Iris Noir (Black Iris) by Yves Rocher is the latest and third installment in the brand's more upscale collection of perfumes called Secrets d'Essences (Secrets of Essences). This new perfume is already out in France but US-based customers will have to wait until the beginning of 2008 to be able to purchase it.
Iris Noir comes after Voile d'Ambre and Rose Absolue. Each fragrance is dedicated to the showcasing of one key exceptionally sourced ingredient be it amber, rose, or iris. The stress for the collection is put on both this use of rarer ingredients and the partnership with "talented perfumers" although it must be noted that Yves Rocher has always had a policy of recruiting excellent and even great perfumers, such as Sophia Grojsman, Annick Ménardo, and Francis Kurkdjian, even for their more mundanely presented fragrance creations. According to Osmoz, 86% of natural ingredients were included in the composition.......
The start of Iris Noir is a bit décalé, as if taking the path of a diagonal line rather than a straight one, opening on the less expected notes of coriander allied with bergamot, an accord whose intensity makes it smell like a note of nail polish while the more wistful, matte accents of iris start uncoiling together with a rosy undertone. As the complex, both powdery and subtly aqueous facets, of the iris impression progress it becomes counterbalanced by a fruity dark blackcurrant note offering a jam-y texture with a dash of tartness in it. The fruity impression would be due in part to ambrette seed; it also has some dark plummy undertones. The iris smell is reminiscent of that of the dual starchy and aqueous soft smell of water chestnuts. The liquid and powdery iris casts off some metallic reflections with the ambergris, but in a rather attenuated fashion. As deeper notes emerge the impression becomes more densely chocolate-y, a bit flour-y with the vanilla and tonka bean. The dry-down is woodsy, sweet, resinous, and balmy with a soft note of leafy patchouli coming to the fore together with a very present smoky tonka bean note and what smells to us like the piquancy of sandalwood and perhaps some cedarwood although they are not mentioned.
Iris Noir smells rather complex, pleasant and even good although we find in the end that there could be more of the expensive iris butter included, and perhaps there will be more in the pure parfum version which is not out yet even in France. It feels like the iris is a bit thin and elusive at times, a bit overwhelmed by the woods.
One is moreover struck by a certain class-coded accord often found in middle-market perfumes in France, even in those that present themselves as more refined and dainty. We cannot quite put our finger on it yet, as this is an intuitive take, but it seems that marketers know that a large chunk of the population has certain predictable tastes and that they reproduce this taste in their perfumes. Rose Divine by Céline Ellena for Isabel Derroisné is another example of aspiration for luxury and the rare coupled with a toning down of the aristocratic overtones of the enterprise in the very perfume itself which presents this very "middle-class accord" allied with the showcasing of a rarer ingredient, Rose Centifolia. At least this is the immediate association we make when we smell the perfume. It does not smell cheap, it smells very middle-class. A certain sharp and even pointy soapy and sweaty musky feel in particular seem to be sought out.
It is much more common to see straightforward aspirational fragrances being created which smell unabashedly expensive and rich. It seems that in certain cases a more ambiguous result is sought out which combines the ideal of aspiration towards luxury with a desire to not intimidate and the wish to preserve a more real feel of familiarity and ingrained taste, apparently. If the effect is somewhat less subtle and stereotypical on the olfactory level, it is quite subtle on the sociological one. We already know that taste in paintings for example is class-coded, but perfumes seemed to have been left alone as they are precisely considered to be affordable luxury that virtually anyone can buy and relate to through, one would assume, people's experiences with the natural olfactory environment.
Visibly an effort at democratizing the smell of iris was conducted here by the fragrance developing team as they perhaps know that the majority of the Yves Rocher audience would not go for an aloof iris that might, possibly, awaken social anxieties. It is therefore revelatory that they made the explicit comment about the iris that "to moderate what could be perceived as excessive pride, the fruity note appears simultaneously,"(pour tempérer ce qui peut être perçu comme un trop plein d'orgueil, la note fruitée apparaît
Iris Noir was therefore made to smell aspirational in a realistic and reassuring sense. It reinforces for us the image of Yves Rocher as a socially conscious brand although it would be interesting to evaluate further the merits of that approach.
We also learn that fruity notes might be used by perfumers to make everyone feel comfortable, hence their current popularity. Gourmand notes also would, of course, participate in the same logic.
Rose Absolue in the same collection is the one that seems to have played down the "middle-class accord" most although it is there as well.
Top notes are bergamot and coriander. Heart notes are iris, rosy notes, floral notes. Base notes are patchouli, tonka bean, and ambrette seed.
You can buy the perfume here if you are in France or have friends or relatives there that could procure it for you.
You can read about the popular iris perfume trend here.
(Source: Yves Rocher *advance* press release in the US; please do not pilfer image even with a link as it is not completely edited)