Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 Khôl de Bahreïn: Ambered Iris

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

A golden, ambered sun peeks out from the clouds at the edge of a grey sea. Thickened, buttered waves of iris unfold like the most expensive suede, undulating under skies shot through with sweetened smoke. An iris flower floats on the surface, making a voyage from its cool, damp, earthy cellar towards the sun which warms it, turning it sweeter and sprinkling it with sweetened heliotrope. At times, the sun peaks out like golden eyes from behind the sheer veil of cool suede and warmed powdered sweetness. A giant orb of goldenness, speckled with ambergris, red resins, and candied delights. It shines upon the iris as it makes its journey and finally arrives at a distant shore of sweetness that cocoons it like the softest whisper of pink and white cashmere silk. These are the voyages of the Starship Iris, better known as Khôl de Bahreïn.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Stephane Humbert Lucas via CaFleureBon and Marieclaire.it.

Khôl de Bahreïn is a fragrance from a new niche perfume house, founded by a man who has been making perfumes for quite a long time. Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 is the new venture of Stéphane Humbert Lucas who was the in-house perfumer for Nez a Nez and SoOud. Mr. Lucas launched his new brand in 2013, along with 7 fragrances, all of which are inspired by the Middle East and their style of perfumery. Khôl de Bahreïn (which I’m going to henceforth write without all the accentuation and carets) was one of those scents.

There isn’t a ton of information out there about the perfume. Stéphane Humbert Lucas’s website is under construction, but his Middle Eastern distributor, Sagma, describes the scent as:

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Blend of amber benzene.
Unguent with an intense trail.

Heavy perfume, unctuous, amber, reference to kohl and to the zenjar used in the region of Bahreïn.

First in Fragrance has more details, along with Khol de Bahrein’s notes:

Khôl de Bahreïn offers a blend of ambergris and resinous notes which create a balsamic-woody fragrance with an intense and lasting wake.

Top Note: Violet, Gourmand Notes, Resins
Heart Note: Iris, Sandalwood, Ambergris
Base Note: Musk, Balsamic Notes

Source: Soundcloud.com

Source: Soundcloud.com

Khol de Bahrein opens on my skin with a burst of sticky, dark resins that have a caramel, nutty aroma. Almost immediately, the iris appears on their heels. It feels like the most expensive, thick, orris butter imaginable, and has a smell that is simultaneously: slightly cool, earthy, buttery, deep, and warm, all at once. Something about it evokes the feeling of velvety petals — grey and black — along with thick, grey suede. The minute it arrives, the amber and resins take a step back to let the iris shine in the spotlight. Yet, subtle hints of benzoin sweetness lurk around the flower’s edges, as if candies are about to rain on earthy iris fields any moment now. A tiny wisp of smoke adds yet another paradoxical layer in this extremely unusual combination.

Five minutes in, the sweet elements seem to tire of their brief wait on the sidelines and flood center stage to crowd around the dark floral. I can’t really place the notes, as they are definitely not the “nougat” that I saw on one site’s ingredient list. “Caramel” doesn’t really fit exactly either, though it is closer. Perhaps, the best way to describe it is as vaguely sticky ambergris and toffee’d balsamic resins.

toffee caramal nougat close up wallpaper

Yet, for all the sweetness of the accord, Khol de Bahrein doesn’t verge on the gourmand for me. First, the competing elements are very carefully balanced, but, second, and more importantly, the iris counteracts the candied resins with its earthy coolness. It is a very refined note that conjures up images of a single flower growing in the slightly damp earth of a darkened cellar. Yet, it’s neither icy nor crypt-like. There is nothing fusty, carrot-y, or dank about it, either. Just plenty of cool notes with heavy suede and creamy butter.

