Eris Parfums is a new brand, founded by Barbara Herman, a vintage perfume expert who wrote the book, Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume (2013) after many years of being a blogger on her site, Yesterday’s Perfume. (Book links provided at the end in the Details section.) When she decided to launch her own line, she turned to perfumer Antoine Lie whom she’d first met as an interview source for her book. As she explains in her biography section on Eris Parfums, she wanted to “create a collection of fragrances as daring and erotic as fragrances of the past.”
The results were three eau de parfums launched earlier this year: Ma Bete, Belle de Jour, and Night Flower. I’ll look at each one in turn. As part of my new resolution of providing a more succinct analysis whenever the perfumes permit it, I’ll give a more generalized breakdown of a perfume’s development instead of my usual detail, and also skip discussing comparative reviews.
Eris Parfums very accurately describes Ma Bete as “perfumed fur,” a “collision of the floral and the animal.” The notes are:
Neroli, aldehydes, nutmeg, cypriol, styrax, Jasmin sambac, cedarwood, patchouli, animalic accord.
Ma Bete opens on my skin with fizzy, soft, plump, and sparkling aldehydes, the fat and pleasantly waxy, old-fashioned sort that smell like a natural effervescent cleanness. The sparkle is accentuated by neroli that feels more like bergamot, followed by a very Chanel-like floralcy. Jasmine is subsumed within, but, in first 20-25 minutes, it doesn’t smell heavily indolic, camphorous, ripe, or skanky. Instead, it’s a glittery, No. 5-style, aldehydic jasmine that is simultaneously clean, feminine, lush, prim, and restrained all at once.
But the most striking thing about Ma Bete is the perfumed fur at its core, fur which combines with that initially prim (and subsequently dirty) floralcy in a way that consistently makes me think of Catherine Deneuve. In actual fact, it is Ms. Herman’s other fragrance, Belle de Jour, that bears a Deneuve connection (its name is that of one of her most famous movies), but Belle de Jour doesn’t make me think of Deneuve. It’s Ma Bete. It’s not because she did some very memorable Blackglama/Avedon fur ads (“What becomes a legend most?”) but because she’s a woman who wears even the most buttoned-up clothes with the sensuality of one who is naked, which is probably why someone like Helmut Newton wrought so much magic with her in a tiny slip. For me, Ma Bete is The Mighty Deneuve in that slip, with the fur surrounding her, first, clothed and clean, and then, later, naked and… well, let’s just say lush and… relaxed.
The best way to describe Ma Bete’s progression is to ask you to imagine a woman’s fur coat, perhaps your mother’s or grandmother’s. Its lining is imbued with years’ worth of her floral scent, as well as the warmth of skin and musky fur. Initially, it’s not a sweaty, ripe, dirty muskiness, but a clean furriness. There is the scent of her skin that bears the patina of her soap (aldehydes), before being given an extra freshness from citrus, then femininity from her floral scent, and a quiet, spicy warmth (a pinch of patchouli, nutmeg, and cedar). The result is a purely classical scent, except this doesn’t feel dated with powder, makeup accords, or heaviness.
It’s soft, streamlined, elegant, but restrained and almost prim in a way. There is none of the over-the-top aldehydic excess or soapiness that makes me think of Chanel No. 5 with a shudder; and none of Antoine Lie’s heavy-handed use of laundry musk that makes him a perfumer I approach with great wariness. But, at the same time, there is also little to no dirty musk in Ma Bete’s opening phase, either. Although that changes later on, the first 25 minutes or so wouldn’t even rise to the level of a meow, let alone a roar. It’s too ladylike to be even in the same galaxy as something like MAAI, for example. Instead, Ma Bete’s debut is merely June Cleaver’s or your mother’s expensive mink coat, infused with the cleanest of citrusy, aldehydic floralcy, and devoid of voluptuous debauchery or nakedness. It feels as though the 1950s were brought forward in time, and given an airy makeover with a pinch more spice, warmth, cedar, and translucency than such scents usually had.
Things get change roughly 30 minutes into Ma Bete’s development when scent turns spicier, warmer, woodier, and dirtier. The lemony, bergamot-like citrus and aldehydes weaken; the jasmine begins to turn lusher and indolic; and the civet arrives on center stage where it fuses with the jasmine, oozing urinous skankiness. A soft, light sprinkling of cedar, spice, and fur dances around them, as the patchouli and aldehydes watch a small distance away. The result still evokes a mother’s perfumed fur coat, except, this time, the floralcy is strong, dirty, indolic, spicier, and warmer than it was before. By the end of the first hour, the jasmine lining of that coat is full-on skanky, dirty, and civet-laden, with drops of citrus sprinkled here or there, but not an aldehyde or whiff of cleanness in sight.
