Iris perfumes

Iris perfumes

By Deborah Fulsang

A flowerbed of irises lined the western-facing wall of my home growing up. It was hot dry terrain. Clay made the soil even more inhospitable, if not impenetrable, as the bed was rarely watered.

Yet those flowers bloomed without fail. Strong-backed, they spiked through that hard earth to greet the sun every spring, their blossoming a feathery triumph in glorious purple.

That memory of iris comes to me as I contemplate the renewed popularity of the bloom in today’s perfume world. (Look for it on the latest perfume packaging: Iris, or orris, in perfume speak that refers to the oil of the dried flower’s rhizome root.) Those flowers in that flowerbed seem a fitting metaphor for a discussion of the floral note and its modern-day appeal. What’s not to like about a bloom that is strong and elegant? That is more savoury than sweet? That is fierce yet unapologetically feminine?

Of course, the iris is timeless. The musky, powdery, almost bitter magic of the flower is a signature in many classic perfumes, from Chanel No.19 to Guerlain’s Shalimar, to more recent spritzes, from Prada D’Infusion d’Iris to Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile.

If you love iris and Chanel No.19, take a moment and watch this video featuring perfumer Christopher Sheldrake launched with the debut of Chanel No.19 Poudreé.

This season, iris is being celebrated in all of its refined glory. You see, iris is the flip side of many a sweet floral note. To me, it sits almost directly opposite the plush fruity rose. In its dry, almost green nature—with its sheer, powdery elegance—is smells new and modern.

Here a trio, of three new iris perfumes in unique combinations with fruit and musks for results worthy of mention—and perfume shopping:

L’Occitane united a floral water of blue iris with the extract of white iris from Florence and then swirled it all together with juicy fruit (blackcurrant, citrus, peach) and sunny bright notes of ylang-ylang, cedar and white musk. This is a breezy, fresh floral that we think would wear well on men and women both, especially if they happened to be walking in a sunny field on a glorious sunny day. Or just were wishing they were. L’Occitane En Provence Iris Bleu & Iris Blanc, $75 (75 ml),

This is a lovely fresh spritz. It’s a flirty gourmand, but not saccharine-sweet. Citrus combines with violet in the top notes and then in the heart, we have iris mixing with periwinkle and blue jasmine. That feminine spirit is then layered atop a dry and subtle candy base of vanilla, benzoin and whipped sugar. Smells good enough to eat, but in a just-pressed, pretty way. Vera Wang Embrace Periwinkle Iris, $45 (30 ml),

This perfume takes its inspiration from the iris—the symbol of Florence since the 13th century. It smells more floral perfume than some of the fresher iris scents on offer (ie. The Vera Wang and L’Occitane examples above). Plush and elegant, and not so powdery (which to me is good, since too much in that department takes me to a baby powder association): Fruity neroli and lychee complement the iris beautifully here, and a musk and patchouli base guarantee a velvety warm final impression. Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul Viola Essenziale, $203 (75 ml),

For more on iris perfumes, take a read on this piece in The Guardian.

PHOTO: iStock
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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.