Françoise Rapp

Iris pallida is a sacred and mythical plant used in cosmetics and fragrant balms for nearly millennia in Egypt. It was also appreciated by Catherine de Medicis and is still used in natural perfumery. This exceptional ingredient adds a sophisticated note to fragrance formulations. But what about its identity, and what does this treasure hidden underground reveal after a very long transformation for the pleasure of our nose and more?

The Mythical Iris

In Greek mythology, Iris was the messenger of the gods. She was the daughter of Thaumas and Electra. She was known as “the messenger of all the eternal gods” in Homer’s Iliad. 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 she is most often represented with a rainbow. She is the rainbow goddess.

When Hera returned from the Underworld to Olympus, Iris purified her with perfumes. The plant has been used for cosmetic purposes for centuries and was even recommended by Avicenna as a skin beautifier that removes wrinkles.

Botanical Portrait of Iris Pallida

Iris grows in various countries, including France, China, Turkey, Italy, and Morocco. Iris pallida, also known as the iris of Florence, is recognized as one of the noblest members of the iris family by natural perfumers since Catherine of Medicis. 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 of the iris is done with a volatile solvent for the absolute, alcohol for the resinoïd, or hydro-distillation for the butter and irones isolate. In terms of the yield itself, it requires 100 kg of rhizomes to make 1.2kg absolute, 100 kilograms of 20 kg resinoid, and 330kg to produce 1kg orris butter and 100 grams of isolates.

Iris, A Rich Olfactory Palette

Iris has a multi-faceted scent with delicious notes between the violet and mimosa notes, woody accents, a light note of powdery leather, and a carrot note. Carrot seed essence is added to replace or support the iris effect in perfumery. Its fragrant quality is exceptional, which explains why it was the star ingredient of famous classic, sophisticated perfumes from the early 20th century to now. It is also synonymous with chic and elegant for women and men.

Iris blends beautifully with other essences to make rich floral, woody, or fougère accords. For instance, modern fougère natural fragrance can be created with lavender, vetiver, ambrette, iris, and Virginia cedarwood. In addition, the association with essences like benzoin, frankincense, ciste, tobacco, and bergamot gives it a modern mystic flair. This is part of module 3 of the French Natural Perfumery course, where you learn ingredient associations and specificities.

Explore Iris Pallida in Famous Fragrances

Experience the timeless scent of iris pallida in many classical men’s or women’s fragrances. Discover its unique olfactory palette and appreciate its exceptional quality. Then, enroll in our French Natural Perfumery Course to gain in-depth knowledge and mastery about raw materials and how to correctly structure a perfume. The course starts every first Monday of the month.


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