Friday, January 18, 2008

Twin Peaks: Iris Poudre, UDV Pour Elle, Ferre by Ferre

As improbable as some comparisons seem, like say contrasting a beaming, shinning Mercedes KLC to a tiny compact Smart, sometimes they hit the nail on the head: both cars are made by the same makers. There are of course countless details that separate them, but they are equally attended to for standards of quality.
Which brings us to our improbable theme today: The augustus scent of Iris Poudre by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle side by side to the lowly and humble Ulric de Varens Pour Elle.

Iris Poudre needs no introduction, really. Although I haven't reviewed it in full yet, it is probably my favourite within the confines of this much esteemed niche brand that caters to the tastes of perfumephiles and perfumers both: The former because they can sample the vision of some of the best noses of our days with trully good ingredients. The latter 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. Frédéric 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 powdery. However it does have touches of the cool allure and rosiness of Rive Gauche or Calandre, both scents with a beautiful coolness contrasted with a little warmth in the base. Iris Poudre utilises the caramel butteriness of tonka bean, the cosiness of 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.

Ulric de Varens is a french brand founded in 1982 that features in the mainstream and lower end of distribution, appearing in what the Americans call "the drugstore". Apart from the eponymous line, they also produce the Lily Prune line and the Jacques de Saint Prez line. And yet their offerings are often surprisingly good: their Patchouli Chic was one of the better scents to feature that note by popular vote, their Sublime Vanille and also their Ulric Fun are composed by none other than Jean Claude Ellena, their UDV Men is composed by Maurice Roucel. Coincidentally two of the bright stars in the gallaxy of F.Malle. You get the drift...

Ulric de Varens Pour Elle also known as UDV, came out in 1999. It is a delicate, powdery floral with the merest hint of woody sweetness in the base. According to the official press release:
Pour Elle contains pear, finely supported by the king accord of Rose, Jasmine and Lily of the Valley, with a layer of sensual, bewitching white musks which open up thanks to precious woods and sweet scents of Vanilla.

Although it is advertised as a fruity, musky floral, to my nose there is no really discernible fruity element and the predominent impression is that of the smooth powdery accord of iris. The impression is quite realistic. Which in itself might be a good indicator of what is an industry secret: that lots of perfumes that claim iris notes construct the acccord with synthetic molecules and not the dearly costly rhizomes of the Florentine variety.
There is really no discernible rose or jasmine per se, but rather the hazy impression of a floral bouquet dusted with air-spun powder and a little icing sugar. It smells ivory, betraying the pink shade of the juice itself. There is a soft, caressing, cosy quality about the musks used and a little woodiness. The whole is very feminine and smells much more expensive than anticipated. Contrasted to Iris Poudre it shares much in the beginning stage, when both diffuse with little puffs of liquid snow. It then warms up, somewhat more pronounced than Iris Poudre and with a sweeter drydown phase which is perhaps its shortcoming side by side with the aristocratic dryness of the Malle fragrance. The latter is simply rootier, earthier, with a slight nod to Iris Silver Mist by Lutens or Hiris by Hermès.

UDV’s whimsical and rather kitchy little purse bottle (the spray is atop the upper part of the "bag" part) in a horrible plastic case might have better served a teenager's budding boudoir rather than my more somber vaults, but it will have to pass. As it is, it is an indulgence one can spray with abandon and toss with no regrets when it eventually spoils.

Ulric de Varens Pour Elle can be found in the drugstore as well as online stores and comes in:
- Eau de parfum 30 et 75 ml
- Déodorant Spray Parfumant 125 ml
- Coffret EDP 75 ML + Déo 125 ml
- Coffret EDP 75 ml + Body lotion 75 ml

Ferre by Ferre is another fragrance that I got round smelling prompted by my readers and found out that it has numerous similarities to Iris Poudre, indeed: in fact this is not so strange, as they were both created by the same perfumer, the great Pierre Bourdon. They do smell almost identical, if you lean a little on both, with perhaps the possible exception that Iris Poudre has a slightly more metallic finish in its development that is more distinctive and a little aloof, with an aldehydic tinge perceptible. The lasting power is comparable.
However, for those of you who cannot get Iris Poudre easily, Ferre by Ferre is a great alternative and with a much more respectable-looking, architectural bottle than UDV pour Elle .

