Orris root is a term used for the roots Iris germanica, Iris florentina, and Iris pallida. Once important in western herbal medicine, it is now used mainly as a fixative and base note in perfumery, as well as an ingredient in many brands of gin. It’s also the most widely-used fixative for potpourri.
Orris root is grown throughout Europe and in North America, North Africa and in the Middle East.
Traditional Ethnic Uses
Orris root is often included as one of the many ingredients of Ras el hanout, a blend of herbs and spices used across the Middle East and North Africa, primarily associated with Moroccan cuisine.
Typical iris-perfumes (where the compound of the ingredient prevails over the other components) are: “Orris Noir” by the London based perfume house Ormonde Jayne Perfumery, “Infusion d’iris”(Prada*); “Tumulte”(Christian Lacroix*); “Aqua di Parma”* and “Iris nobile”(Aqua di Parma*); “Irisia”(Creed*); “Y”(Yves Saint Laurent*) and “Vol de nuit”(Guerlain*). The black orris used in Orris Noir is a highly prized oil and the national flower of Jordan.
Taste and Aroma Description
In the manufacturing of perfumes using orris, the scent of the iris root differs from that of the flower. After preparation the scent is reminiscent of the smell of violets.
History/Region of Origin
The use of Orris root originates in France and Holland.
A Few Ideas to Get You Started
After an initial drying period, which can take five years or more depending on the use, the root is ground. For potpourri, this powder is used without further processing. For other uses, it’s dissolved in water and then distilled. One ton of iris root produces two kilos of essential oil, also referred to as orris root butter, making it a highly prized substance, and its fragrance has been described as tenaciously flowery, heavy and woody.