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  1. #1

    Default What exactly does orris smell like?

    Hey BN'ers! Gonna need some of the experts for this one. I'm having some trouble with a note I'm not too familiar with. Although I'm pretty sure that orris ROOT is the root of the iris plant. I still don't understand what orris is? More importantly what it smells like.

    Is orris the same thing as orris root? Orris root to me smells floral and a little dirty, reminiscent of violet, but less sweet.

    Does orris smell like some sort of wood or perhaps mulch?

  2. #2

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    You nailed it, it supposedly smells like violets.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Great question. Orris/iris usually means the root, and it is/was made from (very important) properly aged roots of certain irises. The flower has a smell, but (from what I understand) doesn't yield anything, like a few other important flowers that have to be faked.

    Now, when we smell orris in modern fragrances, you MAY be smelling the real McCoy. Naturally aged orris root butter (the equivalent of absolute that they get from it) is terribly expensive. There is a modern process which involves irradiating the roots to accelerate aging. It's gamma irradiation, so it's completely safe as far as radiological concerns. That is supposedly the reason for so many orris frags on the market. However, there are, apparently, also ways to create an excellent illusion of orris with synthetics. Don't know the specifics, but I've found a few interviews with perfumers and an orris farmer that mention it. Since I have seen no "smoking gun" on which frags are synthetic orris, I won't make allegations. But I expect it will come out sooner or later (wikileaks? )

    But the real question - what does it smell like? What you guys said. It's very hard for me to describe it, but I can spot it a mile away. It smells almost like a texture - like a cloth - to me. Like white or gray cotton. It's not really like violets to me, because I'm hypersensitive to violets, and they just scream at me, whereas orris is softer and much quieter. It doesn't smell really floral to me, but it is very clean. To me, orris (or synthetic orris) is a note that I get in common in all orris frags, anything with "Iris" in the name, and all the recent Prada and Dior Homme scents. To me it seems "flat" - it dulls other, sharper notes.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Orris is a root of certain species of Iris. It is commonly described as floral and heavy and reminiscent of violets. It has been said that the taste of orris root is very much like raspberries.
    - Expect the unexpected

  5. #5

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    A heavy powdery quality more than a smell. If you can get a sample of FUBU Plush for men it should be clear to you, because the frag doesn't have many notes and the other notes are obvious, like amaretto.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Here on BN, orris and iris are used many times interchangeably.

  7. #7

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    I'd say powdery, cuttony, just a tad bit soapy, yet dirty/floral. It also has a make-up vibe to it sometimes.

  8. #8

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Orris smells also a lot like the "make up accord" that people describe a lot. Orris used to be used quite often in face powders and lipsticks. It is a common allergen though and is not used as much as it used to be. The smell became so related to these cosmetics though, so that manufacturers will still often scent these products with synthetic orris fragrance even though actual orris root may no longer be used. Orris root whole, and powdered has been a very common fixative ingredient in potpourris for a very long time since it, like other similar fixative substances, has the ability to decrease the speed at which essential oils evaporate. It is a rhizome and has a very root-like, earthy scent as well as a violet-like, powdery and white floral effect. Pure orris absolute is prohibitively expensive and thus in much of the fragrance world synthetic substitutes are used more widely than the absolute (although the raw rhizome in both powdered and whole forms is quite affordable). The absolute smells pretty identical to the powder. You can get some from most herb suppliers and smell it yourself pretty easily to acquaint yourself with the actual scent.

  9. #9

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Flaconneur View Post
    It has been said that the taste of orris root is very much like raspberries.
    I've smelt orris in Tauer's limited edition Orris, and it has this fruitiness that smells like raspberries.

  10. #10

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    I can't define orris smell, but I recognize it the second I smell it.

    The same with the color red, I cant define the color red. How do you explain a blind man what red is?, you can't, but you recognize red the moment you see it. similarly, how can you describe the smell of french fries?, you can't, but you recognize it immediately.

    The only thing you can do is to buy oils with the pure notes (oil of rose, oil of patchouli, etc) and learn to identify each "note" by itself. Oils are relatively cheap and you would have lots of fun "learning" the different notes.

    I think that is the only way to learn to recognize specific smells, they are actually impossible to describe.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrclmind View Post
    Orris smells also a lot like the "make up accord" that people describe a lot. Orris used to be used quite often in face powders and lipsticks. It is a common allergen though and is not used as much as it used to be. The smell became so related to these cosmetics though, so that manufacturers will still often scent these products with synthetic orris fragrance even though actual orris root may no longer be used. Orris root whole, and powdered has been a very common fixative ingredient in potpourris for a very long time since it, like other similar fixative substances, has the ability to decrease the speed at which essential oils evaporate. It is a rhizome and has a very root-like, earthy scent as well as a violet-like, powdery and white floral effect. Pure orris absolute is prohibitively expensive and thus in much of the fragrance world synthetic substitutes are used more widely than the absolute (although the raw rhizome in both powdered and whole forms is quite affordable). The absolute smells pretty identical to the powder. You can get some from most herb suppliers and smell it yourself pretty easily to acquaint yourself with the actual scent.
    Very cool! Thanks for the info. And that explains what the "je ne sais quoi" smell of it was for me - generalized cosmetics. Now I get it. And clearly the note is being used in the BN fragrance, "Her Purse".
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  12. #12

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    So the lipstick note in Gucci PH is orris/iris? I notice the same thing in Tom of Finland and also Magnetism for men. On the other hand, Hiris by Hermes doesn't give me this impression. (I am assuming that 'hiris' is 'iris' in French.)