Something about the combination of iris with sticky resins feels very unique to me, though I grant you that I don’t have extensive knowledge of the iris category. In fact, I wholly lack the iris appreciation gene, but I spend the next few hours being utterly amazed by the note in Khol de Bahrein. It really feels like an actual “butter” version of the flower with a heavily creamed richness that I haven’t encountered in other iris scents. Not even in Nuances, the limited-edition, ridiculously expensive Armani Privé Les Editions Couture iris soliflore that supposedly had the richest, most expensive, concentrated iris as its focus.

On my skin, in the opening period, the iris butter pretty much trumps everything. Violets are listed Khol de Bahrein’s notes, but I generally didn’t detect them. However, they did appear briefly the very first time I wore the perfume when I only applied a few dabs of Khol de Bahrein. It was a dewy, earthy, pastel, delicate note, but it was short-lived. When I applied a greater quantity of Khol de Bahrein, it certainly couldn’t seem to stand up to the strength of the other accords.

What was interesting about that first test was something else that happened. From the first instant, there was an utterly addictive, sweet, powdered amber. I’m not a particular fan of iris, and I’m also not enthused by powderiness either, but, I tell you, I simply could not stop sniffing my wrists. I felt almost crazed at times by the draw of Khol de Bahrein, and I’ve finally figured out what was the lure: it smelled like an ambered form of heliotrope.

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Now, heliotrope is not listed on Khol de Bahrein’s notes, but something in one of those resins (undoubtedly a benzoin-based one) really recreates the smell of heliotrope to a T. And I’m a sucker for the note. Wholly addicted. I love its vaguely floral, powdered sweetness which always visually translates in my mind as a comforting pink and white cocoon. In fact, Fragrantica‘s great explanation of the note brings up its “characteristic, comforting scent.” Heliotrope has an powdery odor profile which can range from a vanilla meringue, to almond marzipan, tonka vanilla, and more. As Fragrantica put it,

The characteristic comforting scent of heliotrope has been proven to induce feelings of relaxation and comfort, a pampering atmosphere that finds itself very suited to languorous oriental fragrances and delicious “gourmands”.

I’m spending so much time on this because, in my opinion, that aroma is one of the secret keys to Khol de Bahrein’s beauty. In my first test, using very little of the perfume, Khol de Bahrein immediately wafted the most delicious, tasty, heliotrope amber confectionary aroma with just the perfect balance of sweetness and powder. It reminded me of a tonka-covered amber orb that glowed like candlelight in a cozy, warm, vanilla cocoon.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com/

Khol de Bahrein gets to the exact same point eventually with the larger dosage, but there is a lengthy iris butter period that you have to get through first. Since, as noted above, I’m not a particular fan of iris scents, I don’t find it deeply compelling, but it’s very hard to deny the quality of the note. I’m actually quite riveted by the sheer opulence and richness of the flower. I repeatedly thought to myself that it felt like the sort of thing that Roja Dove would do, and I mean that as a compliment.

Thirty minutes in, that golden amber tantalizes me with its nearness and elusiveness. It lingers just out of reach on the horizon, like a gauzy veil of caramel that has been thinly lacquered onto a glowing orb of musky, vaguely salty, deep ambergris which is then lightly dusted with vanillic benzoin powder. Slowly, slowly, the amber sun starts to warm up the cool iris waters, softening their damp, aloof, earthiness. The flower turns more powdered, as if it were shaking off white pollen in the sunlight, but the predominant feel is of thick orris butter.

The amber’s promise lies hidden not only behind that note but also behind a new arrival on the scene: smokiness. It’s very subtle at first, but it’s definitely there. To my nose, it doesn’t smell like black frankincense but, rather, like sweet myrrh (opoponax). It’s a surprisingly sharp note, but also sweetened and vaguely nutty in undertone.

Photo via free-desktop-backgrounds.net, then edited by me.

Photo via free-desktop-backgrounds.net, then edited by me.

