Suzanne's Perfume Journal

March 26, 2008:

Hermes Hiris: Unconventional Beauty

Often when trying on a fragrance for the first time an image will spring to mind, and when I first tried Hermes Hiris, a solifore iris scent, the image that sprang to mind was Cher.  To be more specific, Cher circa the early 1970s (before the tattoos, the plastic surgeries, and, naturally, before old age).

In my adolescent years, the only glamour I knew came from television—and living far out in the country, even TV glamour was limited to three channels (on a good day—less than that when lousy weather messed up the reception of our antenna).  There were more conventionally beautiful women than Cher whom I remember from that time (Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched, for instance), but none could hold a candle to Cher’s combination of raw geometry, smoldering sensuality, and risqué glamour.  Admittedly, the latter had a lot to do with her appeal: the satin, sequined costumes designed by Bob Mackie that Cher wore on The Sonny and Cher Show were mesmerizing not only for their decadence, but for their

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Hermes Hiris can be purchased from the Hermes website, where a 3.3 oz bottle is currently priced at found at $153. The older version (in the cobalt blue bottle, like the one pictured above), is the version I own and it can still be found at a number of online perfume discounters for a lower price. (Used to be it could be found for a substantially lower price at the perfume discounter sites, but since Hermes relaunched the fragrance in a new bottle, apparently it has driven up the cost for the original, cobalt-blue bottles.)

skin-baring design that revealed Cher in all of her feline sleekness.  At the tantalizing border where sequins met flesh lay the flat expanse of Cher’s taut abdomen; the fine outline of rib above it, the silky long legs below, and the angular plane of cocked hip, visible even when fully clothed.  And then, of course, there was her sheath of raven hair, and the face that was too long but which captivated with its slant of high cheekbones, aquiline nose, and dark eyes that seemed distant and aloof, suggesting that no matter how much the rest of Cher was on display, she was a private woman who didn’t give up anything she didn’t want to give up.  Cher was one of the few celebrities who could bare a lot of skin and not look cheap—who, quite the opposite, looked rather expensive—and I think it was this languid aloofness, this untouchable expression that gave her an almost regal bearing.  (Sadly, all of that changed in the 1980s and 90s, in what seemed a desperate bid to hang onto her status as Sexual Diva Extraordinaire, when she began flaunting her tattooed buttocks to the MTV generation.)

So how is it that Hermes Hiris conjures an image for me of 1970s Cher?  I suppose it is because it is a fragrance of unconventional beauty.  It starts off with the scent of a root being pulled from raw earth—earth that is dark, cool, a bit metallic and a bit unyielding.  Hiris is a streamlined, bare bones kind of scent; it has Cher’s angularity, her sleek nakedness, though not her adornment.  This scent has no sequins, no heady or lush assemblage of notes that act as accoutrement, but neither does it need them: Hiris is enigmatic because of its raw, dark quality, which, in time, yields to something softer and more translucent.  As it dries down, Hiris takes on a little more of the powdery quality that iris is known for in perfumery, yet the earthiness never completely fades away.  As a whole, the fragrance is almost a study of the perfumer’s iris: unlike tuberose, rose, jasmine, or other floral notes, iris is an essence that is derived from the root of the plant, not the flower.  Also known as orris root, the best iris comes from Florence, Italy, and it is harvested, dried and aged for up to five years, during which time the fats and oils in the roots undergo oxidation, producing its fragrant compounds.

Hiris is the scent I turn to on days when I am feeling more flinty than soft; when the flowery numbers I usually crave suddenly seem a little too precious.  It’s a scent I would suggest to anyone who works in a close office environment because it has definite presence without big, wafting sillage—and it’s perfect for those days when you want to assert your independence, remind yourself that you have a backbone and will not capitulate to the petty whines of everyone around you (and that you can do it without growling but simply by holding a part of yourself in reserve).  Hiris is a quiet reminder that a very powerful beauty exists at the core of your person—and that you sometimes have to strip away the frills to find it.