Last year a juried competition was held to re-create a 1940s-era cult perfume called Iris Gris. Created by the perfumer Vincent Roubert and released by the designer Jacques Fath, an influential French couturier, the fragrance went out of production when Fath died of cancer in 1954. Eventually, Roubert’s son donated the formula to the Osmothèque, a scent archive in Versailles, France. Recipes owned by the archive cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes.
Iris Gris has widely been considered one of fragrance’s holy grails. People buy and sell vintage bottles on EBay, and “it’s become a legend,” says Rania Naim, the current creative director of Jacques Fath Parfums.
A number of established perfumers submitted versions of the scent to the competition that tried to exactly mimic the original. But when it came time for a decision, the panel unanimously agreed that the entry from a tiny upstart perfumery called Maelstrom was the best. Run out of a lab in Paris’s 5th arrondissement by three twentysomethings— Patrice Revillard, Marie Schnirer, and Yohan Cervi—Maelstrom was unknown to most of its rivals, in part because it had only been founded that year. It’s made seven perfumes so far, including this one. And yet, “the first judge smelled all the entries, and not even one minute later he chose Maelstrom’s,” Naim says.
The new Iris Gris, renamed L’Iris de Fath, will be re