Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist: Futuristic Iris

Source: freepspwallpapers.info

Source: freepspwallpapers.info

Otherworldly. Cold as icy vodka. Hard as steel. Silvered like mist from outer space. That is the hypnotically strange, fascinating and, yes, a little bizarre opening to the famous Iris Silver Mist from Serge Lutens. It’s perhaps the most famous of all the Lutens Bell Jar fragrances, an iris fragrance taken to such extremes that it feels very futuristic at the start. All I could think of in its opening moments is how Serge Lutens had created the perfect scent for a Star Wars stormtrooper or a Terminator cyborg. And, strange as that may sound, that’s my favorite part. A Terminator cyborg sipping vodka in outer space while wearing Iris Silver Mist. 

Rare, Limited-Edition, Bell Jar for Iris Silver Mist. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Rare, Limited-Edition, Bell Jar for Iris Silver Mist. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Iris Silver Mist was released in 1994, and is one of the few Lutens fragrances not created by Christopher Sheldrake. It was made by Maurice Roucel, a famous perfumer responsible for such fragrances as Frederic Malle‘s Musc Ravageur, Guerlain‘s L’Instant, Hèrmes24 Faubourg (one of my favorites), Gucci Envy, RochasTocade, Bond No. 9‘s Haarlem, and many more. Iris Silver Mist is one of the Serge Lutens’ Paris Exclusives in a bell jar form, though it can actually be purchased outside of France, either from Barney’s New York or directly from Serge Lutens’ international and U.S. websites.

The Lutens website describes Iris Silver Mist as follows:

You can’t see a thing, but the scent tells the story.

Gleams of silver in a fine mist. Under our very eyes, powdery notes are transformed into an iridescent fragrance..

The current, available bell jar for Iris Silver Mist.

The current, available bell jar for Iris Silver Mist.

Iris Silver Mist is an iris soliflore, a fragrance centered around one key note, and few ingredient lists makes that as clear as the amusing one from Surrender to Chance which writes:

iris, cedar, clove, vetiver, iris, benzoin, incense, iris, white amber, clove, iris, iris, galbanum, iris, iris, more iris, little more iris, musk, Chinese spicebush and, um, more iris!

Other sites include different elements for the non-iris part of the equation. Compiling the notes from both Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This, the list seem to be:

iris pallida root, galbanum, cedar, sandalwood, clove, vetiver, labdanum, musk, benzoin, incense, and white amber

There is a famous story behind Iris Silver Mist’s creation which is pretty funny. As Surrender to Chance puts it:

Rumor has it that during the making of Iris Silver Mist, Serge Lutens kept telling Roucel that he didn’t have enough iris (pallida) in the fragrance, put more in, until Roucel dumped every iris compound he could find in it, took it back, and Serge pronounced it perfect, and that became Iris Silver Mist.

Then, there is Luca Turin’s version of the tale in Perfumes: the A-Z Guide. It’s useful because it also adds to the perfume’s feel and notes, while also describing what must have been a very stressful perfume collaboration :

Long before everyone started doing irises and (mostly) pseudo-irises, Lutens had commissioned an iris to end them all from Maurice Roucel. The story goes that Lutens pestered the perfumer to turn up the iris volume to the max, and Roucel in his desperation decided to put into the formula every material in his database that had the iris descriptor attached to it, including a seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival. The result was the powderiest, rootiest, most sinister iris imaginable, a huge gray ostrich-feather boa to wear with purple dévoré velvet at a poet’s funeral.

The “most sinister iris imaginable” — or perhaps, the most futuristic one. Iris Silver Mist opens on my skin as cold as iced vodka. The perfume actually has some of the drink’s same, lightly alcoholic, clear aroma when it is a thick, syrupy, frozen liquid, though it doesn’t smell like pure alcohol per se. The smell is simultaneously a little bit metallic in its nuances, artificial, synthetic, misty, and faintly powdery.

Source: hdiphonewallpapers.us

Source: hdiphonewallpapers.us

Front and center, however, is iris’ most frequent characteristic: the scent of boiled carrots. The note has a strong undertone that is both watery and sweet at the same time. At times, it almost seems accompanied by the aroma of rooty turnips, as well. The accord is ensconced and cocooned by the earthy, green nuances of the galbanum. Frequently, galbanum can be sharply pungent, almost bitter, and abrasively green. Here, however, it merely feels like very damp, dark, loamy soil that is infused with a soft, watery, floral sweetness. It’s delicate, and very lovely. The whole combination is lightly dusted by powder which adds to the silvery whiteness of the visuals.

