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All About Orris: Harvest in Tuscany

In Tuscany on a botanical trip with Bombay Sapphire, we learned how the orris root is grown and processed to use in the gin. 

Iris beneath olive trees Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

Orris root is the rhizome of the Iris flower. Here in Tuscany they are grown on sloping hills between rows of olive trees. Nice space.

Iris flower 7 Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

These iris flowers are not grown for their beauty, unlike other iris varieties, but for the quality of their rhizomes.

Ivano hold roots Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

The rhizomes are bulbs on the base of the plants. Skinny roots shoot off the rhizomes. These are cut off. 

Replanted iris Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

The plant tops, with a tiny portion of the rhizome attached, are replanted. 

Peeling closeup Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

The orris is then hand peeled. 

Pweeling orris root 7 Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

Dried peeled Orris Root Harvest Tuscany with Bombay Sapphire_tn

Then it is left out to dry in the sun.

Later it is aged. The floral aspect comes out only after this, when it is extracted into gin or perfume. 


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How long do they age it?

Camper English

I seem to recall them saying either one or two years but I can't find this in my notes. I think I'll ask the botanical master to find out...


I seem to recall reading 3 years somewhere, which blew my mind. A quick google yields http://aromax-on-line.blogspot.com/2010/01/orris-root-origin.html which claims 3 years of plant growth to harvest and 3 more years of root aging. I have a ton of iris growing at my house, but 3 years is crazy-talk.

Camper English

Yes it's definitely 3 years to grow (at least in Tuscany) before harvest. Then you dry it, then it ages. I emailed the botanical dude to see what he says.



Was there any discussion about the variety of iris that they were using? Does nearly any iris root end up giving similar flavor after processing? Do you know if a slightly-crazy, home-infuser/gardener with irises could reproduce this?

Camper English

We did not discuss the name of the variety used. However, they did say that these are not the same variety (it's apparently a large family) that are grown for durability and beauty. These were rather fragile flowers, and grown specifically for the orris rather than the iris.

Camper English

I asked the Master of Botanicals and he says, "For Bombay, due to the rotation of the season and the stocks we are using the rhizomes after 6-8 months. In general for other usage [people] age from one year to a maximum of three."



I live in Dordogne and we have hundreds of juniper bushes , we are looking to create a smallholding with various uses of the land , one idea is to harvest , sell on juniper berries , any contacts/links/advice you could give would be appreciated..

cheers Ecosse man in France

Camper English

Keith - I don't have any good contacts for this but maybe someone will see this posting. Good luck...


Would you know (other than liquer flavoring) Tuscans using Orris for any dishes? The Morrocan spice mix is the only thing I could find that uses it.

Camper English

I don't know, sorry.


Were can you buy aged 3 year Italian orris root.

marie gunderson-briggs

Hi Camper

Super interesting - do they harvest in early June afer the first flowering? or through out the summer?

I would be interested to know


Camper English

I'm afraid I don't know.


Who wouldn’t love to be in an Tuscany olive grove underplanted with Orris (Iris pallida) . I hope the ancient olives are surviving.

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