Incredible Irises was an event hosted by Basenotes and Perfume Lovers London at the New Cavendish Club on 22nd of November 2012.
Here are some highlights.
The evening began with a smell from two natural materials kindly supplied by the Laboratoire Monique Rémy based in Grasse. The first was derived from Iris Pallida and grown in Italy. This was a rather refined, powdery iris. The second extract was grown in Morocco and was a blend of Iris Germanica and Florentina varieties. This mix was much more earthy and rooty, with overtones of carrots and parnsnips dug from the earth. The idea was to get a sense of the iris 'spectrum', with powdery, violety at one end and rooty, full-on, deep notes at the other.
We then followed this with two perfumes which illustrate how these two types translate into perfume. Irisss by Xerjoff contains a significant amount of Iris Pallida. This was compared and contrasted to Le Labo's Iris 39, which has a much stronger eathy, rooty note and contains Iris Germanica and Florentina.
Orris root was traditionally used as a fixative in perfume and was often used to perfume leather. We sniffed some leather opera gloves that had been perfumed with orris and jasmine, a popular combination in times gone by.
Orris root from this year's harvest, grown on a Tuscan farm was also passed round during the evening. The root, which is the part of the plant used, must be at least 3 years old, after which it is left to dry and cure for another 3 years. It's eventually ground into a powder and steam distilled, with the result a thick concrete known as orris butter.
The fixative qualities of orris are also utilised in the making of gin, where orris works to stabilise and enrich the quality of the other botanicals. One of the finest gins with an orris note is William's Gin made by the Chase distillery in Herefordshire. We sipped on and sniffed this gin which has a very slight, pleasant doughy, earthy quality from the orris.
A moment's pause for thought while we sipped. Lila has been thinking about synesthesia while putting together the perfumes for the evening and had happened to hear a piece of music by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt on the radio. Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror) seemed to be a very apt olfactory representation of Iris Pallida and it's fine, delicate, romantic smell.
From here we went on to smell a number of iris perfumes as a group and individually:
Not particularly iris-like, but still a big hit for Prada. For a more pronounced iris not see the powdery and smooth Eau de Parfum Absolue (listed below).
Iris with Violet
Challenging to some, the ultimate iris to others. Serge Lutens
Equally good on men or women.
Light, citrus top, woody, ephemeral. This has recently joined the main collection after being part of the exclusive Miller Harris line.
An Air of Velvet
One of the most accessible from the MFK collection, this was very popular on the night.
Rooty, Earthy Iris
Iris for Men
A powdery iris for men, the favourite of the night for Grant Osborne!
A men's classic. Bertrand Duchaufour says he used to wear this.