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31 Days of Iris: Day Five and Iris Poupre

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Keiko Mecheri is a house that I don't see discussed much here on Basenotes. Fragrantica, which I think skews a little more broad (more enthusiam for designer perfume), young, and feminine in its English-speaking demographic, generallly shows a little more enthusiasm for Keiko and her house. Maybe it's because the house has a reputation for being kind of "Lutens Lite," or maybe it is because the house's perfumes are, generally, more delicate and floral in composition. This is all conjuecture, I have absolutely no proof of this, but all that adds up to a subtle perception of a lack of "seriousness," I think. After al, Keiko went all in on the Loukhoum trend a few years ago; she has not one but at least three variations on its candy-sweet rose powder accord that even KM describes in her marketing materials as "whispers and giggles and marabou slippers," so I think she has leaned in, made a virtue of what might be necessity, and doing what she does pretty darn well. (I hear she is also a really nice lady, but I've never met her). So I think the perception of her work as falling into a juvenile, pink-peony, watery-pale, girly-girl ghetto, probably explains why we (and I do count myself in here) on Basenotes, defenders of the dark dirty old and weird, don't give her perfumes serious discussion and credit. I don't think everything in her wide and diverse lineup is great, but I don't think that about any house, and there are some genuine beauties to be found there, including Iris Poupre.

Another reason I think KM's perfumes get less attention on Basenotes is that, at least on the feminine boards, we can be sticklers for quality ingredients. I often think KM's perfumes could benefit from higher grade ingredients, but I also respect that she has a price point she wants to hit, and that her large 3.3 ounce bottles offer excellent value, especially right now, as there are a lot of them still on the after and gray markets, in the much more attractive and light-protective black bottles. The guys on BN are usually less fussy about purity, I notice, and, incidentally, less persnickety about designer versus niche; they wear fragrances from houses like Ferrari that I think the ladies wouldn't touch with a barge pole. But, I have limited space to complete this post, so I'll save the rest of my observations on this subject for another discussion. If you are reading this, you probably came for Iris, so let's get down to it.

Iris Poupre opens with a whisper instead of a bang. A throaty whisper, a powdery-dusty-dusky shadow, of an iris accord (purple-tinged Parma violets), with a tropical twist courtesy of fruity ylang-ylang. It's like watching the early stages of a sunrise, when the sky is still mostly dark but just beginning to take on backgeound glow. Its denisty is probably due to the presence of orris--not a rich lavish excessive buttery orris, but an understated orris that has the same effect on the scent as teh mute pedal does on a piano. It adds an element of mystery to the early stages of the perfume it also keeps exuberant ylang on a leash, and it keeps the perfume from straying into the sort of Sweet-Tart candy territory some violet-iris perfumes wind up in (John Galliano's irreverent first scent is a good exampole of this kind of thing, and I plan on discussing it in a didfferent post). Yet, the perfume is, undoubtably, sweet in its opening stages, yet tempered tastefully, with an almost spicy element that slowly emerges out of its early purple dusk.

The perfume slowly brighten into an early sunrise, turrning crisp and tart as it settles in and opens up. Likely this comes from the volatility of some violet materials, the sweetest and most candied of which tend to disappear the fastest. An apple-green accord emerges, emphasizing the green character of many of the great iris perfumes (hello, Chanel No 19 and Prada's original Infusion), less cold and powdery than some perfumes in this sub-genre, with a sunny disposition that belies iris's repuration for doom and gloom. It isn't Apres l'Ondee's sunshine-through-clouds, it's overall a more robust expression of iris's cool, rooty qualities, and it does this without turning strident. It is lively and yet elegant, especialy as it clicks into its last gear, an smart accord that reminds me a little of Gucci II's blackcurrant. Ylang ylang makes a reappearance, its buttery character playing nicely with the perfune's orris drydown, and the perfume turns to a sort of fruity chypre with nods towards Jolie Madame and Cristalle, less their leather and moss, with orris doing the work of both. The perfume reaches a daytime zenith of green fruitiness, with a Roudnitskaesque salty plum accord plumped out with the perfume's ever-present ylang, and there it hangs, for a solid day's wear, making it a great choice for a workday perfume that takes the wearer from early morning twilight into glorious sunny midday before settling into a more sultry drydown that brings to mind Le Parfum de Therese.

I strongly believe this perfume is underappreciated, for the reasons I stated above. No less an experienced nose than Sherapop (a user-reviewer who knows her stuff, and writes as well in French as she does English) argues that this perfume is a "reverse chypre," its interest being in its unusual structure. I agree with her, and I encourage anyone reading this to check out her review, from which I have cribbed a little, as she stated what I wanted to say about it with her usual insight and concision. I would rather defer to someone else's better description of a perfume than dig a rhetorical hole for myself trying to find something original to say, and her review convinced me that I needed to champion this perfume for what it is: an intelligent, enjoyable, and serious effort from a house that I'll be writing more about as I continue this series of blogs. I hope this post convinces skeptcis to give this perfume, and this house, more attention, esepcially while, I think, those gorgeous old black bottles are still around.

A last point. It's true that some of KM's perfumes have a strong resemblance to Serge Lutens' early classics, but Iris Poupre has no parallel universe Lutens. Iris Silver Mist and Iris d'Argent--well, the names say it all--but Bas de Soie has nothing in common with Iris Poupre, and actually smells and acts a lot like Chanel No.19, which raises the question of whom, exactly, is biting whom, and also other vexed questions about imitation in perfume, and authorial intent, that don't belong in this post. Just go find a sample of Iris Poupre, and please sound off in the reply boxes down below here, and on any of my other posts in this series, if you want, especially if you have some ideas about irises I should know about and try to include. I suspect there are a lot more than 31 irses worth writing about, and if I find more than that, I'll keep going.
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Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000