Iris Gris by Jacques Fath (1947)


I own so little of this rare beauty that I treat it like a delicacy, wearing it only on special days. Today I finished renovating the staircase in a 100+ yr old house (which, incidentally, has irises growing in the backyard, just to come full circle with this.), so I dotted some Iris Gris on the top of my wrist, then spent the day happily painting the risers on the staircase, trying to catch whiffs of IG through the paint fumes. The first time I ever inhaled this perfume, it’s dominant accord of sweet, jammy fruit immediately brought to mind a milky pink cough syrup from my childhood, (maybe Amoxicillan?); I took a sniff and my mind exploded with memories of a childhood sick-day with some carnival-pink syrup taking the edge off as I lay on the couch & merrily watched Pinwheel on Nickelodeon channel. Random, I know…Don’t judge me! Champagne, by YSL also evokes this pink cough syrup memory for me. But only those two perfumes. Interestingly, both fragrances feature a so-called “peach” accord, with iris & subtle spice.

OK so, about these fruits in Iris Gris…Although they’re labeled ‘peach,’ they don’t register as peachy to me. I would call them ‘undefined fruits.’ And in the same way that a floral bouquet in perfume can be symphonized by adding aldehydes, or a dish can be made strangely mouthwatering by adding MSG, in Iris Gris the prancing & preening fruit notes are given distinction by their fated partnership with iris, which takes a supporting role for most of the duration. Despite the sugary head-rush of fruit in Iris Gris, the aromachemical Persicol (aka undecalactone, aka peach-aldehyde), which on its own is a bit dusty & harsh, is not overdone in original Iris Gris…unlike the modern attempts to recreate IG where Persicol swiftly overtakes the composition for hours. (I wonder if Osmotheque’s modern reconstruction also features such an overwhelming Persicol note?)

There’s also a subtle spice in IG, maybe a quarter-pinch of cinnamon fairy-dust or something, to deepen its zingy zip. Iris Gris is joyful, bright, spring-like, slightly powdery, sweet, fruity, and icy cool…As it dries down further & further to its namesake accord it begins taking on that singular quality orris has, becoming more & more iron-y as time passes: that spectacular matallic quality that good iris in fragrance possesses, a hint of licking a silver spoon. And unfortunately, you would almost need to have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth to afford a full bottle of this stuff.