Barbara Herman named her new perfume house Eris Parfums after the Greek goddess of war and strife. Herman draws our attention away from war and toward a story where Eris, banned from a party, tosses in a golden apple with the words on it, “Who’s the fairest”? As Herman says, “I love the idea of a party-crashing, trouble-making Greek goddess who inspires creativity and subversion!”
When asked about influences for Eris Parfums, she references the “emotional effect vintage animalic fragrances like Robert Piguet's Baghari, Lanvin's Rumeur and Chanel's Cuir de Russie” had on her. “It was the voluptuous, sensuous, 3D and emotional aspect of these fragrances that compelled me,” she says. “They smelled good but their impact went beyond that. It was that extra impact of animalics I wanted to return to perfume.”
Perfumer Antoine Lie developed Eris Parfums’s first three fragrances, a collection Herman calls “La Belle et la Bête.” She’d interviewed Lie for her book, Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume, and found he was as fascinated by vintage fragrances and animalics as she. Plus, Herman hugely admires Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques. “I think SM is a daring masterpiece. I never tire of it, even though it still scares me a little!”
Talk about bait for a vintage fragrance lover. Add that Herman suggests the collection suits someone comfortable with “unconventional beauty” and “dark glamour,” and I was hooked. Now to see if the collection is more hat than Texan (or maybe more pencil than brow?). Here are my impressions of the collection’s three fragrances, Ma Bête, Belle de Jour, and Night Flower.
Notes include Tunisian neroli, spices and Lie’s own “animalic cocktail.” The Eris Parfums press release says Ma Bête suggests “perfumed fur.” Ma Bête comes off as a simple, yet sophisticated, fragrance. At first whiff (I’m sampling from a glass tube, not an atomizer), the rich, juicy neroli raises its head, then quickly dives into a black-and-white movie of dry leather and the vague decay you smell in Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur.
Do I sound like I’m putting Ma Bête down? I’m not. The fragrance is almost a unisex, less-floral take on Caron Narcisse Noir. In fact, wearing Narcisse Noir Extrait next to Ma Bête, I notice that their dry downs are nearly identical, with Ma Bête showing a touch more musk. Ma Bête lasts about four hours on my skin.
Belle de Jour
Notes include orange flower, jasmine, coriander, incense, musks and seawood absolute. Belle de Jour is a strange little number. It shares Ma Bête’s feeling of a silent film, but with a lighter texture and a gaseous halo of snuffed candles and cobwebs. A foot from skin, I smell its delicate floral heart, soft as down. Next to skin, I smell its animalic core.
Belle de Jour’s animalic aspects are gentler than Ma Bête’s. Instead, it simply smells antique, like the back of a linen press that hasn’t been opened in decades. Belle de Jour has good, but wispy, sillage and lasts just shy of five hours on my skin. Toward the end of its wear, the fragrance loses its puffy softness, and orange flower quietly reappears.
Notes include cardamom, leather, suede, Indian tuberose, birch tar, patchouli, cinnamon and tonka. Night Flower is a whole different beast than Ma Bête or Belle de Jour. This one is big and rich and moist with leather and spice. Night Flower’s leather has some of the sweet softness of Cuir de Lancôme with a strip of Knize Ten’s classic birch tar leather laid over it. Its blast of cardamom gives the fragrance a masculine vibe, but its tonka brings it into the clubroom.
Night Flower is no shrinking violet — in fact, it’s barely floral to my nose at all. It has massive sillage and a half-life to match. Just a few drops should see you through the evening, no problem.
Eris Parfums Ma Bête, Belle de Jour, and Night Flower Eaux de Parfum are available at Luckyscent for $150 for 50 ml.