May Flowers: Iris
As the saying goes - April Showers Bring May Flowers. And indeed, there is lots to see and smell in the floral around us. For the remainder of May, I'll be sharing more of my love of flowers, and in particular in how I expressed it in The Language of Flowers soliflore collection.
Today's flower will be the elusive iris. As I was walking down Bute street the other day, I noticed a group of buttery-yellow irises. Tall and large-flowered, I was curious about their scent. It was such a lovely, novel scent to my nose... Reminiscent of white chocolate, datura, lemon Angel's food cake with Tahitian vanilla buttercream on top, and a slight whiff of a baby's head. But even those scrumptious descriptions don't quite do it justice...
With such a rich scent of iris flowers, you might be surprised to learn that it's not the flowers that are used in perfumery, but rather their roots? Iris pallida needs 5 years of attention before it gives anything back: 3 years of cultivation, then 2 additional years of aging the hand-peeled rhizomes so that they can be ground into powder and steam-distilled to produce orris butter.
Although it does not have the word "iris" in its name, and is not part of The Language of Flowers - Sahleb is centred entirely around orris butter with as much as 15% irone. This violet-flower-smelling molecule that gives it a buttery, suave and creamy texture. It melts the heart, and simultaneously addictive and comforting.
I also noticed what looked very much like an Iris pallida, and with a similar scent to the yellow ones, but not as similar to cocoa butter or white chocolate. The darker irises really show why the flower was named that way - alluding the eye's iris. They have eyes peeking through their three-petals like the eyes on butterfly wings.
Interested in reading more about Iris? Check out Decoding Obscure Notes Part II: Iris, Skin and Powder.