Orris & Sandalwood

Creating Orris & Sandalwood

Orris & Sandalwood was born through a working collaboration between Fragrance Director Céline Roux and Master Perfumer, Pierre Negrin. Here Céline and Pierre tell us more about how they created Orris & Sandalwood.

Céline, can you introduce us to this new Cologne Intense?
For Cologne Intense we have always focussed on rich and precious ingredients. These have included resins and woods like oud and incense, as well as florals like rose and tuberose. We felt that the woody and powdery qualities of iris were missing from the collection, so we decided to focus on the very special Iris pallida, grown and harvested in Tuscany.

Why did you decide to work with Pierre on this scent?
Pierre has a history with Jo Malone London having created White Jasmine & Mint with us 8 years ago but he also has expertise in deeper woody fragrances which are richer and more intense so we immediately thought of him for this scent.

Pierre, how did you interpret the brief that Jo Malone London gave you? How did the concept for Orris & Sandalwood come about?
The Creative Studio at Jo Malone London wanted to work with orris as it’s an extremely precious ingredient in perfumery. Orris is the root of the iris plant and it has been harvested in Tuscany for centuries, originally by monks. This scent was about framing the orris to bring out its unique duality; it is both woody and powdery, floral and deep. Céline and I spent some time in Grasse smelling raw materials and ingredients. It was here that we fell in love with the combination of orris and sandalwood.

What was your inspiration for the story of Orris & Sandalwood Cologne Intense?
Our inspiration really goes back to the orris ingredient itself. Orris is a personal favourite among all the ingredients in my palette. When you discover that its scent comes from the root and not the flower, you enter a fascinating reality. I also love its complexity. Warm, sensual, feminine, masculine, violety, woody, powdery, Orris is a perfume in itself. It is a complex ingredient with a complex range of textures that emerge through different extraction processes: using both traditional methods and the most innovative techniques we captured the many different facets of orris.

Orris is known to be one of the noblest ingredients in perfumery. Can you explain why?
Orris from the Iris pallida is one of the noblest ingredients because it is very rare. It grows in Italy just outside Florence and is in very limited supply. You can find it in other parts of the world but this is by far the finest source. The process of cultivating and extracting the raw material requires a patient and artisanal approach. Orris has been harvested in the same way for over four hundred years. Its fragrance was adored by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. We wanted to remain true to the traditional approach of harvesting the Iris pallida. While there has been a lot of innovation in perfumery, there is also so much expertise and beauty in time-honoured processes like this. To harvest orris, iris rhizomes or roots must remain underground for approximately two years before they are harvested. They are then peeled and placed in the shade to dry. The drying process takes up to three years. Orris is then extracted through steam distillation which produces a unique solid essence. Its creamy colour and its unctuousness give it the name of "butter” or “concrete". It is then purified to obtain an absolute.

How did you decide which key ingredients to use to capture the personality of the fragrance and why?
Jo Malone London didn’t want this fragrance to be too floral or heady. The traditional interpretation of orris can be quite violety and feminine. They wanted to take a more unisex approach to the ingredient. There is a real woodiness to orris so I wanted to bring this aspect out. I decided to use sandalwood, another very precious ingredient, to emphasise the woody facet and add a masculinity to the scent.

Pierre, which Jo Malone London fragrance do you like to Fragrance Combine™ with Orris & Sandalwood and why?
At the moment I’m wearing Orris & Sandalwood over Dark Amber & Ginger Lily. It creates a very distinctive woody fragrance. The rich florals are deepened by the sensuality of amber.