Source: wallpaperno.com

Source: wallpaperno.com

The metallic clang to the iris concentrate is fascinating. It not only counters the subtle rootiness and powderiness at the perfume’s base but, more importantly, it feels as hard and silvered as steel. I’ve never encountered an iris note quite like it before, so it must be that “seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival” which Luca Turin referenced in his book. Whatever the cause, the iris flower has been taken to silvery, grey extremes, amplified by the perfume equivalent of steroids, to smell completely alien. It’s more than just the thick, frozen vodka note infused with floral, boiled carrots and green earthiness, or even the feel of frozen metal. It’s something indescribable that just smells of the cold; an extreme, almost futuristic “cold.” The hard edge seems best suited for a futuristic world of ice, mist, silver, metal, and cyborgs, not to the world of today.

Harvesting the iris root. Source: Weleda UK

Harvesting the iris root. Source: Weleda UK

Iris Silver Mist doesn’t change much in its opening stage. At the five-minute mark, powder joins the icy metal brigade, as does a hint of cloves. The earthy, rooty, vegetal base of the fragrance is further emphasized by a touch of vetiver which carries the same tonalities. At the end of the first hour, the iris slowly softens, feeling a little buttery and much warmer. It starts to take on a faint veneer of soft kidskin suede. The note that I like to call “iced vodka” continues, but it’s slowly growing weaker. The same is true of that very cool, edgy, metallic, futuristic clang that adds such a unique tone to the fragrance. It’s still there, but its retreat makes Iris Silver Mist seem a little less otherworldly. I think something in the base elements is having an indirect effect, warming up the perfume, smoothing out its cool edges, and rendering it far safer and more traditional. Dommage.

Bearded iris via scenicreflections.com

Bearded iris via scenicreflections.com

As a soliflore, Iris Silver Mist is pretty true to its core bouquet, and doesn’t twist or turn substantially over time. It remains primarily a scent of vegetal iris, boiled carrots, powder, suede, moist earthiness, and rooty, almost turnip-like touches — all imbued with the merest hint of a light, soft musk. As the hours pass, Iris Silver Mist becomes sweeter, warmer, and more traditionally floral with the iris smelling a bit like really expensive, buttery, soft suede. Its carrot undertone remains, waxing and wanes in strength, sometimes feeling like a mere flicker, while at other times, it’s much stronger.

Around the second hour, the subtle powder and light musk notes in Iris Silver Mist become more prominent. At the same time, the galbanum and vetiver retreat to the background, their quiet, wet, fresh earthiness no longer noticeable in any strong, distinctive, individual way. Unfortunately, some combination of the light musk, the powder, and perhaps the muted earthiness of the fragrance leads Iris Silver Mist to take on a subtle soapy vibe. It’s not actual soap, to my nose, but  there is a definite aura or impression of extremely expensive French floral soap subtly wafting around — and I’m not a fan of it in the slightest.

More interesting is the start of something creamy in the base around the end of the second hour. It never smells like true, genuine Mysore sandalwood (or any particular wood for that matter), and it also doesn’t smell like vanilla. Instead, it smells like some nebulous, vague abstraction of both things combined: white woods that are creamily soft with just the bare hint of sweetness. Regular readers know my issues regarding the supposed “sandalwood” in most modern perfumes, so I suppose those creamy, vague, amorphous, wood notes are supposed to be the “sandalwood” mentioned on the perfume list. I refuse to acknowledge it as such. (Yes, I give in, I admit I’m a sandalwood snob. It’s Mysore, or nothing.)

Three hours in, Iris Silver Mist is a soft, buttery, lightly powdered, iris that is now warmed up and silky, almost purely floral in nature, and freed of its more vegetable-like characteristics in large part. The bouquet sits atop some muted, amorphous, creamy, beige woods with a flicker of light musk. Alas, the impression of very expensive floral soap still lingers around the edges. Equally sad, the lovely damp earthiness from the vetiver and galbanum is but a mere shadow in the background. Far below, in the base, stirs a trace of some vanilla that is sweet, but also a little bit dry. I don’t detect any amber anywhere at all. By the end of the fourth hour, the powder has largely disappeared and Iris Silver Mist is a lightly musky, vanilla-sweetened iris over creamy woods. It stays that way for a few more hours, until it dies away as just a faint trace of some abstract floral note with vanilla.

