Hello and welcome to "Gender Bender (click me to read others in this series)", an exploration of aroma, gender and scented freedom. Though by no means do I personally prescribe to fragrance having a gender, sociocultural stereotypes about masculinity and femininity often prevail at the fragrance counters and are viewed as important distinctions for many fragrance fans. Join me as I explore some of my favorite aromas in my quest to challenge marketing rhetoric and address the question, "How does fragrance transcend gender?"
Summary: Today we'll examine iris, a fragrance note that has taken center stage throughout the last couple of decades. In 2010, Japanese perfumer Satori Osawa(read my intervew, Part 1, HERE) launched Iris Homme, developed with a gentleman in mind but absolutely unisex. The earthy, vegetal aroma of iris (one of Japan's most revered flowers) is paired with bright citrus topnotes and warm amber and wood notes in the base. Leave a comment below for your chance to win a sample of Iris Homme (US only).
Perfumer: Satori Osawa
Try this if you like: Fragrances that aren't gourmand/foody, floral, sweet, fruity, spicy, or herbal. This is a dry, woody citrus that highlights the earthier aspects of the iris (rhizomes). It is also a great warm weather scent in its subtlety. Try this to find out how a classically trained Japanese perfumer interprets iris.
Reminds me of: Prada Infusion d'Homme, Hermes Hiris, Yardley Iris,
Pros & Cons: Iris Homme shares a number of similarities with other modern iris aromas noted above and as such, the general tone of Iris Homme will feel familiar to iris fans. In terms of gender, iris is regularly used in fragrances for both genders and will likely have no connotations to the regular perfumer lover.
While the Prada line offers us lush green vegetal aromas in the original Infusionintended for women but enjoyed by both genders (and the men's is far dryer, soapier and somewhat resinous), the Hermes offering is more doughy and high-pitched, and the Yardley is quite subtle and short-lived. Satori's take is to streamline the concept and focus on the warmer, woody basenotes, very much in line with Japanese cultural traditions where aromas of wood such as cedar, cypress and sandalwood are quite prominent.
But in keeping with Asian paradigms of subtle aromas, the longevity and sillage of this Eau de Parfum are moderate. The fragrances are only sold within Japan and due to the quality of ingredients, are priced in the niche range.
Notes: Lemon, cardamon, orange flower, iris (nioi-ayame), violet, jasmine, amber, sandalwood, light musk.
Designer's Description: "Iris Homme" is an intellectual and stylish fragrance for mature men with such taste of life. "Iris Homme" can be worn on a formal and/or a casual scene, perfect for your everyday standard fragrance, always by your side. The freshness of citrus turns softly into iris and woody fragrances. The supple strength of amber exists at the core and lasts until the end. This fragrance clearly highlights the features of and is a pair to Silk Iris.
Number of times tested: 10+ times over the last 3 months.
Number of sprays applied for this review: 2 sprays to the back of my hand from a bottle sent to me by the perfumer.
Fragrance strength: Eau de Parfum
Development: (Linear / Average / Complex): There is an aquatic brightness in the topnotes thanks to the lemon, cardamom and orange flower. The iris rhizomes (wikipedia image shown below; read more HERE) that are aged for an average of 3 years before they can be used in perfumery (the petals offer no aroma) and are typically bitter, powdery, and bread-like are here softened with violet and jasmine. For those who like sandalwood, Iris Homme's basenotes offer a noticeable woodiness, accented with a touch of dry amber and light musk.
Longevity: (Short / Average / Long-lasting): Two sprays to the back of my hand lasted around 4-5 hours with only a hint of the musky wood lingering beyond that.
Sillage: (A Little / Average / A Lot) Iris Homme is indeed noticeable around me for the first 45 minutes to an hour. Beyond that, the fragrance is a skin scent and remains reserved. Considering the Japanese aesthetic for subtle scents that aren't too intrusive to others' personal space, this is to completely expected.
Note about the packaging: As seen above, the typical 50ml bottle is square, flat, opaque black glass with simple gold metal atomizer and black and gold label. A limited edition 15ml Eau de Parfum (seen below) is housed in a striking, transparent glass bottle for dabbing. Satori's fragrances are housed in stylish black paper boxes with gold accents.
Where can I buy it? Only available in Japan, it is quite challenging to purchase a bottle of Satori's scents outside the country and a 50ml EDP spray is about $150 USD while a limited edition 15ml splash is priced around $80 USD. One may contact the brand to enquire about international shipping by using the website's contact page; though it is in Japanese, I have created a translated page via Google, in English -CLICK ME. Once you've entered your information, please send the info by clicking the bottom right button (the bottom left button will clear the form)..
The Bottom Line: First of all, I should explain that the fragrance market for men in Japan was rather narrow until the bubble of the 1980s. A limited number of brands were available but most popular were the traditional aftershave and hair pomades of Japan's own Shiseido and Kanebo. More recently, younger generations have explored modern aroma and the practice of liquid scent so popular in the West has definitely caught on. Today one can find major international designer and niche brands alike as well as the lower-priced brands such as Yves de Sistelle and Jeanne Arthes.
That being said, the modern aesthetic for both men and women is definitely fresh and light, and considering the typical crowds that many Japanese find themselves a part of each day while commuting to/from work and school, there is definitely an awareness of how one's scent impacts those around them. While spending time in Japan I enjoyed exploring a number of flankers of popular releases that were exclusive to the Asian retail and travel market.
Interestingly, a few fragrances that were traditionally marketed to women were marketed to both genders in Japan. For example, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue was regularly found at men's fragrance counters, further illustrating the ways that gender distinctions in fragrance are largely cultural and often dictated via marketing.
And now onto Parfum Satori. A thoughtful Fragrantica Facebook member suggested we communicate with perfumer Satori Osawa and after exploring her brand, I asked if I might sample Iris Homme. After all, I know how significant the multicolored blooms are throughout the country, growing along rivers, in gardens and often also planted in residential rice paddies. In fact, so appreciated is the iris in Japanese culture that it appears throughout art and design in paintings and textile motifs.
Gender Bender: The World of a Japanese Perfumer Part 2, Satori Osawa's Iris Homme ~ Fragrance Reviews
FACE BOOK PAGE [PARFUM SATORI]