Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Classic Smell-Alikes, Part II: Victory

Michael Edwards had written in his book, Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, that Chypre traditionally became popular after wartime. I wonder if the same tradition might apply to bold, woodsy scents in general. Woods are the strongest elements in perfume after all, and chypre is basically Mossy Woods. Classic Woody Aldehydic Florals have been with us for many years, but they hadn't been back en vogue until Frederic Malle Iris Poudre. The name seems to evoke a skin scent like milky marble, but in reality, I find this scent bold and spicy, even hot and musky with an ambrette-like vibration.

I've heard that this type of bold, heavy, woodsy scent was popular in the '40s, 50s and 60s, and someone on a perfume board had mentioned Faberge Woodhue as being one of those popular perfumes. I've never smelled it so I can't compare, but I think Iris Poudre is very much like Jean Patou L'Heure Attendue. L'Heure Attendue was created in 1946 by Jean Patou to celebrate the end of WWII and the liberation of Paris from German occupation. Such a victorious scent would have to smell pretty bold, devoid of frills and naivete. "A scent for a grown woman" as perfumistas would call it would seem apt for such imagery.

Also, what is it about the iris that attracts people? As a scent, it can be rendered by orris (iris root) or aldehydes, and although it's powdery, it seems prickly sharp and cold to my nose. Within blends, iris can be beautiful (Guerlain L'Heure Bleue, Chanel No.19 and Paco Rabanne Metal are my notable favorites), but alone, I find iris similar to the smell of root vegetables complete with the smell of wet dirt. It's all right if people like that smell--it's just that I think the iris flower as a symbol is also a strong one, and it draws attention in a name. For instance, Louis VII used it as a victory symbol in the 12th century and that's how the fleur-de-lys came to be. Combined with heavy woods as you may find in classic Aldehydic Floral blends, with or without the inclusion of oakmoss, iris becomes a pungent, earthy smell. Perhaps in Iris Poudre, we're smelling amplified roots, so-to-speak.

This type of earthy woodsiness isn't far off from the woodsiness I get in Hilary Duff's "retro" perfume marketed to mothers and daughters alike, as if to pass on the tradition to a new era. It can't be a complete coincidence that the ad is also very 1940s in style, with Hilary Duff seated at the piano with a more down-to-earth, brunette shade of hair than usual.

If Frederic Malle Iris Poudre is out of your budget, and if Jean Patou L'Heure Attendue is simply too hard-to-find, look no further than your local drugstore where you'll find Lady Stetson. I haven't seen iris listed as a note but it shares many notes with Iris Poudre. It's also a victorious fragrance with the advertising blurb declaring "How the West was won". Once again, the theme is a bold, woodsy, powdery, spicy, musky Aldehydic Floral with emphasis on a dusty base overshadowing any jovial or fey--insipid to some--fruits and flowers.

Notes from Now Smell This blog:
Frederic Malle Iris Poudre (2000 Aldehydic Floral): bergamot, rosewood, ylang ylang, carnation, magnolia, jasmine, lily of the valley, violet, rose, aldehydes, iris, musk, amber, vanilla, sandalwood, and ebony

Notes from Anya McCoy's Perfume Descriptions Page:
Coty Lady Stetson (1986 Aldehydic Floral): Floral(Jasmin, Rose, Carnation, Ylang Ylang) Oriental Woody Ambery Oakmoss Sandalwood Balsamic

Jan Moran's notes:
Jean Patou L'Heure Attendue (1946 Oriental-Spicy): lily of the valley, geranium, lilac, ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, opopanax, mysore sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli