A tale of two Irises : Invisible Ink and Lemon Candy

I wrote most of this post a few weeks ago, but didn’t publish it because I wanted to try the perfumes in question again. And of course, as it often happens (doesn’t it?) , I promptly forgot about it. However, in the past few days I noted quite a few posts with titles beginning with “A tale of two..”. And then of course I remembered this post languishing in the drafts and decided it was time to dust it off, finish it and throw it into the internets – a change of pace from the posts about beauty (which will resume on Friday).

The first Iris is Iris Nazarena, by Aedes de Venustas. When I visited New York in June this year, with my son, husband and father (who was visiting from India), perfume had to take a back seat to accommodate the many second hand bookstores my dad and I wanted to visit. I was, however, allowed one perfume stop and for that I chose the much talked about Aedes de Venustas. My then 6 month old son obligingly slept on my husband as I prowled around sniffing. Of course, I had to try Iris Nazarena because of all the buzz it seemed to be generating, even though iris is not a note that usually tempts me. My interaction with this perfume at the store was pretty straight forward. I spritzed some on paper. I smelled..paper. I thought my nose was tired, perhaps, and spritzed on skin. And I still smelled..paper. The sales assistant asked me if I wanted a sample. I said no. He gave me a sample anyway.

So once back home, as I was reading rave reviews of Iris Nazarena, I retried it.  Which led to my ‘aha- Iris’ moment. By which I mean that I finally realized that the paper-like ‘non-smell’ that I smelled, *was* Iris. It reminded me of invisible ink the way it disappeared on my skin, like lemon juice stains on paper. And just like warm light makes the lemon juice writing visible,  so too the warmth of my skin eventually allowed me a peek into its character. Which is soft, slightly spicy. I see it as a fuzzy purple shawl, a muted purple like this:


We don’t exactly speak the same language, but I think I’m starting to make out a word or two. What I’m beginning to find very interesting about iris in general and Iris Nazarena in particular, is that even though up close iris can smell a little vegetal/rooty, it still manages to exude an overall elegant aura. And though I will never love this perfume (never say never!), it does make me want to further explore this interplay of ‘rootiness’ and elegance in iris perfumes.

Cut to the second Iris. Which is By Kilian’s Prelude to Love. This story is a little more convoluted in that  I am not even sure I ever tried my sample when I received it via the by Kilian fan club free sample program. Actually, no- I think I did try it but dismissed it in favor of some of the other offerings. Again, I probably read ‘iris’ in the notes and ‘cologne’ in a review and didn’t pursue it.

Then, yesterday (not yesterday really, but a yesterday few weeks ago) , I was expecting a guest but didn’t want to risk lighting a scented candle that might fall on the exploratory path of my dangerously adventurous son. I thought of placing the candle on a higher surface, but I had recently noticed him shaking the legs of the table because he couldn’t reach what was on it, so I didn’t want to risk that either. I decided to spray a lesser used sample of perfume on the cushion covers- a make-shift room spray. I used my sample of M Micallef Ananda. Because it smelled to me of expensive shampoo I thought it might work as a room spray. Turned out it didn’t please me as that either. So I picked Prelude to Love- another hardly used sample and sprayed. This time I had a ” Are you kidding me, where has this sample been and why don’t I wear it more often” moment. And I immediately sprayed it on my arm. And while my son clamored for my attention, I stole sniffs from arms that now smelled like happy lemony sugar-y mouth pucker-y sunshine and crisp air-y..ok – you get the idea. The initial burst smelled like the tart orange and lemon round, hard candies that you get in all the tiny ‘corner shops’ in India that sell bread, milk, eggs and..yes- candy housed in large glass jars. Yet, unlike what this association might suggest, it smelled elegant, like the scent to wear to a garden party in a white dress like this one.


Because through the sugary lemons I could smell the green elegance of neroli and petitgrain. The kind of elegance that is effortless and slightly casual and not scared of a breeze that might mess up your hair.

