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Bombay Duck London

Donna Karan Iris

Iris is having its fragrant moment in the sun. Think: Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile. Or Prada’s version. Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre. There are veritable fields of iris in Chanel’s 28 La Pausa, too, within their Les Exclusifs collection. But this offering from Donna Karan – her upmarket scent portfolio, not the funky juice that sometimes comes in (hmmm) apple-shaped bottles – is definitely not just a ‘me-too’, tapping into the iris trend: it’s worthy of an encounter, a romantic encounter, in its own right. In fragrance circles, iris is known as ‘orris’, not iris – and it’s a valuable fixative, giving scents extra staying power on the skin. But that’s not primarily orris’s use: it’s sweetie-like (I’m always reminded of Love Hearts), almost baby powder-esque, soft and sensual. It also costs a small fortune, not least because orris/iris roots must be left for at least four years to ‘mature’ – a bit like vintage wine – before they offer up their fragrant bounty for a perfumer to play with. Not for nothing is iris known as the ‘molten gold’ of perfumery: one ton of iris roots are concentrated down to around 50 ml of iris absolute. Donna’s version features both orris butter (wax-like, and extracted by steam distillation), and iris absolute (iris oil).

Now, in the wrong hands, iris can be frankly icky – as can violet flower, which also features here. Yet here, those sweet elements swirl with magnolia and rose de Mai – and the result is fresh and spring-like, almost fragile, not cloying or heavy. (Although Donna Karan don’t announce it in their marketing blurb, I’d swear there’s a touch of lily of the valley in there, too. I definitely get echoes of Diorissimo, as it prettily fades.)

Cut to some hours later: the mellow sweetness of ambrette seed, and a hint, just a hint of wonderful earthy vetiver, are what you’re mostly left with. (Me? As an unreconstructed vetiver-aholic, I’m more than happy with that.) Once upon a time, during the Renaissance – and don’t you wish you’d been there? – gloves were filled with orris powder, to be time-released as the wearer wafted their hands around. In its tall, dark and handsome black glass bottle, this is the modern-day version of the iris-scented glove. Happy wafting.



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