In this edition of Fragrant Femmes I’m absolutely delighted to introduce Liz Moores from Papillon Artisan Perfumes who is about to release her fifth perfume, the woodland beauty otherwise known as Dryad. Liz has a small but wonderfully formed collection of fragrances and I know that many perfume lovers are anticipating this new creation with fervour. Salome, […]
A recent article in Inside Science describes more evidence that people experience scents differently. (Perfume In Progress has followed this research topic for a number of years; you can find a series of posts about it by searching for the #genetics tag on our posts.) In this experiment, researchers broke the common smell of potato chips into three main aromatic […]
Another bottle from my Collection Voyage of Miller Harris fragrances is Terre d’Iris. I like it very much but I don’t feel I fully understand it yet. Fragrantica says it “represents a fragrant journey around the Mediterranean. Calabria bergamot and Sicilian bitter orange open the composition leading to the heart of delicious southern herbs such as rosemary from Dalmatia and clary sage, followed by orange blossom and roses from Tunis and Turkey. The base is composed of patchouli, moss, French fir balsam and Florentine iris.”
I definitely get the opening citrus notes, bergamot and bitter orange. The bitter orange in particular is pleasant and strangely compelling. I generally like green fragrances, with their herbal notes, and although I wouldn’t describe Terre d’Iris as a green fragrance, it is certainly aromatic, with a little bite to its opening. Here is its “scent mosaic”, from the Miller Harris website:
It is important that one of the key notes is not just iris, but “Florentine iris.” Florentine iris is one of the few irises that is considered to be an herb, not just a beautiful flower. Rachel McLeod writes in NaturalLife: “The most important herbal use for irises to day is the use of the rhizomes from certain species to make orris root for use in perfumery and pot-pourri. Orris root has been one of the most important ingredients in any scent industry from as far back as the 15th century. The scent is rather like sweet violets but its real value is in its ability to fix other scents…. Orris root comes from three closely related irises – Iris germanica, Iris florentina and Iris pallida.”
Iris florentina is now known to be an ancient hybrid of iris germanica, or bearded iris. It has white flowers flushed with mauve. The flower itself is scented although the main value of this iris to perfumery is as a source of orris root and iris butter, which is painstakingly extracted over a period of years from the plant’s rhizomes. Iris florentina is grown mainly in Italy and southern France, but also throughout the Mediterranean, which is truly the “land of iris”, going back to the Egyptians whose use of iris can be documented. Van Gogh often painted iris flowers in Provence, such as the lovely “Field with Irises near Arles”, above, whose vibrant colors were restored in 2015 by stripping off old, yellowed varnish. Isn’t it clever, how the Miller Harris scent mosaic echoes the colors of the Van Gogh painting? You can still see fields of iris, both in Provence and in the Giardino dell’Iris in Florence, the city for which the iris flower has long been a symbol.
As Terre d’Iris dries down, what I smell is the sweetly carroty note that is supposed to be characteristic of orris root. It is not sugary at all; rather, it is the scent of a freshly dug and washed carrot after you bite into it, maybe even with a little dirt still clinging to it (I’m looking at you, oak moss!). I do not smell powder at all in Terre d’Iris, if you think of powdery as the cosmetic. Instead, there are more dry, earthy, woody, herbal tones that contrast with the citrus opening. If I had to describe the iris heart note using non-flowery words, I would say it is smooth and buttery.
Although my bottle came in a Collection Voyage “Pour Elle” set, Terre d’Iris is clearly a unisex scent, as it is described elsewhere. It may even lean a bit more toward masculine than feminine; it would smell marvelous on a man (really, I’m going to have to start experimenting with some of my fragrances on my husband!) while also smelling lovely on a woman. This is not a girlish fragrance. Very few floral notes, and the ones it has are not strongly present other than the subtle iris. They lend a smoothness and gentleness to the overall experience but I wouldn’t be able to tell that there was any rose in Terre d’Iris if it weren’t listed among the notes. The only fruit notes are in the astringent opening of bergamot and bitter orange.
