Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Osmothèque Reviews: Iris Gris from Jacques Fath (Vincent Roubert; 1946)


*** For background information on my Osmothèque Reviews,

Iris Gris had the advantage of me when I encountered it at the Osmothèque. I had, of course, read a great deal about it - one string of superlatives after another - but I hadn't chanced upon the scent itself. Ever the wary cynic, I wondered if the reality could possibly live up to the hype. Was it really as wonderful as everyone said? Well, as the poster for Amadeus declared, everything you've heard is true, and I'm just about to add my own superlatives to those which have already been heaped upon Vincent Roubert's 1946 beauty.

In and amongst the many notes I feverishly tried to make whilst devouring this much-missed divinity were the following words: 'If we still had this, we wouldn't need any other irises.' I could fill paragraph after paragraph with impassioned outpourings about the scent's merits, but they'd all come down to the sentiments expressed in that very straightforward line: Iris Gris is quite simply the most heart-stopping iris perfume I have ever had the pleasure to experience. There have, of course, been several worthy attempts to steal its filigreed crown. Iris Silver Mist gives it a good run for its shiny coins - and it enjoys the honour of being one of the finest iris perfumes currently in production - but it never quite manages to conceal the hauteur behind its inscrutable exterior. Hiris quite rightly has many fans too, but it's arguably a touch too angular and unapproachable. L'Artisan Parfumeur's limited edition Iris Pallida is gorgeous, but it doesn't reach the same profundities as Iris Gris. And Iris Poudre deserves a mention too, but ultimately, it's more concerned with the 'poudre' side of things - and with reinterpreting Chanel's No 5 - than it is with the iris. So, to date, Roubert reigns supreme.

The reason for this centres, yet again, upon the word which will no doubt become the mantra of all these Osmothèque reviews: smoothness. Iris Gris displays all the characteristics with which we're familiar from perfumes of the genre - the fibrous carroty angle, the puff of powderiness, the medicinal edge, the drought-in-your-throat dryness, the weirdly bulbous texture - but it brings them together into a whole which is so much greater than the sum of its parts that the effect is almost impossible to take in at one sitting. And then of course there's the well-documented pièce de résistance: the peachy, plummy fruit note. Expertly married to the iris, it appears to produce a distinct third presence in the proceedings, a diaphanous spectre which is at once 'fruity iris' and 'rooty peach'.

As if these stratospheric heights of brilliance weren't enough, the perfume is also technically remarkable. It remains supremely intact on a blotter throughout its development and it manages to sing the same melody at all times, whilst simultaneously offering up varying tones and timbres. In short, it is pretty much flawless.

By most accounts, post-war Europe was a drab, exhausted place. Its people were in desperate need of the soul-soothing effects of beauty, and there were probably times when they found it difficult to muster the strength and optimism needed to appreciate life's blessings. With world-weary, indomitable resilience, Iris Gris encapsulates the very particular tenor of that time. It is anguished, fragile and delicate. But it always looks to the future with a countenance basking in the redeeming glow of hope.

[For an insight into Vincent Roubert's own views of his work, please visit this post on Bois De Jasmin.]



  1. I hope one day to be able to sniff this beauty! I fantasize about this being out back into production outside of IFRA's slimy grip. I'm sure it's a pipe dream, though. :)

    1. GG, I don't think we're going to see it any time soon... although I'm told it turns up at flea markets every now and then!

    2. Yes,it sure does turn up every now and then,UNEXPECTEDLY!!;-))

    3. Johanob, one day, I hope to find some myself!

  2. Oh now you've gone and got me all sad and bothered that Iris Gris is no longer in production. Iris is my favourite note, and you know how the more you get familiar with something the more you crave the next hit that takes you to the next level? Oops, I think I sound like an addict.

    1. Vagabond, ours is probably the safest addiction imaginable... so let it rule, I say ;-)

  3. What a delicious sniff at a legendary perfume.
    I wonder why production stopped. Was it the usual culprit of not enough sales? For if it wasn't a question of supply problems with ingredients or ingredients falling foul of IFRA, then one could hope for some sort of return to life in the future. Surely there'd be enough of a buzz around a relaunch, at least in the niche market.

    1. Gimmegreen, it was delicious indeed. As far as I'm aware, the death of Iris Gris was linked to the end of the Fath fashion line.


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