I have found the "holy grail" of Iris based fragrances in Iris 39 by Le Labo. It opens up with a strong Iris that mellows down to be sweet and comforting. I also smell traces of violet, patchouli and musk. I don't smell any civet here, maybe it's me. Iris 39 is a beautiful composition that I will enjoy for a long time.
This one over-compensates by throwing all kinds of angles at you. It sort of works, but it does feel like an iris with a personality disorder. It’s sweet, rooty, powdery, herbal, green—pretty much every approach to iris can be found here. I actually like my iris scents to be kind of fake and synthetic—pop-iris, I guess. This has a little bit of a pop feel, but it’s more rooted in reality than what I tend to go for.
There’s a *lot* of patchouli in it, but it’s a green patch (not overly hippie). The opening sweetness (a tad candy-ish) dies fast, taking you straight to the rooty notes that (thankfully) aren’t as metallic and chilly as what iris can be. It’s earthy, but it's more like earth in a glass beaker on the shelf of a sterile lab—clean, sanitized earth. What bugs me about it, though, is the herbal facets which I think you have to have an affinity for. If you’re okay with that hellish dill note in Santal 33 (I’m *so* not okay with that note), then the herbs in Iris 39 won’t bother you at all. For me, however, it's a bummer.
Despite my personal grumbles, this is one of Le Labo’s better perfumes that should be on the “try list” of anyone craving an iris—even if it's doing more than an iris perfume needs to do.
A nice, solid, pleasant iris scent opening with just the right amount of rooty-waxiness and a bold prominent “lipstick” note, well scented with spices, a hint of zesty freshness, woody nuances well blending with the powdery richness of iris petals. I honestly don’t get any civet, at any point, but I do get some slight camphoraceous feel on the very base. Overall a simple, almost mystical scent in its floral-rooty simplicity, as it basically smells like iris with notes enhancing its different facets (woods, spices, other flowers, ginger-carrot for its rooty side). I appreciate in particular the work around the rooty-earthy side of iris, with a beautiful sort of “darkening” that starting from the initial bright freshness slowly takes Iris 39 down to a darker and darker earthy path, dusted with a sophisticated powderiness. Really pleasant, refined, versatile, somehow as “cold” and distant as earthy and rich, as iris often manages to smell – that is part of what makes it a fascinating material. Honestly though, I also get an unpleasant sort of cheap aftertaste here and there, a little metallic perhaps, which is something I wouldn’t expect at this price. I may be not that good in assessing the quality of iris (which is a note I admit I don’t know that well), but frankly and despite being surely pleasant and compelling, this smells a bit overpriced to me (like most of niche scents, though).
Iris 39 gives a new perspective on the iris perfume. It twists the cool, rooty, powdery sharpness of the iris into a new shape. Where iris root tends toward the powdery in most perfumes, in Iris 39 it’s a cold, tingling, green, papery dust. It comes off as dry but tacky like rosin. Iris 39 keeps the conciseness of iris. The definitive quality of the iris. If iris root were a manner of speaking it would read as follows:
Declarative statement. (“Declarative statement, pause, full stop”)
The directness of the iris can read as cold (Chanel 19), sinister (Iris Silver Mist), unapproachable (Maitre’s Iris Bleu Gris) or chaste (Atelier Cologne Silver Iris). It’s a mistake to read standing apart as insult. Iris 39 bridges this gap in communication and keeps the objective tone of iris root, while easing the personal space restrictions
The heart and basenotes don't venture far from the topnotes. I 39's changes are noticeable not so much as movement as a shifting of gears. You can drive 50mph in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th gear. The experience is different in each gear. It’s neither classically three-tiered nor linear. It stays in place, but it moves. It keeps an appealing sharpness throughout. Most descriptions of an iris perfume's drydown capture the result and how it came about. 'Softening to powderiness.' 'Fading to a whisper.' On the contrary, I 39's basenotes are not about diminishing , but enduring. I 39 remains dry but adherent. Prickly.
Often I'm left questioning a le Labo name until I give up and accept that the named note may not be the star of the perfume. I 39 is different. It is a definitive iris, released at a time of seemingly thousands of other iris perfumes. It is simply an exceptional and gorgeous one.
This is a very fine, pure, earthy-rooty iris, made interesting by a whipcrack peppery top note. Austere and impressively bracing, Iris 39 is the first Le Labo scent to hold my attention.