At Florals Inc., the board of directors were thrown into a bit of a panic when Blue Lotus went missing and was nowhere to be found.
So Rose, the chairman of the board, had no choice but to create an opening for another floral, and with the help of the other directors, notably her close friends Jasmine, Tuberose and Orange Blossom, decided to accept applications from three irises to decide who would be worthy of a place with Florals Inc. One of the three might certainly qualify for a spot on the board and all its appurtenant thrills, and if it were exceptional enough, maybe another. Yet three irises were at least one too many.
”Yes, girls,” Rose adjusted her reading glasses and peered down the length of the gleaming mahogany table, ”I’m well aware this will be a very hard decision. Nevertheless, we need to make one. So Jasmine, please inform the others of our chosen candidates.”
As Jasmine rustled through her somewhat disorganized notes, Tuberose discreetly checked her text messages, Magnolia looked out the window at a New York September morning and Lily powdered her already flawless stamens, fully prepared to be thoroughly bored.
After an interminable wait, Jasmine sighed out several moonlit promises and pushed a button on the table in front of her. In an instant, a 3-D holographic representation of a dark, luminously iridescent iris shimmered above its mahogany reflection and exuded its scent. In an instant, everyone sat up to attention.
“Candidate number one,” Jasmine’s sultry voice carried through the quiet boardroom, “is DSH Perfumes’ Iridum, part of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ New Kingdom collection.”
“Oooooooh,” cooed Orange Blossom, “this one’s not your ordinary orris.”
“Not at all,” agreed Rose. “For one thing, she’s much spicier, warmer and not a little feistier than they’re usually made, isn’t she? Quite romantic, too – all that cool earthy depth heated by all those Oriental spicy fires. Very West meets East. Antony and Cleopatra. Maybe with a slight intellectual suggestion of Caesar. This is an iris, after all.”
“Ah,” Magnolia exhaled a definite Southern breath, “but y’all, this iris is a smoky, slinky, sensuous iris. Not so earthy, but still whispering all her earthly pleasures.”
“It’s that deft touch of…” Carnation piped in, “sweet wood and resin, and is that saffron I smell, too? With the orris?”
“Genius.” breathed Heliotrope.
“A most excellent counterpoint to the spice.” Jasmine added her own ten scents. “And what I like so much about her is how perfectly she balances between her woody and her spicy selves, always remaining true to her idea but also somehow redefining it. Myrrh. Frankincense. They do me in, every time. She’s a new kingdom of iris, all right. She gives everything away, but you never know her secrets.”
“Those are always so much fun!” Orange Blossom laughed. “Seriously, ladies…isn’t that always the problem with iris? All that gravitas, all that heartbreak and melancholy. Puleeeze. Finally, an iris with all of its mystery intact, but also a bit of a smile tucked in its beard somewhere.”
“About time!” Tuberose put down her phone and leaned forward. “This iris is a stunner if you ask me, not that you did, and I should know, right ladies?”
“Yes….” groaned the entire board of directors in unison.
“So…then…” Rose eyed the others.
“We can’t decide just yet,” Jasmine felt obligated to point out. “For one thing, we still have two more candidates.”
“That we do.” Rose pushed the button, and the darkly shimmering iris that was Iridum disappeared with a spicy balsam sigh.
There was a slight pause as they all readjusted their focus and Jasmine rustled her notes.
“Our next candidate is Xerjoff Irisss.” Jasmine pushed the button, and a showgirl iris sparkled forth, all earthy, rooty sass and class.
“Goodness, y’all,” Magnolia peered closer, “have the Ziegfeld Follies been resurrected as an iris?”
“Is that iris wearing vintage Lacroix?” Tuberose gurgled, hiccupped and then laughed, and everyone but Rose laughed with her.
“Now, ladies, please. Compose yourselves. We’re here to decide who gets to be on our board.” Rose glared around the room, and with a few muffled giggles, the laughter stopped.
Jasmine cleared her throat. “OK. No question about it – it’s an iris. It’s a lush, plush, thickly brocaded iris in petits mains embroidered couture. She’s floral to a very demanding degree. Yet there’s something that doesn’t quite add up somewhere, a piece of her puzzle missing.”
Lily gave the showgirl a very intent look. “I’ll tell you what she is.” Her silky alto voice slid easily across the table. “She’s the Second Wife Iris. You know, he’s made his pile and ditched the helpmeet first wife like all successful men do, and then he went out and landed himself this one, the younger, showier upgrade. She’s got a lot to prove, and like all younger models, she’s a bit… insecure?”
“That’s it!” exclaimed Jasmine. “It’s not that she isn’t beautiful, or lusciously floral, or even stunning in her own right. She is. My goodness. So why aren’t we completely bowled over?”
“Obvious.” Tuberose could cut any floral down to size, which wasn’t difficult if you were Tuberose. “Because she balances on the brink of just a little too much. You know that saying. Wear everything you think you need, and then remove that one thing to make your perfect impression. This iris doesn’t know that. So she piles on absolutely everything and adds five more things, just in case.”
“In other words,” Rose murmured, “she tries too hard and oversells her idea. Oh, I’m sure she’ll be quite convincing for those who are easily impressed or into maximalism,” she looked pointedly at Tuberose, “but I’m not one of those. I’m quite impressed with how she remains true to herself, though – this iris isn’t a quitter. She stays from top to base, all through her hyperfloral heart and well into the sweetly incensed drydown. And that’s my dilemma in a nutshell. She’s absolutely perfect, b-u-t…”
“But.” Jasmine pushed the button, and the showgirl vanished. Now, she had a beatific smile on her lovely white face.
