Among hundrets or even thousands of ingredients used in perfumery each fragrance enthusiast probably has a list of their favourite ones. I love iris. It started to fascinate me at the very early days of my scented adventures but to be honest with you I have no rational explanation why iris or how this love started. It just did… and continues to these days. Despite being a difficult material to work with there are numerous iris perfume on the market. Some are better, some worse. I like many, some I don’t. One is even my nemesis. But among them there’s one that every iris lover should covet. A fragrance legend, a holy grail of all orris. Its name – Iris Gris, by Jacques Fath.
Composed for house of Jacques Fath by perfumer Vincent Roubert, the perfume was introduced to the market in 1947. Only 7 years later, in 1954, a year in which Mr. Fath died, the perfume stopped being made. Despite its short lifespan Iris Gris managed to carve its name on the pages of history of perfumery. It was the most expensive perfume in the world due to unprecedented amount of iris used in the formulation. Sadly its fate was to be gone forever. Over the years many tried to copy the masterpiece but nothing could rival the original. In 2018 Panouge, current owner of Jacques Fath label, announced the finale of their big project to bring back the glory days of Iris Gris.
The competition was an open brief, any perfumer who was up for a challenge could submit their vision of Iris Gris of modern day. Using their nose, intuition, Osmotheque reproduction and vintage bottles, perfumers tried to revive this gem. Finally in a blind smelling a panel of experts unanimously decided on the best interpretation. It was one by Patrice Revillard, who only just finished his perfumery training. Yohan Cervi assisted him on a creative direction part. That way L’Iris de Fath was born (reborn?) last year. The composition opens with a petitgrain note that except of being green also has something dusty and dusky to it. Imagine entering attic that was unused for years.
There’s something decadent or rustic about it. For a moment I could notice a hint of well-hidden bergamot and its sour scent but it disappeared in a blink of an eye, literally. After around 5 minutes L’Iris de Fath becomes more playful. When peach joins the composition it feels kind of fluffy. The fuzziness of the peach skin and the juicy aspect of said fruit nectar introduce more vibrancy and brightness to a rather dimmed beginning. But in following minutes peach starts to evolve into a creamy, relatively lactonic self. Along this fruity milkiness the initially undefined fatty element emerges. In my skin it’s intensely textured, kind of wrinkled, kind of grainy. Alluringly odd.
Fattiness eventually drops a disguise and reveals itself as a very buttery iris. The scent is rich, concentrated but at the same time it’s inoffensive. On the contrary, it spreads a very elegant aura, the scent associated with luxury and wealth. Without a doubt L’Iris de Fath gives off an old-fashioned vibe but for a perfume of this kind it’s a compliment. Peachy tones melt together with orris and fuzzy skin reminds me of suede. In fact the perfume also has a slightly sueded facet. It’s a soft and plushy one. Orris is hard to describe here as it has a certain softness but at the same time it’s more solid and viscous. I suppose the texture is like an actual butter. Solid but still soft.
Those creamy and rooty iris tones become lighter over time and at some points those irone molecules become fresher and more floral. When they do L’Iris de Fath changes the color from grayish to a dusty purple. Violet flower introduces a supple floral sensation that is accompannied by a crisp violet leaf. Both have some kind of freshness attached to them but the scent on my skin also makes me think of edible, candied violets. Slightly sugary but far from anything gourmand. As hours pass the scent becomes more mellow and smooth like a silk. Carnation adds a more defined flowery feel with its warm, gently fiery spiciness that reminds me of characteristic smell of clove.
Among official notes of Jacques Fath L’Iris de Fath there are also jasmine from Grasse and Turkish rose but both slipped my attention and after I was focused on the orris I observed carnation to be the next noticeable change. The luminosity of various facets becomes a bit darker due to presence of oakmoss which introduces a dry, slightly parched smell of lichen. Sandalwood together with bourbon vetiver create a substantive base that on one hand is creamy and polished and on the other hand it’s more rooty, aromatic and with uneven surface. Musky tones cement everything together with a slightly dirty, animalic and sensual fragrance. It’s subconsciously carnal & consciously attractive.
It takes a whole lot of courage and a pinch of craziness to try to revive a perfume that is this iconic. Of course there’s only one true Iris Gris but in my opinion Rania Naim as a creative director of Jacques Fath, together with Patrice Revillard and Yohan Cervi, they gave us a perfume worthy of being called its 21st century successor. L’Iris de Fath is a very luxurious and tenacious parfum, subtly elegant. Precious liquid is housed in a crystal-like bottle styled to look similar to original Iris Gris packaging. The flacon rests in a wooden coffret covered with grey leather. Due to extraordinarily high content of natural ingredients 30 ml of extrait is an expense of almost 1500 euro. With this price it’ll continue to funcion as a museal object for most of us but at least we know it exists.