Monday, May 21, 2012

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre: fragrance review

There is a human, flawed sublayer beneath the icy, perfect Hitchockian beauty of Betty Draper from Mad Men, which manifests itself when the woman is emotionally beaten to pulp by the final realisation her husband is actually cheating on her. The mask-like layer falls off and the melting face, crumbling updo and wrinkly tulle dress falling off the shoulders instill human empathy in us, hinting at a crack of the perfect facade. Iris Poudre is the Betty Draper, née Hofstadt, in the Frederic Malle line of perfumes, the icy coolness of Grace Kelly incarnate, when faced with the line "You're so profoundly sad" to only tentatively reply "No, it's just that my people are Nordic". Brrrr...  

Iris Poudre needs no introduction, really. Catherine Deneuve cites it in the foreward of F.Malle's new book as the fragrance that drew her from her beloved Guerlain into "fragrance infidelity" with the likes of Malle & company. A random choice? I think not.
Within the confines of this much esteemed niche brand that caters to the tastes of perfumephiles and perfumers both, this scent holds a firm place of distinction due to its haute elegance: The former group appreciates Malle because they can sample the vision of some of the best noses of our days with trully good ingredients. The latter group because they are at last given free reign to do what they had always wanted to do but couldn't, due to commercial restrictions.

Iris Poudre was created by Pierre Bourdon, one of the finest noses in the field and arguably one of the most personable ones to talk to. Frédéric Malle reveals that it was the first fragrance created in the line: his collaboration and appreciation of Bourdon goes a long way back. The initial inspiration for Iris Poudre is a substance called "concrétolide", a legendary French iris base that was the heart of many perfume classics from the period between the two world wars. The finished result was drawing inspiration from the famous 1960s film Belle de Jour, starring none other than...Catherine Deneuve!
Malle professes that "if it were a garment, it would be a cashmere sweater - classic but personal, appropriate for most occasions, something one never tires of".

Scent Profile
Although touted to be a grand floral aldehydic, to me it has no distinct relation to aldehydic fragrances that people perceive as typical of their classification, such as Chanel No.5, Madame Rochas or Arpège. It is subtler and less sparkly, more softly, cooly powdery. However it does have touches of the chilly allure and rosiness of YSL Rive Gauche or Paco Rabanne Calandre, both scents with a beautiful coolness contrasted with a little warmth in the base. There is a repressed sensuality about this scent, like the cool exterior of perfectly proportioned glacially faced Severine who goes to spend the afternoons as a high-class prostitute in her sexual frustration.  Dihydromyrcenol gives that steely ambience of scrubbed countertops, hissy clean citrus. Muscenone (a musky substance) gives human warmth sensed underneath the perfect facade.

Iris Poudre utilises the caramel butteriness of tonka bean, the cosiness of the musks and just a hint of fluffy vanilla to instill that faint warmth that surrounds you like a precious pashmina on a chilly evening on a walk back from the theatre or an art exhibit. Until you hear that your husband slept with someone you wouldn't even consider worth sleeping with, of course!

Notes for F.Malle Iris Poudre : aldehydes, iris, ylang ylang ,rose, vetiver, musk, vanilla, tonka bean.

photo credits: top January Jones as Betty Draper from Mad Men TV show via wikimedia commons and bottom via


  1. Anonymous20:46

    my first malle! i don't get cashmere from it at all, but maybe that's because i don't wear cashmere! to me it's more like an ice-blue silk damask in a very spare dior cut.

    this one is almost like wearing another person as your perfume. it is one of THE most present perfumes i know. which means i have to be in the right frame of mind to wear it, or it threatens to wear me.

    that said, it really is lovely, and i wouldn't want to be without it.


  2. I don't know what Malle is talking about mentioning cashmere either!
    It's a cool fragrance, a santug-thing of subtle sheen, almost no warmth to it, only a hint. I love your description of it!

    We tend to associate cashmere scents with cozier things, perhaps woodier and more vanillic/orientalised. Don't we? (By we I refer to perfume lovers on the whole, at least those vocal on the Net)
    It's an indepensable scent, though! Really something.

  3. Mimi Gardenia16:47

    Iris Poudre is a lovely sparkly scent - I was surprised just how good it was on my skin. I nearly bought it. Instead I foolishly chose Musc Ravageur and ended up selling it.
    Lovely review, Elena !

  4. MG,

    I also think IP is superior to MR in the long run. (I can think of "muskier" musks out there and as an oriental it can come across as crude sometimes)

    Thanks for the compliment! :-)

  5. Mimi Gardenia15:13

    You're absoultely right, Elelena. I really did try hard to love MR - all the talk on Basenotes , you know ...
    I think it was perhaps the one time I should have listened to the sage advice of the Barney's SA . *LOL* and gotten Iris Poudre. I can also think of better musks than MR . I found it rather disturbing at all times .
    I forgot to say I absolutely love January Jones. She is so elegant looking, has a certain presence on film and at the same time is not 'facially perfect' - ie no cosmetic surgery yet.

  6. MG,

    probably its reputation preceeds it. This happens with the "so called" racy stuff, most often. I don't find it particularly racy myself, but you know how this is. Personally I much prefer MKK which is even more derisive, but that one I find cozy, warm, truly musky without spices.

    Glad we agree on JJ. January Jones is pretty as a picture IMHO, but with a shrewd look in her eye that denotes she has something going for her besides good looks (which is the whole point, isn't it?) She's a good actress too from what I've seen of her, so worth following.
    Let's hope she doesn't mangle those pretty looks any time soon via botox and lifts etc. She's be crazy to, though I understand the pressure in Hollywood is immense. But then again she hasn't starred in those mainstream blockbusters so much, has she? (genuine question here)


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