Sunday, January 3, 2010

SOTD: Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist (The iris exploration continues.)

I've been reading about Iris Silver Mist since the beginning of my perfume obsession. I never tried it before now, because I only recently developed a tolerance for iris. But it's all but impossible to follow perfume and remain unaware of this fragrance - people love it, talk about it, compare other iris fragrances to it, scheme how to get their hands on it. My (unsupported by research) impression is that it's the grandmother of modern iris fragrances, unbeaten by any of its progeny.

None of this made me confident that I would like it. I tend to be a philistine when it comes to appreciating the grand and respected. I have yet to develop any fondness for Mitsouko, or Shalimar, or most of the older nobility of the perfume world. So why assume that I'd have any more appreciation for this more modern royal?

The notes list - iris pallida root, galbanum, cedar, sandalwood, clove, vetiver, musk, benzoin, incense, and white amber - didn't make me much more optimistic. While I love galbanum, sandalwood, and cedar, I didn't think that they'd be enough to make me love the more challenging iris, amber, musk, and clove.  And I wasn't a big fan of Rochas Tocade, another Maurice Roucel fragrance that's near-universally admired.

But I finally tried it anyway. And was well and thoroughly impressed.

At the start, it doesn't fit my usual impression of iris. Iris tends to be a dignified, civilized, excellent-posture sort of scent. And this starts out as a sort of rough scramble. I can smell the dirt that people mention, and the roots. Dirty, hairy, just-harvested, piled on the ground roots. Not carrots to my nose - not anything remotely edible. Something cold and alien and probably poisonous. It's powdery from the very beginning, but at this stage not a silky ladylike powder, it's more like spiced dirt, or something kicked up during the harvest that perhaps one should not be breathing.

None of this should be taken to say that I dislike the beginning. I like it very much, at least for as long as it lasts. It is, however, challenging enough that I might lose patience with it if it hung on for too much longer.

But it doesn't. It shifts, the dirty rootiness giving way to a smooth, powdery, dignified iris with, yes, excellent posture. And with the pencil eraser smell that I get from iris, adding a bit of an enjoyable joke for me - elegant, ethereal, glowing pencil erasers. It's much sweeter, though I can't quite place where the sweetness comes from - the wood? The amber?

Most people read this fragrance as cold, and the name certainly suggests that the chilliness was intended. To me, only the first stage is cold - those tumbled dirty roots were wrestled out of frozen ground. But as it grows sweeter, it also grows warmer, and now, a few hours in, it's no cooler than a shaded spot in late spring.

It's beautiful, I can say objectively. I would wear it often. It's certainly full bottle worthy. But I don't find myself desperately working through the problem of how to get my hands on it. (It's another Lutens non-export.) I can wait. Which means, I think, that I'm not in love.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin and Perfume-Smellin' Things and PereDePierre and Feminine Things and Fragrantica and MakeupAlley and Basenotes and PerfumeQueen and MossyLoomings and Pink Manhattan and ScentSate and fragrancefanatic.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. This was for me the most "difficult" iris scent I have ever tried, and I am a major fan of the note. It remained chilly and austere pretty much throughout, to the extent that I would classify it as "cryogenic iris". Have you tried Hiris? That is quite "rooty", but less cold.

  2. No, I never tried Hiris. I'll put it on the sniff list, thanks - I want to try as many as possible of the well-regarded irises before I break down and buy one.

    (Man, the sniff list is getting long. Yay!)