As a whole, Khol de Bahrein smells from afar like heavily sweetened iris, warm powder, sweet and incense lightly flecked by caramel resins and goldenness. The perfume is really potent up close, and very heavy in feel, with initially good sillage that wafts about 2-3 inches above the skin. By the end of the first hour, the sillage drops further, and Khol de Bahrein turns into a beautiful, seamless blend of ambered iris with subtle traces of sweetened iris powder and sweetened smoke. Yet, none of it feels gourmand. The perfume screams refinement and luxuriousness to me, not dessert or candy.

Photo: Grover Schrayer on Flicker. (Website link embedded within.)

Photo: Grover Schrayer on Flicker. (Website link embedded within.)

Khol de Bahrein is largely linear in nature with the main changes over time being the order and concentration of the notes, along with the perfume’s overall warmth and texture. The iris continues to lose its cool edge and that feeling of thick orris butter. It turns more and more into pure suede, at first thickly plush and heavy, then lighter as it sinks into the base. Khol de Bahrein’s sillage drops to just above the skin at the 90 minute mark. Around the same time, the amber sun finally comes out from behind the grey clouds, and the perfume now feels like vaguely irisy, powdered amber, instead of iris that is merely tangentially ambered. Something about Khol de Bahrein’s new golden aura strongly brought to mind Histoires de Parfums‘ billowy Ambre 114. I think anyone who enjoys the latter’s ambered softness, while also loving rich iris butter, would definitely love the combination of the two notes in Khol de Bahrein.

As the perfume continues to realign itself, that addictive part that I talked about earlier creeps closer and closer. About 2.5 hours in, the heliotrope impression finally arrives on the scene. Again, the perfume list does not mention heliotrope at all, but something in the benzoin resin alluded to by the Sagma distributor definitely recreates that smell. Khol de Bahrein is now sweetened, almost vanillic powdered amber with touches of sweetened suede that is lightly flecked by an equally sweet incense. It’s a bit like Ambre 114 with incense, but with every passing moment, a much stronger comparison would be to Guerlain‘s Cuir Beluga.

Source: qcorrell.com

Source: qcorrell.com

By the end of the 3rd hour, Khol de Bahrein is a dead ringer for Cuir Beluga on my skin, only with a touch of nebulous, abstract, incensey smoke. It has lost its ambered focus, and turned into pure “heliotrope” with sweetened suede. Khol de Bahrein doesn’t have heliotrope’s almond or marzipan nuances, but reflects instead its cozy, comforting, vanilla meringue facets. The amber now manifests itself largely as a sort of warmth which works really well with the textural softness of the “heliotrope” (or whatever resin is mimicking it). As a whole, the perfume feels like the cuddliest, cashmere blanket. Since heliotrope always visually translates in my mind to pink and white hues, the perfume now does the same.

I find it all utterly addictive, but I wish it weren’t so soft and discreet. The same problem that I had with Cuir Beluga is manifesting itself here, with a scent that lies right on the skin. That said, Khol de Bahrein is much stronger and more intense in its notes when sniffed up close. In fact, whenever I thought it had turned into a skin scent, I was surprised to detect little tendrils in the air about me. In particular, whenever I moved my arm or walked about, I could smell that vanilla meringue suede as an elusive whisper trailing in the air. It’s not my favorite way to smell a perfume, but Khol de Bahrein’s sheer weight and soft sillage turn out to be quite misleading in terms of the perfume’s strength.

Khol de Bahrein feels like undulating waves in more than one way. First, there was the iris butter that lapped about the shores. Then, as the iris retreated from its cool earthiness, the grey suede moved in. Later, the amber, and then, the “heliotrope”-like, benzoin meringue powder. Shortly after the start of the 6th hour, the waves change again, and the perfume turns drier. There are fluctuating levels of smokiness. Or, rather, the smokiness reappears again in a much stronger way, now that the heliotrope-like powdered sweetness has ebbed. Khol de Bahrein suddenly feels like a much drier, darker, somewhat smoky version of Cuir Beluga.  It is also a true skin at this point, and its subtleties are much harder to detect.