All in all, Iris Silver Mist lasted 7.25 hours on my skin with low sillage throughout. The projection was moderate at first, wafting about 2 inches from the skin, before quickly dropping at the end of the first hour to hover just above the skin. Iris Silver Mist became a skin scent just short of two hours into its development, and became extremely difficult to detect around the sixth hour. In fact, I thought it had died at one point soon thereafter, but the fragrance hung on doggedly, even if it did take some hard sniffs to find it. As a whole, its weight is airy, and feels as sheer as mist.

The Milky Way. Source: io9.com

The Milky Way. Source: io9.com

Iris Silver Mist is an extremely well-crafted, elegant, sophisticated perfume, but it’s not my personal cup of tea. I adored the first 30-40 minutes, and thought it was cool beyond belief — in all senses of the word. Alien, original, almost disconcerting, wholly futuristic, and so damn intriguing, you couldn’t stop sniffing your arm to figure it just what the hell was going on. A perfume that made me think of “Space, The Final Frontier,” cyborgs, stormtroopers, the icy mist of the Milky Way, and the 22nd century (or the 25th)? Bring it on!

Princess Grace. Photo source: Tumblr.

Princess Grace. Photo source: Tumblr.

But, the elegant, refined, sophisticated 20th century iris of expensive, grey suede gloves with flickers of carrots, French soap and vanilla that Iris Silver Mist soon turned into? Eh. Not so interesting, for me personally, even though it is truly very lovely as a swirling, delicate, elegant, sum total. If the lovely, earthy, wet greenness had remained, and if the impression of expensive soap had never shown up, perhaps I would feel differently. But, I’m not an iris fanatic at heart, so I find it hard to be moved by something that is so traditionally pretty. Yet, I’m sure the suede heart of buttery, floral, powdery, vanillic iris is the Iris Silver Mist that most people love; it’s the sane, approachable, easy, wearable, and normal part. In fact, I’d bet I’m rather an oddity in loving that strange beginning. After all, suede, flowery iris with its gobs of orris butter is the iris suited to the likes of Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, or extremely wealthy, well-dressed, sophisticated Parisiennes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of it, but it’s hardly as edgy or funky as futuristic, icy, vodka, metallic, cyborg iris from outer space.

Perfume bloggers and renowned experts like Luca Turin adore Iris Silver Mist, consistently rate it Five Stars, and wax rhapsodic over its brilliant beauty. Bois de Jasmin gives it the same rating, using words like “radiant” and “ethereal” in her review:

Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist is iris to the power of 10. Despite its raw strength it manages to convey the ethereal softness and exquisite silkiness that make iris one of the most prized materials in perfumery. […][¶] Orris butter has a powdery quality reminiscent of violets covered with chalk dust, but Iris Silver Mist manages to preserve an amazing clarity. It opens up on a sharp, vegetal note of galbanum that calls to mind sliced green peppers. Its vibrancy is underscored by an earthy pungency, which like a flash of chili on the tongue serves as a piquant accent. The voluptuous beauty of iris unfolds in the heart of the composition, foiled by rich woods and sheer amber. Although Iris Silver Mist begins with thunder, it takes a turn towards graceful softness. […][¶]

It is not a perfume with universal appeal, as it does not attempt to soften the vegetal chill of iris root as has been done in either the floral sweetness of The Different Company Bois d’Iris or the ladylike elegance of Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre. Embellishments, in fact, are unnecessary, for Iris Silver Mist does not attempt to be coy—it is striking and beautiful.

Robin from Now Smell This also calls Iris Silver Mist “ethereal,” writing:

Iris Silver Mist starts with damp, dirt-caked roots, spicy and peppery, with a touch of dry, mossy green. There is a slightly bitter, vegetal edge to the top notes that has been compared to the scent of raw turnips, and there is a hint of the metallic buzz that frequently accompanies iris. It is earthy, but not earth-bound; it has a sheerness about it that together with the resinous notes and sandalwood perfectly evokes the cold swirling mist implied by its name. The longer it is on the skin, the more vaporous it seems, so that both Hiris and Bois d’Iris seem comparatively heavy and weighted down. [¶] It is an unusual, intensely captivating fragrance.

I’d already written most of my review when I stumbled across a very different assessment from Perfume-Smellin’ Things. I was thrilled to read the title — “Alien Technology” — and to see that Iris Silver Mist’s opening evoked “distant planets” for her as well. Like me, Donna is not an iris lover, but, unlike me, she hated the opening and only barely enjoyed the normal part of the fragrance. Her wonderful, absolutely hilarious review reads, in part, as follows:

“Seven of Nine” on Star Trek: Voyager. The photo accompanies Perfume-Smellin’ Things’ review of Iris Silver Mist.

