Bois d'Iris. Even the name of this fragrance from Van Cleef and Arpels's Collection Extraordinaire spells Love, and indeed, it is. As a matter of fact, it makes up for the other Boid d'Iris, the one by The Different Company, a beautiful perfume that suffers from lack of longevity and a sickly pallor on my skin. But back to Van Cleef and Arpels and the seductive magic it exudes.
Bois d'Iris is very much a bois fragrance. It uses several facets of wood to make its point. The perfume opens as dry and windswept but becomes richer and sweeter as it develops on skin. There's a pencil shaving element at the beginning, but it disappears rather quickly together with the whiff of smoke. It is then that the iris makes its first appearance from behind the large chunks of the salvaged wood. Two things happen from that point: Bois d'Iris becomes considerably sweeter and even vanillic (think of an exquisite quality vanilla- a boozy and precious vanilla extract). It also smells downright animalic and even a little dirty, like second day hair (and I mean it in the best possible way). I thought I was imagining it until I saw that ambergris is listed as a note. It explains not just the driftwood scent, but also the sensuality and warmth.
If I were to be picky, I'd complain that Van Cleef and Arpels and perfumer Emilie Copperman who composed Bois d'Iris didn't go far enough with the iris. This isn't Iris Silver Mist (Lutens) or even Iris Gris (MPG). But this is such a satisfying and sexy fragrance it's easy to love it for what it is. Sweet or not, there's a sophistication about the perfume that's equally at home in well-cut evening attire as it is in a bohemian setting. The wearer that leaves the penthouse apartment and slides into the towncar on the way to a perfect soiree can be a man or a woman; either one of them has an expensive haircut and wears a pair of custom-made shoes that don't make a sound on the city pavement. The shiny black car moves down the avenue and disappears, but you're not quite sure if the destination is all about glass and metal or a fantastic wood full of magical creatures. Bois d'Iris goes well with both.
Notes: Iris, exotic wood, and ambergris.
Van Cleef and Arpels- Bois d'Iris ($185, 75ml) from the Collection Extraordinaire is available from Berdorf Goodman and Luckyscent.
Art: Virginia Frances Sterrett, 1920.