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

The subtle smokiness and incense don’t last long, however. Perhaps an hour at most. Then, Khol de Bahrein returns to its main core of powdered sweetness. The impression of iris suede as an underlying base vanishes completely. The perfume lingers as the silkiest, thinnest, gauziest breath of sweet benzoin on the skin for several more hours, until it finally dies away entirely about 12.5 hours from the start.

Frankly, I was amazed that it lasted so long, because it really is such a discreet, intimate scent for a good portion of its lifespan on my skin. Khol de Bahrein feels like the sort of fragrance that many people would think had only good longevity, not an excellent one, because they wouldn’t be walking around with their nose on their arm. However, I’m sure that spraying and the use of a large amount would help matters, as the perfume really is quite concentrated when smelled up close.

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

I think Khol de Bahrein is a really lovely, luxurious, very expensive-smelling fragrance, and I say that as someone with little personal appreciation for iris. I do think, however, that it skews feminine. My reasoning is that I don’t see the vast majority of men really being into powdered iris as the dominant focus for their fragrance. I admit, it’s a wholly subjective, personal interpretation, and I certainly know some men who adore Cuir Beluga, as well as many iris-centered fragrances. I’m sure a few would thoroughly enjoy a more iris-y, oriental, less gourmand, and, at times, more smoky take on Cuir Beluga. For the vast majority of men, though, I think Khol de Bahrein might feel a little feminine. It’s really going to come down to your feelings on both iris and powdery notes, not to mention skin chemistry.

One man who absolutely loves Khol de Bahrein is Mark Behnke who wrote about the perfume while he was the Managing Editor of CaFleureBon. Mr. Behnke first smelled the new Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 line at the Milan Esxence show in 2013, and Khol de Bahrein was the one which really piqued his interest. He liked it right from the start, but once he managed to test it fully and properly, he seems to have fallen quite in love. He actually called Khol de Bahrein one of the best perfumes of 2013:

after having worn it quite a bit I know it to be one of the best perfumes of this year and the best perfume of M. Lucas’ career, so far.

The name Khol de Bahrein refers to the dark eye makeup often seen in the Middle East and North Africa. Elizabeth Taylor sported kohl rimmed eyes for her portrayal of Cleopatra. Also they are often the only part of a Muslim woman you can see when she is out and about. The darkness around the eyes causing them to feel like they almost float within the hijab. M. Lucas has created a fragrance framed in darkness with the depth of a human eye in the middle. Khol de Bahrein is as mesmerizing as a hypnotist’s stare; you will find yourself lost in its spell.

The photo Mr. Behnke used to illustrate Khol de Bahrein. Source: derbund.ch

The photo Mr. Behnke used to illustrate Khol de Bahrein. Source: derbund.ch

The metaphorical eyes of Khol de Bahrein are as lavender as Liz Taylor’s were. The opening uses violet at the core but is surrounded with a resinous frame of dark incense. The one thing I appreciate about all of the Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 fragrances is there is no gentle step down to intensity. No flare of citrus or bergamot; instead it as bracing as stepping into a cold shower, it catches your attention. I love violet and the interplay of resins and violet are wonderfully woven. Then the purple of the iris deepened by the note of orris. Lush and opulent it is made buoyant with the addition of a creamy sandalwood and briny ambergris. This really feels like the real stuff on the ambergris, no ambrox here. The final touch of blackness comes from amber, balasamic notes, and musk. There is a feel of humanity in the last accord. The eyes may be all you see but they are worth getting lost within.

Khol de Bahrein has ridiculous almost 24-hour longevity and above average sillage. The sillage is surprising for something at extrait strength.

I hope this piques the interest of those of you who have never heard of M. Lucas. If you’re looking for a new perfumer to explore I can recommend nobody any higher. As one who has come to enjoy his style let me reiterate; Khol de Bahrein is the best perfume of M. Lucas’ career and one of the best new perfumes of 2013.

