UNFORGETTABLE ~ Iris des Champs by Parfums Houbigant Paris

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The rap of his camel crop on the rim of her pith helmet brought her into focus. His sun bleached blue eyes narrowed to a cutting beam and frightened her. He handed her the canteen with a scruffy scowl.

In this place where there is no word for ice and snow the North Africans call it, the anvil of the Sun, the part of the Sahara where nothing lives.  Here dying men see many things real and unreal. The few who have survived tell of smelling the beautiful scent of austerely cool flowers dappled in dew in the heat driven deliriums of the desert.

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“We are going to have to get rid of that ridiculous luggage of yours.” He said.  “The camels are more important, and the porters too.”

“My Louis Vuitton?”  She said trying to focus on the shimmering horizon. A field of purple flowers shot through with yellow seemed for a moment to be there, far in the distance. It looked like fields near the villa she had stayed in last spring in Tuscany.

“If you want to live to see the next oasis Miss Lord, then yes, your Louis Vuitton.”

Against everyone’s advice Kelly Lord had hired the cold distant and dangerous Daniel Taggart to lead her across the Sahara to find the lost perfumed city of Mjal Eeyrys. The place where the legend says perfume was first created five thousand years ago. He had strongly advised her not bring her frivolous fashions on an expedition but to pack light and dress for the heat. This was not a society safari that most of the Newport 400 whom she was intimate with indulged in, but a life and death proposition. Scorpions and cobras had not the slightest interest in what was the height of fashion of the 1932 Paris season. A Chanel suit or a Schiaparelli ensemble was taboo when tomb hunting. She thought at the time the tall cool blond man was absurd. She never went anywhere without looking her best.

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Things had changed after 500 miles under a cloudless sky and over the blistered sands. She was shedding her silks to find out just what kind of woman she was.

“All right then…” She looked as his craggy bronzed face. It was the kind of hard chiseled face she would have never found attractive back home in Philadelphia. “Dump it, dump it all.”  She said feeling giddy and free.

He turned in his saddle and called back to the porter’s in Arabic. At once they began to cut the leather bound Paris fancies loose.

“Wait!”   She called. “Not the smallest bag, the one with the Houbigant perfume and the negligee.”

He looked at her and for the first time all day gave her that crooked smile she was learning to like.

“I might need that… you never know.”

He snapped his crop on the camel’s rump and shouted. “Yalla Yalla” The camel bellowed and galloped ahead.  He looked back over his shoulder to Kelly. He was still smiling.

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  ***

Yesterday October 11th I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Michal Gizinski and Hilary Randall at the Houbigant launch at Neiman Marcus San Francisco of the gorgeous new scent Iris des Champs. I do want to clarify here that when I mentioned in my video in the previous post about the dinner I attended hosted by Michal and I said he worked for several companies in fact what I meant was that he is the representative for Houbigant, 10 Corso Como and Perris Monte Carlo exclusively at Neiman’s.

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The presentation of the eau de perfume and the essential Parfum was beautifully arranged with Iris and the stunning bottles and boxes. The royal blue and yellow are the colors and on the inside of the wonderful box and along the inside purple and yellow irises are the theme of the design.

I did get to sample the eau de perfume at the San Francisco Perfume Salon dinner last week and it was wonderful to smell it again yesterday as Michal and Hilary took be through the journey of the Iris.

Iris is one of the most expensive ingredients in perfume because it is so difficult to extract the scent from the flower. In truth the fragrance is extracted from the root of the flower called rhizomes, not the flower itself. At harvesting there is barely any scent at all from the rhizomes. They are gently unearthed cleaned and cut by hand, then dried in the sun. After this first drying process they are placed in cloth bags for further drying and aging. This stage takes three years after which they are distilled into a butter like form called beurre d’iris. Only then does the wonderful note of Iris emerge to enchant and captivate the nose. The entire process takes up to 5 years to complete from planting to the creation of the beurre. Now we move on to the making of the perfume which in and of itself is a very time consuming process.

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Iris des Champs opens with a hint of bergamot, a light rose, accompanied by muted notes of lily of the valley that ring softly and lovely in the background as they are joined by a few shakes of pink pepper. This is all very brief and subtle like a flourish of muted French horns announcing the arrival of Le Roi Iris étincelant.

