AskDefine | Define orris

Dictionary Definition



1 German iris having large white flowers with lavender-tinged falls and a fragrant rhizome [syn: Florentine iris, Iris germanica florentina, Iris florentina]
2 fragrant rootstock of various irises especially Florentine iris; used in perfumes and medicines [syn: orrisroot]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any of several irises that have a fragrant root, especially Iris germanica (variety florentina)
  2. the fragrant root of such an iris; the orrisroot

Extensive Definition

Orris root is the root of some species of iris, grown principally in southern Europe: 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 (perhaps most famously in Bombay Sapphire gin). Orris root must generally be hung and aged for 5 years before it can be used for perfumery. This substance is left out of products that are labeled hypo-allergenic.
Fabienne Pavia,in her book "L'univers des Parfums"(1995;ed.Solar),states that 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. This unique smell only wins over time in the drying process. After the drying process the root is ground, dissolved in water and then distilled. One ton of iris root produces two kilos of extremely expensive essential oil. The scent then is marvelous and incomparable, as powerful as it is subtle. It has been described as tenaciously flowery, heavy and woody. (Paraphrasing Pavia, Dutch translation, page 40.) Typical iris-perfumes (where the compound of the ingredient prevails over the other components) are: "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*).
Once banned in many parts of Europe, it was smoked and made into pottery.
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.
Orris root is also often used in home-made toothpastes.
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