My first question was: is this really a perfume? It is? Then why doesn’t it smell, um, wearable? Like something that’s supposed to be put on your skin? It’s so very strange, like the atmosphere of a distant planet where humans need to wear space suits. Nothing about it is inviting to me but it is certainly oddly beautiful, a piece of chilly abstract art that hangs in a whitewashed gallery filled with cold blue light; you admire it from afar even if you are not sure what the artist meant by it, but you really don’t want to see it hanging on the wall in your own house. It would make you feel weird having something like that around all the time and it certainly would not go with the rest of your home décor, unless your name happens to be Seven of Nine.

I must admit that I am not an “iris person” when it comes to perfume. I like what it does to many compositions, but by itself it always seems remote, and sometimes even flat. There are only a couple of iris soliflore fragrances that I have really liked […][as] iris perfumes always seem to be aloof and bloodless. Iris Silver Mist begins with a super-cooled blast of iris that is immediately followed by a smell that is exactly like those Red Hots™ candies flavored with artificial cinnamon, creating an icy-hot pain rub effect, and then a very emphatic carrot chimes in, and an odor like a gutted Halloween pumpkin the morning after a heavy frost. It’s not until about half an hour later that it finally becomes eerily beautiful as it drifts through the air, but if I put my nose to my skin it is still iris root, carrot and little red candies. It’s the sillage alone that makes it work for me, floating in space and waiting for my breath to catch it, an otherworldly isotope of some rare element being distilled and refined out of the raw ore applied to my flesh. It is only then that I can appreciate the artistry that went into it, but it never comes close to adapting to my skin, as it simply sits on it refusing to make allowances for a mere mortal. There is a popular saying that you are no one until you have been ignored by a cat; now I know what it feels like to be ignored by a perfume.

That last sentence may be the best thing I’ve read in a while!

Source: hdwallpapersarena.com

Source: hdwallpapersarena.com

On Fragrantica, some people are even less enthused than she is about Iris Silver Mist. There are repeated comments about “public toilet hand soap,” rotting vegetables, and carrots. (Seriously, there is a lot of talk about liquid hand soap and carrots!) Several men also add that Iris Silver Mist is unwearably feminine in their eyes. But one woman wrote: “Iris Silver Mist smells like a carrot that got shoved into an electrical socket. I can’t say it’s friendly or wearable, but it does stand out from the crowd.” In fact, the issue of wearability comes up often, from both genders. As one male poster said, “Genius, but I wonder if I could ever really wear it? For the first time in a LONG time I was actually struck dumb by a fragrance.” And another admiringly compared it to conceptual art, with the full implication being that it was not particularly approachable.

Yet, the fans — and there are a number of them, men and women alike — write adoringly of Iris Silver Mist’s elegant austerity, its cool sophistication, its aloof chilliness, and the way the iris radiates different facets like a prism. They talk about the iris’ cool, green earthiness, or the violet nuances that some detect. Quite a few people bring up the sandalwood, though not everyone likes it. (One person described its aroma as “rotten teeth,” while another thought it soapy.) Some don’t find Iris Silver Mist to be chilly or cold at all, but poetically moving or transformative. The words “masterpiece,” “dreamy,” “beautiful,” “elegant,” “romantic” and mysterious are thrown around, with one calling Iris Silver Mist the perfect scent for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (Actually, I can see that a little.)

I think the bottom line is that you have to be passionate about iris in all its manifestations to really love Iris Silver Mist. If you do, then you simply must try Serge Lutens’ brilliant masterpiece. If you aren’t a hardcore iris devotee, or if you only occasionally enjoy it in conjunction with some other notes, then I’m not sure Iris Silver Mist will be your cup of tea. Perhaps you’ll be intrigued by the alienness of the opening the way I was, but it’s equally possible that you’ll share the opinion of Perfume-Smellin’ Things and conclude that Iris Silver Mist is simply too difficult for most mere mortals. If so, you wouldn’t be alone. As always with Serge Lutens’ most storied and admired creations, some people need to admire them from a distance. A great distance. And, preferably, on somebody else.

