A short film from International Flavors & Fragrances' in-house naturals facility, Laboratoire Monique Rémy, on the French orris harvest. Almost 8 minutes; perfumer Alexis Dadier appears at about the 6:40 mark (do check out his flower pen). If you ever wondered why real iris in perfume costs so much, here is your answer!
Usually in autumn I’m drawn toward woodsy, smoky, leathery fragrances. Not this autumn. Go figure. Despite the rain and falling leaves, it’s the floral, “girly” perfumes that have pulled me in lately. When I came across a full set of Masque Milano testers last week, I had to ask for sample vials of the line’s floral scents, Romanza and L’Attesa.
First, a quick word on the Masque Milano line. The fragrances are grouped into four “acts” that make up the “opera of life.” The acts are: experiences, places, discoveries, and journeys (no, that’s not all four acts, just one); interior monologues, emotions, deep thoughts and inner reflections, lights and shadows of human nature; sentimental relationships, romance and love, affections and betrayals; and dreams. Romanza and L’Attesa are part of Act III, the one about sentimental relationships.
Perfumer Cristiano Canali developed Romanza, a complex narcissus…
I had to bide my time creating this, because it contains pure orris butter, which is so expensive…Then the rest of the perfume had to match the grandeur of this beautiful orris butter, so we worked with absolutes, using Madagascan vanilla, anything creamy, anything soft that would make it deep, rich and opulent. To make it really special, we created our own molecule. We created a part of the vanilla pod that you can’t buy, the smell of the soft brown sugary bit when you scrape down the seed pod. — Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne1
Ormonde Jayne and I used to be great friends, but we parted ways around the time they started doing what I call upscale luxury — it was already a luxury brand, now it’s just more so. A little comparison shopping, which of course you can skip if niche fragrance prices don’t interest you: Champaca, one of my favorites from the early days of the brand (it came out in 2002), is now $240 for the large bottle (120 ml), rather steep but given niche prices these days, not necessarily out of the question.2 But the prices for the Four Corners of the World quartet (2012) range from $415 to $536, and Black Gold (2014) is an eye-popping $720. Perhaps they are all beyond category, I couldn’t say since I haven’t smelled them and I probably never will.
So I was happy to see a new fragrance in the “regular line” — something for us plebians! — last year, Vanille d’Iris…
Spring is still tentative where I live — we’ve had a few lovely days here and there, but plenty of days where there’s still a decent chill in the air. If you’re like me, you’ll do your best to pretend it’s sunny and 70 degrees even when it’s not, so it’s time to put away your darker, richer iris perfumes and reach for lighter, happier variations on the theme. Below are my five favorites for spring, and if you missed them, do see my list of iris picks for summer, iris picks for fall and iris picks for winter. Next up: a year of vetiver.
Do add your own picks in the comments…
On learning that the Jo Malone line now includes Orris & Sandalwood Cologne Intense, my thoughts went something like this:
Orris & Sandalwood? I love both those notes. This might be amazing!
Of course, it’s Jo Malone. Does that mean it’s simply a literal translation of the two notes?
And if it were, is that so bad?
There was only one way to get to the bottom of it, and that was to sample.
Perfumer Pierre Negrin developed Orris & Sandalwood. The Jo Malone site lists its notes simply as orris, sandalwood and amber. It doesn’t take a genius to add jasmine and vanilla to that list — and black pepper. Lots of it. Frankly, I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it Pepper & Orris and get it over with…