It’s frustrating to discover a fragrance, get all worked up about it, put it on the skin, and have it disappear in 20 minutes. Perfumers describe this phenomenon as caused by a lack of “fixation,” the idea being that certain ingredients, known as fixatives, “fix” the perfume and get it to last longer. Typically resins, woods, or persistent molecules, most fixatives have high boiling points and evaporate slowly. The accepted wisdom is that fixatives combine with the rest of the perfume and slow its volatilization.

While this can be true, many times I have noticed that only the fixatives persist. The fixatives fail to bring the other ingredients with them, causing the perfume to shift from whatever prevails in the beginning (the more volatile components), to the aroma of the fixatives alone. In the 1950s, my mother often came home late from parties, wreaking of natural musk, the other aromas in her Vol de Nuit long gone.  

There is certainly no inherent problem with a perfume shifting character from the beginning to the end, provided it is pleasant during its entire duration. However, if the perfume promises to smell like something, it shouldn’t change and end up smelling like something else. A rose perfume can’t gently fade into tuberose. But a perfume with a name that’s more about a fantasy—Opium, say—may be perfectly lovely as it changes over time.

So, where does this leave Black Iris? I might be in a pinch. I’m promising iris and if the stuff doesn’t smell like iris the whole time, then it’s no longer iris. But what if—just as with opium—the public doesn’t know what iris, much less black iris, smells like?

Soon, more about the difference between an iris and a black iris.