Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue, as its name implies, is an iris soliflore—a modern and uncluttered perfume that starts off fresh, with some cologne-like neroli and orange blossom that impart subtle sweetness to the cool, mineral and root-like smell of iris in its early stage of development. On one hand, you could say that this is mostly a linear perfume, but almost any perfume that has a goodly dose of iris is a perfume that has evolution, because iris is a note that changes as it wears on the skin. After its root-like start, Prada’s iris spends some time smelling leathery in a sort of cool and queerly aloof way, and this is not the part of the perfume which spurs to me make any kind of analogy between iris and Iris. Fifteen minutes into its development, though, and from there on out? That’s the point at which my internal antenna pops up and, in my swoony attempt to find a way of describing this scent that is now velvety soft and suede-like, as well as creamy and lightly powdery, I find my head searching for the perfect metaphor.

When the resinous yet whispery oriental base of Infusion d’Iris Absolue has fully developed on the skin (which it has, by this fifteen-minute mark), the way it couches the iris note is hard to describe in olfactory terms. However, if I say to you that this iris is like Iris Simpkins—down-to-earth yet quietly luminous; graceful and respectful while still having true presence; engaging in a way that speaks of both heart and mind—then you might actually get a more concrete idea of how this iris scent presents itself and makes one feel. In perfumery, iris soliflores often end up in one of two camps: either iris’s cool, flinty and cerebral facets are played up and held in suspension, or just the opposite, its ability to transform into warm, cosmetic powderiness is showcased. But in the same way that Iris Simpkins operates from the heart, yet learns to steel her mind just enough that she won’t allow herself to be put into a corner anymore, the iris in Prada’s Infusion d’Iris Absolue achieves a similar balance.

Two nights ago, I watched The Holiday again so that I could affirm what I needed to in order to write this post. I like all of the characters in the film, but in watching dewy-skinned Kate Winslet playing Iris Simpkins, I thought, Hmm ... if you could put an angelic halo around a woman and still have her come across as natural and earthy and real, this is the character you could do it with. She’s the kind of character I find worth emulating, though that’s easy to forget in the daily messiness of real life, where things are not always intuitively obvious. Given that her character is now encapsulated in an iris perfume that is quite special to me, I do at least have a memento that will hopefully keep me pointed in the right direction.

October 6, 2013: 

Photo of Kate Winslet playing Iris Simpkins in the 2006 film The Holiday (with actor Eli Wallach playing Arthur Abbott) can be found at a number of Internet sites. Movie poster for The Holiday is  from

Photo of Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue bottle is from

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Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue has notes of neroli, orange blossom, iris, mastic, benzoin, tonka bean, vanilla and white musk. It can be purchased many places online, and at fine department stores like Nordstrom, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $88 and a 100-ml bottle is $117. I purchased my bottle from HB Profumerie in Rome, Italy.

When I came back from Rome with a bottle of Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue perfume—a perfume that can be purchased anywhere but which I’m going to regard as the quintessential Rome souvenir perfume, thanks to a conversation I had with a blogging friend (lovely Sigrun)—I knew it was a perfume I wanted to write about before any others, and I also knew it would be a challenging perfume to write about. Challenging because its scent is actually quite simple and can be summed up in a few sentences, while the feeling it evokes is far greater that any simple description can do justice to, for a number of reasons: part of it has to do with the perfume itself, part of it has to do with the place where I purchased it, and part of it has to do with the magical way I’ve been feeling lately. It’s in thinking about the latter that I found my answer to my writing dilemma, and I decided I would talk about this iris perfume by finding its complement in another Iris: Iris Simpkins, a character in the 2006 romantic comedy The Holiday. I’ve used this film as an analogy in a previous perfume post, yet as is often the case with favorite films or books, I feel like I can borrow from it again without repeating myself—and quite truthfully, this film has been on my mind lately. It came up in a conversation with my friends in Rome, on a night when we were discussing heartthrobs (and our consensus was that Jude Law was a major one and that The Holiday showcases the reasons nicely). While heartthrobs and chick-flick, fairytale films might not seem the fodder of serious contemplation, I find just the opposite. Fairytales, whether created for children or adults, are simple things too, with good reason. In a pure and direct way, they point us in the direction we should be aiming: I’ve come to see them as road signs on the path to living, as fruity as that probably sounds.

For those unfamiliar with it, The Holiday is a story about two women, one American and the other English, who are both facing the prospect of a lonely Christmas on their respective sides of the Atlantic. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a successful Hollywood film-trailer producer; Iris (Kate Winslet) is a society-column editor for a prestigious London newspaper; both ladies, despite their obvious talents and beauty, are having a hard time of it in the love department. When Amanda comes across Iris’s house listing on the Internet, offering vacationers the opportunity to rent her quaint Surrey cottage, they agree to do a two-week house swap. The switch takes place and the film cuts back and forth between the two women’s respective storylines—both of which I would discuss if I were going to talk about the film as a whole, but for the purposes of my analogy, it’s really only necessary to talk about Iris. (Even though it pains me to pass up the opportunity to talk up Jude Law’s merits in this film, which really and truly go beyond his looks.)

In a clever way, the homes these women swap serve as the metaphor for what each one needs. In Iris’s case, it’s space—she’s been involved with a man named Jasper (not Jude Law's character, by the way) who has made it clear that while he doesn’t want her outright, neither does he want to let her go, and he corners her at every opportunity. Space is what Iris gets in the form of Amanda’s mansion and its larger-than-life LA address, and it doesn’t take long for her to revel in it. Though tearful and depressed while holed up in her cottage in England, the airy environment of LA encourages her to burst forth, and in doing so she befriends an elderly man named Arthur Abbott, who lives in the neighborhood and who once had a glorious career in the movies as a script writer during Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” Though Arthur is not in the best health, his mind is sharp and his personality charming—and in his conversations with Iris, he quickly discerns that she has not accorded herself the importance that would allow her to assume the role of “leading lady” in her own life. He gives her a list of Old Hollywood films to see, featuring the kind of plucky film heroines who might teach Iris about gumption.

That Iris will take this advice and make good use of it is evident, because what’s lovely about her is that she already does possess gumption of a certain kind. The gumption of the person who recognizes the need (and the opportunity) for change and seizes it; the gumption of the person who understands the importance of establishing connections with other people and who makes friends easily. Gumption is a form of courage, and courage, as indicated by its etymology, is something that comes from the heart: the place from which Iris operates. Even if you’ve never seen this film, by way of my introductory paragraph, you know that Iris is going to find romance in a certain someone. That this certain someone turns out to be a music composer named Miles, played with great heart and comedic deftness by the actor Jack Black, is what makes this romance so delightful. Not because it’s a surprise we don’t see coming, but precisely because it is what we expect and what we feel is intuitively obvious and right.

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Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue: My Holiday Iris