“Fascinating. Brilliant.” That was my immediate reaction to the opening of Iris Cendré, the newest fragrance from Naomi Goodsir. It begins as a swirling cloud of olfactory and symbolic contrasts, cleverly juxtaposed one upon another in a fragrance that feels like cool, modernistic minimalism with so much more. Elegant, sophisticated, restrained, with deceptive simplicity that masks great depth and an astonishing range of contrasts, Iris Cendré (“Ashed Iris” or “Iris Ash”) had one of the most intriguing debuts that I’ve come across in a while. And I say this as someone who is not an iris lover! I just wish the rest of the fragrance had lived up to that captivating beginning.
Imagine yourself camping in a forest, sipping tea by the fire. Bright, green mint and a dollop of raspberries float in your mug of black Lapsang Souchong whose leaves you’ve toasted in a cast-iron skillet to release their smoky darkness and delicate nuttiness. The campfire billows out smoke from cade and birch logs, each coated with blackened tar that smells like butch leather as much as burnt, singed wood. Labdanum amber glows like coals amidst the flames, and release a meaty, musky warmth.
The smell of your tea rises in the air, sending out streamers of cool mint and juicy raspberry to counter the billowing campfire smoke. Bright freshness and fruited sweetness vie with multi-faceted smoke, leather, tar, and woods, all enveloped by the fire’s soft warmth. You take out a pipe, stuff it with dark tobacco, and light it as you sip your tea in the flickering light of the warm fire which serves as a beacon in the dark forest, casting shadows upon the desiccated remains of nearby trees, and creating a woody-ambered dryness. It would be a lovely picture were it not for a few issues, one of which is that you’re also being doused with arid, harshly acrid, and often antiseptic-smelling chemicals that pour down on you like heavy rain.
Unfortunately, that was not my only difficulty with Russian Tea, a popular fragrance released last year that I’ve absolutely dreaded covering for the last two months. It actually took me a few attempts to get through wearing the fragrance all the way through, instead of quickly scrubbing it off, but at least it eventually gets better after its very abrasive opening hours. Well, somewhat better. In general, Russian Tea has not been a joyous experience.