   

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Iris Silver Mist is an eau de parfum that is part of the Serge Lutens “Paris Exclusives” line. It is only available in the larger 2.5 oz/75 ml Bell Jar size, and costs $300 or €140. You can buy Iris Silver Mist directly from the U.S. Serge Lutens website or from the International one.
In the U.S.: you can also find Iris Silver Mist sold exclusively at Barney’s New York store. The website has a notice stating: “This product is only available for purchase at the Madison Avenue Store located at 660 Madison Avenue. The phone number for the Serge Lutens Boutique is (212) 833-2425.”
Personal Shopper Options: Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass reminded me of Shop France Inc run by Suzan, a very reputable, extremely professional, personal shopper who has been used by a number of perfumistas. She will go to France, and buy you perfumes (and other luxury items like Hermès scarves, etc.) that are otherwise hard to find at a reasonable price. Shop France Inc. normally charges a 10% commission on top of the item’s price with 50% being required as a down payment. However, and this is significant, in the case of Lutens Bell Jars, the price is $225 instead. The amount reflects customs taxes that she pays each time, as well as a tiny, extra markup. It’s still cheaper than the $300 (not including tax) for the bell jar via Barney’s or the US Serge Lutens website.  Another caveat, however, is that Suzan is limited to only 10 bell jars per trip, via an arrangement with the Lutens house. There is a wait-list for the bell jars, but she goes every 6-8 weeks, so it’s not a ridiculously huge wait, I don’t think. If you have specific questions about the purchase of Lutens bell jars, or anything else, you can contact her at shopfranceinc@yahoo.com. As a side note, I have no affiliation with her, and receive nothing as a result of mentioning her.
Outside the US: In Europe, the price of Iris Silver Mist is considerably cheaper at €140 from the French Lutens website or from their Paris boutique. Other language options are available, though the Euro price for the item won’t change. To the best of my knowledge, the Paris Exclusives are not carried by any department store anywhere, and the only place to get them outside of Barney’s New York boutique is the Paris Serge Lutens store at Les Palais Royal. 
Samples: You can order samples of Iris Silver Mist from Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. I actually ordered mine as part of a Five Piece Non-Export Sampler Set, where you can choose 5 Lutens Paris Exclusives for a starting price of $18.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. 

58 thoughts on “Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist: Futuristic Iris

  1. This, Iris Silver Mist, you, you nasty creature! This thing is haunting me in my worst nightmares. Iris Silver Mist was the first and probably the worst example of that even iris lovers like me can be often BADLY put off from iris when it’s done in a way that doesn’t suit you.
    You know what I imagine when I smell Iris Silver Mist. A damp cellar with an earthy floor with a pile of rotten carrots, a crypt of death.

    • LOL! Serge Lutens simply doesn’t work for you, that’s the bottom line. There may be a rare exception here or there out of his 50-odd fragrances, but you just don’t like his complicated stuff. And that’s fine. A number of people don’t. Part of me is surprised that Iris Silver Mist isn’t an exception, but most of me isn’t. It’s a strange scent, no doubt.

      • I’m really sorry Kafka that I can’t share a passion for Master Lutens fragrances. It seems like we’re having a conflict of generations (and aesthetics)
        There are a couple of exceptions but that’s all for me.
        ISM was very bad on my skin. Rancid, earthy, too much carroty. I don’t like carroty iris, and I don’t like sad iris as well.

        • Honey, it’s absolutely NOT a problem! Really! Some houses work for one, some don’t. I don’t get L’Artisan, for example, or the modern, sweet, gourmand-y Guerlains. Others adore them (especially the Guerlains). It’s simply a style or aesthetic thing that varies from person to person. I was merely surprised over the iris issue because I know how much you love iris fragrances. I didn’t realise carroty iris was the bad kind for you. 🙂 In that case, then Iris Silver Mist would absolutely be a problem. 🙂 Believe me, as I wrote in the post, for a lot of people, Lutens bell jar creations are best appreciated from a great distance. On someone ELSE….. 😉 LOL.

  2. Thank you for a beautiful, detailed, long, wonderful review. I love reading these with my nighttime tea or my morning coffee; they make a wonderful oasis in the day. I am loving the way you describe the feel of this; it’s reminding me of one of my favorite movies, Bladerunner. I adore iris and as someone who is often described as too much, I also adore the story around this fragrance. The intriguing opening you described plus the iris heart both sound wonderful to me. Lucas’s comment above does give me pause, but I am going to have to at least try it.

    • You know, I thought of Bladerunner! Quite a bit. Ultimately, it felt too violent and turbulent for the scent with its more aloof, distant feel. Much more like cyborg sipping icy vodka in a distant planet’s futuristic bar. LOL. I think it’s worth a try if you adore iris, and you definitely love edgy, different, unusual perfumes, so you may find this one very intriguing. I think it would appeal to you intellectually at the start, but I don’t think you’d love it as a whole. In fact, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t, once it became safely pretty. LOL.

    • I adore Bladerunner. The death soliloquy made me cry. Epic movie, that gave us a real feel of a chilling future world.

