Back in 2007 I made a comment about the newly-launched (back then) Infusion d'Iris, saying that for pretty and easy going iris perfume we already have Parfumerie Generale's Iris Taizo, so why bother with the bleached clean Prada? A couple of years ago I revisited Infusion d'Iris, and felt exactly the same way. It's still nice, I still don't see a reason to by a bottle. I have been asked, tough, to talk more about Pierre Guillaume's creation, since there's been some confusion when PG changed the perfume's name to Iris Oriental. Some claimed Iris Taizo was completely discontinued, other cried reformulation, but most just completely forgot about this one (why? Why? WHY?).
Over the years I've gone through several large decants of Iris Taizo/Iris Oriental, probably at least the amount in Parumerie Generale's smallest bottles. It's become a no-brainer kind of staple, especially at bedtime; I have no explanation why this fragrance never made it into my top iris perfume list (which should probably get updated at some point). I also have a new bottle of the recent juice, which calls for a formula discussion. Uncle Serge said once that you should assume that every perfume undergoes some tweaks and adjustment about once every seven years. It's not always obvious,especially if the brand is dedicated to preserving the fragrance's integrity, but sometimes a serious difference is simply inevitable (I suspect he was referring to his own Miel de Bois).
My nose is experienced yet limited. I'll never pretend to have a "perfect pitch" when smelling, but I do have an excellent memory for some things, an a sort of brain index when it comes to perfume. If Iris Taizo has been reformulated when renamed Iris Oriental I cannot detect the difference. It is still that pretty and ornamental iris with a satisfying sweet wood base that I've been wearing for the last nine years.
I suspect that a big part o renaming the fragrance had to do with making it easier for the casual perfume buyer to understand what it's all about. It's an iris, indeed, but with all the trimmings and frills that make it fun, and a sweet oriental base. I'm won over from first spritz, as a good sprinkling cardamom-laced powdered sugar surrounds the wood and iris that land on skin. It's a similar feeling to opening a cookie box slightly carelessly, so the residual powdery stuff lands on the front of your shirt and the tip of your nose.You shove that first cookie quickly into your mouth because it's more tempting than cleaning up the mess, and the delicious sensation of being just a little naughty and gluttonous is too good to pass.
The iris itself is pretty straightforward in this Parfumerie Generale creation (compare to the thick and sexy Cuir d'Iris). It's petal-like and delicate enough to give the impression of something that sways and quivers in the breeze, except for a smooth windswept wood backbone. That woodiness deepens over time and warms up as you wear it, gaining the sweetness and slightly animalic tones of rich honey. The official notes mention fig-tree honey (something I've been yearning to taste ever since I first I've heard about it. If anyone can tell me where I can buy this delicacy I'd be a very happy woman), which sounds like the most heavenly honey imaginable. If you're a fig perfume and honey perfume lover you can probably conjure all the complex undertones and nuances it must contain, the surprisingly human and carnal, the ancient tree standing right by a water stream cooling the air around it, the milkiness of the bark as you stroke it, and the burst of sweetness of the just-picked fruit.
You only get a hint of that in the honey-steeped wood of Iris Oriental, but it's enough to satisfy yet not overshadow the iris itself. The perfumes seems to expand on skin, creating that gourmand but not-quite effect that perfumer Guillaume has made his signature. It's a good place to start if you're an iris novice or new to Guillaume's work, since it shows some very pleasing olfactory effects without going into the more bitter, earthy, carroty, or ghostly places this note can lead you. It's also a fun interpretation of a "pretty" iris than the now-classic Prada or the iconic Iris Poudre.
Iris Oriental by Parfumerie Generale is available from osswaldnyc.com ($179 for the large 100ml bottle) or Luckyscent ($125 for the smaller 50ml one. The 30ml bottles seem to be exclusive to the brand's own website, parfumerie-generale.com, where you can order them for 65.00 €).
Art: Torii Kiyonaga (Japanese, 1752-1815), Iris, ca. 1780