Fragrance Throwdown: Ferre by Ferre versus Gianfranco Ferre (2005)

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I went looking for these in the first place because of Iris Poudre. I had read in comments on a ‘fume blog that Ferre by Ferre was a close cousin of Iris Poudre, which I love. Then there’s a review of Gianfranco Ferre in Perfumes: The Guide stating that it is a more-polished, fully-developed version of Iris Poudre. However, I’m still not absolutely convinced that the confusingly similar names of the Ferre fragrances haven’t caused a mixup in at least one case. Here are my thoughts on the matter, developed through multiple wearings and side-by-side comparisons over several months, as well as some good old-fashioned internet research. I confess that I’m still puzzled by the P:TG review.

(In case you are wondering, “old-fashioned internet research” was a joke. A terrible joke, but nonetheless.)

Both fragrances tested are minis acquired on ebay, with Ferre by Ferre in the black hand-grenade bottle (also produced as a goldtone mesh hand-grenade) and Gianfranco Ferre in the rectangular Ferre bottle, the same shape as my golden Ferre 20 bottle except clear glass with gold top. (see pix) This was the other blog comment that kicked up my interest in these Ferre fragrances: Commenter Melissa on Perfume Posse: “I am also amassing bottles of a few of the entirely underrated discontinued Ferres. Specifically, the older Ferre by Ferre (“classic”) in the round grenade shaped bottle, a modern floral aldehyde. And Ferre 20, a floral with a rich, woody-vanillic base. The latter has become crazy expensive, if you can find it at all.” That was the reason I was so happy to snag that bottle of Ferre 20 in Rome – well, that recommendation, and the fact that I think it smells great.

I warn you now – if you hate aldehydes, these two are not going to change your mind. But if you like them, these are both enjoyable and attractive fragrances, and the 2005 version is still available at a reasonable price at discounters (currently selling at FragranceX at about $37 for a 50ml bottle).

Ferre by Ferre from Fragrantica

Notes for Ferre by Ferre: Top Aldehydes, orange, green notes, peach, neroli, bergamot, lemon. Heart Mimosa, passionfruit, carnation, violet, orange blossom, ivy, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, oakmoss. Base Spices, orris root, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, styrax.

It reminds me more of Le Labo Aldehydes 44 than of Iris Poudre, but I can see the IP reference. It never develops IP’s delicious, angora-fluff benzoin drydown, though.

In fact, nothing does, so far as I have been able to find out. My opinion is that Iris Poudre got robbed in Luca Turin’s three-star P:TG review, which states, in part, “Simply stated, the problem with iris-root smell is this: everyone loves its gray, nostalgic, romantic powderiness, but the stuff is, truth be told, as funereal as it gets… [Pierre Bourdon’s] expertise in making resolutely sunny, fruity compositions very quickly dries iris’ tears. After a restrained initial gravitas appropriate to the occasion, Iris Poudre veers toward a happier disposition reminiscent of Bourdon’s Dolce Vita… A good fragrance, but not true to its name or material.

I’ll concur, Iris Poudre isn’t all that iris-y. Which is fine with me, for to be honest I am not the World’s Biggest Iris Fan. And true, it’s sunny and fruity; this is also fine with me because I like Dolce Vita very much. I would, however, quibble with the assertion that IP is “powdery.” It isn’t all that powdery; rather, it is as fluffy as a marabou stole.

Okay, true: I admit that I got pretty snarky about Elizabeth Taylor’s Violet Eyes having violet in the packaging, violet in the name, but no violet in the fragrance – but it is after all a very attractive floral that I might have bought if it had been just a little more distinctive. Dr. Turin gets similarly snarky when a fragrance name references either gardenia or iris, and turns out to not have much of whatever’s advertised, so I can’t blame him all that much. All the same, here I am looking for an Iris Poudre clone because I love it so much and it’s so expensive, and I still haven’t found one. Various fragrances replicate pieces of it – Ferre by Ferre and Ulric de Varens pour Elle mimic the sweet aldehydic top, Dolce Vita and Ferre 20 do the fruity bit, and Mariella Burani does something close to IP’s wonderful drydown. An all-of-a-piece replica? Doesn’t exist.

As a matter of fact, Ferre by Ferre happens to be discontinued and very difficult to find. Minis still float around on ebay, and I know of at least one fragrance seller on ebay that has a bottle or two of it, at approximately $100 for a 100ml bottle.   However, it’s still not all that much less expensive than a bottle of IP, so I’m still totally stuck on that “find a replacement for Iris Poudre” quest.

Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre (edp) from Fragrantica

After the fun start, GF turns into floral soap for some time, prim and opaque, flat as a piece of Sheetrock. The contrast with the sparkly topnotes is drastic. I don’t get a lot of iris in it, nor much rose. What does pop out, to my nose, is the lemony-creamy note of magnolia, and a sullen pouty jasmine, with just a hint of sugared violets. The drydown – primarily woody-musky-vanilla – is very comfortable, and easy to wear, though sweetened with amber.  It lasts well, about four hours on me (dabbed).  In my opinion, GF seems very little like Iris Poudre, despite the same perfumer and what is claimed to be a similar structure.