  3. I cannot imagine a perfume smelling of carrots much less, turnips. Gah. I still don’t ‘get’ iris. I try smelling the flower every time I go to a garden that has them. It is such a vague scent to me. I smelled Hiris the other day and all I got was cold powder. My friend at Nieman’s described it as the scent of rubbing two stones together. Okay…

    • I don’t “get” iris a lot of the time either. I think that’s why I responded to such an unusual take on it in Iris Silver Mist’s opening. It’s so damn alien, it has actual character. But regular iris simply has none for me. It just sits there, feeling like “cold powder” as you put it so well. I’m truly never quite sure what to make of general, traditional, normal iris scents. I was thinking this morning that I must have missed out on the Iris Appreciation gene because I really find it to be a baffling scent. Here, however, in that opening, it actually SMELLED of something interesting for once, instead of something abstractly intangible that is simply cool and distant. Does that make any sense?

      • Yes, totally. I adore reading your reviews, Dear Kafka, and this was no exception.

        • Thank you, my dear, darling friend. And, please, have some chilled, icy vodka tonight (if you have any) and think of Iris Silver Mist, Blade Runner, and Terminator cyborgs. I promise you, you’ll enjoy it much more than the actual perfume. LOL. 😉

    • Tora, I think they obtain the scent from the roots of the plant. I have irises in the garden and you’re right, they are pretty to look at but not much to sniff.

      • Oh, the roots! Well, that’s a horse of a different color! I will just have to unearth one on my next garden foray. Thanks Poodle!

        • Yes, they get something called Rhizomes which is used to create what is called “orris butter.” Both the extraction process and the other, supplemental stuff necessary to recreate the scent (which doesn’t really exist in a solitary *and* substantial way) is incredibly expensive. So a kilo of Iris essence/extract is apparently more than a kilo of gold. Massively more.

          Anyway, the whole thing smells rooty as a result, with an aroma that is often: 1) more like sweet, boiled carrots than anything purely, floral; or 2) powdery. Sometimes, powdery enough to trigger associations to powdery makeup or powdery violets. (Orris is often used as a fixative in makeup like lipsticks, so we associate the smell with the smell of old style lipsticks. Some old Guerlains and Chanel lipsticks have that sort of violet powder smell that can come from orris root.) Other times, however, the powdery aspect can make it smell of suede. But generally, iris can have a definite undertone of boiled, starchy carrots. Since people are more used to the powdery kind of smell, it’s not usually their cup of the tea when the rooty or carroty version shows up.

          If you’re interested, you can read more about Orris root (the root to diff. kinds of iris flowers) and its uses as a fixative, etc, etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orris_root

      • It smells terrible on my skin. Is that carrot? The beautiful iris of Orris Noir, Dior Homme (vintage), Bois d’Argent, Bois d’Iris is COMPLETELY lacking here. I had to rush to some comfort scents to escape this one. Your Lutens marathon has been a bit of a bumpy ride hasn’t Kafka?

        • Yes, it’s undoubtedly carrot. 🙂 Have you never had iris show its carroty side to you before? No wonder you were horrified. Actually, you sound almost traumatized by ISM. *grin* LOL. I shouldn’t laugh, but I can’t help it. I can just imagine you running for something ambered, spicy and comforting. Heh. As for my Lutens ride, it’s been…. different. 😉 Fille en Aiguilles was a lovely high point, with La Myrrhe being the low in some ways. (Yes, I feel more traumatized by its opening than by anything I experienced with Iris Silver Mist!)

    • I’d be very interested to see what you think of it and if it’s only conceptual art for you. If you try it, let me know. 🙂

  4. You are absolutely right Kafka about futuristic qualities of ISM! It makes me wanna get a bell jar bottle just for the sake of its uniqueness and its artistic qualities. I have a small decant of ISM and I enjoy wearing it on rare occasions, but I hardly see myself wearing it on a regular basis. I wish it was a tad bit longer lasting and had a more potency in its sillage towards the end, as I’ve noticed it dies down on my skin way to fast. But I admire ISM from the artistic point of view 🙂

    • It’s kind of a crazy scent, isn’t it? I must say, I didn’t expect this to be one that you’d like at all, Ross, not even for a small decant and occasional wear! Kudos and Bravo to you, my dear. You are a very adventuresome perfumista. 🙂 xoxox

  5. Yuck. Just yuck. This may be my number one scrubber of all time. I could not believe how bad this was after reading so many people wax poetic about it. My impression was similar to the one Lucas had. Although if I got the crypt of death smell he did, I might have liked that. Yet I know people love it and I was thrilled to find a taker for my sample who ended up buying a bell jar of the stuff. I’m still scratching my head over that. To me it was reminiscent of the times when my dog Mel finds something stinky in the grass and decides to roll around in it. I don’t know what it is that he finds but I do know it requires a quick trip to the tub. It smells awful to me but he just loves it. That’s his ISM.

