Saturday, January 2, 2010

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Cuir d'Iris

Botanical illustration of a bearded iris.
This is lovely. I'm sightly deflated by the knowledge that I can't justify buying this and Iris Oriental and Cuir de Russie. I love all three, and love them differently, but there are just too many common elements. Aren't there?

The beginning is dominated by leather, a particularly standoffish version of the note. I imagine thick, stiff, heavily treated leather - a saddle, perhaps, not a comfortable chair or a fluid pair of gloves. There's an "off" note in it, one that I like at the same time that I find it challenging. Others have referred to the leather as "harsh", and while I wouldn't argue with them, that's not quite how I read it. To my nose, it's just a little odd, as if the leather in my nose's imagination was treated with a slightly non-standard set of tanning potions, or came from an unusual animal.

Checking the notes to see if I can solve the mystery, I see cardamom, iris old black, leather, woods, vetiver, Rhizophora tannin, amber, and incense. Maybe the Rhizophora tannin is the odd note that I can't nail down? (And what is iris old black? The root of a specific variety of iris or, as someone suggests, aged iris root? Or, as someone else listed the notes, did they really mean "old black leather"? Puzzles.)

As the scent develops, the leather steps back and the iris and amber come forward. It becomes quieter, a little powdery, and just a little bit sweeter, though I'd call it pretty dry at all stages. It's dignified, but not over-formal. I like this stage best - the wafts as I move are very satisfying.

The end reminds me of an observation made by Judith Martin (Miss Manners) about ice cream sodas: "The great paradox here - and fine art is full of ironic contradictions - is that the soda begins to disappear just as it reaches its perfect state." Just as Cuir d'Iris became a perfect wafty mix of powdery iris, sweet amber, and the faintest echo of rich leather, it was gone.  There's no trace, even sniffing right on the skin of my arm. Longevity isn't usually an issue for me - and it did last a good several hours - but I want more time with that perfect state.

Even so, if I were looking for an all day every day scent, this is one of the scents with the right characteristics. It's not too dry, not too sweet, and it shows gentle changes over time. Most importantly, it's one of the scents that give me the feeling that I smell nice - that my skin has somehow started to exude a lovely combination of iris and leather and incense. The scents that feel like they're part of me are a better candidate for that single scent than the scents that I'm very conscious of "wearing" as a decorative top coat over my skin.

Of course, that's all just moot musing, because there is no chance that I'll settle for one scent. But I like to maintain a mental list all the same.

Review Roundup: PereDePierre and The Non-Blonde and Basenotes and Nathan Branch and Perfume Patter.

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I don't know how I missed this one! I like the sound of the notes, except for the slightly odd leather note. I wonder what unusual animal it might have come from... Or as you say, Rhizophora tannin may be the culprit. Though it makes a welcome change from "popcorn note" and "marshmallow accord".

  2. There are surprisingly few reviews of it - it gets side mentions, like "...another cult leather, like PG Cuir d'Iris and..." but is rarely the subject of an article. I think it's a sometimes-available, limited-edition thing, but so is Bois Blond, and it certainly gets a lot of talk.

    I've never seen "popcorn note". :) Sounds freaky.

  3. I don't think I could do this one. Leather often bothers me (though I can wear Cuir de Russie and Cuir Ottoman - love the drydowns best on these).

    I really like iris though, and both Heeley Iris de Nuit and Odori Iris make my ongoing (mental) list of Scents I Could Wear All Day Everyday Anywhere. Not all irises work for me either - not a big fan of SL's ISM - toooooo coooold and rooooty, yet Prada's Infusion d'Iris is too, well, I'll just say that after spraying this one and getting into the car with my discriminating then 15 y.o. son, he said, "Why do you smell like swimming pool, mom?" And I had to agree with him.

  4. Hiya, Debby! Yep, if leather is problematic, the off note would probably take this one out of consideration. Cuir de Russie is much gentler, and though it's been a while since I tried it, I think Cuir Ottoman was, too.

    Thanks for mentioning those irises - if I don't buy Cuir de Russie as a combined leather/iris scent, then I'll be in the market for an iris-dominant scent, and I don't want to miss any good candidates.