Ma Bete continues that way for a few hours with no change to its fundamental essence, only a change to its sillage and softness. It’s always a very discreet, airy scent on my skin, but especially so if I don’t apply a lot of fragrance. When I used two small smears roughly equal to 1 spray from an actual bottle, Ma Bete felt almost like a skin scent at the start of the 3rd hour, its notes were blurry, there was no fur, and the bouquet was mostly just civety musk with the merest whisper of something floral about it. By the end of the 4th hour, all that was left was a mix of dirty and clean/soapy musk. It died out about 5.75 hours from its start.
I didn’t fare much better when I used the equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle, but I did when I tested Ma Bete using with somewhere between 3 and 3.5 sprays, give or take a few smears. The projection and sillage were still rather hopeless, if you ask me, the scent lying roughly 0.5 to 1 inch from my arm at the start of the 3rd hour, and the sillage imperceptible unless I moved my arms, but the scent itself was nice with its civet-drenched jasmine fur, citrus, quiet spice, and occasional hint of woodiness. Either the civet or the citrus felt a little high-pitched to me when I smelt my arm up close, but at least the notes were distinct and individually clear, and the scent hadn’t died. In fact, Ma Bete had good longevity at the higher dosage, hanging on for quite a while after it turned into a skin scent about 4.25 hours into its evolution.
The greatest benefit of the larger quantity application is that it brought out a really lovely drydown. From out of nowhere, midway during the 8th hour, the flowers suddenly turned into floral cream coated with rich, sweet honey. Petal soft, they nestled deep within a fur coat that was now plush, warm, but barely urinous. There was no sharpness, perhaps because the citrus had finally vanished, and nothing indolic, either. It was purely creamy, honeyed petals pressed against warm skin under perfumed fur. It was sophisticated sexiness, but no longer sexual in the way it had been before when the powerful animalics exuded urinous dirtiness and skankiness. In short, the drydown feels more restrained, but I love its mix of honeyed floral cream and warm fur. In total, Ma Bete died away 11 hours from its start, finishing as soft, clean, furry plushness. At all times, it felt chic, sophisticated, and very classical in style. Nicely done.
BELLE DE JOUR:
On its website, Eris Parfums quotes Antoine Lie’s description of Belle de Jour as “a study in contrasts: a very luminous floral that is salty, sexy and dirty.” The notes are:
Coriander, pink peppercorn, orange flower absolute, ciste, Egyptian jasmin absolute, pimento berries, cedarwood, musk, seaweed absolute.
Belle de Jour and I are not a good fit, but especially not in its opening stages when it really feels like an Antoine Lie creation. I’m not a fan of his, thanks to his heavy-handed use of white musk, and Belle de Jour demonstrates that to an extreme, perhaps even more so than his Puredistance White whose first six hours were nothing but a floral white musk bomb with a purely mainstream, Sephora-style bouquet. Belle de Jour’s opening essentially takes White’s floral hairspray and Bounce floral laundry drier sheets, then adds them to a salty, clean, floral woody musk that feels like a stripped down version of Lie’s famous Secretions Magnifiques, but without any of parts that make that scent, depending on your perspective, challenging, notorious, distinctive, revolutionary, or loathsome. The first two times I tried Belle de Jour, I scrubbed it off. The third time, I hung on, rather unhappily, to see what would happen.
Belle de Jour opens with diffuse, translucent, rather bitter and green orange blossoms, infused with extremely metallic, dirty, iron-laden sea water almost like something out of a rusty sea pipe. Clean cedar that smells like pencil shavings, nutmeg-like spice berries, a drop of ambered sweetness, and a whopping amount of white musk finish things off. Personally, I think there is some Timbersilk in there, too, the supercharged form of ISO E, because I catch whiffs of something in the opening that smells like acetone, only woody and extra clean in odor. Whether it’s an ISO E Supercrappy related molecule or not, something in Belle de Jour’s opening gives me a massive headache whenever I smell my arm up close for too long. Maybe it’s the ridiculous amount of laundry musk, which combines with the anemic, bloodless, rather generic floralcy to smell very much like floral hairspray and Bounce on my skin. That’s particularly true about 15 minutes into Belle de Jour’s development when the bitter orange blossoms become wholly shapeless, indeterminate and anonymous, leaving only a sheer, clean, abstract floralcy.
