Family: gourmand, woody
Notes: bergamot, cinnamon, orris, white chocolate, cedarwood, patchouli, amber, vanilla, white musk
Period: The haute cuisine years
Iris Ganache collection
Iris Ganache was the fifth L'Art & la Matière fragrance and marked Thierry Wasser's entry into Guerlain. At that time, he joined the external perfumers commissioned by Guerlain's then artistic director, Sylvaine Delacourte, to contribute to Guerlain's deluxe collection, and she wanted him to make a perfume centred around orris, one of perfumery's most expensive materials and a major player in the Guerlain patrimony. The orris theme had already been modernized with Insolence, dazzlingly fruity and colourful, but Thierry Wasser had in mind an "iris butter worked like a pastry ganache," a simplistic, refined recipe in accordance with the niche philosophy of the L'Art & la Matière line. The name itself was alluring. Iris, one of the most defining features of Jacques Guerlain's perfumes, and ganache, chocolate melted into cream — Guerlain, grand chef de dessert. Weren't all the Guerlain oldies really iris ganaches? Known for its fixative property and for long a source of fascination for perfumers, raw iris butter has a deep, rooty-grey, powdery odour of old books and lipstick, which Wasser sugared with white chocolate. White chocolate is made of cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids and is technically not real chocolate as it doesn't contain any of the brown cocoa solids, without the complex, aromatic bitterness of dark chocolate. Instead, it's sweet and creamy, and Wasser replicated its indulgent flavour to contrast and nest the orris root.
Iris Ganache unfolded in three distinct parts. The first was perhaps the main charm, a melting blend of bergamot, cinnamon, orris and white chocolate. At once peculiar and utterly addictive, it was "like Après l'Ondée with caramel," as Tania Sanchez wrote in Perfumes: The Guide, with something wonderfully raspy, silvery and wintry in the orris top note, and something gourmand halfway between whisky and sugar frosting. Sweet and ornately highbrow and very Guerlain, this accord spelled masterpiece. After this, Wasser chose the subtler path. There was patchouli, superfine and dosed carefully to show its most natural silkiness. Also, a mix of amber and cedarwood, the latter adding an unexpected woody whiff of a men's scent, presumably a deliberate unisex nod ("makes you feel like biting the man or woman who's wearing it," Guerlain even said about Iris Ganache). Cedarwood oil smells dry, soft and slightly peppery, often likened to pencil shavings, as opposed to sandalwood which is much creamier and warmer. Combined with amber, cedarwood can make for an ashy, oily, rather pale type of sweetness that you maybe wouldn't expect from a real ganache. The third part, the drydown, had vanilla and white musk, not surprising for the L'Art & la Matière line, long-lasting and tinged floral by the iris, as if the ganache effect was intended as an after-hours pleasure — what you smelled when waking up the day after was outright mouthwatering. Iris Ganache really must take the prize for one of the most delicious Guerlains. The perfume had its admirers but was never a big hit; like L'Heure Bleue, it came without a commercial top note. Uniquely attractive yet oddly demure, Iris Ganache was the first L'Art & la Matière to go out of production, in 2012. What won Thierry Wasser the title as Guerlain's in-house perfumer was probably the far more striking Quand Vient la Pluie, a composition related to Iris Ganache and made at the same time.
Bottle. The bottle for the L'Art & la Matière line is an oblong slender block of glass, decorated on one end with a golden metal strip with the perfume's name imprinted on it, inspired by the spine of a leather-bound book.
We love: that Wasser so swiftly understood what Guerlain is all about
Chic Guerlain man
Some images courtesy of guerlain.com
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