Monday, July 28, 2008

Cold Shouldered: Santa Maria Novella Iris

Whenever I smell something new, or even read about it, I search the perfume blogs to see what other people have said. It's an abbreviated discourse or primer on the general consensus about the scent: do people like it, do they think it stinks, are they divided, are they nuts? Sometimes, it's months, or longer, before I can actually smell some of the things I read up on. I only smelled Parfumerie Generale the week before last. For the longest time, it drove me nuts wondering what exactly Kilian's line must smell like, and, being a violet nut, I was desperate to get my hands on Bois de Violette. When I did (thanks to Abigail, who's a total sweetheart) I broke the decant--before even getting it out of the package. The rest of the night, as I picked little glass slivers out of my skin, I smelled it on my fingers. That seemed, strangely, an ideal way to experience the chilly remoteness of that scent. Another note which has become a passion is Iris, and at a local shop which carries all of three Santa Maria Novella perfumes, I found their version.

I looked Santa Maria Novella Iris up online, and found...nothing. Today, I bought it anyway--regardless--and I couldn't be happier. Like Bois De Violette, SMN's Iris is a bit cold. It starts out vaguely candied, but in an oddly medicinal way. Like Bois De Violette, it wears its weirdness on its sleeve. Like Iris Silver Mist, it has a funereal radiance to it, projecting detachment, a pastel picture of iris under ice. It lacks the woodsy undertones of Iris Nobile, which, truth to tell, smells only indirectly of Iris, as if the scent is wafting over from a neighboring flowerbed, with who knows what in between. It has some of the fetid rootiness of Hermes Hiris, just barely, and precious little of the brightness Turin refers to in Ferre. But who needs bright when dim feels so good? SMN Iris makes things so dim they become spectral. The powder of most iris scents is handled so judiciously here that it registers more as a light layer of dust: again, under ice, and what does dust under ice smell like? You tell me.

Santa Maria Novella Iris smells like a ghost of iris, a memory left in your mind, melancholy and even a little sinister. It would smell great with the long black overcoat left behind in Ichabod Crane's closet.

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