As the last candidate shimmered forth into focus above the mahogany, a collective sigh circled the room. She was monumental, perfectly delineated, made by an absolute master of the craft.
“You devil, Jasmine,” Rose breathed happily, “you saved her for last.”
“Indeed I did,” Jasmine’s grin held no regrets. “This, ladies, is Parfums Serge Lutens fabled Iris Silver Mist. You’ve heard the stories. Who hasn’t? Well, here she is in all her splendor.”
Every flower in the room reacted this time with a long drawn out “Oooooh!”
“I feel like my heart is breaking,” sniffed Magnolia. “And I didn’t even know I had one to break.”
“Someone’s changed the calendar.” Orange Blossom had a faraway look in her eyes. “This is early spring, when the first shoots show up to remind us all spring will come again.”
“Nonsense.” Lily chimed in. “This is both the promise and the deliverance of iris. She knows how to keep her promises. Do you feel it – that verdant galbanum-bitter bite? Can you sense that hint of spice and fire – the one Iridum ran with and Irisss completely bypassed – burning just below it?”
“Hard to believe anything could burn in that orris chill,” Tuberose smirked. “And yet it does…freezes you to immobility, that an orris could be this much, this dizzying, this…what’s that word I’m looking for? Ephemeral?”
“Ghostly, eerie, Gothic – I’d say they all apply here,” Rose sighed for all of them.
“She’s a shapeshifter all right.” Jasmine looked at her notes and then at the iris that twirled her endless facets in the room. “Here, that chilly spring you mentioned, Orange Blossom, there that faraway wisp of woods and spice and fire, Lily, and somewhere entwined – is there any other word that fits? – around and through them all, somehow both the warp and the weave of her, is the orris. There’s no pyramid here at all, it’s all one eerie merrygoround…”
“And such a one.” Heliotrope looked as if she were about to swoon.
“She’s deathly intimidating.” For once, even Tuberose sounded humble.
“Only for being so wantonly perfect,” Rose went on. “Yes, that’s it! This iris defines herself in the spaces of her contradictions – she’s flawless and she knows it, but she contains a memento mori in her depths, both describing her time and her space and yet somehow, just to one side of it, just outside of it…”
“Poetry! From you, Rose?” Tuberose had located her attitude. “In case I weren’t impressed before, I certainly am now!”
“Shall I continue?” Rose asked with a twinkle in her eye. “We could go on for hours, ladies, and no mistake. But…”
“Precisely! But!” Jasmine leafed through her notes. “Now, I have to say it, she won’t be for just everyone, or anyone, come to that. I detect a definite hint of parsnip. She’ll have her detractors.”
“The wimps.” Tuberose waved dismissively. “Yes, she certainly will. Some will hate her and some will love her. I don’t think she’ll care, either way.”
“Why should she?” Orange Blossom. “If you’re that perfect, you’re beyond such paltry pettiness.”
“Or simply just beyond…” Rose stood up for the first time and pressed another button, this time to her secretary Marigold just outside the boardroom.
“Are we agreed then, ladies?”
“Yes!” they all declared with alacrity.
“Marigold, send them in, please.”
The three iris candidates walked in through the open door. Iridum, with her darkly seductive shimmer of spice, Irisss in her gold and purple finery, and Iris Silver Mist, tall and majestic, all standing a little uncertainly by the door as they looked around the hallowed boardroom of Florals, Inc.
“Ladies,” Rose began, “please understand this was an exceedingly difficult decision to make. We’ve decided to make room for two of you, which unfortunately means one of you will be rejected. This doesn’t mean you’re not worthy, it simply means we had priorities we were uncertain you could fulfill.”
Jasmine gathered up her notes. “Irisss, thank you so much for applying at Florals, Inc. But I regret to say that you were not chosen for the Board of Directors.”
Irisss looked stricken. One silvery tear made its way down her perfectly made up face. As she dug desperately for a tissue in her handbag, an elegant arm reached out and held on to hers and Irisss looked up at Iris Silver Mist, her question on her face.
“Madame,” Iris Silver Mist murmured, “a word of advice, yes? It is not necessary to try quite so hard.”
Irisss turned away with a rustle of silk brocade and nearly ran out of the boardroom, as the board gathered around Iridum and Iris Silver Mist.
“It gives me a great deal of pride,” Rose tried to regain some dignity in the happy noise, “to welcome both you Iridum and you, Iris Silver Mist to Florals, Inc.”
Just this once, not even Tuberose protested.
Notes for DSH Perfumes Iridum (EdT): Bulgarian rose, cardamom, cinnamon, cognac, frankincense, beeswax, calamus, gaiac wood, myrrh, orris, saffron and tolu balsam
Perfumer: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Iridum is available directly from DSH Perfumes’ website.
Notes for Xerjoff XJ Irisss (EdP): Bergamot, carrot seed, carnation, iris, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, violet leaves, vetiver, cedar, benzoin, musk, incense
Perfumer: Jacques Fiori.
Notes for Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist (EdP): Galbanum, orris, cedar, sandalwood, clove, vetiver, musk, Chinese benzoin, incense, white amber
Perfumer: Maurice Roucel
Iris Silver Mist is a Palais Royal exclusive and is available for European customers directly from the Serge Lutens website and from Barneys New York.
With my profound gratitude to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Memory of Scent and Tami for the opportunity.