Belle de Jour shifts after an hour. The floral hairspray softens fractionally, feeling one octave less screechy on the decibel scale. The saltiness vanishes, while the cedar turns into lightly spiced woodiness. It’s as though the white musk has effectively bludgeoned, Photoshopped, or muffled most of the notes. In fact, it feels as though 70% of the scent is floral-laced laundry musk, 15% is clean, generically spiced woodiness, and 15% (or maybe less) is some sort of strange, slightly sour, and extremely metallic-smelling synthetic. The result keeps making me think of the cotton or “laundry fresh” fragrances from CLEAN that were popular a few years ago at Sephora, only this one is given a Secretions Magnifiques twist. I thought the latter was a better, more interesting scent and, oddly enough, more pleasant than this one, at least once its blood and semen-style accords pass.
Belle de Jour improves as it develops, although given the opening, I’m not sure that’s saying much. About 3.5 hours in, the musk turns plusher, but it’s not until the middle of the 5th hour that it finally loses its shrillness. The fragrance now smells more like a fluffy, floral-and-musk-infused, clean towel taken from the dryer instead of just the Bounce drier sheets tossed in with it. It was the same story at the 8th hour, then the 10th, before I finally threw in the metaphoric towel and scrubbed it off.
Night Flower was my favourite out of the three, the most masculine-skewing one, and the darkest, thanks to an abundance of my beloved patchouli as well as spices, resins, smoky leather, and a jot of vanilla-ish tonka to give it some plushness. Technically, though, Night Flower is supposed to be a leathery floral oriental. Eris describes the scent and its notes as follows:
NIGHT FLOWER Eau de Parfum opens with a blast of fresh, aromatic cardamom. Animalic leather and suede wrap around a narcotic Indian tuberose, drying down to a cozy base of birch tar, patchouli, cinnamon and tonka.
“Night Flower is a leathery, animalic floral fragrance. Spellbinding, sexual and addictive.” – Antoine Lie (Perfumer)
Top: Bergamot oil, Birch tar oil, Cardamom oil
Heart: Suede accord, Tuberose India oil, Cinnamon bark oil
Base: Patchouli oil, Tonka bean absolute, Musk.
Night Flower opens on my skin much like the description, although that only tells part of the tale. The powerful “blast of fresh, aromatic” cardamom smells tangy, tart, green, and lemony. The bergamot is just as lemony, while the tuberose is entirely green. Together, the three notes combine in an accord that, on my skin, smells far more like neroli and lemon than anything actually or purely floral like tuberose. This “neroli and lemon” is slathered over the real core of the fragrance on my skin, a profusion of spicy patchouli layered with smoldering resins and a touch of leather. In fact, there is so much patchouli that I was actually confused the first time I tried Night Flower since I had thought it was meant to be a tuberose floral. That first time around, I hadn’t checked the complete note list, and I also didn’t apply a large quantity of scent.
At a small dosage, Night Flower was such a spice-fest patchouli soliflore that there was virtually no floralcy, and I actually thought I’d been sent the wrong perfume in a mislabeled vial. Right from the start, it was almost entirely about the patchouli. Infused with balsamic resins, it lay on a thin base of quietly smoky leather that felt derived from styrax rather than the more typical birch or cade. It’s not animalic by my standards, and certainly not by Eastern ones because there is nothing raunchy, dirty, urinous, fecal, or redolent of the barnyard about it. It’s smoky, like styrax or the resins in the base of vintage Shalimar extrait, and softly musky in rather an ambered way. As for the cardamom, with a small fragrance application, it’s merely a fresh, vaguely aromatic sort of spiciness, and has only a touch of greenness. It doesn’t smell lemony at all, and it definitely doesn’t take on the almost lime-like sour tartness that appears at a higher dosage.
For the most part, everything around the patchouli in Night Flower’s opening hours — the spices, resins, leatheriness, smokiness, muskiness, the wisp of greenness, and the goldenness — they all simply feel like facets, part of the patchouli’s innate characteristics rather than separate notes. After a few hours, the tonka arrives, smelling almost like vanilla instead of than anything coumarin-ish. It softens the main accords, resulting in the very smoothest of patchoulis which wafts around me in a plush but weightless cloud. It was so addictive, so cozy, that I kept wishing I could find out what the “erroneous” fragrance actually was. So, imagine my delight when I looked up Night Flower on Fragrantica, saw patchouli receive the largest number of votes out of the ingredients, and read some of the comments. It wasn’t a mistaken vial after all. What a happy surprise for a “patch head.”
