Byredo 1996 Inez & Vinoodh ~ fragrance review

Byredo 1996 Inez & Vinoodh

This fragrance was created with our home as a base, our lives, our travels, all the smells and scents we’ve sort of collected along the way…we always wanted our house to be some sort of warm wooden place where you can’t really tell if we started living there in the seventies or now.1 — Inez & Vinoodh

Byredo's 2013 fragrance launch 1996 Inez & Vinoodh came, like many recent niche scents, rather weighted with backstory. It was inspired by the disquieting photograph shown on the outer packaging, titled 'Kirsten, 1996' and taken by Dutch fashion photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, but inspired also by their lives and the notes they liked — it was originally intended as a holiday gift for their friends and came in a wooden box with the photograph under the lid.2 The fragrance itself is a warm woody oriental that's a must-try for iris fans — I would have included it in my Best of 2013 if I'd managed to smell it in time.

It starts crisp and bright; they did not stint on the juniper berry or the pepper. I was about to write that it could be a black pepper martini if such a thing existed, but of course black pepper martinis are a thing, what flavor hasn't been done in a martini by now? Add a twist of citrus peel, you've got the opening of Byredo 1996. Things warm up quickly, though, as the iris comes into focus and gets reasonably (or unreasonably, depending on how you feel about iris) root-y, and that's the basic trajectory for the duration: it gets warmer and darker and earthier the longer it's on skin. The early dry down is a middling-dark blend of iris, amber and soft leather, with just a touch of vanilla to keep it from being too bone-dry. The patchouli helps to darken things up but is very much of the modern, non-musty variety, and it's not heavy in any case.

Verdict: Byredo 1996 is beautifully done, and a perfect contender for a cold-weather iris. It does not, to me, evoke the photograph it was inspired by, and just as well — I'd really rather my fragrance not be so thought-provoking as all that. 1996 is quietly sexy, and could easily be worn by either sex. Oh, and the lasting power is excellent. Highly recommended.

More possibilities for winter iris fragrances: Van Cleef & Arpels Bois d'Iris, Aedes de Venustas Iris Nazarena, Tableau de Parfums Dark Passage. Of course, do add your own suggestions in the comments!

Byredo 1996 Inez & Vinoodh is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum, $175. For buying information, see the listing for Byredo under Perfume Houses.

1. via

2. You can read more about 1996's development at Into The Gloss, and you can read about the exhibit "The Widow" that included the photograph at Matthew Marks Gallery. You can see the scent's original packaging at Le Blog de Moon.

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  1. Holly says:

    In case anyone is interested, Luckyscent is offering a “Late Winter Sample Pack” of twenty-two 0.7 ml Byredo fragrances plus Parfums de Nicolai Amber Oud and Rose Oud for $55 through the month of February.

    • Robin says:


      • Holly says:

        Free shipping this month with order over $75. Promo code feb14.

  2. Janice says:

    Uh-oh, I had pretty much ignored this one because I haven’t had much luck with the few Byredo scents I’ve tried, and I found that photo really disturbing… but “a must-try for iris fans”? Warm, dark, earthy iris? Now I will have to try it.

    • Robin says:

      I haven’t had a ton of luck either, although I do like a few of them. I would vote for this one as their best, I think, although there are still a few I’ve never tried.

  3. Merlin says:

    It is a fascinating picture! It actually makes me think of ELDO names like Bubblegum & Incense or Bendelirious. I think its the surreal quality – some kind of child-like rapture…truly weird!

    • Robin says:

      It is fascinating, but in the end, creepy. From the MM gallery, although it’s about all the photographs in the exhibit, not just this one:

      “The central figure in the new work is an young girl and includes references to traditional art historical iconography such as the Pieta and the Annunciation.”

  4. antaeus says:

    I like Green from Byredo. I noticed it is no longer on their website. Does anybody might know if it is discontinued? That would be a shame…

    • Robin says:

      Luckyscent has it, but you’re right, it’s gone from the Byredo site. Sorry, don’t know what that means.

