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Feu Secret – Warm and woody and sublimely different - March 22, 2018

Feu Secret -

The latest news from science that we humans have an ability to smell that rivals the ability of dogs blew me away– read this recent article in The Guardian. Wow. I really CAN smell, I’m not just a crazed obsessive person. I have to say it made me feel a little more justified in having so many fragrances in my collection.

The fact is, I love perfume, and I love reading about it, and reading about it often leads to another acquisition, another fabulous frag to add to the perfume shelves. A few weeks ago I was on Bruno Fazzolari’s website and discovered his blog. The first post was “Orris Butter: The Phantom”.  Hmmm. Gotta read this.

I love the iris (orris) note, Gwen does, too - see our Note Series #17 – IRIS. The unmistakable iris scent we love isn’t found in the tall elegant blooms but below ground in the roots, the rhizomes. To obtain the oil from the root, iris rhizomes are harvested, cleaned, cut, dried, and aged for up to five years, then the aged rhizomes are steam-distilled to produce a thick oily compound, known in the perfume industry as "orris butter".

Bruno’s blog about this extraordinary and incredibly expensive perfume ingredient was inspired by Feu Secret (Secret Fire), his new release which has orris butter in its heart. Bruno says:

“…it takes one ton of iris root to produce one kilo of iris butter through a process that is very time consuming and technically demanding. The fact that perfumers continue to use it despite its cost speaks to how special this stuff is in perfume. It creates an effect that cannot be duplicated with another material. Orris is mysterious: subtle, delicate and complex…  Orris smells of violet, pepper and raspberry, and perfumers will sometimes describe it as lending a chocolate effect to a perfume. If it sounds good enough to eat, that’s because it is. Orris root is used as a flavor ingredient in the traditional Moroccan spice blend, Ras al Hanout, and is also one of several aromatics used to flavor finer gin…”

Orris butter -

“…Reading perfume reviews, it's easy to become confused about what real orris butter smells like. There's a good reason for this, the material has many facets: floral and woody; earthy and fresh; sweet and also slightly bitter. Its odor strength is both wimpy and strong (sounds contradictory, but stay tuned). To make things even more confusing, iris is a perfume "note," which means that it gets interpreted. A perfumer can develop an accord that highlights any of its many facets: floral, rooty, woody, violet, sweet, etc. So when someone says they love an iris or orris perfume—what that really means is that they love the way iris has been interpreted.

Bruno describes how he interprets the iris note in Feu Secret:

… In Feu Secret, my orris perfume, I pair it with eucalyptus and spices (turmeric and pink pepper). I also emphasize the woody facet with cedar and sandalwood. My goal with Feu Secret was to allow a sort of hidden warmth to shine through the cool surface of orris butter and to stay true to the rooty-woody aspects that I find so compelling…”

Ok, this sounds fascinating, a new take on iris. I’m in. I buy Feu Secret.

The first spritz bursts out of the bottle full of tangy resins, eucalyptus, fir, and pink pepper, an accord which feels bright and welcoming. There is a quick burst of damp violets, but from underneath rises the waxy orris butter which seems to melt in the presence of the resins, warming on my skin and releasing tendrils of smoke from the birch tar, but smelling like iris, earthy, rooty, and real. I catch spicy facets from turmeric which make the iris deliciously foody, like rising dough, then the distant waft of wood resins from cedar brings a foresty freshness. There’s a wonderful sensation of warm and cool at the same time, which continues through the drydown, and is fascinating.

Into the heart, the iris accord cools and thins as the iris becomes more ethereal. The iris is the star, strong and pure, rooted firmly, cool elegance personified. But the warmth returns in the base, as the resinous cedar and powdery sandalwood notes that Bruno mentions shine a light through the iris. The accord smells almost creamy with faint wispy hints of bitter cocoa from the iris and toasted coconut from the sandalwood that come and go. The last note to bloom is dark vanilla which adds a velvety depth. On warm skin, Feu Secret smells sublime, so alive and appealing, and the rich warmth of the base notes lasts for hours. And it’s so easy to wear, the sillage is discreet and truly genderless.

Bruno Fazzolari is not only a perfumer (see Lampblack) he is an accomplished visual artist, a painter and sculptor, a graduate of Berkeley with an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He teaches in the Graduate Program at the California College of the Arts, and he also writes about art.

Bruno’s secret fire is his powerful talent, his innovative vision that places him among the most interesting independent perfumers working today, in my opinion. Secret Fire is his interpretation of the orris/iris note that’s so new, so different, and so beautiful, it makes my heart ache.

Feu Secret is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.