Notes for Gianfranco Ferre: Top Pineapple, melon, iris leaf, bergamot, [aldehydes]. Heart Magnolia, iris, freesia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, violet, rose. Base sandalwood, amber, basmati rice, musk, vanilla, orris root.

Now here’s Tania Sanchez, reviewing this fragrance (referred to as Ferre from the house of Gianfranco Ferre) and giving it four stars where Iris Poudre received three: “Five years after doing Iris Poudre… Bourdon polished the idea for Ferre. Slightly more vegetal than the Malle fragrance, Ferre is nevertheless a close match: powdery, woody-sweet in a violet way, and slightly too bright, like overexposed flash photographs.”

I admit here that I am not at all sure that I’m smelling the same fragrance that TS was reviewing. The notes list for this scent seems congruent with what I’m smelling – the fruit in particular, which TS doesn’t even mention, is prominent. “Powdery” is not at all a phrase I’d use to describe what I’m smelling here. Neither does “too bright.” This thing seems sort of dense to me, and, yes, sweet. It’s a fruity sweetness, but it’s true that sometimes violets (ionones) can seem fruity and sweet.  I am totally Not Getting the Iris Poudre reference, not in the least bit.  I noticed, too late, that my miniature bottle is Eau de Toilette, while the larger bottles are Eau de Parfum, and that may be the  issue.  Please weigh in if you’ve tried both the EdT and the EdP – and if you think I have the wrong one!

Over on Fragrantica, I notice that people keep putting reviews on the wrong Ferre fragrances. Someone has done a long, thoughtful review of the original 1984 Ferre fragrance, a rich floral oriental, on the 2005 Gianfranco Ferre scent. (FAIL!) Someone else has posted a lovely review of GF on Ferre by Ferre; I know it’s GF because it mentions a strong presence of fruit. Aargh. I think we have to blame Gianfranco Ferre himself for that. Was there ever another designer so enamored of his own name?! (Well, maybe. But nobody else has committed the marketing mistake of confusing potential customers with similar-sounding fragrances.)

A few other blog reviews of the Gianfranco Ferre fragrance: Bois de Jasmin and Legerdenez.  Enjoy.

Once again, we have a Throwdown where the winner is decided on points: While I think the 2005 Bourdon fragrance is a good one, a lighthearted sweet fruity floral with aldehydes and vanilla, I prefer the older fragrance, the hand-grenade bottle one, much more. It’s much softer, a pleasant powdery veil.  I might actually prefer Ferre 20 to either one of these, but they’re both lovely.

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9 thoughts on “Fragrance Throwdown: Ferre by Ferre versus Gianfranco Ferre (2005)”

  1. Hi, lady — great post. Those both sound lovely, but I definitely second you on the major name confusion. Sheesh! Don’t know how you kept it all straight.
    Can’t wait to try the 20, though.
    BTW, I know Iris Poudre is your No. 1 iris, but am curious what’s your No. 2, if there is one. Take care …

    1. Very, very confusing names!

      I would actually say that No. 19 is my top iris, as I absolutely adore Iris Poudre but I would not call it an irisy scent. I am not much of a fan of iris-heavy scents, and was surprised at how pleasant I found Iris Silver Mist.

  2. I’m sort of echoing Ann’s question. I’m curious what other irises you like, because I’m interested in smelling some more, and “sunnier” irises sound like fun. I have to admit I never got a terribly optimistic feeling from Iris Poudre, but I still like it and agree that three stars is pretty harsh.

    1. Oh, I think IP is cheerful! The adjective that comes to mind most for it is “fluffy” – I really, really love the drydown.

      But as I just said to Ann, IP is not very irisy. No. 19 rocks, and indeed any Chanel has got a ton of iris. I like PG Iris Taizo (which may or may not have been renamed Iris Oriental), too. Hated Hiris. Hated the expensive limited edition L’Artisan Iris Pallida. It seems that I really prefer my iris to be an accent, not the focus.

  3. I enjoyed your comparison’s very much , although I have never sniffed the Ferre scents , I love iris Poudre too .
    As far as Turin and Sanchez , I have never read any of their book , the sense of smell is far too subjective to listen to a word they have to say . From quotes I have read , neither one of them knows a good fragrance when they smell it , their olfactory bulbs exploded ages ago after too much mainstream dreck fried their nose hairs . jus sayin’…
    I completely respect Turin and the research he has done postulating his vibration theory applied to the sense of smell , and I think it is spot on .
    Sanchez , I never agree with a thing she says .
    Gosh , that was rather opinionated , but I feel so much better now . hehe .

    1. Thanks! Iris Poudre is so gorgeous.

      Oh, I actually love reading P:TG… even when I don’t agree with the authors (pretty often), it’s a great fun read, and frequently there’s something in the book that points out some relationship between two scents that I didn’t realize before. I keep a teaspoon of salt next to it, but I do enjoy the book.

      1. I hear Carol about LT and TS, sometimes they do make me go “What?!!”
        But the Guide can be quite entertaining. A teaspoon of salt next to it is probably a smart move …

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