  5. Merlin says:

    This sentence refers to that particular photo?

    “The central figure in the new work is an young girl and includes references to traditional art historical iconography such as the Pieta and the Annunciation.”

    Then it is creepy, because that face does not look like its owner has reached adolescence. Not old enough to be a mother, let alone one mourning for a 30 year old son!

    Odd, but what it reminds me of is this toy camera I had as a child. One wet a sponge that fitted inside, and there were about 5 slides in it as well. When you clicked a button one of the slides pressed on the sponge ‘developing’ a picture on its surface. One of the pictures was of a little girl, like this, but she was blowing pink bubblegum rather than suffering a vision, lol!

    • Robin says:

      No, as I said, it refers to the exhibit, which included that photograph. But also would say that “references to traditional art historical iconography” would not seem to require that you use an age-appropriate model, right? Obviously they were after other aspects as well. But as this is not an art criticism blog will leave it at that :-)

      • Merlin says:

        Oh, ok, its not meant to be quite so specific.

        In any case, I adore creepy, so its all fine with me, lol!

        • Robin says:

          I don’t always mind creepy, but would not want that image on the label. I don’t care what anybody puts on the box!

  6. morgana says:

    Oh, I was so disappointed by this one :( I loved the name and have to admit that their backstory did intrigue me… But on me this is a vanilla gourmand thing. I smell a bit of iris struggling in there, but it gets drawn in all that sea of cream and amber. Without smelling them side by side, I think of this one as a friend of Van Noten. For leather and iris of 2013, I spray Aedes de Venustas.

    • Robin says:

      How interesting, it really is not at all sweet or gourmand on me! Nor is the amber that heavy, but saw a take on Basenotes that was similar to yours.

      • morgana says:

        I am intrigued too, so will try my sample on the people around me to see what they smell. On me, I wouldn’t say it is particularly sweet, but simply vanilla food heavy lump and not that much else, really. Thanks for comparing!

        • hajusuuri says:

          I recoiled at the heavy pungent amber and I did not get any iris whatsoever. I probably should revisit but I don’t have high hopes.

          • Robin says:

            Good to know!

  7. Marjorie Rose says:

    I haven’t found I’m much into iris-centric perfumes, yet, so I will probably not seek this one out. However, the review has me wondering about the “heavy backstory.” Would I respond differently to a perfume with no backstory than if it had a full one?

    I’m pretty sure the name influences me–when I tried Piguet Chai, for example, I was so disappointed it wasn’t a tea scent, I pretty much couldn’t give what it WAS a fair shake. And I like, say, Traversee du Bosphore and how it’s supposed to recreate a specific time/place. But I can also be turned off from excessively intellectual ramblings about inspirations and such.

    It’s possible no backstory at all would keep me more open-minded, but maybe it wouldn’t pique my interest, either!

    • Robin says:

      It’s funny how it all works out. You’re right, no backstory doesn’t pique anyone’s interest, but backstories so often seem to backfire, or the juice can’t live up to the story (or even, as in your case, to the fragrance name).

  8. nozknoz says:

    Don’t like that photo. Samples and possibly decants would be best in this case. In general, I & V’s photos are interesting but I have no desire to find out what they would smell like, LOL.

    AG Mon Parfum par Camille is a patchouli iris with a touch of peach. I should get that out and see how it does for winter. Chanel Cuir de Russie is a good winter iris, and AG Heure Exquise is great.

    • Robin says:

      AG Mon Parfum was so well done, but maybe too much patch for me? Can’t remember, but didn’t love it. Did I hear it had been discontinued?

      • nozknoz says:

        It’s true, the patch is very evident and gives an edge to what would otherwise be a very soft scent and not unlike Iris Gris. You’re right, it was discontinued. Not surprising, I guess, since it was their strangest scent, I believe. However, I have not sniffed Eau de Fier, which is also discontinued – that sounded unusual, too.

        • Robin says:

          And I loved Fier!

          • nozknoz says:

            I ordered a decant last night in order to remedy my ignorance and have some of this on hand before it disappears altogether.