The next few times that I wore Prelude to Love, I didn’t get the happy lemony opening quite so strongly. And iris is not obvious to my nose as it is in the case of Iris Nazarena. However, it does have that ‘low frequency’ character * that I associate with with iris (and violet) perfumes.

One of my favorite ‘storybook characters’ growing up, was Anne of Green Gables, and in polls that ask you to scent characters from books, I’ve never been able to pin a perfume to Anne. Well, I think Prelude to Love is just right for her! Actually I can see even Elizabeth Bennet wearing this, though Marni might suit her better.


And even though this perfume is usually not me, it hit the spot the way Chanel Bel Respiro did, surprising me a couple of years ago. I think I could feel like me in it, if I wear it very occasionally when the air is crisp and the breeze blows through my hair. And when I’m wearing pajamas, running to try and catch my son, but want a touch of elegance in the midst of the madness.

* Apparently, I am not the only person who has arbitrary definitions of low and high notes in perfume. See Martha’s post..:D

Picture Credits

1) muted purple flower via We Heart It
2) Under the tuscan sun via La Maison Boheme 
3) Anne of the Island via Audio Books Online


  1. A wonderful discussion of iris (and these two iris perfumes), Lavanya. Yes, I know just what you mean when you compare the iris in Iris Nazarena to invisible ink, because certain iris perfumes comes off that way to me, too — and particularly that one. I think you probably have more of an appreciation for this perfume now than I do. (But, as you know, there are some iris-centric scents that I really, really love.) 😀

    Speaking of which, now you make me want to dig out my sample of Prelude to Love. Your lines, “…through the sugary lemons I could smell the green elegance of neroli and petitgrain. The kind of elegance that is effortless and slightly casual and not scared of a breeze that might mess up your hair.” Ooh, those lines are pretty! Now I must re-sniff!

    Lastly, thanks for the link to Martha’s review in which she talks about low and high notes. Yes, I describe notes in those terms too, and it drives Mark crazy, because he thinks it’s nonsense. But wait until I send you some Jasmina, and tell me if you don’t think it sings in a sunny high register! (I already know you will … thank you in advance!) 😀

    • You know, if I hadn’t re-sniffed it to complete this review, I probably wouldn’t have gained an appreciation for it. :P. Approach Prelude to Love with low expectations to enjoy it – haha. It is not the kind of perfume that I usually gravitate towards.

      Oh and yes- Jasmine is definitely a ‘high’ note..:) Looking forward to sniffing Jasmina!
      “and it drives Mark crazy, because he thinks it’s nonsense.” – LOL. This sentence is really making me laugh..Especially because I can imagine this ‘high note, low note’ thing sounding crazy. Does he disagree with the whole concept or just with the specific scents that you label as high/low. It would be fun to compare notes on..well..notes 😀

      • He disagrees with the whole concept – and naturally, when he asks me to explain what I mean when I tell him that a certain jasmine note smells high and lilting, or that a patchouli note smells like it “registers in the low baritone register,” I really have no explanation, so I suppose that he’s right. 🙂

        By the way, sorry I went so overboard with my commenting. I’m so used to yapping away with you that I, well, just yapped away here!

      • Oh- don’t apologize- you can ‘yap away’ either here or via email 😀

        See- I I ‘know’ patchouli should be ‘low’ because it is ‘lower’ that florals- but as a woody note I might call it high if paired with roses. So sometimes I get quite arbitrary and idiosyncratic about the highness and lowness. 🙂 Do you notice if you usually call top and middle notes high and base notes low? I think we should do a comparison ‘rating’ post with perfumes a bunch of us have on hand- that might be fun.

  2. There is so much in this review that I can relate to! Iris perfumes really must be tried on skin, many if them are incredibly boring on paper. And, unfortunately, some are just as boring on skin, only in a little different way 😉 I haven’t tried Iris Nazarena, but I recently wore “A prelude to love” and I found it lovely but maybe not super memorable, the neroli was the most prominent note to my nose.

