Now that there has been about five years of this trend of transparency, I have some preferences. I still have issues with a fragrance designed to be so light it is barely present. Those always seem like perfume made for people who don’t like perfume. There is a level where things become just a little opaquer. As difficult as it has been to embrace this style it is these types of constructs which I can find some pleasure in. Les Soeurs de Noe Call Me Iris fits right into what I like.
I discovered Les Soeurs de Noe two years ago with their debut release of five fragrances. Founder-creative director Nadia Benaisa wanted to design perfumes which reflected her Belgian and Moroccan world where she grew up. The first releases were smart combination of Eastern and Western influences. She worked with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff to create one of my favorite discoveries of 2019. The same creative team is in place for Call Me Iris.
Pierre Wulff (l.) and Jerome Epinette
The Eastern and Western pieces here are frankincense and iris. I have lots of perfumes which have these two ingredients as their nucleus. What makes Call Me Iris different is the transparency without becoming ephemeral. Here those two ingredients knot them selves together like two silk scarves as the wind blows underneath.
Orris and frankincense come together immediately. In the early going it is as if the incense is coated with a fine dusting of iris powder. I’m not usually a fan of the powdery part of orris. In this case the opacity works to make it more interesting. A lemon zephyr blows in adding a hint of citrus luminescence. Baie rose asks for that rhizomal side of orris to come out. As that happens the frankincense also slightly shifts from soft to a silverier scent. The base has vanilla waiting to interact with the orris and fir balsam to add to the frankincense. As this comes together, they add an extra layer to both keynotes.
Call Me Iris has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am quite pleased to see that Mme Benaisa has returned with all the things which made me so happy about her first releases. Call Me Iris has been a wonderful companion on these summer days because it is as transparent as it is. I have found myself closing my eyes and letting the scent take me to a different place. It has become my meditational iris.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
One of the things I have been hopeful for from this trend towards transparency is the opportunity to find a new style. Two which seem to have become more prevalent have been gourmands and floral gourmands It is in those areas where Les Soeurs de Noe really takes off.
Amazing Jade is the gourmand one of the three. I was caught right from the top as the perfumers used pistachio and hazelnut as their top accord. They create a toasted nutty effect that is ideally realized. I don’t have too many perfumes which have such an enticingly nut-based opening. They then encase those nuts in swirls of incense and a supple opaque leather accord. The nuts find a harmonic with the leather that was a joy all day. It all ends on a musky base. This is a remarkably light perfume despite the presence of things like leather and incense. I think once the weather turns a tiny bit cooler, I will really find the spot where this perfume excels.
Amazing Jade has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bohemian Absinthe is the fruity floral member of the debut collection. It is not a typical version of that style as the perfumers pair the tart juiciness of kumquat with the gentle floral quality of apple blossom. Where this begins to feel different is through the mentholated verdancy of eucalyptus adding lift to the fruit and floral. To provide contrast a base accord which grounds this comes courtesy of sandalwood, leather, and vetiver. The woodiness is bracketed with a smoky version of vetiver to give texture while leather provides a more refined effect. This is another which will be fantastic in the cooler weather
Bohemian Absinthe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
That leaves my favorite of these initial releases, Jardin de Macarons. This is the floral gourmand I mentioned earlier. What makes this style the right choice for transparent aesthetics is by keeping both the floral and the gourmand on the opaquer side it gives more room for both sides of the coin to shine. In the case of Jardin de Macarons it is the combination of rooty orris with a sugary candy floss which holds the center. Prior to that a luscious plum lead into it while an earthy patchouli and sweet woody palo santo support it. All of that is great but it is the sugared orris which takes this to a new level. It felt like I was trying a gourmet macaron of orris all the while I had this on my skin.
Jardin de Macarons has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I said in Part 1, I am looking for those brands and creative teams who will grab this transparency aesthetic and find ways to make it their own. Mme Benaisa has done this through her first five releases. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Les Soeurs de Noe.
We are a couple of years into this widely held belief that transparency in fragrance is the desired aesthetic. During the coalescence around this hypothesis I have found the ones which miss the mark are the ones who become so light they become an anti-perfume; afraid to have presence. There have been exceptions to this. It is why I have hope there is some greatness to be found within this trend because there are too many good people who should know how to make it relevant. I was surprised earlier this summer to find much of what I am looking for in a new brand; Les Souers de Noe.
Les Soeurs de Noe was founded and is creatively directed by Nadia Benaisa. Mme Banaisa spent her childhood between Belgium and Morocco. For her perfume brand she wanted to find the overlap between the Europe and Orient. To achieve her vision she worked with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff on her first five releases. It has been a long while since a debut collection has captured my attention as fully as this one has. Her choice to work with M. Epinette is a great choice as he is a perfumer who excels in this space of transparent fragrance.
Pierre Wulff (l.) and Jerome Epinette
I am going to spend the next two days writing about all five of the original releases. Today I am going to start with the two which are the most typical styles in the collection; Mitsio Vanille and Oud Rose. Tomorrow I will follow up with the three gourmand inspired perfumes.
Mitsio Vanille is a vanilla-centric perfume which remembers the source of vanilla is the pod of an orchid. The perfumers spend the early moments discovering the orchid in a tropical milieu. This is a fresh green world of freesia and the botanical musk of ambrette seeds. The orchid hangs suspended with a strong floral quality provided by lilac. This vanilla orchid accord especially paired with the ambrette is gorgeously realized. The base deepens the vanilla as if we were making an extract of the pods we harvested. Along with the vanilla the muskiness also becomes a bit more pronounced retaining that duet by giving it some depth in the end.
Mitsio Vanille has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oud Rose is the classic pairing of Europe and the Orient, Mme Benaisa had to include it. The challenge for the perfumers was to find a way to lighten it up. It is accomplished by using Rose de Mai as the rose counterpart to the oud accord. Both choices allow for a more transparent construct. Oud Rose steps through the classic paces of this kind of fragrance by opening with the golden halo of saffron floating on smoky tendrils of incense. The stars show up as the fresh Rose de Mai and the finely constructed oud accord create a modern version of this ancient pairing. It goes through a leather and patchouli base at the end.
Oud Rose has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
You might not think of Vanilla and Oud as candidates for a transparent perfume, usually they are not. In the hands of this creative team they capture just the right amount of opacity to keep them from being irrelevant.