          • Robin says:

            Hope you don’t hate it! I think it was a great scent.

    • nozknoz says:

      BTW, I should have written Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille.

  9. Sunduri says:

    The pic looks like something a pedophile necrophiliac would treasure. Ugh. The perfume sounds like it might be mildly interesting. Haven’t tried any by this house yet.

    • Robin says:


      I am way behind on their newer scents, but would say the line is definitely worth exploring, they’ve done quite a few interesting scents.

      • hajusuuri says:

        I actually liked Gypsy Water. I had sniffed through the entire collection twice over at Barney’s and nothing from this line moved me except Gypsy Water. It reminds me of a more expensive version of Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensee.

        • Robin says:

          I’ve heard that one is great — need to get a sample.

  10. Omega says:

    This creepy pic again? My eyes! I

  11. annemarie says:

    Not only am I bored with backstory, I’m bored with thinking, and saying to others, that I’m bored with backstory. But thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading about this fragrance, finally. I had been too disturbed by the photo to pay much attention until now. Apparently the same photographers took the NR for Her image. Not a fan of that one either. (Love NR4H the fragrance.)

  12. TheNonfashionista says:

    I think I may be in the minority, but I really like the photograph. She looks intoxicated by the scent of the perfume to me (and maybe developed a reaction that caused her lips to blush red). But I guess that will make the scent the backstory and the photograph the actual story, so I don’t know.

    I don’t think this has reached Australia yet, but your review has made me keen to seek it out.

    • Merlin says:

      Seems we are in the minority – but I like it too – perhaps for its doll-like deathliness and strange serenity. Its otherworldly and artistic which makes its ‘creepiness’ quite different from, say, the Marni doll which is just crude.

    • Robin says:

      Yes…whatever she was thinking about, it presumably wasn’t the perfume since it wasn’t even thought of yet. But interesting idea all the same.

  13. donanicola says:

    I don’t like the photo. At the very least it’s make up on a child of under 10. Not going to go any further but it did turn me off trying the scent. I think it has been very popular for them, Libs sold out of it at one point. The next time I’m there I will give it a go as I like the idea of a winter iris. Otherwise I second the suggestions of Iris Nazarena and Cuir de Russie.

    • Robin says:

      As I said, glad the photo is on the box & not the bottle…but do give it a shot.

  14. ceciliat says:

    Aaack, aack, aack!! Every time I see that photo I think it’s JonBenet Ramsey — aack! Must try very hard to unsee (and will not try the juice only because I never want to come across the pic again)…

  15. Rappleyea says:

    Well, I love a good rooty iris; I think that may be one of the few places where we overlap. You turned me on to I Love Les Carottes, which I love.

    Great review, and if I can get over my Byredo Pulp trauma, I’ll definitely give this a whirl.

    • Robin says:

      Carottes is such a great scent. Too bad they don’t seem to be doing anything new over there!

  16. Merlin says:

    Hi Robin, I heard this was a limited release. Do you have any idea what that means relative to actual dates and availability? In South Africa it is being sold for $240 for 50ml, but I may consider it when I am overseas – the price is a lot better there. I will also however have the chance to smell I Love les Carottes (mentioned above). I’m hoping to prefer that because even at $175, Byrdeo is a bit spendy for me!

    Have to say though, I have just tried this and I am repeatedly smelling my arm. Its great when a complex artistic scent is also pleasurable:)

    • Robin says:

      Really no way to know…sometimes limited releases are around for years, sometimes they’re not.

      • Merlin says:

        Ok. Guess I’v seen that!

  17. Merlin says:

    Was just thinking this reminds me a little of PdE’s Equistrius. Perhaps a comparison is in order:)

    • Robin says:

      Ah, perhaps, but you will have to do it for me…my sample of Equistrius is long gone!

    • Merlin says:

      No samples of either, unfortunately – but – when i have an opportunity to go testing at the relevant malls I’ll try remember and leave a comment:) I love all the notes of Equistrius on paper but find the actual scent a little too melancholy…

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