    • Heh, Mel’s scent trigger made me smile and wince at the same time. It sounds like the Lutens was terribly earthy and rooty on you, as compared to the light, earthy, watery sweetness that I got in the first stage. And you clearly got none of the fascinating chilled vodka of the first 30-40 minutes. (I bet your reaction would have been at least a bit more favorable if you’d gotten iced vodka and Terminator images. 😉 LOL!) No, you and Lucas certainly got something that sounds both ominous, fetid and nasty. A pity, but as I said in the review, you’re far from alone in struggling with the scent.

      What’s interesting to me is how bloggers generally love ISM (me excepted, because I only liked the very beginning and I’m not an iris person to begin with), while the general public is significantly more polarized in its views of the scent. What’s even more interesting to me is how two people replying here in this thread have hated the scent despite being iris lovers. Yet, elsewhere, like on FB, people talking about the scent in groups seem to adore it, esp. those who don’t seem to be iris lovers. (Perhaps the iris people are more put off by most by such an unconventional approach??) I’m starting to wonder if there is any clear line of demarcation to explain the split in reactions, or if this is just one of those scents that goes beyond normal skin chemistry issues, beyond even the difficult nature of Lutens’ Bell Jars, and is in a whole other category? I find the whole thing rather fascinating. 😀

      • It is interesting how the opinions are divided. There really is no rhyme or reason for who likes it and who doesn’t. I wonder if there’s some subconscious scent memory attached to it for some people to trigger such strong reactions either way. That’s really the only thing I like about it, the totally different reactions people have to this scent. For the ones it works for, it really works and I find that fascinating.

    • Isn’t it funny how our dogs roll in the worst yucky dead crap and find true bliss! And it is so funny that my dog applies said yukkiness to both sides of her neck, in the Exact same place I apply my perfume.

      • That’s an excellent observation really! They do seem to “perfume” their necks with the stench. How funny!

  6. This sounds so…appealing, but purely for the sake of having tried it. I can’t imagine this would be something I would be tempted by, but it just sounds really damn interesting and unique. P.S. I went to a store to try a few Serge Lutens scents, but they had nothing I hadn’t already tried (and I really wanted to try Fille en Aiguilles and Fleurs d’Oranger!

    I did, however, try Ambre Sultan again and it wasn’t at ALL as grotesque as I remembered. At all. In fact, I sort of liked it. And now I wonder why it smelled so rancid to me the first time I tested it. Very curious.

    • I’m glad Ambre Sultan worked better for you this time around. I wonder why it was so off for you before. Then again, if you read what Mr. Hound wrote about his recent experience, your prior one seems similar. Perhaps it’s just a moody fragrance and can suddenly turn on even those who love it?

      As for Iris Silver Mist, given that 8 out of 10 people here have responded with various forms of “Yuck” or “Ick,” be prepared for some trauma. 😉 I’ll be curious if you get the lovely vodka note, but I expect you’ll probably think of death crypts like some of the others. LOL.

  7. I enjoyed reading your review 🙂 It was more or less clear from the beginning that ISM wasn’t “love” for you but I was curious how close it might get to “hate” 😉

    I love iris in perfumes. I enjoy many different irises. ISM… It was never actually bad on my skin. But I expected more from it when I finally got to try it – after hearing so many praises. But after the first disappointment settled down, I can now wear it from time to time (I have a decant). It still doesn’t work for me all the time: recently when I tested it in parallel with Impossible Iris and La Femme Bleue I thought it was too grey and “dusty.” But at least a couple of times I enjoyed that cold and distant scent. Now I need to figure out under which circumstances it works for me 🙂

    • Did I like it more than you thought I would? You know my tastes well enough by now that I think you would have keeled over in shock had I loved it. *grin* 😉 As for how it is on your skin, I would think the heat would bring out some of its sweeter sides, instead of grey dustiness, so maybe it is a scent that really needs the cold? Just out of curiosity, do you ever detect a note in the beginning akin to really frozen, chilled, thick vodka?

  8. Ahem, the Scent Triplets don’t seem to have the same reaction/feelings regarding Iris Silver Mist. I am a die hard fan with a precious bell jar (my first one!) to show for it. Yes, it is a icy cold and earthy rooty carroty. It is not achingly sweet on me (unlike I love les carrottes which was…although I will have to try it again to see what it was about ILLC that I disliked).