The king Iris enters from the very beginning of the perfume and with his court of beauties in attendance, Jasmine and ylang ylang. He shines from a throne of sandalwood and amber, as he holds court over the skin in magisterial beauty. In the later part of his reign, the dry down is a beautiful blend of vanilla that creams the sandalwood and amber and mellows into a sleepy slumber on a woody bed laid over with a soft duvet of musk.

Iris is a magnificent note that is often found in women’s perfumes but always to me gives them a cool austere masculine strength. It has made an appearance in men’s fragrance before, such as Dior Homme.  This note like the blue fire from the moon in the 1965 film “She” burns cold and does not consume but rather gives an immortal grandeur and life to a perfume. It is often called the powdery cool blonde of the perfume world when the note is included in a perfume of a feminine bent. In point of fact Hilary Randall found in her encounter with Iris des Champs and scent image of  the inside of Grace Kelly’s Hermes bag that she carried on the day she steamed into the harbor of Monaco to marry Prince Rainier.

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Yes I too see that, a hint of leather that one often gets from Iris. It gives this perfume strength and authority with out overpowering its beauty. Yes there is a powdery aspect to it but gentleman isn’t it time to embrace the powder. It is after all a staple of the barbershop experience.

Iris des Champs, which translates to filed of iris is the perfect perfume for any woman of elegant sophistication who posses an air of grace and élan. Or any young lady who aspires to project those attributes. And for men?

The baritone beauty of Johnny Hartman singing “Unforgettable” comes to mind when I smell this perfume and in that song I find one last image. Kelly Lord and Daniel Taggart are floating across a moonlit terrace in the South of France in an effortless foxtrot that leads to a kiss under the stars. In their search for the lost city of Mjal Eeyrys they found an unexpected match in each other. And in the iris blue morning while she sleeps, he finds her bottle of Iris des Champs and smiles. As he sprays it on his sunburned chest, he too becomes, unforgettable.

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Iris des Champs ~ Five Platinum Stars *****

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9 Comments

  1. Your lyrical forays into far off places are a perpetual delight. Hoorah, Lanier!
    You’ve got the lovliest, romantic imagination. And tap into that best of all things about fragrance: absolutely transporting. The photographs matching your tale here are so great, so rich in color. And music! Wowsa.
    I can’t wait to try this one, it sounds fantastic, looks gorgeous, and you’ve given it a grand send-off. Anything Houbigant is worth a look.

    • Holy darling hello! Thanks so much. This one is a stunner for sure. Just love how it works on my skin. I like it better than my go to iris Dior Homme and Prada Infusion d’iris!
      Isn’t Johnny Hartman amazing. I just discovered him recently. His album with John Coltrane is out of this world. And the ache in his voice when he sings “The Birth of the Blues” tears me down and builds me up all in a few notes. “From a whippoorwill high on a hill they took a new note. Pushed it through a horn till it was worn into a blue note.” He sings it better than anyone.
      This perfume and that music…what a Sunday !

  2. This is just gorgeous and dream-inspiring, as always…your writing really captures the elegance and spirit of refined adventure that you describe in the perfume.
    Sending bisous from Provence,
    H

    • Heather my dear so happy to hear from you! Thank you luv! Hugs and kisses to you from San Francisco.

  3. Good morning, Wow if you gave this one 5 stars it must be spectacular. As in iris lover, I am definitely trying this one. This iris and the Diana Vreeland scents are going to require a special trip to my nearest Neiman’s, which is 4 hours away, but it will be worth it I can tell! When will the Iris de Champs be out in all the Neiman’s? If you know, of course. Thanks for another beautiful review. You should have been a screenwriter (and maybe you are, who knows?) Have a wonderful day.

    • Thanks Ricky! I hope you have a grand time on your grand trip to Neimans! Do let me know what you think of the scents. I would be so pleased to know. Thanks too for the lovely complement about my writing. Cheers!

  4. I’m a day late, but still enchanted 😉 . xox, V

    • Early or late you are simply great!
      Hey that reminds me of a song….
      “In a Royce or a van, wrapped in mink or Saran
      Anyway that you can, come back to me”
      I am so enchanted that you are enchanted… we are a pair of enchanting friends. xo

  5. Can’t wait to spray on this lovely creature. Sorry to be out of town during the launch at N/M with you, Hilary & Michal.


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