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. Like most (or all?) of the line, it was developed by perfumer Geza Schoen, and while I did not unreservedly adore his first iris for the brand, Orris Noir, I did think it was well done and an interesting scent. The notes for Vanille d'Iris sounded lovely (coriander, bergamot, carrot seed, pink pepper, orris, jasmine, magnolia, osmanthus, vanilla, cedar, vetiver, amber and musk), and I resolved to get my hands on some.
But, as these things go, I didn't. Five hundred other fragrance launches intervened, and I sort of forgot about it until I started doing my year of iris (now finished; see winter, spring, summer and fall), and then a very kind reader sent me some.3 I smelled it, did not fall in love, and into the purgatory basket it went.
I brought it out again last week, and I've been wearing it off and on. The opening is lovely, and does seem to reflect the Linda Pilkington quote above: after a bright citrus note quickly fades, it's a deep, rich iris, creamy as advertised, with mild hints of caramelized sugar underneath. The peppery notes are strong early on, and you'll make out the carrot seed as well. It has something of an 'iris pudding' aura, but without ever quite reaching what I'd call gourmand status; instead, the overall effect is cool and elegant, more pale than dark, but with considerably more depth than the darker (but not dark enough to rate its name) Orris Noir. It's more directly focused on the iris than that one, too.
In the heart, things get a little fruity, but not in any way I would have expected from the notes. Something almost like cherry jam, or even cough syrup, mingles with strands of sheer but persistent florals. It's far more feminine than the opening, and for a few minutes I thought it might evolve into something more like a cosmetic powder / lipstick accord sort of thing. A woody-ambery base with a dollop of vetiver takes over before that happens, and there we stay for the duration. For me, that's too bad, because while I wasn't really looking for more powder or lipstick, nothing in the dry down holds my interest: the gorgeous creamy iris of the opening now smells muddied and indistinct, and the vanilla is just a thin thread. After an hour, the whole thing smells flat on my skin (it does somewhat better on fabric).
Verdict: The top notes are fantastic, and if it stayed that fantastic, even for a couple hours, I'd buy it, but really the only part of the fragrance I'm in love with is the first 20 minutes. After that, despite the reportedly more costly materials, it doesn't smell all that compelling. In the end, I'd rather wear Orris Noir, and that one never even made my buy list. So Vanille d'Iris is a no, for me. If you're a huge iris fan, it is certainly worth a shot. If you're a vanilla fiend looking for a fix, I don't think it will do the trick, unless you like your vanillas on the sheer side.
Do comment if you tried it! And as always, do feel free to tell me how wrong I am.
Ormonde Jayne Vanille d'Iris is available in 50 ($176) and
100 120 ($240) ml Eau de Parfum. The set of three four 10 ml travel sprays is $125, or you can buy it in the "made to measure" format, concentrations of 35%, 40% or 50%, 50 ml for $330-$360. For buying information, see the listing for Ormonde Jayne under Perfume Houses.
1. Via Today I’m Wearing: Vanille d’Iris by Ormonde Jayne at We Wear Perfume.
2. Plus, most of the other "regular" fragrances are also available in 50 ml, or in travel purse spray sets, and so can be had for less.
3. Perfume people really are the nicest people.
Note: image is “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ― Anne Frank [cropped; and according to the photographer, that is an orchid] by Steve Wilson at flickr; some rights reserved.