The Scent Guide: What Does Iris Smell Like?

a field of pallida iris flowers

Source: Marina VN/

Ever smelled an iris bloom? It’s quite subtle barely there even. But as lovely as it is, don’t expect the same fragrance when you use an iris-scented product. Why?

When you use products with iris notes, it’s actually the roots, or “Orris,” you are smelling. So what does iris smell like, exactly? In this scent guide, Homesick reveals where the iris flowers grow and how the roots are harvested. In addition, we reveal what it smells like and what you can expect when you bring home candles with notes of iris. 

Plus, we offer a few Homesick candles perfect for those attracted to this unique aroma.  

What Is Iris and Where Does It Come From?

The iris flower is a perennial plant featuring a tall stem with an elegant, blousy bloom. While the bloom can be found in a variety of colors, it’s often a mauve (Iris Pallida), deep blue-violet (Iris Germanica) or a white (Iris Florentina) shade or hues. The iris grows anywhere from Europe to Asia, as well as the Middle East and northern Africa, but is mainly harvested from Italy and Morocco. 

Since the iris comes in various colors, the “Iris” name derives from the Greek word for rainbow and also the Greek goddess of the rainbow who brought freewill to mortals on earth. 

However, while the bloom is beautiful and colorful, it’s actually the gnarly-looking roots, also called the orris, where the fragrance derives. Harvesting the plant, the rhizome roots are left to dry for anywhere from three to six years. It’s worth noting the longer the roots are left to dry, the better the scent becomes, aging well much like a fine wine, whiskey or scotch. Once the roots are dried, they are ground up and pulverized, steam-distilled and extracted. The extract is then produced into a resin, absolute or an “iris butter,” a thick, yellow compound made of orris oil. 

Bring Light and Fragrance into Your Home with a Housewarming Candle

A small bowl filled with cut orris

Source: BW Folsom/

What Does Iris Smell Like?

Smell an iris flower and you’ll find it to be somewhat subtle, unlike something headier like a gardenia or rose. However, even still, this is not the scent you can expect in a perfume, beauty care or candle with iris notes. 

As mentioned, this is because the iris oils are not extracted from the bloom or petals themselves, but from the roots. So instead of smelling something more floral, you will find the aroma to be more of an earthy and powdery yet sweet combination. While some compare the scent to boiled carrots, it’s a bit more elevated than a Thanksgiving side dish. Lending base notes of violet, the iris fragrance can vary slightly from plant to plant, giving off additional spicy, woody and dry notes. The delicate suede-like, fleshy scent is what you get when you open a powdery cosmetic case or apply lipstick.

Love the Smell of Iris? You'll Love Our San Francisco Candle

Other Scents That Pair Well with Iris

With a special scent that has been compared to carrots to violets to powdery cosmetics and lipsticks, the iris oil pairs well with a variety of scents. However, those who have discovered what does frankincense smell like have compared iris to it, both with an aromatic, earthy scent with slightly sweet and brighter undertones. While frankincense is derived from a tree sap, iris orris is taken from the rhizome roots of a flower, so it’s easy to see how their scents could be similar.  

Homesick Candles with the Iris Scent

San Francisco Candle

a homesick san francisco candle

The San Francisco candle offers mid notes of iris, clove and sea wave. With top notes of coffee and chocolate and base notes of sea moss and musk, the San Francisco candle smells like sitting by the foggy shoreline or wharf while drinking a strong cup of pour-over from your favorite city barista. Although delicate, the iris lends a wonderful, aromatic touch. 

Dallas Candle

While iris is not directly in the Dallas candle, it offers many of the same scents one would appreciate. Base notes of frankincense, which offers a similar aroma to iris, combine with brighter top notes of lingering grapefruit and bergamot, along with mid notes of spicy nutmeg, smooth leather and smoky cedarwood, which together further lend an earthy feel. 

Whether you love the smell of iris or frankincense, you’re sure to appreciate these popular Homesick candles. Explore our store today!