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".
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 telegraph.co.uk