Mr. Behnke’s review is the only one I could find for Khol de Bahrein. The perfume has no comments on its Fragrantica page. There are also no reviews posted on Khol de Bahrein’s entry at Parfumo (a European sort of Fragrantica). However, there are a lot of votes for the perfume at Parfumo that I think you might find interesting, as they pertain to perceptions of overall quality, sillage, and longevity:

  • Scent: 80% (12 Ratings)
  • Longevity: 88% (12 Ratings)
  • Sillage: 67% (13 Ratings)

An overall 80% favorability rating is really quite good, though I’m apparently not alone in my feelings about the sillage.

Khol de Bahrein comes with some drawbacks, primarily in terms of accessibility. This is a perfume that is a European and Middle Eastern exclusive, though American readers can test it easily by ordering a sample from Surrender to Chance. It’s not even widely available within Europe itself, with only a handful of distributors for the line. First in Fragrance is your best bet, and, thankfully, they ship worldwide.

The other issue is the price, though I think that can easily be justified when put into context. Khol de Bahrein costs €148 for a small 50 ml bottle. At the current rate of exchange, that comes to roughly $203, which is a teensy bit high for the size. However, Khol de Bahrein is a fragrance that its Middle Eastern distributor, the Sagma corporation, states is pure parfum extrait with 24% concentration.

Source: Sagma Corp.

Source: Sagma Corp.

Plus, there is that bottle. Judging by the photos, it looks gorgeous and I must say, I rather lust for it. Pure gold lettering and a gold metal cap with a Swarovski crystal. First in Fragrance has the full details on the very elaborate packaging:

Khôl de Bahreïn is presented in a transparent flacon with genuine gold lettering, gold cap and a small-faceted peach-coloured Swarovski crystal set on the stylized crown.

The 777 Metal cap 
A raised honeycomb pressed against a dome reminiscent of two architectures (Ottoman and Russian) where the sharp point brings to mind the summit, the sacred. The triple 7 is continued on the ring of the cap, it signifies: Spirituality, protection, luck. The figure 7 is the author’s fetish. The 777 logo is also engraved within the heart of the honeycomb. The raised facets represent work, determination and well-being. The significant weight of the cap imparts respect and strength. The cap is hand-milled, anodised and varnished.

777 Coffret by Stéphane Humbert Lucas
The box has been created using a double-coated black leather effect paper decorated with hot-stamped letters and logo. The 777 theme is taken up on the interior of the flap, followed by a short poem written by the author.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

So, to some extent, a good chunk of that €148/$203 price tag must stem from the packaging, but you shouldn’t forget about the Extrait concentration. Or the opulence of that iris butter which, frankly, probably costs more than any Swarovski crystals. When you consider that Tom Ford’s flimsy, anemic Atelier d’Orient eau de parfums are priced at $210 for the same size (but much simpler looking) bottle, Khol de Bahrein almost seems like a steal. And I won’t even bring up Armani’s suffocating, claustrophobic, painfully dull iris soliflore, Nuances, in its Privé Couture line. (It’s £500, if you’re interested.)

Is Khol de Bahrein a complicated, revolutionary, edgy scent? No. It’s not trying to be. It wants to be a refined, luxurious statement that reflects a Middle Eastern sensibility. As someone who has actually lived in the region, I found Khol de Bahrein to be as Middle Eastern as Guerlain — which is to say, not at all. However, it definitely reflects a French sensibility and the feel of French haute perfumerie. A highly refined scent with very expensive, pure ingredients that are blended seamlessly to create the feel of pampered luxuriousness. Plus, it happens to have cozily delicious parts on top of it all. If I were ever to wear an iris scent, it would probably be Khol de Bahrein. Really lovely!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Khol de Bahrein is an Extrait or pure parfum that comes only in a stunning 50 ml bottle that costs €148. I haven’t found any U.S. distributors for the scent. Stéphane Humbert Lucas’ website is under construction, and doesn’t have an e-store. Outside the U.S.: you can order Khol de Bahrein from First in Fragrance, though shipping will be delayed until after March 7th. They also offer a sample, and global shipping. Zurich’s Osswald also carries the line and lists Khol de Bahrein on its website, but I don’t think they have an e-store any more. The Swiss perfumery, Theodora, also has the perfume, but no e-store. In the Middle East, there is a UAE distributor called Sagma Corp that carries the full line, but they don’t have an e-store. However, you can buy Khol de Bahrein from Souq.com for AED 1,500. In Russia, Khol de Bahrein is available at Lenoma. It is also listed on the ry7 website, but I’m unclear as to its availability. Ukraine’s Sana Hunt Luxury store also carries it, but they don’t have an e-store. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Khol de Bahrein starting at $4.75 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

