Sometimes I think iris perfumes should come with rootiness scales, with ten being “Smells like a head of dirty hair” and one being “You mean there’s iris in here? I thought that was grape juice.” Perhaps perfume houses could post labels along the line of “This fragrance rates a 9 for rootiness” (Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist) or “This fragrance registers 2.5 on a 10 turnip scale” (Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre). With this scale and information about the fragrance’s fruit, powder, cream, and earth, the iris lover would be able to quickly zero in on a few to sample from the growing number of iris soliflores on the market.
On the rootiness scale, I would give Atelier Cologne Silver Iris a solid 6, making it a good bet for most fans of iris perfumes and a terrific introduction for the iris newbie. Silver Iris’s rootiness is present but never veers toward the odor of composting carrots. That said, the iris aficionado might find his or her attention wandering before long.
Perfumer Jérome Epinette developed Atelier Cologne Silver Iris, and its notes include tangerine, pink pepper, blackcurrant, violet leaves, mimosa, iris pallida, patchouli, white musk, amber and tonka bean. What I mostly smell is lots of iris and a hint of cassis and burnt amber.
I first sniffed Silver Iris at the Atelier Cologne boutique in Paris. I was on my way to Annick Goutal to try to score some Mon Parfum Chéri par Camille (discontinued! ack!) and stumbled on the store by accident. It was calm and dim, and a plate of croissants sat on a side table. A sweet sales assistant sprayed strips with Silver Iris and Gold Leather, the other new cologne absolue in the line. I didn’t give the leather the attention it deserved, because I was too busy huffing iris.
Over the next few weeks, I wore Silver Iris now and then. I started to notice that once the thrill of having iris within olfactory range wore off, Silver Iris didn’t have a lot more to offer me. The hint of cassis, while subtle, started to get on my nerves. Plus, the fragrance’s tonka and amber seemed at odds with the iris’s touch of root, giving it an almost burnt sugar smell. The real kicker, though, was that the fragrance didn’t change. It was a delicious, sweet iris from start to its finish many hours later with sturdy but not overwhelming sillage — and no surprises.
To many perfume lovers, all the qualities I mentioned might make Silver Iris exactly what they’re looking for. Many people like to know that the perfume they apply in the morning is going to be what they smell when they get home from work at night. Many people love a hint of sweetness and fruit in their perfume — they don’t want something overly austere or fancy. They like friendly. And did I mention the iris?
If you already have a treasured iris already in your collection, you may not need to spend a lot of effort getting a sample of Silver Iris. But if you are starting out on your iris quest, or you haven’t found your go-to iris, Silver Iris is definitely worth seeking out.
Atelier Cologne Silver Iris Cologne Absolue is $175 for 100 ml and $275 for 200 ml plus a 30 ml travel spray. (I can’t find the 30 ml offered for sale separately.) The bottles are a sleek, cool silver and come in a purple goatskin sleeve and have a goatskin covered cap. For information on where to buy Silver Iris, see Atelier Cologne under Perfume Houses.