Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Different Company Bois d’Iris: Fragrance Review

Yes, this is my copy of Bois d’Iris—right up to the obtuse notch on the top left corner of the box upon yours truly’s overzealous unwrapping—yet in all honestly after a few years I still haven’t figured out a proper place for master perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s creation.

~by guest writer AlbertCAN

photo copyright: AlbertCAN (used with permission)

Is it the subject matter? Hardly. Iris is one of my preferred olfactory subjects of exploration. (Apparently so does the US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as the owners of Aedes de Venustas told Chandler Burr: "Dolce and Gabbana came in for a thank-you gift for Anna Wintour. She likes irises, so we loaded her basket with iris candles, iris soaps, iris room sprays, and decorated it with fresh irises.") Could it then be the compositional philosophy? Quite the opposite: many readers of this space and my humble blog would know that I have been a keen observer of Ellena’s aesthetics for years now. The quality of the ingredients is also evident from the first moment to the last, the packaging from The Different Company impeccable. So what makes it just short of being a clincher?

An epiphany striked through upon composing this review: it’s in the name. Bois d’Iris (not to be confused with Van Cleef & Arpel’s subsequent release under its niche Collection Extraordinaire line) is exactly what the title suggests: it’s more of a manifestation of woods within iris.

Let’s not to imply that Ellena skimped on costs here: the pricy iris concrete is used here and its effect is evident. For the purpose of composing this review I have pulled out my batch of iris to compare. Indeed the concrete is at the depth of this work, forming an earthy, damp, slightly tunnelled ambiance at the back end. The iris used in Bois d’Iris creates a smooth and silken effect, while displaying all typical facets of the material: the floral violets, the dark gourmands, the dry woods. And because iris concrete just by itself lacks the diffusional standards for modern perfumery Ellena here has chosen to bolster the material with alpha-isomethyl ionone, a material having a diffusive, powdery impression of violets and its slightly chalkier analogue—you’ve guessed it—iris. At this point I should point out that the duo of iris and alpha-isomethyl ionone also form the backbone of Hermès Hiris, yet whereas Olivia Giacobetti’s composition lightens up the cornerstone with carrot and almond wood, Bois d’Iris veers into another direction.

A few years back I had the fortune of communicating with Octavian Coifan about subtle ways of emphasizing iris within a composition, and he mentioned that vetiver or even cedar would be good options. While Chanel 28 La Pausa, another iris fragrance, has vetiver at its base, Bois d’Iris is firmly in the cedarwood territory. And the heart of the composition is filled with narcissus and aspects of geranium: the rosy geraniol and citronnellol, the woodsy-peppery-floral linalool. Then to complete the composition we have the clove aspect from eugenol, the slight ylang impression from benzyl salicylate and the hay-like depth from coumarin. Limonene, the essential building block of citrus elements, is also present, though I don’t generally consider that to be the main player at all; in fact, the traditional top notes are neither prominent nor emphasized.

Now I don’t know about you, but at this point the above-mentioned notes, in their respective positions, read modern French formal to me—emphasis on the word formal. Don’t get me wrong: like I have previously mentioned the composition integrity is commendable, style consistent with Ellena’s point of view. Yet what comes with its Gallic nature is an authentic air of reservation and formality, more of a silent masculine to Hiris feminine. Reserved, pensive. It’s not to suggest that Bois d’Iris is boring, with the narcissus-eugenol-coumarin axis giving off a slight wine-like nuance and the cedar forming a nice wine-cask resonance. Now I suspect Bois d'Iris knows how to enjoy life, but only tastefully in private.

Overall? Bois d’Iris is something I use from time to time in my own spare time, when I feel like losing myself in a long leisurely read. If I want my holy grail iris I will continue layering Hiris with Persicol.


  1. I adore Bois D'Iris, though sometimes it makes me a little melancholic (iris does that, strangely). It's still my favorite iris, probably because I also love cedarwood and vetiver.

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  3. Dear Shrine

    Thank you for this article it is illuminating.

    Lacking in the professional training of a parfumeur, I am nevertheless fascinated when an insight, such as this is given into the mechanics of a particular perfume.

    Your notes make me want to smell it more by way of interactive tutorial.

    Thank you again.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Dina C.01:54

    Iris is one of my favorite notes, and I'm familiar with all the scents you referenced in your essay. I find TDC Bois d'Iris to be very contemporary like a piece of bold modern art painted all in shades of white. (It's the opposite of baroque and frilly.) This was a very thoughtful review. Now I'm going to have to find my sample and try it again. Thanks for sharing. *leaves computer to go search stash of samples*

  5. Natalie03:53

    I adore your perfume blog,it is so informative and interesting. I am new to iris,but like its not too sweet scent. Crabtree and Evelyn makes a nice iris,not long lasting but nonetheless a pleasant smell.

  6. P,

    I also love Bois d'Iris. Iris is often said to be melancholic, though to be it's not particularly (or I'm embracing melancholia, whatever)

  7. TPD,

    I know. Albert did a great job (as always). :-)

    You might get a kick out of the Materials posts and the perfume terms posts then!

  8. Dina,

    perceptive comment. You're right.
    And Albert would be thrilled.

  9. Thank you Natalie :-)

    I haven't tried the Crabtree & Evelyn yet (I should, after that). The Yardley and the L'Erbolario ones are great value for money, very well done, at any rate.


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