Orris oil, also called orris butter, concrete or absolute, is a sweet, powdery and slightly green oil, reminiscent of the scent of violets.
The iris florentina produces large white flowers with a yellow line from its centre and can sometimes display light purplish hues. The name Iris means rainbow in Greek and was chosen because of the many varieties of colours that can be found in this genus. Since the Middle Ages, the white iris is the symbol of the city of Florence, Italy, where you can still visit the famous Iris Garden. This is how the name of this species, florentina, was chosen.
When fresh, the root of the plant (called 'orris') has an earthy smell, but after two years of drying, the smell of violet appears and the longer we wait, the stronger it will become. Orris root powder and oil were already used in the 18th century as an ingredient to perfume wig powder. Since then it has been a popular material in fine fragrances, face and dusting powders.
The oil is obtained through steam distillation of the orris root powder, resulting in a material that is solid at room temperature. This density explains why it is often called 'butter' or 'concrete', even though it is undoubtably an essential oil. Lush currently purchase this precious ingredient from a producer in Morroco.