Iris is of prime importance in perfumery. Some describe the iris note as “the smell of cash” as it is expensive to produce. Or perhaps that’s said because the iris note has a papery facet? In either case it is found in many many perfumes and Chanel particularly are known for their use of this high quality ingredient. It lends a velvety texture to a composition, for example in Chanel no 5.
In Trets there is a producer called COPAMIVAR, they are one of the biggest iris growers in the world. They kindly allowed me to take photos and gave me a private tour of their factory (which smelled sublime I might add).
These beautiful purple flowers bloom for two to three weeks or so depending on the weather. It is not the blooms that are used in perfume however, it is the rhizomes. They must be grown for at least three years before harvesting. Once gathered the rhizomes are carefully washed and then spread out to dry for several days after which, further drying takes place for several years, so that the inimitable iris smell develops. When the rhizome is mature it’s ground to a fine powder then processed in a special steam distillery. The next stage is a product known as iris butter or orris butter. The iris butter is gently heated to liquefy it and then it’s separated out into various fractions. Experts re-assemble the fractions to make a high quality iris absolute. It takes 40,000 tons of rhizomes to make 1 kg of iris absolute.
In terms of smell, I would describe iris as cool, elegant, earthy, rooty, powdery, papery… depending what is paired with it the effect will be different. Here is a little round up of what is one of my most very favourite notes in perfume. I am an unashamed iris worshipper.
- Vampy iris – Tom Ford’s Violet Blonde, a really fun and lively violet iris. It always perks me up.
- Glamourous iris – Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre * this one is at the very top of my personal “to buy” list.
- Cool headed iris – Prada’s Infusion d’Iris, please wear this for magical powers of concentration and cool calm collectedness.
- Sexy man’s iris – Dior’s l’Homme it can also definitely be worn by a woman, one of the best masculines of all time in my opinion.
- Romantic iris – Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger’s Rose Irisee, completely enchanting, it takes you on a gentle journey from iris to rose.
- Dark and dangerous iris – Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist – a complete iris overdose. Not easy to wear and has that carrot vibe going on.
- Leathery light iris – Anne Gerard’s Cuir de Nacre, I could drown myself in this one.
- Power iris – Hermes’ Hiris. Great quality and wearability. Not too powdery nor too rooty. Just right.
- Bargain iris – Yardley’s Iris, which you can buy online easily; it’s great for hot days and for layering with other perfumes.
- Luxurious and easy to wear iris – Aqua di Parma Iris Nobile, it has a gentle creamy quality to it. Totally Luxe.
My iris list goes on and on but there I will stop for today. Enjoy those pretty blooms and now you know: it’s the rhizomes that are precious.
Guest blog post courtesy of Rebecca Amer,of Irridessence, who is a talented Perfume Consultant who also offers Fragrance Discovery Tours in Aix-en-Provence.
Irises in Provence photography by: Tarik Koivisto, Founder, Luxe Provence