Will Terre d’Iris become a go-to fragrance for me? Probably not, as I do love my flowers and floral notes. But this is a well-crafted and lovely fragrance that doesn’t smell like anything else out there. It becomes a skin scent pretty soon but I can still smell lingering traces of it on my wrist ten hours after application. I’m so glad to have this small bottle of it!
This is a very informative post about a recent meeting of Perfume Lovers London, where they explored rose scents and the aromachemicals that make a rose, by any name, smell sweet. Enjoy!
This was the first “business as usual” PLL event hosted by Lizzie (Odette Toilette), Laurin and Callum at the October Gallery in London since taking over the group.
The wonderful Nick Gilbert
Leading us through this rose themed evening was fragrance expert, Nick Gilbert. If you haven’t already checked out his YouTube channel Love to Smell with Pia of Volatile Fiction, you really should. Nick runs his own consultancy business and couldn’t be better placed to present us with the aromachemicals used to create rose scents along with examples of how each has been used in a particular perfume.
Below is a rough reconstruction of some of the perfumed proceedings after an introduction by Lizzie.
Lizzie, radiant in orange.
Nick: The reason I chose rose for this evening is because although there are are 300 molecules in rose absolute, there’s only 4 that humans can smell…
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I doubt I’ll be able to post every day in May, but let’s get this off to a good start by posting on May 1, the day when French people traditionally give each other bouquets of muguet, or lily-of-the valley. According to http://www.timeanddate.com, this began when “King Charles IX of France was presented with lily of the valley flowers on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present lily of the valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members these days.”
Perfume Shrine has an amazing post on the role that muguet has played in perfumes for a long time, with some of the folklore about the flowers and a list of dozens of muguet-based fragrances. It doesn’t include Decou-Vert, though, which was launched in 2012, some time after that post.
Decou-Vert, by Laboratorio Olfattivo, is presented as a unisex fragrance and in fact, it would be quite appealing on a man while also lovely on a woman. Continue reading
Luca Turin is back! He has just started a new blog about perfumes he loves. I couldn’t be more delighted, as his legendary guide book to perfumes was one of the books that started my interest in perfume and fragrance. Like many others, I discovered Mr. Turin’s book by reading Chandler Burr’s “The Emperor of Scent.” I am especially happy to read here that he loves a fragrance by Papillon Perfumery, whose scents I discovered last summer in London. The more I learn, the more I appreciate Liz Moores’ approach and philosophy. It is inspiring to see her work so well received.
As an audiophile of long standing and limited means, I am struck by similarities between loudspeakers and perfumes, especially in the manner of their choosing. Most people who don’t much care about sound (including many professional musicians who tend to listen to the playing, not the recording) buy little desktop or bookshelf speakers that adequately carry the spectrum but turn muddled and shouty when pushed hard. If they ever actually pick them by sound, they tend to go for the most impressive, i.e. the one with lots of treble and unmusical boomy bass, neglecting the midrange where most music and voice actually lies. That’s most of mainstream perfumery, all topnotes and bare but powerful drydown.
Then you have horn speakers, for those who love a huge midrange sound, colored by the resonant cabinetry, but capable of playing very loud, and with a wonderful old-fashioned chesty voicing. That would be the Roja Dove tendency of larger-than-life retro fragrances…
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A wonderful article and blog post about roses and their fragrances, by Robert Calkin: “after leaving Cambridge, Robert Calkin embarked on a long and successful career as a ‘nose’ for parfumiers. Since retirement, he has used his expertise to help David Austin in connection with the scent of roses, and, in particular, to assist with the correct description of their individual fragrances.”
This article is by Robert Calkin, originally published in The Royal National Rose Society Historic Rose Journal Autumn 2013. If you are not a member of the Historic Rose Group, articles such as these are just one reason to join! All the photography is mine.
The weather this afternoon is so foul, I’ve enjoyed the excuse and opportunity to transcribe the article and choose a few photographs from my ‘back catalogue’ to brighten my day.
The description of fragrance is fraught with difficulty. To begin with there is no definitive vocabulary of smell in common use, as there is for example for colour; we can only describe a fragrance by association. But this in itself raises a problem in that people have both different perceptions of small and different associations based on past experience. In trying to describe the fragrance of a rose the problem is…
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