Iris…Actually

Black iris painting offering from etsy.com

Black iris painting offering from etsy.com

Detecting the principal notes of fragrances is one of the most annoying and confusing aspects of perfume collecting.  Who would know-for example-that the main note of Fracas is Tuberose?  And who would intuit that YSL Paris is largely concerned with roses?  No one does. You simply have to find that out yourself over time checking out different websites, and ultimately, trusting your own nose.

So last year when Patricia de Nicolai’s fragrance Ambre Cashmere came out I thought it was an amber perfume  because of the name, and  since most of the reviews accused AC of a tooth enamel eroding sweetness, I let the matter rest, and it wasn’t until for entirely different reasons a sample came my way, that I actually tried Ambre Cashmere.

A black iris from Schreiner's Iris gardens. Check out their catalog

A black iris from Schreiner’s Iris gardens. Check out their catalog

Ambre Cashmere is an iris/woody oriental, and who knew?  Many reviews insisted the new de Nicolai was a gourmand (actually my sample is not foody) that it had a big lemon frosting note( this section is short and understated in my sample) and that the perfume remained very gourmand all the way down.  Mine is really rather dry, woody, and very dark.  The only resemblance I find to these descriptions is the initial lemon/butter cream of the beginning which is truncated, more creamy than sweet, and followed by sparkling cloud of pepper and clove on me.

Now possibly Parfums de Nicolai reformulated this, in which case I have no way of knowing which version early reviewers smelled, but this sample resembled another favorite of mine Bois d’Armenie, and was pitched at about the same level of sugariness (a very low level).

I’ve worn Ambre Cashmere for a month now and find it both surprisingly good at this intermittently rainy time of year, and pleasing in a dark floral manner already familiar to me from my bottle of Bois d’Armenie, though it begins with that scintillating pepper clove pop, the olfactory equivalent of a champagne cork coming out of a bottle. That nose tickle is entirely absent from Bois d’Armenie, but both perfumes contain a lovely iris in their centers, which I sometimes accentuate with a little dab of Apres L’Ondee* or L’Heure Bleue**.

In the main I find Ambre Cashmere is only briefly lemony, with a creamy consistency in the fragrance that comes from iris butter, a material rarely used in contemporary perfumes, except for Xerjoff’s Iriss, Iris Silver Mist, and a few Chanels, otherwise the most noticeable elements of the scent on me are pepper, a little clove, that purple iris, and the dry down which pairs patchouli with amber elements well.  I never entirely lose the iris in Ambre Cashmere.

It’s an elegant perfume that could very well be used by men, and I notice is primarily mentioned by them on perfume forums. I find myself wearing AC a great deal.  As with Patricia de Nicolai’s other recent release Musc Intense, which is also about Turkish rose as well as musk btw, this is a fragrance you begin to crave.

Painting of Victor Mottez's wife circa 1909

Painting of Victor Mottez’s wife circa 1909

Bois d’Armenie on the other hand has been much reviewed and is a scent that many people love, but they don’t often point out that it is another iris-y woody oriental. What I love about Bois d’A is its chic.  As long as the temperature’s not too hot,  this one can go with you almost anywhere, the wood, the incense, the iris all combine to give the mix a dried vanilla bean scent, then the iris  again, and the variation is one of the most charming things about the perfume. I frankly prefer Bd’A to Iris Ganache which I also owned but really did find too sweet.

These are irises that surprise you a little. They do make their respective perfumes a bit shadowy, or let’s say that the perfume fabric interwoven with iris is like black wool faille, studded rather than embroidered, but the darkness is versatile, stylish, and intermittently  catches the light in a black sequin.

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6 thoughts on “Iris…Actually

  1. I really should wear Bois D’Amenie more, it’s such a lovely perfume. I only have a decant which probably explains why it hasn’t been out in ages, and I don’t think iris was the first thing that ever came to mind wearing it. I’ll look out for it. As for AC i reviewed the intense version over at CFB also pointing out the generous iris, nice as it is, I’m not entirely sure that I need a bottle, but who knows…

  2. I did catch your review over at CFB, and yours was one of the descriptions closer to my own experience with Ambre Cashmere namely, cozy and sophisticated at one and the same time. Some of the other reviewers called it very sweet which wasn’t typical of my sample-go figure.
    Bois d’Armenie works well as a base for other things. That’s chiefly what i do with it citrus perfumes often, and Ambre Cashmere is extremely pretty with Apres L’Ondee!

  3. I find BdA very pretty with Après L’ondee, so would imagine AC would be well suited also. I suppose it’s not all that gourmand, and hence not sweet in the usual way?

    • Yes, I think not too sugary.
      Am going pretty much by the Jean Claude Ellena method of accentuating notes by overlaying something else that emphasizes the key note, like Peau de Peche over Mitsouko, the AC I have brings out the iris in Apres nicely :-)

  4. Well, I am not familiar with AC, but you have taught me something about Bois d’Armenie I never knew – or had forgotten – namely that it has an iris note. I am curious about AC now though, especially to see if I get the fleeting lemon frosting phase!

    • Kafka and the Chemist in the Bottle really got that and personally didn’t, so just to be certain, i put on AC with JR Watkins hand cream in lemon (which is purely lemon cake frosting) and that combination was attractive but still failed to hoist AC over the gourmand bar. Did the PdNs tone it down?

      Maybe your experience if you run into a sample will be different…

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