I Can See You – Review: Edition de Parfums Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

When I wore Iris Poudre for the first time a few months ago, it was a bitterly cold day and I was taking my son to his English class. I had just put a single spray on the back of my hand before we walked out the door, just for fun and forgot about it almost immediately.

As we walked briskly (as briskly as a small child will walk) and I moved my hand around gesticulating wildly to hurry my son along, all of a sudden I almost saw a thin curl of blue smoke rising from my hand, it was an exquisite synaesthetic experience.

Iris Poudre was visible before me and smelling so lovely, pure and innocent, sparkling, light and elegant. I had to laugh out loud in delight. I had never before experienced such a thing of beauty.

And I have never since. Once we got back home I immediately applied more Iris Poudre, but the sensation did not come again, now I smelled the more pedestrian, nose only version of the fragrance, which is still wonderful and another of Malle’s winners in my book, but I still hanker after that moment of pure pleasure of the visible beauty of a scent.

Iris Poudre was created by Pierre Bourdon in 2000 and features notes of bergamot, orange, rosewood, ylang-ylang, carnation, magnolia, jasmine, muguet, violetta-rose, aldehydes, iris, musk, amber, vanilla, sandalwood, ebony, tonka bean and vetiver.

I do not think Iris Poudre is ideally named, since I don’t think it is a very powdery scent. I like powder, but I can’t find it here in such a prominent place as to name the perfume after it. What is prominent though is a blast of aldehydes in the top notes. For me that makes Iris Poudre very Chanel-esque.

Then the iris arrives, surrounded most prominently by ylang-ylang and carnation, the other floral components give a well-blended  impression of soft and sweet rosiness, warming the cool iris. The drydown is warm, comforting but not for a moment during the considerable lifespan of Iris Poudre, does it lose its elegance and refinement. It never gets overly familiar, there is a certain distance that is upheld throughout.

For several reasons better left unexplored in this post, as a girl I dreamed of being “unnahbar”, that is German for aloof, remote, inapproachable, inaccessible. The translation does not capture the meaning exactly, especially my personal connotation, which was extremely positive.

My best friends mother was a real lady. She was beautiful, elegant, expensively dressed, coiffed and made up, even at the crack of dawn or after a long day. I have never seen her anything less than perfect. She was my hero. I wanted to be just like her.

Elegant and aloof, just a little cold, but brilliantly intelligent, with a scathing humour and great outer beauty. I was so fascinated by that woman. It was not easy to come near her, but if I managed to be accepted by her, I imagined, she would take me under her wing and initiate me into her world, show me all her secrets of elegance and refinement that I so longed for. She never did. I wanted exactly the one thing she was not prepared to give.

By the way, her daughter, my friend, turned into a real tomboy, she hasn’t worn a dress in her life, or perfume at that.

Iris Poudre smells like this woman, that is why I am drawn to it still, although my idea of an ideal self has moved away quite a bit from being “unnahbar”.

Also, I hope to re-experience that wondrous sight of a beautiful perfume transcending the confines of just one sense.

Picture Sources: liberty.co.uk, blue smoke courtesy of Photo8.com, myvintagevogue.com, some rights reserved, thank you very much!

About Olfactoria

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33 Responses to I Can See You – Review: Edition de Parfums Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

  1. Rose says:

    It does smell the way that lady looks- but I think she might let her hair down a bit behind closed doors too- and it would still smell of her.

    The thing about perfume is what you wear it with- something like Iris Poudre with a relaxed but chic outfit is amazing- and I like something very relaxed with a ball gown.

    I had an experience like yours- the divine smell- with Dans Tes Bras- I still like it very much but the first time I tried it I was blown away

    • Olfactoria says:

      Wow, that are two sublime experiences with Malle perfumes.
      It is an interesting idea to juxtapose elegant and relaxed like you do. I wear elegant scents in everyday situations all the time (I have to, or I would never wear them ;)), but the other way around sounds interesting too.

  2. Gisela says:

    Fascinating, your synaesthetic experience! And I absolutely can relate to your dream of being “unnahbar”; I loved watching Ingrid Bergmann in movies in my teens for that reason – go figure!
    I never tried Iris Poudre, the Poudre scared me away. Seems like I have to catch up on that. 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh yes, Ingrid Bergmann is a perfect example!
      The Poudre part scares so many, really an unlucky misnomer! Let me know whether you like it, should you try it.