    I also perceive perfumes notes as high and low pitched and a single note can be both depending on the quality of the raw material used and company kept in the perfumes composition. Recently I’ve felt tired of fruity roses, they tend to be shrill-y and high pitched with all that dew and freshness going on, therefore I was pleasantly surprised when I tried Lutens La Fille de Berlin last weekend and it’s very low pitched and an almost steely gray rose. Much more to my liking (for roses, for now, at least).

    • You are right, Prelude to Love is not very memorable- that’s one of the reasons I need to wear it occasionally. 🙂
      ‘Steely gray rose’ seems an apt description for La Fille. You are right- it does seem like a low pitched perfume- maybe because of the violets? It does have a metallic something that makes my teeth feel uncomfortable..

  3. Great article Lavanya!
    I’m an iris lover so I really enjoyed reading this post.
    I tried Kilian’s Prelude to Love many months ago and it was one of the earliest niche perfumes I tried. I remember liking it, but to me it was mostly an orange blossom scent.
    However Iris Nazarena is a total hit for me. I find it subdued, elegant and classy. A rooty iris, incense, I also get the smell of ash from it. I just loved it how you compared it to an invisible ink. It creates such a veil around the wearer.

    • Thanks so much Lucas. That’s true about Prelude to Love- I don’t smell much iris either. I can imagine Iris lovers loving Iris Nazarena, though, Smell of ash? Hmm-that’s interesting. I’ll look for that the next time I test it.

  4. What a charming post (and well-selected visuals)!

    I haven’t tried Iris Nazarena on skin for that same reason: I wasn’t tempted by it on a blotter and there were so many other, more interesting, perfumes to try at the store. As to Prelude to Love, it was the first By Kilian’s perfume I liked enough to pay for a decant of it. But I don’t think of it as of an iris perfume, for me it’s mostly about citruses.

    • Thanks Undina! 🙂
      I don’t smell iris either in Prelude to Love. As Sigrun (and Lucas) pointed out- I smell primarily neroli in the heart (and of course all that yummy citrus at the top). I think that was one of the reasons I didn’t put up this post for a while. I thought I’d mistaken it as an Iris perfume..In that case of course I would have had to change the title of the post. As well as part of the post. :D. Then, I went to luckyscent yesterday and saw that they called it a ‘clean, graceful iris’. So at least officially it was an Iris perfume, even if I didn’t smell much iris..lol

      And nice to see you! 🙂 I thought of you while posting this- finally a post you can read- haha.

  5. A bit late to this post, but really enjoyed your evocation of iris in its various forms – the analogy with lemon juice invisible ink was priceless! Takes me right back to my Enid Blyton days… I haven’t tried Iris Nazarena, though the grey bottle is rather stylish, even with its somewhat blingy gold top. Prelude to Love I must dig out again and retry – it was my favourite By Kilian for a good while by virtue of the fact that it didn’t precipitate a headache, which a number of the line do. It was predominantly about the citrus for me too – love your room scent improvisation with it. 😉

    And I do also relate to low and high notes, eg in the context of men’s voices – I found this line I wrote about Kristiansand New York: ‘If we were talking about voices here, Kenzo Power would be a tenor and L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme would be a bass, making….ta-dah!….KNY a baritone, as it fits somewhere between the two’.

    • ahh- the Enid Blyton days! Though I am not above re-reading my childhood loves 😀
      You are an iris-lover no? I think you will like Iris Nazarena.
      And fun!- that you too relate to the high and low notes. Now of course I am wondering whether we perceive similar notes as high and low (I am not familiar with the specific perfumes you mention)

  6. Natalie

    The “invisible ink” quality of iris is one of the effects I like the most in perfumery. I like other incarnations of iris, too, but that effect always makes me smile. It’s like watching a magic trick.

    • Haha- really? So it isn’t just me (and Suzanne)! It did seem like a magic trick- you are right! And it made me want to try other similar (and different) irises that I may have ignored. What are your favorites?

  7. Pingback: Neela Vermiere’s Ashoka : Another Iris epiphany | Purple paper planes

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