|Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Noboyuki Kayahara|
'You and your “whispering” hang-up! Are you sure you even need a perfume? No perfume would stay really close to skin, you know. '
This banter with Undina about my predilection for scents that are well-crafted but muted - aka 'careful whispers' (with apologies to George Michael) - has only gone and prompted me to start a mini-series on this fragrance style. ;-) I thought I'd kick off with the newest addition to the Penhaligon's range, Iris Prima, which is due to be released on September 9th. In collaboration with leading members of the English National Ballet, perfumer Alberto Morillas set out to capture the spirit and grace of the dance in a perfume.
Notes: bergamot, pink pepper, iris, jasmine (hedione), leather, sandalwood, vetiver, amber, vanilla and benzoin
I hadn't actually clocked Iris Prima was by Morillas until I sat down to write this review. In a past post on Estee Lauder Intuition I dubbed him the master of the 'fuzzy' scent, as in 'blurry and indistinc' (think Armani She White, Armani Sensi, Kenzo Flower Oriental and Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline), and Iris Prima is no exception. Occasionally, as with Intuition, Morillas's creations can be downright fuzzy in a textural way, and the leather note in Iris Prima gives it a bit of that suede undercurrent that characterises Bottega Veneta, for example (though Iris Prima is less sweet and not at all fruity like BV).
I get a hint of iris from the outset - and a hint is really quite enough for me - less than in Chanel La Pausa, say, with which it very much shares its indistinct DNA. And much less so than in the more powdery and spiky iris of Bas de Soie, which in fairness is blended with some prickly hyacinth.
Of the three, Iris Prima is my clear favourite, though La Pausa smells fractionally more niche, possibly because the iris is more prominent, in an old school, melancholic Apres L'Ondee kind of a way. In my book iris does equate with class to a degree (with a few notable exceptions such as Chanel Chance!), so the more muted the note the more a scent edges towards mainstream territory. But then I like many high end designer scents and don't get on with a ton of niche stuff, so that in itself is not a black mark in my book.
And Iris Prima does smell niche - this despite the stated inclusion of hedione, which might have put me off if I had known that nugget on first testing it - for I didn't get on with that particular aromachemical in Marc Jacobs Blush, where it is present in spades. Together with vetiver and amber, the hedione helps to give Iris Prima a warm, luminous, translucent quality. This is overlaid by just a light dusting of powdery iris, conferring a tender, wistful facet that also keeps Iris Prima from feeling too modern.
My only quibble with Iris Prima, which perfectly lives up to the exquisite balletic imagery which has characterised the launch campaign, is that it doesn't last very long - and coming from me that is saying something! After two hours it has started to fade, and after four I am struggling to detect it on my skin. But if you don't mind regularly refreshing it, in terms of how Iris Prima smells I am a big fan. This is dainty and easy to wear, an elfin slip of a scent. A whisper that is just a tad too quiet indeed, which brings me to my audibility scale...
Audibility rating (on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is hard to spot and 10 is foghorn loud): 3.5
Well, Iris Prima starts out at 3.5, falling to a 1 within a relatively short space of time. And La Pausa is guilty of something similar, while Bas de Soie has more tenacity - those thorny hyacinth molecules don't give up without a fight.
For another - more detailed and beautifully nuanced - review, check out the Candy Perfume Boy's take on Iris Prima. Whilst he concedes that this scent might be too understated for his tastes, I am surprised that a renowned Angel fan like Thomas does not also report issues with the scent's longevity / audibility rating! ;-) ;-)
PS If the spinning ballerina is inhibiting your ability to read this post, give me a shout and I will relocate her to the end, or - in extremis - despatch her to the wings!
Disclosure: a sample of Iris Prima was provided by Penhaligon's at my request.