31 Days of Iris Day 4: Feu Secret, the Dark Side of Iris

Today I woke up to a brutally windy March morning, with dark skies and a steadily dropping temperature hovering in the low 40s. It felt like winter was back, and I was not in the mood for a revisit of our recent blizzard or even a small taste of it. But, I was also not in the mood for a pretty little violet something. I wanted a dark and stormy iris that would capture our gray skies and the dead leaves still blowing around by the back door. I also had a brand new batch of samples that came this afternoon, and the answer was in the bag—Feu Secret.

Bruno Fazzolari, one of the most articulate people on the modern perfume scene, has a lot to say about orris butter. He points out, in an interview that I now cannot find, that, in addition to orris’s more familiar violet-scented nitrile contents, it also smells like exactly what it is: a root that lives and thrives in its dark and dirty underground home, that smells as much of bitter potato skins (another root, after all) and the sweetness of starchy vegetables, albeit after they have been roasted and concentrated for flavour, not unlike the way orris is aged before processing. a sweetness related to tree saps like maple and molasses with hints of amber’s labdanum.

Fazzolari also says in that same mystery interview that any iris perfume is an “interpretation,” a statement that holds for pretty much any perfume that purports to represent something—roses, sandalwood, “woman/manhood,” incense, whatever. I think the interpretive aspect is the most interesting and significant part of the perfume experience (aside from the sheer, intoxicating, transportive pleasure of smelling something beautiful), and Fazzolari has filled his own brief brilliantly. Feu Secret is the secret,
hidden, shadow self of orris, galaxies away from the fin-de-siècle white lawn dresses conjured by Après l’Ondée. It is a scent of mixed browns and grays, the sweetness of freshly turned earth, with an almost animal warmth. Just a touch of caramel sweetness emerges as it settles on skin.

As with all Iris perfumes, it settles beautifully into skin, creating a warm, inviting aura, that ineffable you-smell-good, rather than what-are-you-wearing, thing that that for some reason reminds me of my favorite blanket scarf. Up close it demonstrates iris’s cool charms, enhanced with the bitterness of tumeric, another earthy, funky root with a distinctive bitter profile and salubrious anti-inflammatory properties.

And at this point in the review, I have to confess that, during my initial application, I accidentally dumped out my entire vial onto my arm. When I work with a dabber vial, I need repeated applications to get to a perfume’s nuances, especially something as subtle as Feu Secret. I considered scrapping this blog entry and moving on to something else, but I think the wiser course is to wrap this one up, post it, and get on with the next one. I have smelled enough of Feu Secret to want to explore it further, especially because it reminds me quite a bit of Ormonde Jayne’s Orris Noir (a spicier expression of a similar idea), and I think a large decant or bottle of FS is likely in the near future. Stimulus checks are coming any day now, and that seems like a good time to look into buying one. I know I have more to say about Feu Secret. So, until then ...

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