31 Days of Iris: Day Six and Iris Chypre from Elixir Attars

Note: this is not in the directory yet. Listed noted are: Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger and Bergamot; middle notes are Rose de Mai, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang; base notes are Orris Root, iris, Styrax, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Cedar, Vanilla, Benzoin, Patchouli, Ambergris and Tonka Bean.

Sometimes I get lucky with my sample requests from Luckyscent. Elixir Attar is asking something like 400 dollars or more for their Iris Chypre, and Luckyscent wants about $40 dollars a pop for a sample. Ouch. I have learned they won’t always grant my requests for expensive samples with my purchases, but I have also learned the basic calculus of “don’t ask, don’t get,” and so I asked, and I got. I planned to write today’s entry about Bond No. 9 Silver Factory, but then, an Iris Chypre sample appeared in my mailbox, and I thought, why not do the guys at LS a solid, and write about it? (By the way, it is not in the directory, yet, but I added it today, I noticed plenty of discussion threads that mention it, so I guess someone here is talking about it. Today’s housekeeping PSA: please check to see if a fragrance that interests you is in the directory, and, if it is not, fill out the form. We’re a small family on Basenotes, Grant is a busy guy, and we need to help him so we can all have nice things. Sermon over).

I am not very experienced with attars. I know the floral Amouages I own (blind buys all), and my Amber (gris) from the same house. I know enough to apply them in tiny dabs, and also not to expect them to exhibit linear development. So, I feel puzzled by the house’s providing an actual note pyramid, especially because the perfume does not remotely follow it. I am pretty experienced with chypres, and this does not particularly smell like a chypre, at least to me. A complex dry floral perfume, yes, but not a chypre. It doesn’t have the clarity and definition that I think makes a chypre—the sharp citrus, the resinous connective tissue, and the bitter base I expect from a chypre.

I also can’t find much in here that smells like iris, and for this price tier, i want to be smacked in the face with the stuff. I want a giant slice of crisp fresh roots, a decadent slab of rich smooth butter, a silky layer of powder, and that languorous feeling that only a hit of high grade iris provides.

Here’s what I do smell: a powerful, austere, and kind of metallic ambergris accord that immediately rises to the top of the pile and dominates for hours when applied in the crook of my elbow (my usual go to spot for attars), and for the first couple in the back of my hand. It smells so much like my Amouage Amber(gris) Attar, that I feel certain it is composed of the same ingredients—high quality captives with just maybe a bit of the real thing—no other “ambergris” I’ve ever smelled is anything like this. A very nice, smooth, floral accord rises from the ambergris, a slightly indolic jasmine, and a gorgeous ylang-ylang follows. This being an Attar, and Rosen de Mai being among its listed notes, I search and can’t find a trace of rose, a disappointment because, at this price, I wanted more swoon-worthy florals soaked and smoothed together in a dense bath of orris butter—ultra luxury with a side of decadence. I also didn’t really find any of the spices promised in the opening, either, although I rarely smell convincing ginger accords (Heeley’s Zeste de Gigembre being a *very* notable exception). There could be some clove in what smells like a bitter carnation accord nestled next to the ylang-ylang, that brings a dapper, martini-dry and retro feel to the floral blend.

I eventually smell an ashy element that can only be oakmoss, including the hint of chestnut that often signals either the real stuff or a very well-crafted facsimile. I really like this phase of the perfume, and the Attar formulation serves it well at this stage, as it has a swirling psychedelic quality where no single element stands out, yet each is still detectable if you try to find it, sidestepping the confusion or muddiness that could cause the perfume to collapse in on itself . For some reason, I only get this effect from the dab on the back of my hand; the crook of my elbow is still all about the ambergris and its bludgeoning metallic whang. The perfume sails into the sunset in a glow of ylang and moss, anchored by a damp animatic blend of resins that is probably labdahum, styrax and benzoin. The overall impression I get from it reminds me of things like Grossmith, Roja Dove, and some of Amouage’s extravagant new-school-old-school floral perfumes that seek to capture overloaded vintage perfumes using lots of excellent naturals. When the drydown hits its final gears, I notice the distinctively silken powder that could only be orris.

Iris Chypre begs some questions, at least for me. It intermittently smells great, but not everywhere I applied it, which I suppose means it is very sensisitice to body temperature and fluctuations. I already own a massive ambergris Attar that I am not crazy about, it’s justvtoo austere for regular wear (and if you are reading this and interested in a purchase or swap, I’m open to negotiation). I have lots of vintage florals, plenty of ylang-ylang. and while I am always on the hunt for a perfect niche chypre, this doesn’t quite hit those cylinders. There is a lot to like, but there is the blunt fact that this price point demands a level of greatness and originality that Iris Chyore doesn’t consistently hit. Especially because I came for the iris, and it didn’t deliver it. I really wanted to experience an iris attar, and I wonder: one, why didn’t the house name this perfume more accurately, and, two, does this blend do anything in an attar formulation that might be better expressed as a parfum? I am not always a stickler for note separation, but I think attars generally work better when they either stick to a simpler composition, or find a blend that doesn’t smell like many, many things that have gone before.

This a lovely perfume nevertheless, and vintage hounds and chasers of prestige florals (especially Grossmith and Roja Dove) will find a lot here to like. I plan on revisiting my sample on another occasion, when I’m off my iris trip, and ready to enjoy Iris Chyore for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be. It is definitely worth sampling, and I am grateful for Luckyscent’s generous inclusion in my most recent batch of samples. I hope my ambivalence here won’t turn off potential samplers, as I’m writing this blog about iris, and I can’t find enough in here to rate it as an iris perfume.

Today’s Iris Chypre lasted about four or five hours on my skin, but this was from an initia application that might not have been adequate for this particular attar. My Amouage attars are so strong that I’m scared of overapplying anything in Thisbe formulation, so that is far from my last word on its performance. Projection was very modest, so, at the risk of reputation, I’ll say that I need to give it some further attention before I make any serious pronouncements about its performance. The one thing I feel confident in saying about it is that it didn’t have nearly enough iris for either its name or my taste. If you know of an Attar that is a better expression of this one’s titular ingredient, I would love to know about it, so let me know, in the comments box, or in a message. The saga continues...

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