Black Iris Developments

Several years ago, I took a Photoshop workshop. The instructor told us not to work endlessly on an image, searching for perfection, but rather, to make a series of trials and finish by comparing them and, perhaps, combining them.

Following suite, I’ve taken the same tinctures and compounds I used to make Black Iris, and started from scratch without looking at my notes. Something new has evolved.


I left out the coumarin, because I thought the perfume was too soft when I wanted something leaner and greener.

I reworked the wood base complex. I wanted a forceful sandalwood note, so I used a combination of santalol (which is expensive and hard to find), siamwood, pistachio oil, exaltone, oud, kephalis, and ambergris. This is the best sandalwood reproduction I’ve managed yet—it smells like sandalwood, but it is more powerful.

Next, I attacked the root mixture. I started with the central accord between orris (iris root) and heliotropin, but then cut the heliotropin a bit to reinforce the root-like quality and pull away from its floral fruitiness (it’s often compared to the smell of cherry pie). I added carrot seed and angelica seed to further enhance the orris. The angelica seed also contributed a green note.

I added sandalwood to smooth things off and worked on the violet accord using methyl ionone and dihydro ionone beta. Dihydro ionone beta is one of my favorites because it links violet with wood.

I added vetiver and vetiveryl acetate, again to reinforce the roots and contribute green. For further green, came a drop of nonadienal. That did the trick.

This was all going great guns until I realized the composition has no tenacity. I worked in opoponax, which helped ground everything and make the fragrance last longer. More oak moss would have been great, but it’s so highly restricted now that I can hardly use enough to make a difference. Other moss-like compounds exist, but I haven’t tried them.

I shall continue working on longevity. I also need to finish the top note, something I always find a challenge.