Friday, August 6, 2010

Perfumer's Palette Series- Orris

Deserving of it's reputaion , the nobile yet humble Iris , or Orris root , is one of the most expensive materials a perfumer can use . The root must be left to grow for three years before harvest , and then is harvested by hand , through back-breaking work with a special harvesting fork . Each root coaxed from the ground and divided, part to be returned to the ground and part to be dried .

Italy is famous for it's Iris production , and in 2008 I was fortunate to be able to visit the Pruneti Farm in Chianti near Florence , and see the harvest of Iris root first hand . In the picture at right , we are standing under the arbor , where for over 100 years the roots have been placed to dry immediately after digging . The roots are left to dry here for several weeks , trimmed and peeled , and then furthur dried in large sheds for at least two years . Only then do they begin to present their characteristic rooty , earthy aroma !
Historically , as early as 1508 when the Dominican Monks founded the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella in Florence italy , orris was used in face powders and toothpaste, much later in the 1800s to powder wigs .
Some sources say 1000 pounds of root will distill 8 oz. of concrete . Irones are the basic odor chemical in orris concrete , produced through steam distillation of the dried roots .

Often compared to Violets , Iris to my nose has a much earthier , cool metallic aroma . It is an unparalled fixative and pairs well with many other oils but it's cost has become prohibitive . In 1893 the chemist Tiemann successfully synthesized violet scent , termed Ionone , which is widely used today as a replacement for the much more expenive natural irones , or orris concrete .
Distillation can be difficult , the rhizomes are starchy and tend to foam in the still . They must be distilled slowly . The resulting concrete contains a high percentage of myrisic acid ( has no odor ), which can be separated with solvent extraction .
Think about this - five years to produce a few drops of scent from a small rhizome....

Today I am wearing my favorite iris , Odori Iris .

Other faves are :
Hermes Hiris
Dior Homme ( which contains Pruneti iris extract ! )
Miller Harris Terre d' Iris
Prada Iris parfum
Heeley Iris de Nuit
Guerlain Apres L'Ondee
Annick Goutal Heure Exquise
This weeks drawing will include an assortment of samples of Iris scents , and some of my favorite resinous scents . Monday's Perfumer's Palette Series - the balsams and resins .
Drawing Monday , so be sure to comment this week !


Tamara*J said...

Count me in the drawing pretty please!
I'm excited to smell my Khus Khus, hopefully it comes today.

Take care :)


Anonymous said...

Carol -
Iris scents are among my favorites, but your article has me rethinking the joyous abandon with which I spray. Five years????
Hiris is one of my favorites, too.
Some day I will find some Iris Pallida.......

Mary Beth

Unknown said...

I agree Iris smells different than violets to me, it's earthy and a pale grey smell.

cjj88 said...

Hi Carol..Iris Pallida and Odori Iris are my favs..would love to be in the draw.

Julie Ellen said...

Count me in on your drawing, Carol. Thanks for the information on orris--I was not familiar with its background and I love learning more about all of these perfume, Julie Ellen

waftbyCarol said...

Hi Everyone , you are all in the draw !
Lowly little Iris root ! I just love it's powdery , earthy and sweeter aspects . it plays a minor role in many other scents too , and with rose it is fabulous !

DWR said...

Ooooh, Exciting! I'm totally in!

Nina Zolotow said...

This is a note that I've barely begun to explore, but I find the more I smell, the more my tastes expand, so I expect that sooner or later I'll find an iris that I love.

Dixie said...

I adore Iris! It does so well with my chemistry! I've never smelled Odori Iris so I will have to seek some out!

waftbyCarol said...

Diana , Nina , Dixie -
Thanks for stopping by girlfriends ! You're in !
Nina , I know there is one you will love !
Dixie - let's do another swap soon , I will send you some Odori's . Their Spigo ( lavender ) will be in next weeks draw #3 , and their tabaco and Cuoio
( leather ) are both yummy !!
Their Gli Odori is herbal/spicy and also wonderful...

Lisa Abdul-Quddus said...

It's so interesting to read about all the steps (and time) it takes to get to that little bottle of essence.