Twins by Dianne Arbus courtesy of Transindex. Pic of Ulric de Varens Pour Elle bottle from the official site. Pic of Vogue cover from 1950 by Jeannie Pattchet from allposters.


  1. Just posting to say...OMG, how GORGEOUS is that vogue picture? It really moves me in a strange way, without actually being able to put it into words..That back, the pose, the setting (which reminds me so much of my grandmother's livingroom)..I don't know, it all falls together to create a beautiful, moving image..

  2. D. I am not surprised that you like it: with your sensibilities I was sure you would appreciate the pose. Thank you.

    Your grandmother must have had a lovely house...

  3. Anonymous18:09

    dear e.,
    i realy had to laugh when i saw the bottle of UDV - this is really kitsch, but somehow it´s fun, too. i couldn´t say if i detest it or like it :D given my somtimes weird taste, i would say i like it, it´s cute LOL

    i´ve never heard of UDV before your review, but it seems to be a good scent which deserves more attention, i think.

    iris poudre is a scent i appreciate very much, but rarely wear as i have to be in the right mood for it.
    it took me a rather long time to get to like it at all -it was my first encounter with an aldehydic floral, so it´s - like you already pointed out - no typical take on the aldehydic theme.
    with iris poudre, my love affair with iris scents started. to me it´s a very sophisticated scent, very lovely.

    i read that there´s a ferre scent (the EdP perhaps?) that´s almost a scent twin, but i never tested it - i´m happy with iris poudre :)

  4. Dear C,
    the bottle is a study in adolescent kitchiness, no doubt about that. Yet the juice does not smell adoelscent at all and is quite elegant in a weird way that warrants some attention. I would be happy to send a sample along if you wish :-)

    Iris Poudre is wonderful and well, superior. But the point of this series is to show that there are affinities and perhaps a kind of trickle-down inspiration.
    The Ferre you are talking about, I think, is a rosy scent and is also close if I remember correctly. No sample at hand of that one though....

  5. Anonymous18:58

    it´s called ferré by gianfranco ferré & was created by pierre bourdon,if i recall correctly.
    all the ferré scents have similar names, which is a bit unfortunate if you ask me.

    maurice roucel has a common theme in lots of his scents, i´d say a delicate powdery sweetness.
    i also get that in insolence extrait, though it´s iris & violet.

    another scent-family he composed around another theme (i´d call it oriental/vanilla/animalic) are FM musc ravageur, le labo labdanum 18 & to a certain extent, more mainstream, l de lolita lempicka.

  6. I thought it might be the same nose! Isn't this uncanny?
    Good of you to confirm the name. It's confusing, considering that the initial Ferre was a black "grenade" of a tuberose-y scent (so completely different and consumers might get totally confused)

    About the others (by Roucel) I did know that and I agree: this is one reason why I find commonalities between MR and L de Lempicka and have said so on the boards ~smell them side by side and one sees they share the ame ambery-cinnamon depth both, although MR has a dirtier element and more spice at the start)

  7. One more correction. The grenade style bottle is actually the original Ferre by Ferre (1991). It is a floral aldehyde. The tuberose tinged scent is simply called Gianfranco Ferre (1984) and it comes in a tall bottle, often with a "crystal" tied to it. Yes, the names are very confusing, but the scents are generally very well done.

  8. M,

    thank you for the added info on the Ferres (which I agree are well done and confusing!). I am noting it down, as I haven't kept the bottles after finishing them years ago.

  9. Anonymous16:12


    i'm a huge fan of the perfume pour elle by UDV. And i love to buy it. there is only one problem, it seems that they don't sell it anymore in my land/country. ( i'm from the netherlands) does somebody know were (on the internet for example) i can buy this perfume???

    greetz dutchwomen


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