In natural perfumery, iris pallida is an exceptional ingredient to use to add a sophisticated note to formulations. What about its identity and above all, what does this treasure hidden underground reveals after a very long transformation for the pleasure of our nose but not only. Let’s explore together this sacred and mythical plant since ancient times …
In Greek mythology, Iris daughter of Thaumas and Electra, was the messenger of the gods. In Homer’s Iliad, she is “the messenger of all the eternal gods”. When Hera returned from the Underworld to Olympus, it was Iris who purified her with perfumes. Poets claimed that the rainbow was the trace of Iris’s foot descending rapidly from Olympus to earth to carry a message; this explains why it is most often represented with a rainbow. She is the rainbow goddess.
As for the plant itself is concerned, for nearly a millennium in Egypt and then appreciated by Catherine de Medicis, it has been used in cosmetics and fragrant balms. And it still does nowadays. Botanically derived from the roots of Iris germanica, the extract possesses a high concentration of isoflavones in its rhizomes. As a result, it is included in cosmetic formulations due to its potential to provide potent antioxidant effects that help protect the skin by neutralizing free radicals. In his Canon of Medicine, Avicenna recommends an external wash made from a decoction of Orris root as a beautifier of the skin which removes wrinkles.
Its botanical portrait
Iris grows in various countries now from France, China, Turkey, Italy and Morocco but iris pallida or iris of Florence is recognized as one of the noblest members of the iris family by natural perfumers since Catherine of Medicis. Technically, its cultivation is done from mid-September to mid-October. The harvest takes place the 3rd year after planting between mid-July and mid-August. The extraction is either done with a volatile solvent for the absolute; alcohol for the resinoid or hydrodistillation as for the butter and irone isolate. In terms of the yield itself, it requires 100 kg of rhyzomes to make 1,2kg absolute, 100 kg for 20 kg resinoid and 330kg to make 1kg orris butter and 100 grams of isolates. We can definitely see the waste and non-sense of processing isolates for natural perfumery!
Iris, a rich olfactory palette
Its scent is multi-faceted with delicious notes between violet note and mimosa note, woody accents, light note of powdery leather and note of carrot. In fact, very often in perfumery, to replace or support the iris effect, carrot seed essence is added. Its fragrant quality is simply exceptional and it this explains why it was the star ingredient of famous classic sophisticated perfumes from the early 20Th century to now. It is synonym of chic and elegance for women and men as well. It blends beautifully with other essences to either make rich floral, woody or fougère accords. For instance, modern fougère natural fragrance can be created with lavender, vetiver, ambrette, iris and Virginia cedarwood; or the association with essences like benjoin, franckincense, ciste, tobacco and bergamot give it a very modern mystic flair.
Explore this exceptional ingredient in many classical men or women fragrances and feel surrounded by its timeless scent.