On occasion, I’ll come across a perfume whose most striking characteristic for me is a textural one. Instead of specific notes or a movement of change throughout the stages, the perfume merely evokes a lovely creaminess that is almost devoid of an actual olfactory smell. That is the case for me with Orris Noir, a fragrance from Ormonde Jayne that is meant to be so “haunting” that it “defies description.” I’m afraid it fell far short of such a description in my eyes, but, then, in all fairness, what fragrance could positively live up to that line?

Ormonde Jayne is a high-end, niche London perfume house founded by Linda Pilkington in 2002. All her perfumes are created in conjunction with Geza Schoen, and Orris Noir is no exception. The fragrance was released in 2006, and is available in two concentrations: pure parfum (with 30% fragrance oils) and eau de parfum (25%). This review is for the eau de parfum.

Black Iris via Soundcloud.com

Black Iris via Soundcloud.com

Ormonde Jayne’s website describes Orris Noir as follows:

Orris Noir – so haunting, it almost defies description.

The Iris flower is named after the Greek Goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Gods and the Black Iris of Amman is the Royal symbol of the Kings of Jordan. Thriving in a landscape of ample sun, it is a rich, purple black flower of smouldering beauty.

This dark, spicy Oriental scent is for those who want to leave their mark.

A spellbinding perfume, Orris Noir is a rich, seductive aria of unmistakable individuality, not for shrinking violets.

Top Notes: Davana, pink pepper, coriander seed, bergamot
Heart Notes: Iris, [jasmine] sambac absolute, pimento berries, bay
Base Notes: Incense, myrrh, patchouli, chinese cedar, gaiac.

Source: Dailymail.com

Source: Dailymail.com

Orris Noir opens on my skin with black peppered lemon and cream, followed by a touch of pink peppercorn berries and a whisper of fruit. A spectral hint of rooty iris pops up at the edges, but it is very subtle. It carries the tiniest undertone of sweet carrots, I think, but the iris note as a whole is so muffled that it may well be my imagination. Certainly, when I’ve tested Orris Noir in the past using only a small quantity, none of it showed up. Instead, the main bouquet smells to me of a very milky, creamy tea with lemon, a vague and nebulous floralacy, pink peppercorns, and a touch of something fruity.

Source: artid.com

Source: artid.com

The issue of quantity impacting notes is interesting when it comes to Orris Noir because I noted differences based on that amount of scent that I apply. When I applied only a small quantity (perhaps 1/3 of a 1 ml vial), there was a brief suggestion of something fiery or biting from the pimento chili peppers, but it was so fleeting that it too may have just been imagined. At the same time, there was a more distinct puff of black incense in the background, but you had to sniff extremely hard and long to really detect it. Both elements, however, were minor and barely lasted.

In contrast, I could definitely detect the iris when I applied a greater amount of Orris Noir. (I used about 2/3rds of a 1 ml vial.) Regardless of quantity, however, and taken as a whole, the iris feels like a tertiary, very quiet, very muted player on the sidelines. For a fragrance that is intended to be a dark homage to iris, I’m afraid that Orris Noir was really everything but that for the majority of its development on my skin.

