Inis (Fragrances of Ireland)

I have fond memories of Ireland. If you conjoin all the months I spent there, you'll find I've given about two years to Ireland, and enjoyed every minute of it. My parents used to take me when I was a young boy, and in more recent years I've stopped in as a halfway point between continental Europe and the States. It's been five years since my last stop, and I do miss it quite a bit.

People often assume that I'm Irish (my history there, and my name), but there isn't a single drop of Irish blood in me. I'm Italian American, a quarter Polish on my mother's side, and my last name is Italian. As a privacy preference, I simply do not use my real surname online.

"But," you ask, "why spend so much time in Ireland then?" The answer is actually a lot simpler than you think - my family spent months at a time there because it was a good retreat from our fast-paced life in America. In 1993 they purchased land in Sligo, and in 1995 they hired an architect to design a house. The design was based on a crude drawing, done by my mother on a napkin at Bewley's. In 1996 the architect hired a local Spanish-Irish (called "Black Irish") builder and his small crew of six or seven guys, and the house was finished by the end of the year - without the use of any power tools. From 1996 to 2008 my family and I would visit and spend time, until all was sold in the autumn of 2008 to a local couple who wanted it for raising a family.

One of the things I remember was the introduction of Inis, sometime in the spring of 1998. Inis was a phenomenon in Ireland, possibly their best-selling fragrance of all time, even to date. You could find it in every gift shop, department store, grocery store, and airport. Touted as the "scent of Ireland" and backed with loads of oceanic imagery, it announced itself everywhere as being a fresh aquatic. My interest in fragrances was minimal back then, and I didn't give much thought to the banality of aquatics, or wonder why F.o.I. didn't opt for a "greener" fragrance, given the abundance of greenery there. Whenever I saw a tester, I spritzed some on my hand, and always thought the exact same thing: nice, but nothing special.

Revisiting it now, all these years later, Inis has held up rather well. I still feel it's quite nice, but nothing special in the least. By "nice" I'm saying Inis smells fresh, salty, a little beachy, and generally good. It's a skin scent and doesn't project beyond a couple of inches, which probably helps it. It opens with a piercing bergamot and lemon, which rapidly effloresce into a breezy, briny, and heavily-salted sandalwood and musk. I always interpret sandalwood as being driftwood in aquatic fragrances, and Inis is no exception - the wood notes are subdued, but very dry and warm, providing a muted contrast to the cool sea breeze washing over it. The heart is little more than a mild glow of sweet greenness, presumably the floral notes I see listed everywhere, which vary on every site. I get a touch of muguet, and the faintest hint of clove, which reality-checks all the freshness with its mentholated soot. The effect is similar to that of Hedione's in Eau Sauvage; Inis' clove is inherently spicy and degradable amidst all the fluorescence.

Fragrances of Ireland is a very competent niche firm, and they specialize in perfumes that approximate the olfactory assets of Ireland's geography. Driving through the countryside, one is exposed to an endless barrage of scents and accents - clean, salty air, bitter grasses and nettles, the gentle sweetness of Fuchsia, the occasional waft of fetid manure, and the singularly smoky earthiness of peat bogs, and burning peat. Many of these scents are captured in Patrick, an excellent fougère. But Patrick falls short of conveying the Irish coastline, so Inis picks up the slack. Salt and ozone, wet, woody sand, the remote greenness of nearby fields, all are well encapsulated in the basic effect garnered by a few sprays of Inis. It's a simple pleasure, well executed, but still . . . just aquatic. Atlantic-aquatic, very cold and brisk, but aquatic nevertheless. It had a modicum of originality in the '90s; today, Inis is just another pretty face.

It doesn't smell of detergent musks and watermelon gum, so these are points in its favor. It's also very unassuming and maintains a modest presence, even after generous application. This isn't L'Eau D'Issey and The Chemical Comanches playing your local dive bar. This fragrance is pleasant, demure, and very well behaved, a lonely solo player. I whole-heartedly recommend Inis to anyone with a hankering for a sugarless aquatic. It's a pretty little fragrance from a gorgeous country, and the loveliest people on Earth.

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