Iris Rebelle is a 2018 launch from Atelier Cologne, which I’ve just tried as part of their Advent Calendar for this year. Fragrantica lists the following notes: top notes — calabrian bergamot, orange blossom and black pepper; middle notes — iris, lavender and may rose; base notes — guaiac wood, patchouli and white musk. And sure enough, as soon as I applied some on my wrist from the mini-dabber that comes in the calendar, my first reaction (without having yet read the notes list) was “bright iris.” I like it very much, but if you don’t enjoy carroty iris notes, this is not for you. Iris Rebelle is worth your attention if you like iris notes in fragrance. It will not last for hours on end, but it will last long enough for you to experience the progression of its notes.
The opening combines a bright, strong citrus note from the bergamot with a lightly earthy iris, right from the start. I don’t really smell any pepper that I can pick out separately, but a light spiciness underlies the citrus and iris. The middle phase is mostly about the iris, fittingly. It is an earthy iris, but it also has a transparency that seems to be typical of Atelier Cologne. Iris Rebelle is also part of the line’s “Chic Absolu” collection, which is described on the website as “clean, transparent, and elegant.” The bright citrus opening is also one of their signatures, as the line was founded to feature the kind of citrus notes found in colognes, combining them with a wide range of other notes:
Inspired by the legendary Eau de Cologne, the Cologne Absolue is a new olfactive family created in 2009 by Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, Atelier Cologne Creators and Founders. Genuine pure perfume exalting the magical freshness and elegance of citruses with exceptional lasting power thanks to very high concentrations of essential oils.
I haven’t tried many of Atelier Cologne’s scents, so the Advent calendar was a nice opportunity to do so. They also sell a discovery set online, which comes with a voucher to apply its purchase price to a future order of a bottle. I like this company’s considerate treatment of its customers, from the discovery set voucher to the small sizes they make available (down to 10 ml). Sometimes you just want to play with a fragrance, not commit to 100 ml at great expense! Atelier Cologne is also very conscientious with the ingredients they use, which do not include any paraben, paraffinum liquidum, GMO, animal-derived ingredients, colorants, or sulfates.
Each Atelier fragrance comes with a little slice of backstory, which seems to be de rigueur for modern niche fragrances. The moments assigned to Iris Rebelle are:
He was drawing obsessively, invading her space as if he were alone. But when she changed her seat he could not stop staring at her… Days later backstage, she was nervously breathing as the crowd was waiting for the ballet to start. At that moment, she unexpectedly saw him in the front row. All at once, she felt strong and calm, as if they were alone.
Who is the artist? Who is the dancer? I think this is a romanticized reference to the artist Edgar Degas and one of his many models among the ballet corps of the Paris Opera, whom he did draw “obsessively.” And indeed, Iris Rebelle does evoke some of that world, from the cologne of the “abonnes”, the male patrons of the ballet, to the wood of the stage flooring, surrounding the flowers that may represent Degas’ “danseuses“, to the transparency it displays, not unlike Degas’ works in pastel. Degas was himself a rebel artistically, one of the Impressionists who overturned the received notions of art, drawing, and painting, in 19th century France. The backstory for this fragrance is highly idealized, however, as the ballet world Degas portrayed was much harsher than his pastels suggested; and it seems that Degas himself was something of a misogynist even for that time.
One aspect of Iris Rebelle that I like is the persistence of the citrus note, especially since it comes from bergamot, a green and astringent citrus note that I love. I have never eaten an actual bergamot fruit, but the scent is very familiar to me from the famous Earl Grey tea, which is flavored with the bergamot that lends its distinctive fragrance to the tea. Usually citrus notes in perfume fade away very quickly, but this bergamot lasts a while longer, and weaves together with the lavender note to evoke a hint of a gentleman’s cologne insinuating itself into the floralcy of the heart notes. Even the earthiness of the iris may refer to the lower origins of most of the dancers, while the orange blossom and rose notes evoke the pastel fantasy world they worked so hard to embody onstage.
Ballerina, by Edgar Degas
Have you tried Iris Rebelle? What other Atelier Colognes do you recommend?