Being a huge fan of Jean Claude Elena and Hermes, I was excited when they announced the launch of the new Hermessence Iris Ukiyoe—but I'm on a budget, so it’s taken me a few months to obtain a bottle. A few weeks ago, I ordered a travel bottle (15ml), which arrived in the mail on Thursday afternoon. I had a big road trip planned for the weekend, and I wondered what to do… It’s dangerous to spray yourself liberally with a new perfume and jump into a confined space: you can end up with a headache or nausea or just a plain scrubber. But Jean Claude Elena’s scents tend to be transparent, so I decided to give it a full spray before jumping in the car. I’ve worn it for a few days since then, so I can give you more than just a brief impression, but it still deserves a few more wears before I can do a more serious perfume review.
If you’re a big Hermes perfume fan, chances are that you’ve already read reviews of Iris Ukiyoe. It’s been labeled as a spring scent, with a focus on “iris flower” instead of the more common “iris root” note that you’d find in Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir and Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist. JCE is quoted somewhere as saying this is more about his impression of a watercolor than about iris itself, and he also referred to being inspired by Japanese art. From what I’d read, I worried that it would be aquatic (it isn’t) or too green (it isn’t too green, but it’s definitely green) or too powdery/heavy (it isn’t). I also wondered from the descriptions if it would smell like the one Hermessence that I didn’t like at all: Hermes Vanilla Gallante (good news: it doesn't smell similar to VG at all).
It’s tough to describe. It starts off with a green mandarin note, which is better described as two notes laying on top of each other: one being “green” like fresh broken stems and the other being “mandarin”. The mandarin isn’t the hyper-colored-orange note that you’d find in the Atelier colognes. It’s there, but paired with the greenness, it’s not distinctly fruity to my nose. In a short while, flowers some into play. If I didn’t know that this was supposed to be an iris perfume, I would have guessed it was tulips at this stage. After some time, I get a strong amount of hyacinth, and then later in the base the hyacinth intensifies and takes on a slight cocoa-ish flavor. The cocoa is strange and unexpected; it’s not gourmand and it’s not sweet, and it’s just a hint. I haven’t seen it written in any of the press about Iris Ukiyoe, so I’m wondering if it’s a facet of the hyacinth. But either way, the middle-to-base of the perfume reminds my of the discontinued perfume by L’Artisan Parfumeur called Jacinthe des Bois.
Iris Ukiyoe represents a real departure from Elena’s more common fragrance design. First off, I don’t smell that sharp-challenging-tart-fruit perfume note than you find in some of his Hermes fragrances like Kelly Caleche and Rose Ikebana (I love those perfumes, so this is no insult). And while it’s green, there’s no moment where the note that Luca Turin describes as “vegetable patch” overwhelms it. It’s more girly to my nose than most of his other stuff, though a guy could also wear it.
Photos taken by my husband and myself. All rights reserved.
Iris Ukiyoe by Hermes
SOTD Perfume Review
Perfume House: Hermes
Creator / Nose: Jean Claude Elena
Year: Late 2009
Classification: Green floral
Perfume Notes: I don't think that the marketed notes are very accurate, but they list: iris, rose, orange blossom, mandarin orange.
What you mostly smell: It starts off very green with mandarin. After a few minutes, you get a pretty floral, with iris flower (not root) and tulips. The middle notes are probably the best: tons of hyacinth with dark, unsweetened cacao notes.
Lasting Power: Not the best. But at least you'll enjoy spritzing throughout the day.
Similar Perfumes: It's pretty unique, and any JCE fanclub member will want to add it to their collection. That said, if you like this, I'd probably check out Byredo La Tulipe or Serge Lutens Bas de Soie (which has an unfortunate milky note on my skin; Iris Ukiyoe is better) and if you can find it... L'Artisan Parfumeur Jacinthe de Bois. Though Iris Ukiyoe doesn't have and scent twins or dupes out there, these others would be interesting to review in comparison.
Other Reviews at: NST Perfume
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