I'm pretty sure that I've said in the past that there can't be too many variations on iris. The perfume industry seems determined to prove me wrong this year: iris fragrances are suddenly everywhere. I am sticking to my guns, but only partially: there can be too many too fast. Iris Pallida 2007, the newest entry in L'Artisan Parfumeur's limited edition vintage harvest series, is by my calculation the most expensive of the lot.
Iris Pallida was developed by perfumer Anne Flipo, who also did the two prior scents in the Harvest series (Fleur d'Oranger 2005 and Fleur de Narcisse 2006). The notes include lily of the valley, orange blossom, Turkish rose, anise, violet leaves, cedar, vetiver, iris absolute, ambrette seed, white musk, gaïac wood and patchouli. It starts with bright citrus and floral notes, and quickly takes on darker, earthier undertones from the woods, vetiver and patchouli. The gaïac is especially noticeable, and adds a nice depth to the iris, which is more buttery-plush (à la Chanel's 28 La Pausa) than vegetable-rooty (à la Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist) or metallic (à la Hermès Hiris).
Iris Pallida continues to darken the longer it is on skin, making it perfect for fall weather, but it is never heavy in the least. On the contrary, it is very soft and quiet, and wears almost like a woody comfort scent. It has a velvety-powder finish and is more dry than not. It could easily be worn by either sex.
It is lovely, but I was already ambivalent about L'Artisan's harvest series and Iris Pallida doesn't do anything to change my mind. Fleur d'Oranger 2005 was beautifully done (and for anyone who missed the news, there is a new version this year), but I simply could not see paying $250 for it — it was lovely, but not mind-blowing. Iris Pallida, likewise, is beautifully done. But at $295 for 100 ml, it would just about have to knock me sideways with its beauty, and it doesn't quite reach those heights. It doesn't actually make me any happier than Prada's Infusion d'Iris ($90 for 100 ml), and for drop-dead, stunningly gorgeous iris, Iris Silver Mist (about $135 for 75 ml) has yet to be beat. Still, if unlike me, you are attracted to the harvest concept and the idea of owning a luxury limited edition, or if you simply don't mind dropping that kind of money on perfume, you might find Iris Pallida a must-have.
L'Artisan Parfumeur Iris Pallida 2007 is $295 for 100 ml Eau de Parfum, and will be limited edition (3000 units, I think) in numbered and engraved bottles. Testers are already available at many L'Artisan counters; to date, I have only seen full bottles for sale online at first-in-fragrance in Germany. Once it launches officially, you can find other vendors by consulting the listing for L'Artisan under Perfume Houses.