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What fragrant flower is favoured by a Greek goddess, French royalty and the gin-makers of the world? The same one which lies at the heart of our nostalgic new scent, Midnight Iris!
Find out more about the flower’s long history, from Ancient Egypt to Ashleigh & Burwood.
The name iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow. With over 250 species of iris out there, it appears in nearly every colour of the rainbow. The flower also shares its name with the ancient Greek goddess Iris, a messenger goddess and the personification of rainbows. The ancient Greeks would plant purple iris flowers over the graves of women, believing that this would summon the Goddess to lead their spirits to the heavens.
As well as its link to the Greek gods, the flower also has royal connections. Iris is believed to be the inspiration behind the fleur-de-lis, a common symbol in heraldry, especially popular with the French monarchy. Although ‘lis’ actually translates to ‘lily’, the symbol is much closer in shape to an iris’ distinctive petals.
Iris has a long history as an ingredient in fragrance, with its use dating all the way back to the ancient cultures of Egypt and India. Essential oil for fragrances can be gathered from two different parts of the plant. Iris absolute is extracted from the petals of the flower, but fragrance can also be produced from the root, known as orris root. To gather the fragrance the root must be dried for several years, ground to a powder, then dissolved in water and distilled. Very little essential oil can be extracted from the roots, so it is an exceptionally prized ingredient. Orris root is also a popular ingredient in pot pourri as its high starch content helps it preserve its own fragrance as well as the fragrance of other materials it comes into contact with.
It’s not just perfumery that uses irises to great effect. Orris root is also a common ingredient in the flavouring of gin!