Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tale of two irises (Prada Infusion d'iris and Guerlain Iris Ganache)

Like Charles Dickens knew so well, there is some charm in correlating different things and finding respective affinities. After all one would devoutly wish for an interaction between entities in the universe; a sense of belonging, of not being cut out. Dissimilar things can resemble each other in some ways while their contrast is piquant and intriguing. Such is the case with two iris perfumes that came out recently: Iris Ganache by Guerlain, their 5th scent in the exclusive L’Art et la Matière exclsuive boutique line and Prada Infusion d'iris, a new feminine scent from the italian leather and fashion company.

Guerlain tells us that this new scent is

"Un beurre d’iris travaillé comme une ganache en pâtisserie"

which roughly translates as "iris butter worked like patissery ganache".
Ganache is a sort of chocolate cream that is thick and smooth, more solid than liquid. One would assume that we are dealing with a gourmand iris and that one would not be far off.

Iris/Orris is the rhizome of a beautiful flower, mystical, subtle and discreetly melancholic, encompassing dusty, powdery and mineral qualities. The essence of a fairy that is about to die in a puff of her delicate wings. In Iris Ganache that delicate fairy is munching meringues and feeling quite well, thank you very much. Perfumer Thierry Wasser (aided by artistic director Sylvaine Delacourte) managed to marry opposites creating something that is decidedly not as audacious as it first sounds, but rather a fluffy concoction that has a tinge of violets, quite like those sweet ones surfacing in Guerlain's more commercial scent Insolence. The feel of the violet is delectable, with a tinge of milky kid's chocolate drink, a direction that was explored in one of the limited edition versions of Oscar de la Renta's, namely Oscar Violet. There, again, the unmistakable dusting of sweetened Nesquik is painting the picture in foody terms. One might even think of the light orientalised theme of last year's Ange ou Démon by Givenchy. Suffice to say that this reminiscence does not great originality make for Iris Ganache...

The opening on bergamot and cinnamon is abstract and not as spicy as that in Musc Ravageur by F.Malle, although I am sure they were aiming for something sexy in that direction.
However, this is what makes it approachable despite the "difficult" for many note of iris. If we are to take Dickens's approach to the fore, Iris Ganache is decidedly French, representing Paris, all cafés and bistros; not Café Flore with its existential milieu of Sartre and Beauvoir, animately drawing puffs from their dark cigarettes that the French love so much. This is rather a bourgeois salon de thé, where the guests are sporting pouffy chiffon blouses that caress bodies prone to sensuality thanks to the ambery fond and the musk that embrace the white chocolate. This is the less cerebral and intellectual side of Paris as befits a house that was infamously producing scents for cocottes.

Prada Infusion d'iris on the other hand is more London-like, less indulgent, much less gourmet: all wet pavement and airy notes of a steely sky that sustain themselves on a very slight vanillic base that comes from benzoin. Poised between the crystalline opening of Iris Nobile by Aqua di Parma, a fresh breath of citrusy sensuality, and the earthy yet light depths of Olivia Giacobetti's Hiris for Hermes, Infusion d'iris is the equivalent of a metallic-hued slip of a dress over a young body that radiates intelligence and discreet sensuousness. A woman that enters an indian temple, inquisitive and with a mystical yearning. There is a smooth feel to it that caresses the soul, a nod to a thinking woman's scent, with a touch of childlike softness that reminds me of an infant's s hair washed in Johnson's Baby Shampoo. The liaison is weird no doubt and the breakdown of notes does not do it justice.

The mention of lentisque made me see that it is mastic, the very Greek resin from the island of Chios that is used for the world's only natural chewing gum, skincare products, liquors and products for medicinal use. I can't say that the aroma of mastic is instantly recognisable as such, despite my familiarity with it. However there is a greeness and woodiness that makes for a very endearing emotion; that of familiarity, of belonging, of touching the earth.

Prada claimed they got inspired by an old technique of haute parfumerie (infusion) that allowed the roots of iris to "marinate" for 6 months so as to render the true soft, fresh and powdery aroma of iris and Daniela Andrier for Givaudan succeeded in producing one of the loveliest scents of the season, even if I suspect there are synthetic aromachemicals at play. It comes in minimal light pistachio-green-labeled bottle of Eau de Parfum and it is wonderfully tenacious without ever becoming suffocating.

While Iris Ganache will appeal to those who do not go for intense, carroty irises like Iris silver Mist by Lutens, Infusion d'iris might fill the void when the mood calls for something airier than the former.

Official notes:

Iris Ganache: bergamot, cinnamon, iris butter, white chocolate, patchouli, cedar, amber, vanilla, musk, powdery notes.

Infusions d'iris: galbanum, tunisian neroli, italian mandarin, lentisque (mastic), iris, cedar, vetiver, benzoin from Laos, somalian incense

For inquiries and orders on Iris Ganache call + 33 (0)1 45 62 52 57.
Prada Infusion d'iris is available in major department stores.