  13. #13

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Not sure which Gucci masculine frag you think has iris/orris (none that I'm aware of, at least not to a signifcant degree), but if you go to Sephora, you might be able to sample Dior Homme, which is also a good frag that should give you an idea of this note.

  14. #14

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Sorry for the confusion, Bigsly! I was indeed thinking of Dior Homme, which is in all the department stores here.

  15. #15

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    I'm still unsure. lol

    The reason this all came up really, is because I'm in the process of testing a fragrance that I've already purchased. So I HAVE to know what I'm smelling. The fragrance at hand is Tommy Hilfiger True Star, and the middle says it has orris in it. But from what I'm reading here, I pick up absolutely no orris in this fragrance. Nor do I get the licorice in the middle. Rather, I get a distinctive dirt woody, and very earthy note. Being that orris is similar to orris root, and roots are buried in the ground, I get the earthy vibe from such, so I was thinking that this accord I'm smelling is the orris, but I guess it isn't. It smells like mulch for the most part. I guess I'll have to work on it some more, before finalizing anything.

    I'm still pretty interested in the topic though. I guess this is one of the few notes that I can't pick out if placed in front of me. I wouldn't know what it was. If it smells like make-up, I may just avoid this note in the future.

  16. #16

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    The best way to assimilate and internalize any aroma and have it registered and etched instinctively in your memory is to buy the extract of that aroma, distilled or extracted by any other means. This will cost you a lotta money but you'll have a nurtured sense of smell that will enable you to decipher, comprehend and consequently appreciate and enjoy good creations. Words are good but not enough. You can spend a lifetime talking to a born-blind about the red color but they'll never know it in real ocular sense.

    I would like to point out that the lipstick effect associated with iris (apparently root as the flower has almost no smell) is industrial and is not iris-intrinsic a smell. If words can serve right, iris to my nostrils (I have shelled a hefty sum of money on a few extractsn and absolutes) is what some people have mentioned here above: cotton with an earthy essence. I can't throw the word "dirty" here because iris tends to put you in a very clean state of mind. I can add to the above that it's more like dampened cotton.

    I sense it immediately in every scent that has genuine or the synthesized effect of it because I spent some time smelling the essential oils and absolutes.

  17. #17

    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cologneist View Post
    I'm still unsure. lol

    The reason this all came up really, is because I'm in the process of testing a fragrance that I've already purchased. So I HAVE to know what I'm smelling. The fragrance at hand is Tommy Hilfiger True Star, and the middle says it has orris in it. But from what I'm reading here, I pick up absolutely no orris in this fragrance. Nor do I get the licorice in the middle. Rather, I get a distinctive dirt woody, and very earthy note. Being that orris is similar to orris root, and roots are buried in the ground, I get the earthy vibe from such, so I was thinking that this accord I'm smelling is the orris, but I guess it isn't. It smells like mulch for the most part. I guess I'll have to work on it some more, before finalizing anything.

    I'm still pretty interested in the topic though. I guess this is one of the few notes that I can't pick out if placed in front of me. I wouldn't know what it was. If it smells like make-up, I may just avoid this note in the future.
    Just buy a bit of powdered orris root... it's not expensive. Once you smell it you will "get it."

  18. #18
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    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    I hear you, T_C. Let me keep trying. It's a little bit chalky to my nose, but very clean - kind of like chalk, or unflavored Maalox, or latex paint, only sweeter and a touch floral. Sort of as if you mixed a sweetener with chalkboard chalk, or added liquid sweetener to Maalox or white paint. Very much like clean fabric, but not your usual laundry musks.

    I agree with PerfumeCollector on the red thing. It's like trying to describe a color. "Red - it's like... brown, only brighter and more transparent. Well, not always. It's as distinct as green but.... well..... more like yellow. It's not like blue at all." I'll admit that it runs more of a risk of confusing a person than helping. But if you say it's the color of several ripe fruits and the rocks in certain places, people will get it.

    I find Infusion d'Iris to be pretty much my easy-to-pick-out-iris frag.
    * * * *

  19. #19
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    Default Re: What exactly does orris smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Killer_Vavoom View Post
    The best way to assimilate and internalize any aroma and have it registered and etched instinctively in your memory is to buy the extract of that aroma, distilled or extracted by any other means. This will cost you a lotta money but you'll have a nurtured sense of smell that will enable you to decipher, comprehend and consequently appreciate and enjoy good creations. Words are good but not enough. You can spend a lifetime talking to a born-blind about the red color but they'll never know it in real ocular sense.

    I would like to point out that the lipstick effect associated with iris (apparently root as the flower has almost no smell) is industrial and is not iris-intrinsic a smell. If words can serve right, iris to my nostrils (I have shelled a hefty sum of money on a few extractsn and absolutes) is what some people have mentioned here above: cotton with an earthy essence. I can't throw the word "dirty" here because iris tends to put you in a very clean state of mind. I can add to the above that it's more like dampened cotton.

    I sense it immediately in every scent that has genuine or the synthesized effect of it because I spent some time smelling the essential oils and absolutes.
    I agree, K_V - the fastest way is to smell the component. If it's giving you trouble, it's the best way. You may have to try different dilutions. For me, sniffing at 100% concentration and at several levels of dilution may be needed to hit the one that registers. It's also a good way to CONFIRM a note if you derived it by abstraction from multiple fragrances. That's how guaiac wood worked for me. I got it by differential sniffing of a bunch of favorite fragrances, but when I confirmed it with the real stuff, it was very reassuring and very gratifying. Same with oakmoss and vetiver. Actually, sniffing vetiver as a component was really helpful, because it showed me the RANGE of odors at different dilutions.
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