Unexpected Iris: Paprika Brasil by Hermès

In my adventures of the note, a majority of iris and orris notes in perfumery appear on the cooler end of the olfactory thermometer. For instance, Iris Silver Mist is a glacial work, where cool earth and sheets of metal move around a tightly rooted and prominent iris. Infusion d’Iris reduces Iris Silver Mist’s focal idea of iris maximalism and adds definite shades of warmth at its heart, moving more like an abstract yet whole fragrance. 31 Rue Cambon approaches the olfactory equivalent of hot in a gently persistent and stinging manner but instead fluctuates between cool and blushing warm; never fully piquant or totally expressive of the warm hue of the fragrant palette.

Paprika Brasil flips this idea on its head, minimising the focus on the iris note without moving it away from the centre. Instead covering the cool solid iris in the middle with an expansive shading of warm transparent watercolour.

Present from the top to the bottom of the composition, the iris is surrounded in an Ellenaesque whirl of transparent sheer and blonde woods, yet the iris itself exists at a translucent midpoint. Adding cool and regal iris to a sheer and thin woody base adds a sense of constriction; upright and tense, perfectly autumnal, and dusky moving into gloomy.

Whilst (to me) this reads as a novel approach to iris; pairing it with warm woods, there exists additional necessary requirements in making a good perfume.


Photo by Hermes

The problem: cleverness (of blending) is unfortunately not enough in perfumery, and Paprika Brasil demonstrates that point clearly. Everything works, and is blended magnificently to form a compositional whole. The blunt spice of paprika is given counterpoint with the astringent medicinal hum of clove, in which that itself melds with an impression of sunlight hitting transparent woods, warming them in a morning glow (if fragrance had a temperature, Paprika Brasil would exist in Dior Dune territory). Tying this together is a novel iris, translucent with a substance to its body, as if its floralcy was removed and replaced with spice tempered delicately.

The clash of transparent surroundings with a not-so-transparent iris at its core is unwelcome dissonance, and in an Ellena haiku this becomes strikingly prominent.

Everything reads as having the same weight in Paprika Brasil, where everything is excessively sheer and polite including the iris, which is forced into sheer submission. The malady of being a totally figurative work (some parts culinary and some abstract-turned-legible) is that it offers an unconvincing experience, more theoretical and sketchbook than an actual olfactory artwork.

For instance, Brin de Reglisse also risks this excessive intellectualising of scent, however pulls it off by attaching itself to both of the predominant facets of lavender: the minty (anise, liquorice) and the maple syrup like (immortelle, coffee, hay), as well as bolstering the lavender’s floralcy (orange blossom, herbs). Overall, a scent executed with supreme balance: a study of lavender. Paprika Brasil has unresolved tension, leaving a piquant trail with nothing to maintain it. Less of a study, and more of a limp sketch that could do with some sharpening.

I for one am curious to see how a generous application of violet flower and a careful dosage of violet leaf would sit in this fragrance’s structure. But if we want that, then we can go for Iris Cendré, which loses the transparency but feels more complete, and clearly showcases the warm wood and floral concept.

Incomplete sketch

Subjective rating: 3/5

Objective rating: 2.5/5

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