    Head to head with my beloved Le Labo Iris 39 and RM Impossible Iris, ISM takes first place.

    Now off to huff my for-huffing-only atomizer with ISM remnants. This atomizer had some really serious huff love (huffiest? most huffed?)…see what I mean…I am hooked (imagine a cat with catnip).

    • Heh, I think Gollum talks about his Precioussssssssssssss with less enthusiasm and love. 😉 *grin* You’re definitely the lone die-hard fan here, it seems, though oddly I actually may have liked the fragrance more than one of your twins! I’m convinced that, if more people got icy, frozen vodka at the start, they’d like it better. 😛 Okay, probably not, but at least they could have shared in my weirdly futuristic experience! Terminator Cyborgs, yo! On second thought, your scent twins would probably have hated that as well.

      I think what it comes down to is, I don’t mind carrot-y Iris too much, whereas I cannot STAND the sort of powdery, fluffy, sweet Iris that so many people are used to. I abhor and despise that sort with a passion, and can’t figure out what the hell that sort of flat, tasteless, just “there” weird, non-smell smell is all about. But that’s what most people love. I tell you, I missed out on the Iris Appreciation DNA gene the day they were handing those out. But at least the beginning of this one was interesting, unique, weirdly novel, and thought provoking, which is more than I can say for a few iris scents I’ve tried. (Armani’s Nuances, I’m staring straight at your boring, uninteresting face.)

  9. I was expecting this one to slap me around like La Myrrhe did, but all I got was a slightly raspy cardboard/paper pulp/raw plywood note with a faint background of cooked carrots. It got more carrotty as time went on and that was it.

    I’m glad I didn’t get the death crypts that Lucas did, but I’m bummed that there was no iced vodka anywhere in sight (smell)!

    • Heh, I read recently that some others have picked up on the iced vodka note, so I’m sad you didn’t experience it. At least, YAY for no death crypts???? : Oh dear, the mere fact that I have to write that says something….. :

      • And at least there were no foaming-at-the-mouth cyanide-laden death Nazis! (That was a classic review, oh yes.)

  10. Alien perfume? Sign me up 😛 , I would definitely love to try this, the idea the whole review gave me made me really intrigued, I kept imagining a cold silver, grey and pale purple planet filled with alien frozen flowers and cold pale purple rivers. It´s just so interesting and I find it so unique from what I can read. I also like that it evolves into something more mundane like something Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn would wear, something that smells expensive French. I like the whole concept and since I already have alien nails, since I´m wearing Chanel Peridot and my mother says I look like an alien with this gold and green polish (my mother thinks the only colors to use are red, pearly white, pink, coral and peach), so why don´t I compliment the nails by also smelling like an alien 😛 ? And that perfume jar is so pretty to me for some reason 🙂 , lovely review like always Kafka.

  11. Another near perfect creation from the house of Serge Lutens. Gorgeous composition. I’ve been wearing a lot of Frederic Malle Iris Poudre lately. Big fan of that one and it was my Scent of the Day. Hermes Hiris is also well executed in my opinion. Of course the Dior Homme & Intense. Chanel has some good ones. I get along pretty well with iris. The one I haven’t tried yet is Xerjoff Irisss. Mega price tag.

    • Yeah, Xerjoff has mega prices! I’m going to explore a few more of them in upcoming weeks, but that price definitely prevents them from being quite as accessible. Let’s hope I don’t fall in love with any of them. 😀

      As for Iris Silver Mist, I’m glad to hear that it has another fan. It’s been getting quite trashed here, with about 8 out 10 replies consisting of “Yuck” and “Ick.” lol

      • are you setting me up to say something bad about your readers? haha. All I will say is I wish more people would further explore areas of perfumery that they don’t naturally gravitate toward.

        • Heh, no, that was not my intention. I just think that it’s good when people present a different side to what the majority seems to think, whether they are all for a perfume or against it. I think it helps create a more well-rounded view of a scent. 🙂

  12. It took me a long time before I *got* ISM. In my notes I have written, “CARROTS! In a root cellar. With an air-conditioner.” But that was in the beginning and now I count ISM as one of my favorites Exclusives. Honestly though, are you surprised? 🙂

    • No, I’m not. 🙂 The only thing I could think of when reading your comment, though, was “Hajusuuri will be over the moon!” She’s going to be so happy that she doesn’t need to work on you in secret to get to love her Preciousssssssss. 😛 😉

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