Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
A complex raw material such as the root of an iris plant can be a perfume in itself. Although iris as a perfumery note is liable to be classified as floral, the scent of orris butter, as the thick, creamy essence is called, is closer to that of green vegetables, wet roots and damp soil. L’Artisan Parfumeur first released Iris Pallida as a limited edition in 2007, and this year, the fragrance has once again been relaunched. Composed around a fine grade of orris butter, it is meant to pay a tribute to the beauty of this raw material.
Although Iris Pallida is without doubt a treatment of a single note, it is far from a solifloral fragrance. Its multifaceted quality is derived as much from the iris itself as well as from the notes that augment the natural elements present in iris. The green vegetal brightness of violet leaf plays up the same vivid verdancy of orris butter, while neroli and hyacinth lend the composition a gauzy feel.
The drydown of Iris Pallida follows the natural curves of iris: the earthy mustiness is accented by patchouli, the milky hazelnut sweetness–by vetiver, and finally, the pleasant pencil shaving roughness—by cedarwood. Soft musk ties the whole into a neat arrangement, both providing an unobtrusive backdrop and prolonging the iris melody. It is a lovely study on the iris theme, yet not without a few flaws. First of all, the metallic, mineral notes which give Iris Pallida its spark, are nevertheless somewhat jarring. The effect is like observing a pulled thread on a beautiful piece of opalescent silk. Second, in comparison to Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist and Chanel 28 La Pausa, two iris fragrances I consider to be gold standards in this genre, Iris Pallida is too limpid and hazy. I appreciate it more as an academic exercise than as a fragrance which gives me pleasure.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Iris Pallida includes notes of iris, lily of the valley, violet leaf, orange blossom, rose, aniseed, patchouli, cedar, vetiver, ambrette seed, white musk, and guaiac wood. It is a limited edition. The L’Artisan line is available from Aedes, Beautycafe, Beautyhabit, and Luckyscent, as well as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus. Iris Pallida can be also found at the US L’Artisan website, $115 for 50ml.
Sample: my own acquisition
Photo: orris root from MisticalAcScents.com