Preparing Orris Root for Perfumes

Orris root used in many perfumes is the dried rhizome of German Bearded Iris (Iris germanica).

German Bearded Iris

German Bearded Iris

This is a photo of mine blooming in the spring.

I promised my neighbor about 30 rhizomes so today I dug them for her to transplant to her garden.  Iris are easy to share since they multiply easily from even small pieces of rhizome.  I gave a friend in Albuquerque a few of these and they have outgrown their space.

Everything I have read about processing Iris rhizomes into Orris Root for perfumes has gone on about how labor consuming and time intensive the process is, so I just dug up a couple for processing.  This is an experiment!

German Bearded Iris roots

German Bearded Iris roots

I removed the tops with a bit of rhizome on each one and expect all to regenerate. This wasn’t strictly necessary because my original 300 rhizomes are about 900 already.  I gave about 30 to my neighbor, still a lot!  Then again, I have 5 acres, an Orris Root crop is a good thing.

Roots Ready for Processing

Roots Ready for Processing

Here are the first roots ready for processing and drying.  A small first test batch.


As you can see, I used a standard vegetable peeler to remove the skin.  At this point I can set the roots aside for 3 to 5 years for drying.  They have no smell, but I am assured I will know when they are fully dry and ready by the amazing scent.

Grated Orris Root

Grated Orris Root

Other information suggested thin slices or grating to speed up the process, suggesting 1 to 2 years for drying.  I decided to take the extra step and grate the roots for quicker drying.  I will also dry some roots in slices to check the difference in end product one of these years.

Clearly I have not prepared much root this afternoon.  Even so, I don’t see it as particularly onerous.  Waiting years for the final product is almost unAmerican, but I am not concerned much about that.  I admit that Orris Root is part of all my favorite perfumes, and it is free-to-me for a small effort.  Once it is deliciously scented, I will steam distill it to a thick orris butter.  Then I am good to go.

Orris Root doubles as a fixative for other scents as well and some call it a heart note, others a base note.  I will now get to explore those for myself.

If my care to leave enough roots to regenerate more Iris plants is successful, I now have an endless cycle of beautiful Iris blooms and perfume components.  Its all good.

I will process more this month and get my dream of making my own perfume moving forward, baby steps at a time.



About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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2 Responses to Preparing Orris Root for Perfumes

  1. LindaW says:

    I knew orris root was a fixative, but had no idea what it was. Can you tell how to use it when dried. I don’t want to wait years to get the information…lol. Thanks.

  2. Hi LindaW
    Welcome to my blog.
    Orris Root can be used as is in potpouri, powdered can be sprinkled in clothing and bedding.
    Steam distillation created a thick fluid called “butter” used in perfumes. An extract made with alcohol can be used also, more often in colognes or toilet water.
    Add any of the above to handmade soaps.
    In a year or five I will use some of this for those purposes, and will process more root today… time for harvest.

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