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