Friday, December 07, 2012

Jacques Fath- Iris Gris (Vintage Perfume)

Iris Gris was created in 1946 by perfumer Vincent Roubert for couturier Jacques Fath and discontinued soon after the Fath's death in the mid 1950s. This, along with the rarity and cost of real iris perfumes, was responsible for the creation of the Iris Gris legend. The otherworldly beauty of the fragrance also had something to do with it.

Jacques Fath, 1950

You can't discuss Iris Gris, a perfume incredibly high on natural orris butter, without referencing the lengthy and complicated process of making said raw ingredient:
"As the rhizome dries an isolate forms inside it called irone; the longer it is dried the more irone it will produce. It is dried for three years, ground and steam distilled. It forms a waxy paste known as Orris Butter which is reminiscent of a concrete. The butter is then washed with alcohol to remove waxy elements. The process takes approximately six years and results in an unimaginably small yield, which is why it costs some three and a half times the price of gold bullion and is now very rarely used other than in the very finest compositions. Its woody, violet-like odour imparts a feeling of great luxury to any composition and, when used in conjunction with vanilla, it gives a feeling of great femininity."    
                                                                     Roja Dove, The Essence Of Perfume, pages 54-55

I don't think Iris Gris has any vanilla in it, but it is very plush. Orris can be austere and dark,but there's none of that here. I smell  heliotrope and peach, sort of like the skin of fresh green almonds (it feels as fuzzy as peach, if I remember correctly). This note is more powdery than the peach in classic chypres such as Mitsouko or Femme de Rochas. Then again, Iris Gris is not a chypre; it's a light and elegant woody floral (the dry-down is a musky wood), quite clean and bright even after all these years.

Which brings me to the fact that I even own a mini bottle of this Jacques Fath masterpiece. It's part of a Fath coffret I found a couple of years ago. I don't have as good a story as Denyse Beaulieu's (see her post on Perfume Shrine), it was just a lucky purchase. I was worried, of course (the set was sealed), but Iris Gris smells incredibly fresh and new, with no mustiness even in the top notes. I put on a drop and it could be any super expensive modern niche perfume that didn't skimp on real iris. The fragrance has an... aura, I guess, of subtle luxury. Its presence is distinct and it projects nicely though the sillage doesn't go beyond a couple of feet. As I said, it's subtle and tasteful.
Octavian Coifan calls Iris Gris "the breath of angels" (You can read about the more technical aspects of Iris Gris in his post). I don't know about that, as my personal little angels are famous for their tuna breath. I'd say that this fragrance is the delicious presence of a happy Parisian woman dressed in a crisp white blouse and a vintage skirt out on a sunny day in early spring. She feels happy to be where she is and it shows.

Top photo by Nick Veasey.
Jacques Fath perfume ads via Hprints.
Photo of Jacques Fath via


  1. Wow, what an incredibly lucky purchase! I'm glad that vintage Iris Gris found its way to someone who can truly appreciate it. My little tale of luck involves a sealed parfum bottle of Jolie Madame... the Universe is kind to us every now and then!

  2. I love iris in a scent-and adore vintage fragrances in particular. I can't imagine how beautiful Iris Gris must be. I scour fleabay for vintage scents on a regular basis, but I'd hate to try this and fall in love with it. It's best I've never smelled it I suppose.....

  3. I smelled Iris Gris for the first time when I was twelve years old. My Mom shared a whiff of it with me from a bottle owned by a woman that she worked for. I looked forward to the ritual of smelling it whenever I accompanied my Mom to work. I have been haunted by the memory of the fragrance since, searched Paris high and low for it and pray almost daily to be blessed with a bottle, no matter how tiny. How fortunate you are to have found a bottle of this most magical perfume.


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