Davana. Source: hermitageoils.com/davana-essential-oil

Davana. Source: hermitageoils.com/davana-essential-oil

Instead, the primary bouquet of Orris Noir in its opening hour on my skin is extremely creamy Earl Grey tea. Not milky, for the textural quality of the fragrance goes beyond a merely lactonic quality, but rich, smooth cream. It’s infused with lemon, pepper, and, after 20 minutes, by the Davana. I happen to really like the last note, and I think Davana is an element that should be used more often in perfumery. It is an Indian flower with a very lush, velvety, floral smell and a fruity undertone, most specifically of apricots. Here, with Orris Noir, the apricot tonality is extremely subtle at first and the main aroma is of a petal-soft, vaguely tropical flower with endless creaminess.

Orris Noir remains that way for the next few hours, largely unchanged except for the sillage and subtle variations in the notes. It’s all lemon-pepper cream with davana florals, and an increasingly strong sense of fruitiness. The iris lingers like a ghost in the back, as does the cedar. In fact, the two together generally impart a wholly abstract, nebulous undertone of a woody, floral musk, but neither note stands out on my skin with any individual character. I would never sniff Orris Noir and think, “Ah, Iris,” because the flower is practically a nonentity on me after the first hour.

At the start of the second hour, the sillage drops to an inch or two above the skin, though the perfume is easily detectable if sniffed up close. The only major change occurs about 2.5 hours in, when there is the first, very muffled suggestion of jasmine. Orris Noir’s main characteristic continues to be a very smooth, textural creaminess, though it is becoming increasingly difficult to pull it apart into a specific, actual olfactory note. It also now feels more nebulously woody than purely floral in nature.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

About 3.5 hours in, Orris Noir is a creamy, lemony, floral skin scent with light touches of jasmine, soft abstract woodiness, and a slightly fruited nuance. It remains that way until the end of the 6th hour when the jasmine finally steps out of the shadows, and takes over. There are lingering traces of the davana, but Orris Noir is primarily a very sheer, blurry wisp of sweet jasmine woody musk. The perfume remains that way until its very end. It lasted 8.75 hours with a large quantity, and just over 7.75 hours with a smaller amount.

Orris Noir is very pretty, easy-going, approachable, and smooth, but it is also a bit underwhelming, if I’m to be honest. Its creaminess was its most distinctive feature for me, and something that I enjoyed a lot. Plus, to my relief, Orris Noir had only the most microscopic drop of ISO E Super, unlike some Ormonde Jayne fragrances which practically ooze it out of every pore. Orris Noir was well-balanced, had some pretty bits, and was perfectly pleasant as a whole. Yet, I really wasn’t moved; none of it sings or stands out for me.

Tania Sanchez seems to have had much greater problems with Orris Noir. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, she classifies Orris Noir as a “peppery cedar” and gives it a low 2 stars. Her reviews states:

The name combines two of the biggest recent trends: orris (iris-root butter) is showing up everywhere, and so are perfumes named Something Noir (or Black Thingamajig). The trouble is that there’s nothing particularly iris or noir about this. Instead, it smells like lemon and pepper with an oily-woody background, slightly chemical and faceless, a rare misstep for the excellent Ormonde Jayne line.

I really don’t think it’s that bad, not by any means, though I do agree with the “faceless” part. I think my feelings would be different if I experienced a lot (or even some) incense in the fragrance, but I did not. Like Tania Sanchez, I thought Orris Noir was lemony-pepper, albeit with davana creaminess, some jasmine, and a nebulous woody musk.

Other bloggers, however, definitely experienced more incense, spiciness, and darkness than I did. Whether you read Eyeliner on a Cat, Bois de Jasmin, or The Non-Blonde, they seem to have detected a more sultry, quasi-oriental fragrance, though no-one thinks that the iris dominates or that Orris Noir is particularly bold. The bloggers all liked Orris Noir, and Bois de Jasmin’s review is quite representative of the general consensus:

Even if Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir does not present its promised black iris, it more than makes up for it with its exquisite combination of spices, incense ashes and velvety woods. Its form crafted out of resinous and balsamic notes is nevertheless rendered as luminous and weightless, like silk, rather than wool.

