gris had been registered by Hermès. Not a short while ago, though, as he states, but decades ago according to Octavian of 1000fragrances. Odd no one checked on that at Panouge before deciding to go ahead and buy the Fath licence. Merde happens, I guess.

So that Panouge had neither the name nor the formula (since they needed to find people who owned the original to figure it out) of the crown jewel of the brand they bought.

The alleged reason for not reissuing Vincent Roubert's Iris Gris in its original, or as close to its original version as they could make it, is the price. Though I’m sure enough people would have been ready to pay through the nose for it, given its legendary reputation and the sheer beauty of it – it pretty much drives most of the stuff that’s sold at premium prices into the ground.

I can’t see Jean-Claude Ellena doing a copy of Iris Gris. So we’re pretty much screwed on this one. The closest thing, again according to Octavian, would be to smear yourself with peach-scented lotion and spray on some Iris Silver Mist. Or, as Tania Sanchez suggested somewhere, to drip some Persicol into Iris Silver Mist until you get the dead ringer.

This is no reflection on the new Irissime composed by Marie Salamagne, which will be released by the revived Jacques Fath: for all I know, it’s superb.

It’s just not Iris Gris. And Iris Gris seemed feasible. Not?

Image: Great White Iris by Georgia O'Keefe

19 commentaires:

  1. A lot of it sounds like industrial snooping and espionage LOL

  2. Jarvis, now we need to find someone who's got the materials and who can do it privately, you know?

  3. Diable rouge, I believe a lot of it would have been due diligence... But then, I wasn't there, so I'm just reporting what I know.

  4. So far away from the Osmothèque, au bout du monde, I forgot it. With "RIP, Iris Gris", it comes to me again. Iris Gris ! Of Course !. Iris Gris is still living at the Osmothèque. Therefore, this masterpiece can be discovered and Perfumery still has everything to let Iris Gris keep on living !

  5. Anonymous, the Osmothèque can of course afford to use rare, expensive or regulated materials... Which doesn't mean these materials could be used commercially. Still, yes, it can be smelled...

  6. Yes, I would have paid through the nose for this. So sad.

  7. Melissa, you don't know how sad it is until you've actually smelled the stuff... I'll be nursing those few milliters, I guess.

  8. Popcarts: what can I say? The Osmothèque's that-a-way...

  9. For full disclosure about the Iris Gris trademark - now owned by Hermès - this can be traced quite easy on the website of french/european trademarks where the details (years, numbers etc) are available with one click :)
    I do not know exactly what was the history of the history of the brand after the death of Jacques Fath and how Hermès ended with the trademark. But, just looking back to the years, there is no reason to suspect Hermès of anything.
    But Trademark and Original formula are not the same thing and never were during the history of many other brands.
    I was very sad to hear that Iris Gris will not be released under its original formula (though I might suspect that there would be some minor problems with IFRA).
    Also, the price theory is rather exagerated and there are solutions to produce it like Iris Silver Mist (price). But this wouldn't make a lot of profit and without other perfumes in the brand it would be a failure.
    But I do not understand what was the problem with the peach.
    If I'll find a vintage Firmenich base, I'll try to make some IG for you.

  10. Octavian, thank you so much for the clarification. I am as I write fervently praying the Gods of Parfum for you to find some vintage Firmenich base!

  11. Oh, not surprised: I too read the info and to me it's textbook PR, right down to the marketing strategies so I know there would be no accident in the communication process. Then to me the bottle and the packaging give it away--I looked at it once and I knew it's not going to be the real thing.

    Humour me for a second but if Hermes bought "Iris Gris" that long ago would it also be a strategy to protect "Hiris"? After all the French house wouldn't release fragrances under both names back then, right? Just a thought.

    As for C14 I can see people taking it out for a commercial launch because it's quite different from a fresh peach note that the consumers normally associate with the fruit. I have a bottle and to me it's a poetic interpretation of nature and if a company wants to be safe it may not be every teenager's cup of tea. I personally don't think C14 is audience-averse but I can see some corporation thinking so.

  12. PS. I too think relaunching Iris Gris is doable given the right modifications. I won't getting into the chemistry between the traditional and the Biolande material (to me nearly identical except the aging process--I have studied the chemical pathways). But Octavian is correct that the profit margin wouldn't be the same. Oh well: too bad but I've learnt to be realistic about things.

  13. Albert, thanks for weighing in.
    Panouge did a creditable job of relaunching Gardenia Isabey, which first came out in a limited, luxury edition -- maybe that panned out and they didn't want to take the risk with Iris Gris?

    For Hermès, I honestly don't know. They may have thought of naming a scent like that back in 1963 -- Hiris comes significantly later.

    I can think of C-14 in at least one release which, though oldish now, is still contemporary and quite successful: Gucci Rush.
    I don't get the feeling Panouge is a large outfit so it's not a matter of a bunch of suits imposing their vision. And when you want to do something popular, I doubt you'd choose Iris (the Dior Homme and the Prada being contrary examples).

  14. Re: the Biolande, I've smelled it and it's pretty good. I also smelled Chinese orris that stood its own quite well.
    No nitromusks of course, but we've gotten used to that...

  15. Gucci Rush was firmly in the Tom Ford era since it was released a decade ago, no? And with Ford picking the juice (pretty sure he picked the juice) it was hard to go wrong since the designer had a vision and was not afraid to make a choice (same can't be said about other artistic directors though--just an observation and not aiming towards anyone in particular).

    In addition to Prada Infusion d'Iris and Dior Homme with iris we also have Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris and (albeit as a solid backbone) Hermès Kelly Caleche, no? With the array of ingredients available (orris butter, ionones, methyl ionones, irones, etc. etc.) and with the general audience still considering iris as an ultra-luxury ingredient it's not hard to see why iris fragrances are coming out year after year lately :-)

  16. Regarding Biolande's iris: I know it's pretty good, period. I made the comment because some people think the chemistry behind the traditional process and the acclerated one are different but they are in fact the same.

  17. Albert, I wonder if the perfume-buying public at large would know iris is an expensive ingredient -- unless it was told so through the brand's PR, that is?
    Iris certainly *smells*, if not expensive, then somewhat haughty. Hence the various ways it was sweetened up for the numerous iris-themed launches of late. What I'm trying to say is that is doesn't feel like it could be a "popular" note in the crowd-pleasing sense of the word.