Tag Archives: The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher… Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

He looked up with wide, wide open dark brown eyes.

“Eyes as deep and dark as coal mine shafts” his grandfather said.

Surrounded by childish lashes so long it seemed as though he had been made up in kohl.

So the Indian doctor in the village, immaculate in his pink turban, told him.

Her hair was grey, and white and black, like the ash from the hearth at home.

The room smelt clinical, almost chemical at first.

He knew she doused the keys with an anti-sceptic solution before each tutee.

She still feared the flu that took her husband forty years before, just after he had survived the first war.

And now there had been another one and a winter so cold it carried off almost as many.

“I’m sprinkling the talcum powder on the piano now.”

She spoke in her serious staccato way, understanding the need to rouse him from his reveries as she must do every time if anything were to be achieved.

From a height as high as her elegant slender arms were long she sprang a cascade of white flecks, drew an opalescent curtain across the air between the dark wood panelled walls and them.

“To think…” she reflected out loud and not for the first time, “…this room was once a public house, a cheap piano on this very spot rang out with even cheaper tunes.”

Through the temporary drapes of dust he saw irises on a side table made almost pale and indistinct, their deep rich purple turned a dusky pink.

“Powder on the fingers only. I shall be checking that there are no white marks on your palms or wrists.”

“Elevation. Remember to keep everything aloft.”

“Let’s begin.”

First scales, certain and assertive, then arpeggios, chords and familiar sequences.

Fifteen minutes or so passed, his fingers should be warm by now, but in the cold and amidst the soot and lint and ash he still felt frigid.

She took his frosty hands in hers and turned them over to examine for traces of powder.

She was colder even than him and up close smelt of the same ethereal cleanliness as the piano keys.

Some of the talc had come to rest on the black shawl that shrouded her tiny shoulders, he smelt it now and knew it was a desiccated version of the flowers in the vase by the table against the wall.

“Very good. Nothing on the palms or wrists at all.”

“Even for an eleven year old your hands are small, but your extension is wonderful.”

She thought, but did not say, “Perhaps it is because you have to fight for every note that you play so beautifully.”

Now she spoke, “Brahms today. The waltzes.”

“How to make happy dances sound sad”, he thought.

“Oh but they’re not sad,” she said “…they are wistful, which as you will discover is something altogether different.”

“The waltzes.” He repeated in a whisper.

Composed for four hands originally then rearranged for two.

The single pianist’s pieces came in difficult and simplified versions.

He, of course, would play the harder solo part.

As did she.

Iris Poudre by Pierre Bourdon for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is perhaps the greatest contemporary interpretation of an Iris perfume in the grand mid-Century manner.

Stern and stylish, neo-classical and well-informed it is an intellectual as well as sensual event.

None of which cleverness takes anything away from its angular, fine-boned beauty, which, with age fleshes out to a softer more approachable attractiveness.

Despite what official notes may claim, the opening, in line with convention is aldehydic.

A spry, strict accord that continues structurally well into the perfume, providing an olfactory cantilever for what is to come.

It holds the less concrete notes aloft, a firm adult wrist attached to a juvenile pianist’s malleable young hands.

And what is to come is exactly as the name suggests: iris and powder.

The former less vegetal, less abundantly floral than we may all have become accustomed too. More reserved, modest perhaps, seeking to form part of a composition rather than to stand alone as a singular star.

The powder, supplied by musk, is pure best grade talcum, not so rich nor sweet as makeup.

As such it will divide opinion and have some squeamishly protest ‘old lady’.


Grande Dame’ captures it much better.

This is unapologetically not a modern perfume, it is an older style of great, but restrained, yet utterly romantic scent.

It is a love affair conducted by lengthy letter not a series of speed dates set up on anonymous websites.

In time those letters smell will be transmuted by age and fondness into the same dry down of soft hay-toned paper and light vanilla as the perfume, then a moment later demi-sec dust again, then hay once more.

Like memories of a grand amour twinkling across a universe of time.

Iris Poudre is, in the truest sense, a fine fragrance.

I have heard it remarked that this scent is about as ungentlemanly as one can get.

No doubt that is on account of the associations of aldehydes and musk with the great ‘feminines’ of the past.

For any man unable to break these bounds it will be impossible to wear.

I have no trouble with any of the great irises of olfactory history and quite loved this.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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