Pic originally uploaded at cofe.ru


  1. I'll take the Prada. The Guerlain sounds too rich for my blood.

    Great reviews! Glad you're back.

  2. Anonymous20:28

    I really enjoyed the reviews- spot on.
    Although the Prada is well done, and inoffensive, it doesn't do me like ISM or TDC's...
    I saved some money, lol.

    So glad you're ok-

  3. Dear M,

    thanks for the compliments and glad to be back. Hopefully I will upload the rest of the archives and the links soon; well, as soon as I have time to do it, I guess...

    I think you'd like the Prada! Not as elegant as Chanel no.19 but charming nonetheless.

  4. Dear I,

    thank you for your kind words. They were interesting scents to sample both in their own way.
    ISM alas was not for me, although I really like irises. It was very carroty :-(
    whereas Hiris by Hermes is not (hence my true iris of choice).
    Bois d'iris is gorgeous! Don't disagree on that. Yet it is not a soliflore iris, it's much woodier and orientalised than that. Which explains why we both love it! :-)

  5. My dearest E, it is SO good to see you back!! I hope the shrine is restored to its former glory very soon. *hugs*

    As for the irises in question, I love both of these scents but for some reason Prada's offering appeals to me more. I can hardly believe how long-lasting it is too - v. impressive.

  6. I love iris per se, but I'm just incapable of wearing it as a dominant note. It seems so "not me" -- evanescent fairies just can't land on my too-too solid flesh. Iris Ganache just about made the cut, though, probably because of the sweetness tempering the cold, metallic tinge of the root. But though, as you wittily write, IG's fairy is a bon-vivant, it doesn't strike me as a distinctive enough scent to splurge. Still looking for an iris that doesn't just sit and sulk on me like an alien lifeform...

  7. Thank you dear D for your most kind words. Good to be back, indeed.

    Yes, Prada's iris has a weird familiarity and appeal about it. I can't place why as it surely is not that groundbreaking. Yet, simple things can have infinite charm, can't they?

  8. Dear Denyse,

    I can understand. I am no fairy either, too human for that, although I flatter myself that I do have a mystical side nonetheless ;-)

    Iris is a difficult note for many perfume lovers, so you are in good company. I completely agree about IG. Very pleasant and bob viveur/euse, but for that amount of money and that exclusivity one would expect something that would jar present mental states to metamorphosize into something trully elevated, trully divine (or am I rambling?)

    May I suggest what dear Ida loves so? I have found great pleasure in Bois d'iris which is not a soliflore iris, like I said above.
    And Le Labo's gets good reviews, I think, have you tried it?

  9. Yep, completely with you - I felt like we 'had met before'. And indeed infinitely charming. Now just the eternal inner struggle remaining: Do I really really want it? When am I gonna wear it? But I love it! and so on, ad nauseum..

  10. Helg, I have a sample of Bois d'Iris and find it lovely, but it still feels alien to me. Le Labo kind of annoys me for some reason: I don't like the city-specific launches, especially since the only one I really want to smell is the Dallas Aldehyde 44, and I'm weary of the "mixing on the spot" policy. Also, it's only available at the crashingly noisy, always overcrowded Colette concept store in Paris, a shop where I don't want to drop any money. The only time I went to smell Le Labo, I was constantly jostled by American tourists waving their plastic around (and being attended). Silly prejudices I'm afraid, and a bit off-topic. Iris and I, for the time being, aren't meant to be. I'm still waiting for my epiphany!

  11. Divina,

    LOL! The struggle on what to get, what to eliminate. Yup! :-)

  12. Denyse,

    at least it's good that you know what to avoid ;-)
    I give up, LOL! Iris and you must wait for that epiphany, it seems, indeed.

    And btw, have you noticed that everyone is doing iris scents lately? It's as if it has to be there somewhere in any line's offerings. Intriguingly weird.

  13. Anonymous16:44

    so interesting that you though it smelled like in Johnson's Baby Shampoo too! I ran home to compare the two (I have toddlers) when I first sniff Prada's and they were nothing alike. And yet it's still the main thing I think of when I wear (I've since bought a bottle)

  14. I'm one of those people who reads back through perfume blogs obsessively and then comments much too late on posts. I'm sorry if this creates a weird, deja vu effect but I just wanted to say that YES. There is some kind of child-like softness to the Infusion d'Iris that I noticed but had a hard time finding words to explain. Perfect!

  15. Thank you so much. This is one of my favourite review of this cologne. I just can't get enough of it. What a lovely poetic description when you write "Prada Infusion d'iris on the other hand is more London-like, less indulgent, much less gourmet: all wet pavement and airy notes of a steely sky that sustain themselves on a very slight vanillic base that comes from benzoin."

    There is something very English, old-fashioned elegance about this fragrance. It reminded me of expensive good quality soap which the Queen Mother might have used!


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