Things are different when I apply a large application (roughly equal to 2 generous, good sprays from an actual bottle), because the floralcy does come out, resulting in a patchouli and cardamom-infused, Shalimar-esque floral oriental for several hours. As noted at the start, the cardamom is incredibly green and fuses with the tuberose in a way that recreates something much more like neroli and lemon on my skin, laced with a sliver of mossiness (much like the tuberose in Bogue’s MAAI smells a lot like chypre-ish mossiness). After an hour or so, the cardamom’s citrus qualities take on such a tart sourness that it smells more like neroli-lime. Slowly, inch by inch, the tuberose morphs as well, turning into an indolic, quietly smoky, floral lushness. By the time the vanilla emerges, Night Flower smells a lot like a patchouli-styrax-birch twist on Unum‘s Opus 1144, which is itself the lime-vanilla-custard descendent of vintage Shalimar.
Yet, even then, the fragrance’s true core and its driving focus on my skin continues to be the wonderful patchouli-resin mix, and quantity applications merely seem to impact the nature or duration of the citrusy, green, and floral top notes. At no point does Night Flower ever smell like actual tuberose on me. At best, with the higher dosage, the floralcy is a honeyed and syrupy sweetness imbued with lemon and, later, a custardy vanilla. But even that doesn’t last. From the middle of the 3rd hour when Night Flower’s middle stage starts until largely its very end, Night Flowers smells essentially identical to what I described earlier, a plush patchouli with golden, spicy, resinous, and slightly creamy facets. Only some of its nuances have changed. The creaminess smells like vanilla at a high dose, less like tonka. The patchouli takes on some chocolate-y facets at the high dose, and is deeper generally. The leather is a noticeable presence at the high dose, as well as smokier and a bit musky. In contrast, it’s minor, muffled, and short-lived at a lower dose. In both versions, however, Night Flower ends as a wisp of spiced, quietly smoky, faintly musky, and rather ambered goldenness.
Night Flower had soft projection, moderate sillage that quickly turned more discreet, but less longevity than I had expected for such a strong scent. It typically lasted 7 to 7.5 hours with the equivalent of 1 spray, and 9-10 hours with 2.
I really enjoyed Night Flower and would absolutely wear it if a bottle fell into my lap, but I can’t see myself buying it. The main reason is because I’m a very heavy sprayer for my personal use, and I didn’t enjoy the green, lime-like or intensely lemony aspects that appear at a higher dose. Citrusy fragrances aren’t my thing. Sure, I could always apply less of the scent to get the version I enjoyed, but then it’s not the sort of powerhouse that I prefer for my own fragrances. Plus, in that instance, there’s the fact that a simple patchouli-resin combo isn’t all that unique or special, not if you own a lot of patchouli-heavy fragrances as I do. It’s the other stuff that makes Night Flower more distinctive, although I suppose you could then argue that it’s a tuberose-patchouli mash-up of Jardins d’Ecrivains George and Unum’ Opus 1144. Night Flower costs $150 for a 50 ml bottle, and that’s a little high under all the circumstances. And, yet, I’m still tempted for some reason. The plush stage was so wonderfully smooth.
ALL IN ALL:
Out of the three, I’d recommend Ma Bete to those who love classical, vintage, skanky florals and dirty musk scents, and Night Flower to those who love patchoulis, patchouli-leathers, resinous ambers, or some combination thereof. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend Belle de Jour to anyone if I could help it but, if I had to suggest a target group, then fans of mainstream clean white floral musks or floral woody musks in the style of Etat Libre.
Disclosure: My samples were kindly provided by Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Cost & Availability: Each of the fragrances is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 50 ml bottle and costs $150. At the time of this review, they are exclusive to Luckyscent and Eris Parfums. The Luckyscent links are: Ma Bete, Belle de Jour, and Night Flower. It sells individual samples, offers a Sampler Trio for $12, and also ships everything worldwide. You can also buy the fragrances directly from Eris Parfums: Ma Bete, Belle de Jour, or Night Flower. Eris offers a Sampler Trio of carded 1.5 ml vials for $15. There is free shipping at this time. Upon purchase of the sample set, you will also receive a promotional code for $15 off a future 50 ml fragrance purchase. In other words, the cost of the samples will be deducted from the price of any full bottle you end up buying later. However, Eris’ Shipping page states that it only ships to the U.S. at this time. There are no international retailers at present. Samples: Surrender to Chance only has Ma Bete out of the three, and prices start at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Book: if you’re interested in Ms. Herman’s book, Scent & Subversion, you can buy it from her website ($25) or from Amazon US which offers it in either Kindle ($14.99) or regular book version ($20.46). For overseas readers, here are links to the book on other Amazon sites: UK, Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.