The spicy notes provide an opulent leitmotif that persists as Orris Noir develops. They frame the lemony green top notes and foil the sheer floral heart. The echoes of sweet warmth of allspice can be noticed in the rich woody base. The chilly breath of iris is quite a subtle accent in this vivid arrangement, yet it lends a certain restraint. Incense, smooth and smoky, envelops the composition in its translucent dark veil.

My skin seems to have brought out more of the davana creaminess than anyone else, especially as compared to those on Basenotes. They generally like Orris Noir, though not everyone gushes enthusiasm. Take the review by “Alfarom” who writes, in part:

No iris whatsoever, not “noir” at all.

That being said, if you’re fine with a peppery-woody-incensey fragrance dominated by a nice, yet unquestionably synthetic vibe, this is a pretty decent composition. Kinda dry yet, somewhat, slightly powdery, woody and incensey with nice piquant undertones. Far from being a masterpiece yet nice.

A number of women absolutely adore the scent, though a few think they detect a “rose” note which I suspect might be the davana at play. One of the more positive reviews reads:

Three words to describe Orris Noir: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Lighter than its name implies, but spellbinding nonetheless, ON skims along the surface of the skin so deftly I kept expecting it would disappear entirely any minute. Instead it became creamier as it opened up, and was still marvelously “there” hours after I first put it on. It is a beautiful blend of light spices and delicate exotic florals, the pink pepper, coriander and powdery iris (fortunately more iris than powder) definitely come through on me.

On Fragrantica, there is the same generally positive response to Orris Noir. Interestingly, a greater number of commentators picked up on the creaminess and the “candied, fruity” elements in the scent, while one reviewer, “Cohibadad,” also detected plenty of iris. Generally, a number of people seemed to think Orris Noir was quite oriental in feel, which just goes to show you the importance of one’s personal and definitional standards. For me, Orris Noir isn’t remotely oriental, even if one doesn’t use brands like Amouage as a baseline. For me, it’s a floral woody musk. I think that it is all going to depend on your skin chemistry and on your personal standards.

Orris Noir isn’t my personal cup of tea, but it’s a nice fragrance and those who like airy, creamy, discreet florals may want to give it a try. I think it skews somewhat feminine, as do some men on Basenotes, but it all depends on what you’re comfortable with. It is a very approachable scent that is versatile, and could also be worn to the office without making waves.

Disclosure: I was sent Orris Noir for review by Ormonde Jayne, but I had previously purchased my own sample from Surrender to Chance, and that is what I used for this review. In all cases, I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Orris Noir is available in a 50 ml flacon of either parfum extrait or eau de parfum. The EDP price for the regular bottle (without the gold stopper) is $126 or £80. There is also a 4 x 10 ml travel set of Orris Noir that costs $100 or £64, a body cream of the scent, and other accompanying body products. Finally, there is a full Discovery Set that costs $75 or £48 for 2 ml sample sprays of the entire Ormonde Jayne line. It comes with free world-wide shipping. Orris Noir can be purchased directly from the Ormonde Jayne website, its two stores in London, and from HarrodsIn the U.S.: Ormonde Jayne is not carried by any stores in the U.S. at the moment. You would have order from London, but unfortunately, UK postal regulations for any perfume weighing over 50 ml is extremely high. The shipping cost to the U.S. will run you over $50, though that does not apply to the sample set. Elsewhere in Europe: Ormonde Jayne fragrances are carried by Senteurs d’Ailleurs in Brussels (though it has ceased its online e-sales), and by Zurich’s Osswald. For other vendors from Spain to Italy, Norway, Germany (where a large number of different retailers carry the line) and various other European countries, you can use the Ormonde Jayne’s Store LocatorSamplesSurrender to Chance sells samples of Orris Noir EDP starting at $3.99 for 1/2 ml. They also carry the Pure Parfum version.

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.