    • deeHowe says:

      While the term “unnahbar” is unfamiliar to me, as a younger woman, I too sought to maintain “a certain distance that is upheld throughout,” since, like you, it was my idea of what a really classy woman was. Elegant, poised, always knowing how to say just the right thing… and untouchable.

      I’ve accepted that that is not who I am! LOL 🙂

  3. angie Cox says:

    It’s a beautiful perfume and I can almost relate to your experience . When I put on Une Rose in hospital a sense of hypnotic calm enveloped me.

  4. Victoria says:

    Such a beautiful perfume and a great photo to go with it! This is one of my favorite irises, and even though I have been wearing it for the past few years, it still feels new and fresh to me.

  5. deeHowe says:

    I was wearing 28 La Pausa last night from my decant (I had it on the brain 😉 ), and thinking to myself—Iris is such a stunningly beautiful note, and I wish I wore it better!

    It feels a little incongruent on me, but I suppose that is the very thing that attracts me. I have not tried IP, but I’ll look for it next week in Houston!

    • Olfactoria says:

      I think Iris scents may feel incongruent on you, because you are such a warm-hearted, approachable person, the antithesis of “unnahbar”. 🙂
      I am curious what you think of IP!

  6. Tarleisio says:

    I’m always on the hunt for the Perfect Iris…because if any flower epitomizes “unnahbar”, it would be iris! Something perfectly beautiful and perfectly self-sufficient and perfectly just-out-of-reach about it. I have yet to try Iris Poudre, but now, it seems I have to!

  7. vanessa says:

    Fabulous picture to illustrate this scent, and I do agree that iris is the most “unnahbar” of floral notes, with the possible exception of carnation, for me. You have such expressive compound words in Germans that get to the heart of the matter. I do read Iris Poudre as jolly powdery – I think my nose makes no big distinction here between powder and aldehydes, though there is one, I know.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Funny, I never thought of carnation as “unnahbar”, to me it quite warm and inviting, I always think of Bellodgia, which is such a happy scent for me. Perfume lives from our individual associations. 🙂

  8. Tara says:

    Fantastic review. I too longed to be described as “self-possessed” when I was younger but like Dee, i’ve given up on that one! Iris Poudre is wonderful. I plan on getting the set of 3 travel sprays and sharing them with my sister, as this is her fave out of the samples she’s tried of mine.

    OK, now I am off to walk around my house in west London suburbia saying “unnahbar” in a haughty, glamourous manner. No doubt I am pronoucing it wrong but I like the way it sounds 🙂

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  18. Private says:

    I visited Barney’s in Beverly Hills, to purchase a gift of Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower.

    For whatever reason, the gentleman helping me suggested I take home a sample of Iris Poudre for myself.

    I am male, in the Gen X/Y/Millennial demographic, and a perfume collector.

    I will admit I was extremely flattered and pleased that he perceived Iris Poudre as befitting my public persona. I am relatively conservative or traditional in my male style, without being a caricature.

    Iris Poudre, to my nose, is suitably elegant for daily wear, yet still somehow relatively “casually chic.” By contrast, for example, Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee is an artwork, an artwork that I love and admire so much, that I simply could not wear it on a daily basis. It is a treasure, like exquisite rare art or delicate jewelry, to be displayed and protected accordingly.

    I’m sure most of us here will agree that the overwhelming majority of fragrances can be worn by either gender, and any age. Gender and age are not the key factors in deciding whether a fragrance “fits” a person.

    The key to fragrance fit is simply this: your personality.

    And here, as a relatively traditionally styled male in my Gen X/Y/Millennial demographic, I join the ladies commenting above in having longed to project that “unnahbar” elegant aloofness.

    We can imagine one of the male leads in “Downton Abbey” being beautifully “unnahbar” while still a refined male.

    Although I too, am close to giving up on my “unnahbar” aspirations — as life simply does not seem to want to cooperate with my desire to remain perfectly poised at all times.

    But for those moments before I thrown in the towel and when I need a little help, I’ll reach for Iris Poudre as my invisible force field.

    Thank you for your review, and for introducing me to that word (“unnahbar”) that I’d so long loved without even knowing it.

    • Olfactoria says:

      thank you for your beautiful comment!
      I’m glad you found a representation for that state of mind in the word unnahbar as well as the fragrance.
      I’m totally with you that gender assignation of perfume is an arbitrary thing, as you say: it is personality that counts.
      Iris Poudre is a wonderful fragrance and I’m really glad this salesperson was so refreshingly unconventional in suggesting it to you. Enjoy!

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