Square Root: Le Labo Iris 39
Frank Voelkl’s Iris 39 for Le Labo came out a couple of years ago. Before someone told me that the number referred to the number of ingredients used, I was thinking it referred to a female character out of dystopian science fiction. You know, Iris 39, the brunette in the Mylar dirndl, the one who replaced Iris 38.
But first the back-story. Since 2006, the mass-market has been flooded with iris scents, many of them soliflores of the chilly, dove-grey, powdered variety. Chanel’s 28 La Pausa comes to mind, along with Hermès Hiris, Dior Homme, The Different Company Bois d’Iris and Prada Infusion d’Iris––each of which shows a distant, if common, progenitor: Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist. The most respectable iterations show off the woody character of the iris note––in perfume-speak, orris––that originates in the rhizome, not the blossom, of the iris.
In Iris 39, Voelkl (Firmenich) goes a different route, blending orris root with patchouli, ginger, green spices and a woody, forest-violet accord. The fragrance opens screechingly loud, as if the floral base (the uterine nerve center of any perfume) were being showcased with little elaboration. I get rain-splashed flowers after a few balmy overcast days. Mind you, kitchen-garden flowers, not rarities in the Jardins de Bagatelles.
If the photographer who comes most readily to mind when I think of iris soliflores in Edgar de Evia, Iris 39 is a Wolfgang Tillmans’ still life, by contrast. It succeeds at the semblance of a studied paring-down, a premeditated slice of life. It revels in its of-the-moment digitality.
A certain botanical soapiness lingers in the drydown where I’d rather have smelled the green-muskiness of ambrette seed. For all its fresh-from-the-garden-with-mud-on-her-hands character, I find this lass a bit too cleaned-up.