Aimé Guerlain 1889
[iris blɑ̃]
Family: floral, powdery
Iris bonbon
Period: The Belle Époque years

Thierry Wasser and his assistant perfumer Frédéric Sacone have re-created an extensive list of historic Guerlain perfumes, using the exact same ingredients as when they saw the light for the first time.

Only two of Aimé Guerlain's perfumes have survived the passing of time and tastes, namely Jicky (1889) and Eau de Cologne du Coq (1894). Yet, Guerlain's reconstruction of some of his forgotten fragrances demonstrates that there is nothing antiquated or dull about his style, marked by the remarkable modernity and freshness we already know from Jicky. His olfactive expression was rather subtle though, at least compared to the dense, opulent perfumes of his successor Jacques Guerlain. Aimé Guerlain really wasn't to blame, as he didn't have at his disposal the powerful aroma chemicals that perfumery acquired later on.

These characteristics also apply to Iris Blanc, a powdery floral fragrance from 1889, the same year Jicky was created. We'll wager that many customers today would find this fragrance very wearable, had it come out as an entry in the Aqua Allegoria line.

The top notes are dominated by sparkling aldehydes. Aldehydes are often described as having a glistening or "white" effect on floral notes, which alludes to its name, Iris Blanc. It's generally accepted that Ernest Beaux's Chanel No.5 (1921) was the first perfume to incorporate a significant amount of aldehydes, but Guerlain lays claim that in fact L'Heure Bleue (1912) was the very first floral aldehyde fragrance. In any case, Aimé Guerlain's Iris Blanc attests that aldehyde perfumes were common far earlier than any of these.

Other than aldehyde, the ingredients of Iris Blanc are few but fine in quality. As the name suggests, the main theme is orris, one of the costliest perfume ingredients. It is obtained from the peeling, drying, grinding and steam distillation of iris rhizomes, resulting in a white paste called orris butter. Guerlain explains that it uses the finest orris available, made from the variety Iris pallida which is cultivated in the region around Florence. Thanks to the simplicity of Iris Blanc's formula, we can closely experience the otherwise ethereal scent of orris: luxuriously soft, powdery, violet-like, and slightly woody.

The orris is mixed with honeyed orange blossom, and when this accord meets bergamot and the citrusy, piercing fizz of aldehyde, it feels much like placing an acidulous fruit bonbon on your tongue, with a note similar to the tart flavour of wild strawberries. We're almost transported to the pert hairspray top note in Insolence EdT. This delightful effect lasts until the aldehyde fades out, after which Iris Blanc becomes a delicate, powdery orange blossom fragrance with a smidgen of vanilla and animal notes. We realize that the sweet marshmallow in Guerlain's modern, pink-coloured scents isn't just sourced on a whim. Also, in a very minimal way, Iris Blanc reminds you of Thierry Wasser's Iris Ganache (now discontinued).

Bottle. Iris Blanc came in the so-called square bottle, a design inspired by medicine jars and used for various Guerlain perfumes during the 1870s and 1880s.

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